Research on teacher-child relationships has heavily expanded within the past 20 years. Dominated by quantitative approaches, the literature points to strong connections between the teacher-child relationship and a wide variety of aspects concerning the wellbeing as well as the academic results of students. Moreover, research has consistently documented that pupils / students receive different treatment from their teachers on the basis of characteristics such as race, gender, social class, abilities and appearances, and that this differentiation starts already in preschool and increases as the pupils / students advance into higher grades. In contrast with strong assumptions in the literature, positive /affective teacher-student relationships has shown to remain important, or even more influential, for older students, even into late adolescence. Positive /affective teacher-student relationships has also shown to be even more important for children who are academically at risk, in particular children from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and children with learning difficulties.
The existing literature in this field is highly dominated by a quantitative, measuring approach based on teacher-reports and -questionnaires; standardized methods and a lot of unquestioned (social) categories such as ‘aggressive children’, ‘low maternal education’, ‘minority status’, children with behavioral adjustment problems’, ‘individual characteristics’, etc.
Employing the research findings and characteristics sketched above as its launch pad, the research conducted under the auspices of ENGAGE focus upon explorative, qualitative studies aiming to produce new insights into the genesis, the meanings and the consequences of the relationship between teacher and student / pupil. Questions like: ‘How do the different relationships between he teacher and the students in a particular classroom manifest itself?’’ ‘Which forces inside as well as outside the classroom seem to intra-act in the constitution of the different relationships between the teacher and the students?’ ‘What seems to be the intra-acting role of the parents?’ ´How does the teachers relationships to the individual students in a classroom seem to affect the dynamics of positioning, the behavior and academic motivation as well as the (dis-)engagement of the pupils / students?’