In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Relational Pedagogies

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Contexts for Relational Pedagogies: Early Childhood Education, Schools, and Other Educational Contexts
  • Relational Pedagogies in Indigenous, Diverse, and Non-Western Contexts
  • Relationship Quality, Learning, and Engagement
  • Relationships and Socioemotional Learning Outcomes
  • Relationships and Cognitive Learning Outcomes
  • Pedagogical Love
  • Interactional Processes and Learning Outcomes
  • Teachers’ Relational Competencies: Supporting and Predicting Effective Relationships
  • Family-Based Pedagogies as a Component of Relational Care

Childhood Studies Relational Pedagogies
Penny Van Bergen, Rebecca Andrews
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0246


Relational pedagogies place relationships at the heart of good teaching and learning. As shown across multiple fields of educational scholarship, educational interactions and learning exchanges between children and their teachers necessarily exist within the context of an existing relationship. The strength and characteristics of these relationships in turn shape and influence the success of the exchange. Importantly, therefore, relational pedagogy is not simply about making a child or teacher feel happy or content. Rather, it is closely related to the style, quality, and content of education a child receives. Empirical research supports these theoretical claims. Relationship qualities and teacher-child interaction qualities have each long been shown to influence children’s emotional well-being and competence, across early childhood centers and schools, yet there is increasingly strong evidence that they shape cognitive development and learning outcomes too. To ensure equitable educational opportunities for all children, strong and adaptive teacher-child relationships are critical. Given the varied definitions and use of relational pedagogy in the literature, together with a diverse range of relevant research that examines relational concepts, we have attempted to present multiple representative topics and articles across this encyclopedia entry. The topics and articles we feature are not exhaustive, and, indeed, there are likely to be other good ways that one might frame research and theory on relational pedagogies. Where two studies have similar findings, we have intentionally given preference to the more recent study; noting that references from this more recent work are likely to offer the reader the broadest window into the field. We nonetheless also include a number of seminal resources. We also have elected to cite research with robust methodologies where possible, although we note that methodological approaches vary markedly between subfields. Research examining teachers’ perspectives in early childhood centers has often used multiple case studies, for example, while research examining children’s developmental outcomes within particular relationships or following particular interactions is often larger in scale and broader in approach. The majority of research and scholarship on relational pedagogies, student-teacher relationship quality, and interactional processes is conducted with Western societies and cultures: often in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and western Europe. Less research or scholarship has been conducted in other countries, cultures, and subcultures. This is a problem replicated across developmental and educational research broadly, with study participants much more likely to come from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies than from other non-WEIRD societies. While the majority of works in this bibliography are therefore also conducted with Western children and students, we include a section outlining an important body of emerging research and scholarship focused on relational pedagogies in Indigenous, non-Western, and diverse communities.

Reference Works

To get an in-depth overview of relational pedagogies from different perspectives, both in theory and practice, a small number of reference books and book chapters are particularly useful places to begin. Bingham and Sidorkin 2004 discusses the need for relational pedagogies in schools to support children’s educational and socioemotional outcomes and to shape educational systems in a manner that is democratic and caring. Such focus represents a shift from dominant theories and pedagogies that are more concerned with control. Bingham and Sidorkin 2004 argues, however, that true learning cannot take place without authentic relationships. Beigi 2020, a chapter for early childhood education students and educators, similarly discusses relational pedagogies and relation-based curricula in terms of care, both historically and in modern educational approaches. To support educators in adopting an intentionally relational approach, these works offer guidance for specific interactional techniques that can support children’s learning and development. In Papatheodorou and Moyles 2008, a range of contextual factors that might influence relational pedagogies in early childhood contexts are discussed in depth. Strategies for enhancing relational pedagogies are outlined. Finally, in an edited book on inclusive education Graham, et al. 2019 presents several chapters in which the importance of relationships for student inclusion is outlined. Pedagogical approaches that enable inclusion are discussed. Across all reference works here, there is acknowledgement that relational pedagogies can be difficult to enact. Nonetheless, they are critically important for student learning.

  • Beigi, R. “Relational Pedagogy: Relationships in Dialogic Spaces” In Early Years Pedagogy and Practice: A Guide for Students and Practitioners. By R. Beigi, 158–181. London: Taylor & Francis, 2020.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780429430473-7

    This chapter provides a valuable introduction to relational pedagogy. A historical overview of relational care in education is provided alongside definitions of relational pedagogy as intentional, personal, pedagogic, and caring. Examples of relational curriculums are provided, together with practical tips for enacting pedagogy in conversation and using sustained shared thinking.

  • Bingham, C., and A. M. Sidorkin. No Education Without Relation. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

    This early and well-regarded book presents an educational “manifesto”: arguing that relational pedagogy is critical for student learning and necessary for democratic teaching. Relationship-building can be hard, the authors argue, but with important mutual benefits. Philosopher Nel Noddings, known for her ethics of care, provides a foreword to the book.

  • Graham, L. J., C. Grové, and P. Walker. Inclusive Education for the 21st Century: Theory, Policy and Practice. Crow’s Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2019.

    Across several chapters this edited book outlines teacher-child relationships and quality learning interactions as important elements of a holistic inclusive education. Inclusion is necessary to avoid disadvantage for students with disabilities, mental health challenges, and complex learning profiles. By knowing students and meeting their needs, teachers foster learning and belonging.

  • Papatheodorou, T., and J. R. Moyles. Learning Together in the Early Years: Exploring Relational Pedagogy. London: Routledge, 2008.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203894163

    This edited book by Papatheodorou and Moyles considers relational pedagogy in the context of early childhood education internationally. The chapters cover how adults and children relate in different cultural and learning and teaching contexts, and how pedagogy can be enhanced with professional development and parent partnerships.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.