Early teacher-child relationships vital to a child’s ability to effectively communicate in life


Tuesday 10 Apr 2018

CSU RESEARCH:

- CSU study revealed that close, less-conflicted relationships between children and teachers are important for language and literacy development.

- Study provides guidance on when and where difficult relationships can arise across first six years of schooling and how to navigate them.

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) study has shown that close, less-conflicted relationships with teachers may provide a supportive context for later language and literacy development and other aspects of children’s social-emotional adjustment at school.

The research article, ‘Can teacher-child relationships support human rights to freedom of opinion and expression, education, and participation?’, appears in the special issue of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (February 2018).

Lead researcher Dr Cen Audrey Wang (pictured left) from the Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Teacher Education in Bathurst, said, “The ability to communicate is crucial in ensuring children’s full participation in life activities and being able to express views and opinions and actively participate in public debate.

“This study provides evidence that teachers may help support these skills, and provides guidance on when and where difficult relationships can arise across the first six years of school."

Dr Wang said children whose initial relationships with teachers were characterised by low closeness or moderate to high conflict were at greater risk of forming less positive teacher–child relationship trajectories, but the children who experienced increasing levels of conflict with subsequent teachers were most at risk.

“Efforts to improve teacher–child relationships with children with speech and language difficulties, or whose parents are concerned about their communication, need to start early,” she said. “But relationship quality also needs continual monitoring as these children move into the middle years of childhood.

“Teachers, speech-language pathologists, and parents need to be aware of the potential challenges that children with SLC may have in forming positive relationships with teachers, and together provide support for children’s speech and language skills, social relations and self-regulation.”

Dr Wang said professional development programs designed to improve teachers’ relationships with children are proving effective, but the extent to which such programs are effective for children with speech and language difficulties is yet to be determined.

“Previous research suggests that speech and language difficulties may reduce children’s capacity to understand their emotional experiences, express their needs effectively, and regulate their behaviours; such a reduced capacity has negative implications for social relationships,” she said.

“A first step towards the goal of helping teachers and children form more adaptive relationships, especially for children with SLC, is for teachers to be cognisant of their role in supporting children with whom they may find it harder to relate due to difficulties in communication.

“These endeavours will support children’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression, education, and participation that are enshrined in Article 19, 26 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The study:

- explored how teacher–child relationships change over the early school years, in terms of closeness and conflict;

- examined whether these trajectories differ in type and frequency for children with typical development and children with speech and language concern (SLC);

- considered whether the trajectories are associated with school outcomes at 12–13 years;

- highlights the role of teachers in supporting children in their development of communication and academic skills; and

- calls for efforts to help teachers and children form more adaptive relationships, especially for children with SLC.


ends

Media contact: Bruce Andrews, 0418 669 362

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Cen Audrey Wang who is based at the Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Teacher Education in Bathurst.

The research article by Dr Cen Wang, Professor Linda J. Harrison, Professor Sharynne McLeod, Professor Sue Walker, and Dr Jantine L. Spilt, ‘Can teacher-child relationships support human rights to freedom of opinion and expression, education, and participation?’, appears in the special issue of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology titled, ‘Communication is a human right: Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (Feb 2018, volume 20, issue 1). The paper is freely available (open access) at International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/iasl20

Research method: Participants were children, parents and teachers in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Parents identified 2890 children with typical communication and 1442 children with SLC. Teacher-rated teacher–child closeness and conflict were collected biennially over six years. Academic and social-emotional outcomes were reported by teachers and children. Growth mixture modelling was conducted to generate teacher–child relationship trajectories and Wald’s chi-square analyses were used to test the association between trajectories and school outcomes at 12–13 years, after controlling for a range of covariates including child’s sex, language background, Indigenous status, age, and socio-economic position.

@IJSLP @UNHumanRights #StandUp4HumanRights #SpeakUp4CommRights #Article19 #CommunicationRights #HumanRights #HumanRightsDay

More information:

Speech Pathology Australia: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/SpeakUp