Time Consistency In Teacher-Class Relationships

M.T. Mainhard

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Teaching and learning are inherently social processes. An important constituent element of social processes is the interpersonal relationship between those who interact. Accordingly, the teacher-student relationship, which is the central theme of this PhD thesis, has been a major topic in educational research. In the work presented in this thesis the teacher-student interaction is conceptualized in terms of perceptions of dominance versus submission (i.e., Influence), and of hostility versus affection (i.e., Proximity). The general question this thesis addresses is how time consistency in student perceptions of interpersonal teacher behaviour is constituted at the start of the school year. This question is approached by studying the general trend of the development of student perceptions, the generalizeability of this trend across classrooms, and the relation of student perceptions to moment-to-moment interaction in classrooms. The first study reported in chapter 2 focuses on the general trend of perceptions of interpersonal teacher behaviour across the first months of the school year, as well as between-classroom deviations from this trend. The second study (chapter 3) addresses the time consistency of student perceptions by applying a quasi-experimental approach. Student perceptions of a teacher at zero acquaintance are compared to perceptions of students who had been taught by the same teacher for at least a year. Chapter 4 reports on the third study, focusing on stability and variability in teacher-class interaction at the start of the school year. In this study, teacher student interactions in two classrooms that differ in terms of the quality of the teacher-class relationship are analysed. The approach employed was inspired by a graphical approach to observational data, utilizing State Space Grids (Lewis, Lamey, & Douglas, 1999). In the last study, included in chapter 5, the immediate and delayed effects of specific teacher behaviours (i.e., coercive and supportive behaviour) on teacher-class relationships is investigated. Thus rather than assuming a general trend in the development of relationships, lesson-to-lesson variability in Influence and Proximity is explained by lesson-specific classroom events. The general picture that emerges, taking the four studies this thesis entails together, is general time consistency in teacher-class relationships, with a slight tendency to deteriorate. It appears that already after a few minutes the relationship between teacher and class, and thus one of the most important factors of the social learning environment, is defined and apparent in its general outline. On average, no large changes should be expected in the interpersonal Influence and Proximity of a teacher in a classroom from that moment on. Nonetheless, lesson-to-lesson variability in relationships is clearly influenced both supportive and coercive teacher behaviour, notably effects of coercive behaviour are especially immediate and may thus be regarded temporary disruptions. Comparing moment-to-moment interaction in a more and a less favourable classroom in terms of interpersonal relationship showed that differences between the classrooms were already apparent during the first classroom lesson of the school year and became more pronounced during the second and third lessons.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Wubbels, Theo, Primary supervisor
  • Brekelmans, J.M.G., Supervisor
Award date25 Sept 2009
Print ISBNs978-90-393-5155-0
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2009

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