University of Oulu

Down to earth teachers : a case study on teacher-student relationship in higher education in Finland

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Author: Le, Thi1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Pages: 62
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : T. Le, 2014
Publish Date: 2014-05-19
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Räsänen, Rauni
Reviewer: Jokikokko, Katri
Räsänen, Rauni
Teacher-student relationship is a significant factor impacting teaching and learning in any level. However, it has been neglected in research. It has been ignored particularly in higher education thinking that it is not so important when teaching adults. Especially at present when efficiency and neoliberal views seem to dominate higher education, human relations and their influence on learning has not been of great interest to researchers. The relationship might be particularly important to international students who come from different contexts and have no network of relations in the country where they study. The aim for this research is to look into the diverse views of international students about their Finnish higher education. It should shed light on the following question and sub-questions: Main question: How do international students describe the teacher-student relationship in a Finnish University? Sub-questions: 1. What have students experienced positive and challenging in the student-teacher relationship in Finland? 2. How do students view an ideal teacher-student relationship in the context of higher education? The context of the research is Finland and more specifically, two universities. The research was a qualitative case study and data was collected with thematic interviews from seven international students from University of Oulu and University of Jyväskylä. The data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The four aspects of teacher-student relationship: body, caring, power and cultural aspects form the theoretical framework of the study. Using case study as the research method, this study unveils, firstly, that compared to their previous experience, informants find their relationship with teachers informal. This informality is identified through teachers’ “down-to-earth” characteristics, through caring and by students having equal power relations with teachers. Secondly, the teaching methods are more associated with student-centeredness. Thirdly, informal teacher-student relationship is reflected in student-centered teaching methods. Besides the need for more positive feedback, informants share that calling teachers by their first name is a challenging experience. In addition, too much student-centeredness might lose its significant positive impact. There should be a balance between teacher-centered and student-centered methods and the teachers should take into account that students in an international group come from very diverse backgrounds. Finally, what contributes to an ideal teacher-student relationship varies from one informant to another, but in general, a good relationship is a combination of both cognitive and affective aspects of the act of teaching and learning.
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