Resource Library

Promoting Teacher-Child Relationships in Early Care and Education Classrooms

Start Date March 2023 End Date May 2024
Keywords Teacher Research Teacher-Child Teacher-Research Community Practice


This study will begin to address empirical gaps in our understanding of how teachers perceive teacher-child relationships and factors that contribute to their quality. It will engage teachers in experiences that may increase their capacity to become more aware of how they view children, their relational behaviors with different children, and their role in contributing to the quality of their relationship with individual children. One experience will be a teacher-researcher co-designed community of practice (CoP) in which teachers can reflect on aspects of their perceptions, experiences and practices that may affect the quality of their relationships with individual children. Another will be teachers’ use of a teacher-researcher co-constructed reflection tool that may help teachers reflect on how they view children during everyday interactions and their use of relational practices with different children. The proposed project is also designed to bridge the research-practice gap by collaborating with teachers to engage them in developing these resources and providing input into the interpretation of results and potential directions for future research (e.g., Perry et al., 2012). The project’s research questions are: 

RQ1. What are the salient features in teachers’ reflections about teacher-child relationships (TCRs)? For example, how prominent is their awareness of the role of their personal experience in shaping TCRs? Do they show greater awareness of factors that are within their control, such as teacher behavior versus external factors, such as family adversities?  

RQ2. Do teacher-informed, guided experiences that promote reflection lead to new or changed teacher awareness, such as a better understanding of the child’s behavior or the teacher’s role in TCRs, that may contribute to optimal TCRs?  

RQ3. Is participation in experiences that promote reflection associated with positive changes in TCRs?



  • 3 NYC community-based early care and education centers that serve racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse low-income families (1 Head Start program, 3 NYC Early Education Centers).  
  • We will invite lead and assistant teachers who serve children ages 3 to 5 in 10-12 classrooms across sites to participate in the study (approximately 24 to 30 teachers).



  • Recording of semi-structured individual teacher interviews 
  • Recording of three Community of Practice sessions at each site
  • The Student Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS, Pianta, 1992) tool
  • Analysis of teachers' responses during use of a project-developed teacher reflection tool focused on T-C relationships


Sheila Smith, PhD  (PI)

Cristina Medellin, PhD (Co-PI)

Mark Nagasawa , PhD  (Co-PI)

Sarika Gupta, PhD  (Co-PI)

Contributing Institutions

National Center for Children in Poverty, Bank Street College of Education

Straus Center for Young Children and Families, Bank Street College of Education