THE STUDENT-TEACHER RELATIONSHIP AND SUBJECTIVE THEORIES OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS
Previous research studies demonstrated that the student-teacher relationship plays an important role, especially in early and preschool childhood education. So, it is of utmost importance to explore its significant correlates. Teachers’ attitudes toward various subjects showed to be important correlates and predictors of student-teacher relationship same as of the education quality. It has been scientifically determined that early childhood educators’ attitudes toward childhood and upbringing are dominant over gained competencies through their initial education. Based on their attitudes they create their own implicit, subjective theories about themselves and life, as all other people do. So, this study is aimed to provide very rare findings on the relationship between early childhood educators’ attitudes toward childhood and upbringing and their relationship with the children from their kindergarten group. The main hypothesis of this research question is that modern and liberal attitudes towards upbringing and childhood will contribute to the development of closeness and less conflict with children regarding early childhood educators’ relationships. For the purposes of this study, measured early childhood educators’ attitudes are robustly categorized as traditional and modern attitudes. The most detailed explanation of this categorization is possible regarding the attitudes scale we used in this study. However, modern attitudes could be operationalized as those reflecting the role of the child as a "social actor" who co-constructs his knowledge, practices skills, acquires key competencies, including the competence for independent decision-making and responsibility for their development. A total of 182 early childhood educators from kindergarten Rijeka in Croatia have participated in this research study. To measure the student-teacher relationship, the STRS (15 items) was used, and to measure early childhood educators’ attitudes toward childhood and upbringing, the Educators’ Subjective Theory Questionnaire (18 questions) was used. This study was run based on a quantitative research design, using two self-evaluation scales. For the self-rating on STRS, early childhood educators used a 5-point Likert scale. Educators’ Subjective Theories questionnaire offered two attitudes within eighteen questions and early childhood educators were instructed to choose one of the written attitudes in each question. Descriptive and correlational analyses were used. Overall, the results showed: higher levels of closeness and lower levels of conflict with children; and more liberal attitudes towards childhood and upbringing. Regarding the main question of the relationship between two focused variables, the significant correlations were determined between the small number of specific attitudes (six out of eighteen) with closeness and conflict, in different directions. In detail, a higher level of closeness among early childhood educators showed significant correlations with the attitudes toward spoilage of children, children behavior under frustration, aggressive behavior of children, planning of education work with children, gender role development and curiosity of children, and the relationship between early childhood educators and immigrant families. The analysis of the determined findings resulted in a quality framework that could be used for contemporary discourse in this research field same as with some useful practical implications.