The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Qualley, Donna J. 1952-

Second Advisor

Cushman, Jeremy

Third Advisor

Dietrich, Dawn Y., 1960-


This project uses a grounded theory methodology to study what university professors mean when they talk about “getting to know students.” Eight tenure-track and tenured English professors participated in the study. To represent the various fields within this English department, the sample of eight professors includes creative writing, literature, and writing studies faculty. Data for this study consisted of individual interviews and class observations. After coding the data, four categories emerged: Determining the Degrees of Knowing, Building Class Rapport, Maintaining Class Rapport, and Leveling the Playing Field. I argue that “knowing students” is a multi-dimensional relationship I describe with “the distance-degree continuum.” In this continuum, distance, degree, roles, and rapport act on one another to offer a more complete picture of “knowing” than relying on any one element in isolation. In my discussion of how the distance-degree continuum operates, I point to the distinction between professors who “rule break” and those who “role break.” Rule breaking includes engaging in explicitly prohibited relationships with students, while role breaking is less black and white. Professors can role break either intentionally or accidentally by stepping out of the roles that are typically appropriate and productive in their relationships with students. I conclude that for “knowing” to be productive between professors and their students, it must serve a pedagogical purpose, and remain bounded by the intent of the relationship: to teach and to learn.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

English teachers--Methodology; Teacher-student relationships--Methodology; English--Study and teaching--Methodology




masters theses




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.