Developing teachers’ social, emotional and cultural competencies: building a capacity for social justice.

Year: 2019

Author: Willis, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A deeper understanding of how teachers manage differences in teacher-student relationships provides opportunity for developing socially just practices amongst the teaching profession. This phenomenographic study investigated the experiences and perceptions of Anglophonic Western trained teachers who have worked in in non-Western institutions, addressing the guiding research questions: a) how do young people learn?; and b) what is important for learning? Teachers in these contexts dealt with ethnic, social, gender and religious differences daily. They discussed the need for a capacity for compassion, and the underpinning tenets of trust and respect at individual and institutional levels. These findings are significant in light of the knowledge that student-teacher relationships affect student outcomes (Brinkworth, et al., 2018; Cozolino, 2013), and that socially-emotionally competent teachers are more likely to build trust with their students (McGrath & Van Bergen, 2019). Findings revealed a need for systems administrators and teacher educators to develop teachers’ and pre-service teachers’ cultural, social and emotional capacities for the sake of positive student-teacher relations and the promotion of social justice. The study further revealed that student confidence is often evidence of teacher competence, and that culturally competent teachers are more likely to find ways to overcome language barriers and gaps in academic skills. This paper looks at ways of developing cultural, social and emotional competencies in teachers, noting that personal-professional competencies like these are not currently covered by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.