Quality interaction between teachers, children depends on many factors

Monday's report ("Putting a price on childcare") set me thinking about what quality interaction in a childcare centre looks like.

Quality interaction takes place when a teacher listens with the intention of understanding a child's thinking and feelings beyond the words expressed.

The teacher then responds by building on the child's comments and thinking, to extend the child's learning.

There are several factors at play:

  • A teacher's temperament and personality can determine the quality of interaction. Generally, a cheerful and energetic teacher will be more responsive to children's observations, comments and demands.
  • The quality of leadership affects teachers' morale and motivation, impacting the quality and frequency of interaction with children.

A centre with a high teacher turnover impacts children's behaviour because of the lack of consistency in teaching practices, with children having to constantly adapt to different teaching styles and expectations.

This can trigger a power struggle between teacher and children in classroom management, resulting in little time and energy for even casual conversations.

  • A smaller class size allows teachers to engage in more meaningful conversations with the children.
  • The teacher-parent relationship indirectly impacts the quality of teacher-child interaction.

A teacher who enjoys an amicable and respectful relationship with a child's parents is more at ease and open to having conversations with the child.

If not, there will be a psychological barrier that will cause the teacher to be more cautious in interacting with the child, to prevent any misunderstanding.

  • A curriculum that incorporates a lot more hands-on activities creates more opportunities for teacher-child interaction.
  • Teachers and children are calmer and more in tune with each other when the environment is less stressful.
  • A healthy sense of camaraderie and a spirit of teamwork and cooperation generate optimism and motivation. This encourages teachers to provide quality care and listen attentively to children's views.
  • A highly packed schedule, rushing teachers and children from one activity to the next, can leave teachers too breathless to even engage in small talk with the little ones.

Therefore, a centre needs to prioritise learning needs and differentiate between "must-have" and "good-to-have" activities.

Finally, the quality of training should equip teachers with effective observational and questioning techniques to generate meaningful conversations with children.

To conclude, quality interaction is two-way communication grounded in trust and respect.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Quality interaction between teachers, children depends on many factors'. Print Edition | Subscribe