How is Teachers’ Relational Competence Manifested in Online Higher Education Contexts?

  • Cecilia Segerby Kristianstad University, Sweden
  • Jonas Aspelin Kristianstad University, Sweden
Keywords: teacher-student relationships, teachers’ relational competence, online-teaching, higher education, teacher education


Research shows that the teacher-student relationship is a critical factor in students’ learning and development in both traditional and online classrooms. However, research on teachers’ relational competence in online higher education contexts is scarce. The present exploratory study aims to identify manifestations of teachers’ relational competence in such contexts, focusing on teaching in ongoing interactions. Data were collected from three online seminars conducted during year two of special-education teacher training through a university in Sweden; approximately eight hours of video-recorded material was collected. The findings indicate that the teachers’ relational competence is manifested in practice along five main themes: open-ended questions, respectful responses, personal connection, social framing, and humor. We propose that these five themes are important to acknowledge regarding teacher-student relationships in online teaching in higher education. On a more comprehensive level, the article suggests that teachers’ relational competence is an important feature in this educational context also. The results are discussed in light of previous research. Overall, the study contributes by outlining how teachers’ relational competence is manifested in ongoing interactions in pedagogical practice online. Implications for practice and further research are then discussed.


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