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Abstract

Student-teacher relationships play an important role in both teacher and student experiences in higher education and have been found to be linked to learning, classroom management, and to student absenteeism. Although historically conceptualised in terms of immediacy or distance and measured with reference to behaviours, the growing recognition of the role of emotions and of power—as well as the development of a range of multidimensional models of social relationships—all suggest it is time to re-evaluate how student-teacher relationships are understood. This paper develops a theoretical model of student-teacher affective relationships in higher education based on three dimensions: affection/warmth, attachment/safety, and assertion/power. The three-dimensional model was tested using the Classroom Affective Relationships Inventory (CARI) with data from 851 students. The data supported the use of this multidimensional model for student-teacher relationships with both two- and three-dimensional models of relationships being identified as appropriate. The theoretical development of a multidimensional model and the empirical development of an instrument with which to explore these dimensions has important implications for higher education teachers, administrators and researchers.

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