Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 18, Iss. 1, January, 2014, pp. 23-45
@2014 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


A Nonlinear Dynamical Systems Approach to Real-Time Teacher Behavior: Differences between Teachers

Helena J. M. Pennings, Utrecht University
Mieke Brekelmans, Utrecht University
Theo Wubbels, Utrecht University
Anna C. van der Want, Eindhoven University of Technology
Luce C. A. Claessens, Utrecht University
Jan van Tartwijk, Utrecht University

Abstract: A positive teacher-student relationship is important for studentsí motivation, studentsí academic achievement, and teacher well-being. How the teacher-student relationship develops in real-time has hardly been studied. In the present study we explored real-time interpersonal behavior (micro-level) for teachers with different relatively stable patterns of interpersonal teacher behavior (macro-level), i.e., interpersonal profiles. Interpersonal profiles are considered indicative of the teacher-student relationship. Interpersonal teacher behavior was conceptualized using Interpersonal Theory in terms of (a blend of) Agency and Communion. We used a Nonlinear Dynamic Systems (NDS) approach to explore differences in content (attractors) and structure of changing behavior (variability) in real-time interpersonal teacher behavior using State Space Grid (SSG) analyses. We found the expected differences between teachers and correspondence between the location of the attractors in the SSG and the blend of Agency and Communion characterizing the teachersí interpersonal profiles. Regarding structure, we found the expected higher variability in real-time behavior for teachers with interpersonal profiles characterized by lower levels of Agency and Communion. We concluded there is sufficient potential of NDS to differentiate between teachers in order to use a NDS approach in future research on the connection between teacher-student relationship and real-time teacher interpersonal behavior.

Keywords: real-time interpersonal teacher behavior, interpersonal theory, state space grid, nonlinear dynamic systems