Teacher-pupil relationships in Key Stage Two : case studies exploring individual differences, experiences and constraints
This research investigates how a comprehensive understanding of teacher-pupil relationships can enhance our insight into classroom life. The study focuses specifically on the individual pupil differences and experiences, and how the teacher perceives these differences in terms of the relationship that develops. The study also considers the effects, if any, that changes in educational policy over the last decade have had on the opportunities to form and develop positive teacher-pupil relationships. The dominant theoretical and methodological model of studying classroom relationships has been the cognitive-developmental model, which mainly employs interviews with teachers and children in order to account for qualitative differences in the nature of the relationships in different age groups. There is only a limited amount of research based on contextual (symbolic interactionist) case studies of teacher-pupil relationships which present a description of these relationships as they develop in a natural setting. The two research models arrive at different results about the characteristics, however, common in both models is an emphasis on the need for studies that would a) account for both verbal and non-verbal behaviour, b) explain micro-developmental changes and reasons for these changes, and c) provide a specific ground-based model of teacher-pupil relationship development. This research employed a contextual (symbolic interactionist) approach. The fieldwork was conducted in two primary schools, focusing on a Year 3 and a Year 6 class in each case study school. Variation in the teaching style/educational organisation, teacher and pupil expectations and pupils’ individual differences accounts for differences and similarities in the formation and development of teacher-pupil relationships. Methods used to triangulate the data about the nature and quality of the relationships include: observations of daily interactions in each classroom during one academic year, as well as specific observations of the pupils in the sample; interviews with the teacher and pupils at the beginning and end of the year; and pupil diaries which were used by the children in the sample for their own thoughts about the relationship with the teacher. The theoretical and methodological research implications support the study of teacher-pupil relationships in context because it provides and in-depth and detailed description and understanding of the characteristics and development of these complex relationships.