It's all about relationships: How do student teachers conceptualize their relationships with their students?
Faunce, Jeffrey Allen
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This qualitative interview study explored how student teachers, at different times during their student teaching, described their relationships with students as well as what factors influenced the ways in which they developed relationships with their students. In addition, the impact of these relationships on their teaching practices and the students' academic achievement and behavior was investigated. This topic is extremely important for all teachers, but particularly for student teachers who are at the beginning of their teaching careers. The participants in this study were undergraduate student teachers at Medaille College who completed an initial information sheet as well as two interviews with the primary researcher. The interviews were recorded and transcribed and then the data was coded according to themes such as descriptions of relationships the impact of relationships on students, the sources of the relationships between teachers and students, the impact of past experience on process, the age of student teachers as well as potential changes in relationships throughout the student teaching experience. Nel Noddings' "Ethic of Caring" was used as a framework for the data analysis. The data reveal that several of the student teachers had thought about the kinds of relationships they wanted to develop with their students prior to beginning their student teaching experience and that each of the participants believed that his or her relationship with students was positive and very important for the success of the student teachers and the students they encountered; the student teachers believed that their relationships with students impacted the students' behavior as well as the students' academic achievement. This study suggests changes in the way student teachers are prepared for teaching including providing more opportunities for pre-service teachers to work with students prior to formal student teaching. In addition, the study suggests that institutions of teacher education should re-think the way student teachers are evaluated to include opportunities for the evaluation of student teachers to be based not only on formal lesson plan observations, but also observations of student teachers in more informal settings interacting with students. Student teachers and education professors should also include the creating of relationships between students and teachers in the curriculum of teacher preparation.
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