Thesis (Ed.D)

Teacher-Pupil Relationships and Teacher Talk: Introducing Emotion Coaching as a Socio-Emotional Talk Strategy into a Primary School Setting


Teacher talk has been posited to be a malleable classroom construct, with a variety of strategies and theoretical standpoints presented on how practitioners can best utilize talk to support teacher-pupil relationships. The research explored teacher talk in a primary, mainstream educational setting, examining the use of classroom talk prior to, and following, the introduction of a verbal strategy to support pupils’ socio-emotional functioning - Emotion Coaching (EC). A Mixed Methods Convergent research design was utilized to address the research questions, with 12 participants recruited through convenience sampling. Participants’ attitudes were examined through semi-structured interviews, and teacher talk practice was explored using classroom observations. The results indicated that a variety of teacher talk strategies were used in the classroom to support relationships, with some disparity between the two data sets. For example, although teachers reported that the use of positive language and listening strategies were most effective, the observations indicated a wider talk strategy repertoire. There were some reported changes to the use of classroom talk following EC introduction, including an increased focus on well-being and empathetic talk, listening to others, and positive praise. The observational data concluded no statistical significance between pre- and post- EC training. Furthermore, a non-significant, low number of socio-emotional talk strategies were observed in practice in both phases of the research. The benefits and challenges of EC introduction were considered, with implementation effectiveness, time, and staff buy-in presented as the predominant challenges. The benefits included whole-school language consistency and emotional self-reflection for participants, their colleagues, and pupils throughout the school. At the time of the research, observations of EC in practice had not previously been investigated alongside teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of EC, thus providing a novel contribution to the research. Moreover, the observational technique contributed to the understanding of teacher talk and classroom strategy as a whole, highlighting the potential for reflective practice. Arguably, understanding how teachers can use talk to support teacher-pupil relationships has important practical implications for teacher training and school strategy. Further exploration of talk strategies and EC in practice is warranted and important, given the potential impact of teacher-pupil relationships on pupils’ feelings of school belonging, success, and future life pathways.

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Dew, Katharine


Supervisors: Gaciu, Nicoleta; Brown, Carol

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Year: 2023

© Dew, Katharine
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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