Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Lorraine Hammond

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Tony Fetherston

Abstract

This cross-cultural study examined the teacher behaviours that contributed to positive student-teacher relationships with gifted secondary students and secondary students with Emotional/Behavioural Disorders (EBD) in Western Australia and Canada. The study also examined which categories of social support (emotional, instrumental, informational, appraisal) were considered most important in developing positive relationships according to the exceptional students and their teachers. Behaviours were identified through a mixedmethods approach that included surveys, teacher interviews, and student focus groups. Participants included gifted secondary students (N = 133) and their teachers (N= 49), and secondary students with EBD (N = 89) and their teachers (N=23) in Western Australia and three Canadian provinces. The data established that both gifted students and their teachers valued teacher behaviours that showed respect for students, supported and extended student learning, and promoted cordial and friendly interactions between teachers and students. Gifted students emphasised the importance of informational support, while their teachers put a greater emphasis on emotional support. Students with EBD and their teachers both valued teacher behaviours that displayed warmth, understanding, patience, supported students in their learning, and showed flexibility in instruction and in addressing behaviour. Students with EBD and their teachers both identified emotional support as the most important type of social support for developing positive relationships. Comparisons between the behaviours that were identified for gifted students and students with EBD revealed a set of core behaviours that were essential for developing positive relationships with both groups, but that each group required a unique set of behaviours to address their unique set of needs. Themes emerging from the data were consistent in Western Australia and Canada, indicating that positive relationships with these exceptional secondary students can be developed using behaviours that transcend borders and cultures.

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