Perspectives on building rapport between professors and graduate students in higher education: A qualitative inquiry

Jerry Worley


This phenomenological study explored and described the perspectives of three university professors' perceptions about what elements contribute to rapport between themselves and their graduate students. Specifically, the researcher attempted to explore and describe paramount principles and foundations that influenced the rapport building process through the perspectives of professors of graduate students at a regional research university in the southeastern United States. This inquiry found that all three professors agreed that meeting and maintaining their personal and basic psychological needs of achievement/power, respect/belongingness, fun, and freedom, helped them be more willing to support and help their graduate students. If the professors' psychological needs were met before entering the classroom, they found themselves to be much more genuine, authentic, happy, and more open and receptive to the diversity of student personalities and needs. Second, the theme of using fun and humor was one of two distinct and dominant elements that all three professors used and believed to be important for engaging their students in the learning process. Not only did the professors view themselves as consciously using humor and fun in their classrooms, all nine of the graduate students interviewed in this inquiry also mentioned this dimension in some form or another. The third major premise that emerged from this inquiry was the use of accommodation provided by the professors to give their graduate students several opportunities and chances to succeed, without doing the work for them . Although the professors used many other elements to build rapport with their graduate students, it was noted by all twelve participants in this inquiry that fun/humor and student accommodation were elements that contribute to rapport between professors and students.