Teachers' Relational Practices and Professionality
Sammanfattning: This dissertation attempts to deepen our understanding of teachers’ work and professionality, which involves not only their reasoning about what to teach and how to teach it, but also of what it is that makes education possible. This is accomplished by exploring a highly influential, if underestimated and under-researched, dimension of teacher practice and professionality: the relational dimension, involving the establishment and maintenance of educational relationships with and among students. In the imperatives and challenges of the 21st century the importance of highlighting the relational dimension seems to be a concern of increasing importance. Through interviews and observation that have generated the empirical material, the relational practices of eleven teachers are analyzed in accordance with a particular methodological scheme. Apart from providing a descriptive mapping of these practices, this study presents the practical arguments given by informants to substantiate their use. The numerous examples of relational practices and practical arguments that are herein provided serve to empirically confirm the pervasive relational character of a teacher’s work. What emerges is an understanding of an educational relationship, established and maintained by practices that seek genuine human contact with students, and that views relational attributes such as trust, social justice, benevolence, empathy and openness to the other as being of vital importance to the entirety of the educational process. In addition, the practices involving enacting educational communities among students, are shown to have significance for the educational process. What emerges as well is a conception of relational professionality as something that can be learned, meaning that teachers are made, not born. Moreover, “being professional” is here conceived, in pedagogical rather than sociological terms, as something that involves the quality of a teacher’s actions rather than the fact that s/he belongs to a particular profession. The findings of this study strongly suggest that relationships in schools often require conscious attention, rigorous work and delicate negotiations on the part of teachers in order to be (or become) educational. The process of education is sustained by an array of subtle relational conditions. The attempt of the teacher to deal with these conditions requires specific professional experience, understandings and practices.
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