Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

Larry D. Burton

Second Advisor

Faith-Ann McGarrell

Third Advisor

Cheryl Doss


The Problem. In this qualitative study, 24 participants, ages 18-30, who had previously attended international Christian schools for at least 2 years at the secondary level, or a combination of 4 years at the primary and middle school levels, were interviewed to determine the traits, characteristics, and qualities they valued in their teachers.

Methodology. Incorporating principles of Grounded Theory, a series of rigorous steps associated with the validity process of Grounded Theory construction was employed. These steps included the simultaneous involvement of the researcher in the data collection and analysis process. Twenty-four participants were interviewed, and written notes were taken during each interview. An initial coding construction was applied to such notes. All interviews were recorded and transcribed before being uploading to NVivo 9 Software, where 200 categories and subcategories for analysis were created and the development of multiple tree maps was incorporated to explore data connections. Additional coding processes further reduced the number of categories and subcategories for analysis to 51. Combining the practices of continual data comparison, repeated coding processes were employed. From this practice, along with the creation of additional tree maps, graphic representations, and vigorous memo writing, several theoretical categories and a common theme emerged from the data. This resulted in the construction of three primary findings identifying the traits, characteristics, and qualities TCKs valued in international Christian school teachers. These findings were then situated within an extensive literature review.

Results. This study provides insight into the traits, characteristics, and qualities of the "ideal" international Christian school teacher desired and valued by Third Culture Kids (TCKs). For the first time, the voice of the TCK has been codified in respect to their preferences and dislikes of teachers they interact with on a daily basis. The findings of this study point to the multi-dimensional significance an effective teacher has on the lives of TCKs. Such teachers should be qualified and experienced, well versed in the subject matter they teach, and possess a vast array of effective pedagogical practices. They also need to possess a dual-focused desire to not only teach TCKs well, but to interact with them on deeper relational levels than is often experienced or expected by teachers in a mono-cultural setting. TCKs in international Christian schools also desire their teachers to demonstrate levels of care toward them (academically, personally, and spiritually) and model adult Christian living. Finally, TCKs value teachers who value what they hold as dearly important: culture. They desire teachers who respect and embrace cultural differences and can learn and teach from cultural perspectives.

This study identifies that an international Christian school teacher need not be perfect, but they do need to be adept teachers possessing proven pedagogical knowledge and associated skill sets that enable them to genuinely relate to students and engage them in meaningful learning experiences. TCKs value educational excellence, but just as importantly, they value quality investment in their lives by Christian teachers who respect them, model adult Christian living, and value their cultural experiences and differences.

Subject Area

International schools, Teacher-student relationships, Student evaluation of teachers, Effective teaching, Teacher effectiveness