Teaching-learning relationships: how caring is enacted in computer-mediated communication

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Kim, Minseong

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This study explored the nature of teaching-learning relationships developed in computer-mediated communication (CMC), and how CMC contributes to creating and sustaining caring relationships between students and their teacher. The setting of this study was a reading specialization program for preservice teachers with a CMC component included in the coursework. Data were collected from multiple sources including students’ responses to class readings and their teacher’s comments to them, a survey of background information, text-based interviews with 25 students and their teacher, repeated interviews with 5 focal students, and twice-weekly classroom observations. Data were analyzed using the coding procedures for developing a grounded theory model proposed by Strauss and Corbin (1998) with qualitative approach. The findings indicated that CMC seemed to be a place where the students and the teacher could enter into a dialogic encounter, triggered by the dialogic nature of students’ responses to the class readings. Depending on perceptions of and trust in each other, dialogic involvement could either develop into caring encounters or not. In a caring encounter within dialogic involvement with each other, the teacher tried to feel what students were feeling and thinking (engrossment) and to allow himself to be available for students (motivational displacement), as shown in his CMC comments. In turn, students showed their reciprocity to the teacher’s caring, appreciating what was given by the teacher and disclosing their growth as becoming teachers in their CMC responses. In a reciprocal influence on each other in caring encounters, students and the teacher could construct their ethical ideal, the best part of the self, validated by each other, authoring themselves to be better teachers. However, for some students, regardless of the teacher’s intention to care for them, it was difficult to enter into a caring relationship with the teacher because of their mistrust in some part of him. The teacher also had some trouble feeling and thinking with some students due to his less than positive perceptions of them, thereby blocking a dialogic encounter from developing into a caring one. The findings of this study indicate that the ways caring was enacted in CMC was complex and truly interactional.