Cultivating supportive teacher-learner relationships : a teacher's self-study.
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My research focus was on supportive relationships between teachers and learners. I therefore, aimed to better understand and evaluate my relationships with my grade 1 learners and to improve my teaching practice by cultivating supportive relationships with them. Adopting a sociocultural theoretical perspective on teaching and learning helped me to understand that learning is culturally and socially constructed, which means that it is important to pay attention to learners’ social and cultural backgrounds and circumstances, so that I can draw on what they already know to stimulate their thinking and learning and to offer them appropriate support. The first question that guided my research was: What can I learn from my personal history about supportive relationships? This question helped me to look back on my past relationships inside and outside of school; for instance, I looked at support that I received from parents, teachers and friends, and how this support managed to drive or motivate me to finish school. My second research question was: How can I cultivate supportive teacher-learner relationships? In responding to this question, I worked with my learners on various lessons whereby learners’ classwork activities enabled me to interpret how they viewed teacher-learner relationships. I was the main participant in the study. I also worked with my 37 grade 1 learners and two of my former school friends. Throughout my self-study research process, I also worked closely with my two of my fellow Master’s students. Data were generated using five research practices: a) artefact retrieval; b) reflective journal writing; c) drawing; d) collage; and e) audio recording of lessons and conversations. From my self-study research, I discovered that learners should be the center of learning and that it is vital that we teachers consider carefully any social-emotional factors that might inhibit teaching and learning. Thus, learners need to feel close to us teachers; this means they need to be sure that they can trust and rely on us to listen to them and take seriously their little needs. Hence, a key part of teacher self-development is to be able give yourself time to constantly learn about your learners’ needs and concerns and to make changes in response to those needs and concerns that will improve teaching and learning.