Hunter O'Hara

Date of Graduation


Document Type



Mounting outcry for improvement in education gives rise to consideration of learning phenomena that soar above the symptoms of an ailing system. Transcendent teacher-learner relationships, defined as spontaneously occurring ones that exceed traditional roles of interaction, result in turning point encounters for one or both relators. Having had such an encounter, the individual is never again quite the same, as perceptions are changed and life goals are altered. Teacher and learner move beyond the historical preoccupation with the learner's receptive need. Such relationships are never assigned, but instead they require two self-motivated relators who share a biographically oriented connection. This study attempts to illuminate the phenomenon of transcendent teacher-learner relationships through the presentation and analysis of the stories of individuals who have encountered them. The heuristic methodology provides the format for researcher self-inquiry and the move outward to the encounters of others. Data were collected through conversational interviews and seminars with the researcher. Transcriptions of those were used to develop portraits of each participant. Data were then analyzed and synthesized in the form of a composite of participant encounters. In the transcendent relationships studied, teachers and learners risked themselves to go beyond, or to transcend traditional roles. The sharing of the qualities of trust, mutuality, care, intimacy, grace, challenge, freedom and humor, are ways in which relators were able to transcend, and to become different. The personal biographies of relators also played a significant role. Many of the relationships studied have endured for decades, and all of them are ongoing. They were, and are, mutually rewarding and transformative for those involved. Because of the powerful, often profound, positive impact the relationships have had on participants, it seems reasonable to conclude that this study has implications for both theory and practice. The study describes how teachers and learners are enabled to overcome common educational dilemmas such as learner non-engagement, non-ownership of the learning process, and teacher-learner alienation and estrangement. The transcendent learning relationships studied expanded participant awareness and sense of possibility. Love is acknowledged as critical in the development of ever deepening rapport and more profound relationships between teacher and learner.