IDENTIFYING, CONSTRUCTING AND MAINTAINING POSITIVE TEACHER-STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS IN A SECONDARY SETTING
This study articulates a vision for a relational pedagogy in education. In a policy era characterized by an overwhelming emphasis on accountability for teachers and students connected to content area assessment scores, a humanist recalibration of the priorities of education policy is needed. Rather than a fixation on performance data, I advocate for a consideration of the quality of the relational environment constructed by teachers based in part on the research which suggests that positive teacher-student relationships are connected to other positive outcomes for students, academic and otherwise. Accordingly, this research was guided by three questions: “what is the nature of a positive teacher-student relationship?”, “What is the relational climate between participating teachers and students,” and “what practices or behaviors have led to the establishment of these relationships?” To address these questions, a sequential, mixed-methods phenomenographical study was conducted in three phases. Phase One featured open-ended surveys distributed to 55 students and 84 teachers with questions regarding the nature of positive relationships. These data were used to create the Crownover Student Relationship Survey, a 31-item instrument with relational indicators to which respondents provide feedback via a 5-point Likert-type scale. In Phase Two, the Crownover Student Relationship Survey was administered to 90 sophomores and five teachers to explore student conceptions of the relationships with those teachers. These data were analyzed and qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with participating teachers to uncover practices connected with the student scores. A factor analysis of the Phase Two survey data produced three factors which were then used as deductive themes for organizing the teacher interview data. This study illuminates components of the teacher-student relationship and has led to the creation of the Crownover Student Relationship Survey, a measure which can be used by teachers as way of assessing student perceptions of the relational climate created by the teacher. These data can serve to highlight strengths and areas for teacher growth in the various relational capacities. Subsequent discussion provides insight into practices corresponding to specific parameters. Furthermore, the Crownover Student Relationship Survey data serves as a starting point for exploring the relationships among the various relational variables included as parameters.