Teacher-Student Relationships in Diverse New Zealand Year 10 Mathematics Classrooms: Teacher Care
Teacher-student relationships are considered influential for academic achievement and motivation, particularly for students of minority and low socio-economic groups. Teacher care is an essential component of effective teacher-student relationships. This study examined factors that contribute to developing and maintaining caring teacher-student relationships in low socio-economic multicultural classrooms (Maori, Pasifika, New Zealand European). Three areas of teacher care were explored: care for students as individuals, their mathematical progress, and for students as culturally located individuals. The sample comprised three urban schools, one class and one teacher in each school for each of two years (six Year 10 mathematics teachers and their classes in total). Three data collection periods were used: the initial four weeks of the school year, and two weeks late in each of school terms 2 and 3. Each data collection period included classroom observations, teacher and student interviews, and teacher and student questionnaires. Within a holistic context of classroom well being, characteristics of caring teacherstudent relationships were found to fit within four dispositional aspects (liking, respecting, and being tolerant of each other, and being able to reflect one's personal identity), and four themes (knowing each other as people, knowing each other as learners, knowing each other's cultures, and enhancing feelings of cultural identity). Specific classroom practices found to be supportive of respectful caring teacher-student relationships included using humour, one-to-one teacher-student interactions, making opportunities for sharing personal identities, and expecting mathematical progress. Mixed results were obtained regarding how deeply students value their heritage cultures, whether or not they believe these are well reflected in their schools and classrooms, and the extent to which they would like them to be reflected in these places. There is evidence that for many Maori, Pasifika, and low socio-economic students, mathematics teachers can enhance students' motivation and mathematical achievement by using explicitly caring practices. Teachers must acknowledge and attend to caring teaching approaches to maximise their students' progress in, and enjoyment of, mathematics.