Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teacher-Child Relationships and Pedagogical Practices: Considering the Teacher's Perspective

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teacher-Child Relationships and Pedagogical Practices: Considering the Teacher's Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study explored the link between teachers' reports of their relationships with individual kindergartners and their self-reported pedagogical practices toward these children. Two samples of kindergarten teachers were examined. They were questioned about, respectively, 117 and 167 children selected as socially inhibited, hyperactive, or average relative to their classmates. Multilevel regression analyses revealed significant associations between relationship characteristics and teachers' practices independent of children's behaviors. Teachers reported more socioemotional support and more behavior regulation for children with whom they reportedly had unfavorable (dependent, conflicted, or distant) relationships. Teachers' appraisals of children's behaviors partly mediated the links between their ratings of the teacher-child relationship and their practice reports. Results qualify the idea that supportive teacher behaviors are a defining characteristic of positive teacher-child relationships, and further underline the need to include teachers' relationship perceptions in practical assessments of children referred for emotional or behavioral problems.

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The past decade has witnessed considerable research attention for children's relationships with their teachers. As a result, there is increasing evidence that early teacher-child relationships function as dyadic systems that have unique influences on children's development (Pianta, Hamre, & Stuhlman, 2003). Negative (conflicted or dependent) relationships appear to operate as risk factors, whereas positive or warm relationships are considered to have a protective function. These effects of relationship quality pertain to a wide range of school adjustment outcomes, including school liking, work habits, academic performance, social competence, adaptive behavior, and peer-rated liking (e.g., Birch & Ladd, 1997; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Howes, 2000; Hughes, Cavell, & Willson, 2001; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Despite all the evidence for the importance of the teacher-child relationship, the processes by which these effects occur are not fully understood. More specifically, little is known about how teacher-child relationships are manifested in teachers' behaviors. Such knowledge is not only theoretically important, but seems to be crucial in attempts to help teachers improve relationships with particular children. The present study addressed this issue from the teacher's perspective. It explored the links between teachers' self-reports of their relationships with individual kindergartners and their self-reported pedagogical practices toward these children.

Relationships between teachers and children have been studied from various research perspectives (Koomen, Verschueren, & Thijs, 2006). Prominent among these is the extended attachment perspective. Early teacher-child relationships can be conceptualized as "secondary attachment bonds" (Ainsworth, 1991). Unlike primary attachment relationships, these bonds are not exclusive, long term, or predominantly affective. However, they can fulfill the important attachment functions of providing children with a secure base to explore their surroundings (Attili, 1985) and of supporting them in times of stress (Pianta, 1992; van IJzendoorn, Sagi, & Lambermon, 1992).

Many studies have relied on teachers' perceptions to assess the relationships with their pupils. Often these perceptions are assessed along the dimensions of closeness, conflict, and dependency. These dimensions are mostly examined as separate relationship characteristics, but in some studies they are used to evaluate overall relationship characteristics, but in some studies they are used to evaluate overall relationship quality (Howes, Matheson, & Hamilton, 1994; Pianta, Nimetz, & Bennett, 1997). Closeness refers to the amount of warmth and open communication in the relationship and can be considered a positive indicator of relationship quality. …

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