A Narrative Inquiry of Instructors’ Emotional Receptivity in Addressing Students Needs in Higher Education

Open Access
Smal, Pia Sybilly
Graduate Program:
Counselor Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 29, 2018
Committee Members:
  • JoLynn Carney, Dissertation Advisor
  • JoLynn Carney, Committee Chair
  • James Taylor Herbert, Committee Member
  • Katie Kostohryz, Committee Member
  • Mari Haneda, Outside Member
  • counselor education
  • student development
  • ethics of care
  • narrative inquiry
  • thematic analysis
  • mental health
  • emotional distress
  • higher education
As students are entering institutions of higher education with increased rates of trauma and mental health needs, they are seeking out instructors for additional emotional support. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of instructors in addressing the emotional needs of their students and to gain preliminary insight into how to support instructors as they do this work. This qualitative dissertation thematically analyzed the narratives of six instructors who work at a large research institution of higher education situated in a rural community in the northeast region of the United States of America. Participants were recruited through purposeful and snowball sampling and data were collected using a two-part in-depth interview protocol. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis procedures that was rooted in an interpretivist paradigm. Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) theory of student development and Noddings (2103) theory of the ethics of care were used to situate the literature review and provide a conceptual framework for analysis. This study yielded three themes across all participants: Self, Student/Instructor Relationship, and Institutional Barriers. Analysis found that all participants experienced hearing a vast array of students’ emotional needs and all reported feeling low self-efficacy and high self-doubt in adequately addressing the students’ needs. Participants’ skills to address student emotional needs were self-taught. Numerous barriers within the institution were also identified. Additional research to help move this knowledge from exploratory to practice is needed, as is research that encompasses a larger sampling of instructors from diverse fields.