Secondary teacher candidate perception of classroom social interaction



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Secondary teacher candidates are encouraged to develop a professional rapport with students during their student teaching semester. Establishing a professional relationship can be a challenge at the secondary level, especially when the candidate is close in age to high school students. The foundation of building a positive teacher-student relationship hinges on the candidate’s ability to socially interact with high school students. Effective interactions are the basis on which positive, professional teacher-student relationships are developed and maintained during field experiences. Candidates rely on interaction with students to enhance classroom discipline and create a non-threatening learning environment. Social interaction is a critical component of the learning-teaching process in high school classrooms and is at the heart of classroom life.
This qualitative study investigated secondary teacher candidate perception of social interaction in high school classrooms during the semester-long student teaching experience. The purpose was to examine the social interactions between the candidate and students in the classroom. Understanding how candidates perceive social interaction in high school classrooms, what pedagogical behaviors support teacher-student interaction, and what conditions are necessary for teacher-student interaction was at the focus of this study. Participants included three teacher candidates, their cooperating teachers, and the university supervisor. The fourteen-week data collection and analysis process included a questionnaire, interviews, classroom observations, cohort meeting observations, candidate journals, lesson plans, final evaluations, and a researcher’s journal. The constant comparison method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used throughout the study as themes and patterns emerged from the raw data and were discovered.
Findings indicated that candidates desired to develop professional interpersonal separation with their students to establish authority in the classroom and maintain effective classroom discipline. Themes that supported professional interpersonal separation were comprised of directives, language separation, professional dress, and naming conventions.  Candidates also desired a professional interpersonal connection with students. Affirmation, inclusive language, student extracurricular activities, and student papers were the themes that supported teacher-student bonding. Humor and physical proximity were found to support both professional interpersonal separation and connecting, depending on how the behavior was interpreted and executed by the candidate. Although the candidate’s age, high school experience, and amiability were also designated as themes that supported professional interpersonal connection, the candidates recognized the difficulties these factors pose when interacting with high school students. The results from this study reveal how secondary teacher candidates diligently seek to establish and sustain a positive, professional rapport with high school students. This study articulates the complexities and joys of developing and sustaining a positive teacher-student relationship in high school classrooms during the student teaching field experience.



Teacher candidate, Social interaction, Student teaching, Field experience, High school students, Classroom discipline, Professional rapport