Teachers' perceptions of teacher-pupil interaction in high schools in Johannesburg
Motara, Michelle Christine
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South African schools are learning environments that are defined by heterogenity, which means the relating and interaction of teachers and learners from different cultural, language and religious backgrounds. Viewed in terms of a social constructivist theoretical framework, teachers’ perceptions of their interaction with their learners are defined by their personal experiences, as well as their observations of concrete learner behaviour in class which are mostly shaped by the learners’ perceptions. ,. Broad cultural influences, including the unique school culture and climate where the teachers are operating, also contribute to teachers’ perception of the teacher-learner interaction. The nature and quality of teacher-learner interactions must be viewed as a contextual feature of school culture and climate as these relations shape the classroom experience. This study sought to generate broad themes on how teachers perceive teacher-learner interactions within diverse school cultures and climates. The research was conducted within a social constructivist, interpretive paradigm and it utilised Kenny’s PERSON Model of Interpersonal Perception. The PERSON Model of Interpersonal Perception is a model used to explore the formation of perceptions during interpersonal interaction and it is in line with the social constructivist position as it takes into account the dynamic and socially embedded nature of the interaction process. A research study of this nature was needed because teachers’ perceptions of their regular contact and connecting with learners influence teacher-learner relations. This in turn serves to shape learners’ perceptions of the learning environment as well as mediate the learners’ behaviour and relationship with scholastic learning (Luckner & Pianta, 2011:257). Qualitative research was used as this method lends itself to revealing the authenticity of human experience (Silverman, 2013:6) and it is particularly useful in the study of social relations (Flick, 2009:12). The participants consisted of twenty teachers from four high schools in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Three teachers from each of the four schools participated in semi-structured interviews, while two other teachers from each of the four schools participated in a single focus group activity that included a collage-making exercise. Thematic analysis was used to identify themes that articulate the teachers’ perceptions of the teacher-learner interaction. Key themes that were identified through the research study included teaching to be a vocation; teachers’ interactions with their learners as character building that serve to shape the personalities of their learners; the influence of the length of time that teachers are active in the teaching profession and teacher-learner interactions; how classroom management strategies influences teachers perceptions of teacher-learner interactions. It was found that several factors influence the teachers’ perceptions of their interactions with their learners. Teachers who considered teaching to be a “vocation” tended to report that they experience enjoyable teacher-learner interactions. The teachers whose narratives did not include references to teaching as a vocation were inclined to report more conflictual and less enjoyable interaction experiences with their learners. The findings further reveal that the teachers perceive a decrease in negative teacher-learner interactions the longer they teach. Both groups of teachers viewed the interactions with their learners as character-building exercises that served to shape the personalities of their learners. Classroom climate factors and management strategies were found to influence teachers’ perceptions of their interactions with their learners. The teachers’ narratives did not emphasise race or culture as factors (qualitative research) that moderated their interactions with the learners in a significant manner. Overall, the findings indicated that the participants showed an awareness that firstly, personal factors, secondly, the external social factors or environmental events, and, lastly that individual behaviour contributed much to the quality of the interactions. An in-depth study investigating rural teachers’ perceptions of their interactions with their learners is recommended. A wider study that compares and contrasts the perceptions of teachers from the various provinces of South Africa would provide valuable insight into whether or not teachers’ perceptions of teacher-learner interaction vary from province to province.
- Humanities