EXAMINING RELATIONAL CARE WITHIN THE SECONDARY ONLINE CLASSROOM
As classroom teachers, we seek ways to empower our students, and address their diverse needs. Nel Noddings's theory of relational care (2012) demonstrates one way in which teachers and students can formulate caring relationships in which the expressed needs of our students can be addressed. As teachers listen to the student's expressed need, reflect on their knowledge of the student to further their understanding of the student's need, and find themselves motivated to action, they have the potential to meet the individual's expressed need. Research focused on relational care within the traditional classroom setting has revealed the way in which relational care can further enhance student motivation, classroom engagement, and pro-social behavior. Students perceive "caring teachers" to be those who effectively manage the classroom (Alder & Moulton, 1998; Alder, 2002), demonstrate high expectations for their students (Caldwell, 1999), and cultivate personal relationships (Dillon , 1989). However, we're left to wonder just how relational care translates into the virtual classroom setting. Is it possible to formulate and nurture relational care between students and teachers who never encounter one another in a face-to-face environment? How do we "care" in the online classroom?.
There is limited research on the role of relational care within the virtual classroom (Velasquez, Graham, & Osguthorpe, 2013). This study sought to fill the gap in the literature concerning the role of relational care theory as it applies to the online secondary classroom setting. Results from this autoethnographic narrative inquiry demonstrate that virtual classroom teachers can establish relational care with virtual students. Emergent themes included a need for teacher and student dialogue, presence, and the individualized instructional environments to enhance opportunity for relational care. At the same time, there are personal, classroom, and structural obstacles that have the potential to limit such care within the virtual setting. Finally, results imply potential for relational care in the virtual classroom to take a strong turn towards academic care over a more personal form of care.
In this presentation, participants will gain insight into the role of relational care within the virtual secondary classroom, as well as the potential obstacles that face secondary virtual teachers as they attempt to "care" for their online learners.