Exploring Student-Teacher Relational Connectedness Within Midwifery Education: A Phenomenological Inquiry

Chapman, Lynn
Smythe, Elizabeth
McAra-Couper, Judith
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This Heideggerian hermeneutic study asks the question: How does the teacher’s way of being and relational connectedness in the student-teacher relationship impact on learning? It reclaims the significance of the human and relational nature of teaching. The way that teachers and students live their relationships with each other in both academic and clinical contexts is revealed. Within the lived experience of ‘being-a-teacher’ the relationship matters. A teacher’s comportment can enable or disable the relationship, the relating and/or the learning. Nineteen participants were recruited for their interest in the topic and willingness to participate in the study. Narratives regarding the nature of connected teaching/learning relationships were collected from ex-midwifery students, academic teachers, Lead Maternity Carers (caseloading midwives), and key clinical teachers working with students in practice. These narratives were analysed to uncover the meaning of the lived experience of a connected relationship.

The Heideggerian notions of mood/attunement and solicitude are central to the interpretative findings. This mood or attunement influences the climate of the interaction between the student and teacher. Notably, the study highlights the significance of the human-to-human encounter underpinned by the mood of care. When care and solicitude are absent from a teacher’s comportment, the meaning of what is lacking in terms of ‘care’ is made apparent. My thesis has revealed that when the teacher’s way of being is one of attuned, authentic care, learning flourishes and students thrive. In contrast, if the teacher’s comportment is found to be indifferent, or if neglectful in her attention to relationship with the student/s, the mood evoked can significantly undermine the learning experience. Furthermore, the mood or attunement always goes ahead to colour the next encounter and influence what will follow.

My study contributes to new insights and awareness of, and has implications for, future curricula. An ontological approach that is humanistic and egalitarian, which respects students as human beings, is called for. Educational and health organisations need to develop a means of identifying teaching professionals who consistently demonstrate inauthentic care and take action to protect others from their abuse. While the findings are specific to midwifery, they are relevant to other health disciplines. When recruiting new staff, particular attention needs to be given to comportment, towards respectful and engaged behaviours.

Relationships , Connectedness , Comportment , Learning
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