A teacher is constrained by their role, the amount of time and contact they have and so forth, while the children are subjected to peer influences, family influences and so forth which all color their interpretation of the relationship. While these factors tend to be present in any relationship, they are magnified in student-teacher relationships, because of the limitations of time and the relatively impressionable nature of students and children to other factors.
There are many ways student-teacher relationships have been studied by social psychologists. One of the most common is through field study (Adler 1984, Arnove 2010). These allow researchers to directly see the contact as it is occurring, something that is invaluable given the level of distortion that can occur when these findings are reported in subsequent interviews. Interviews, however, also do provide valuable insight in the way that children and teachers actually perceive their relationship, regardless of what actually plays out in the classroom. Such study tactics are valuable yet subjective – they give incredible depth to particular situations in particular classrooms but are difficult to generalize into a broader group. Furthermore, these studies tend to be concentrated amongst middle-performing schools, as high-performing schools are not seen as issues and low-performing schools can create incredibly difficult study environments, in which it is difficult to get students to consent to participation in studies.
These field reports are often augmented by other methods of research, including surveys, which are made to make the process somewhat more general and widely ascribable (Tinker 1942). These surveys, as mentioned previously, have the advantage of being more generalizable as they have a wider data set, while also being able to allow some depth of questioning if properly developed (Quirk et. al. 2010).
One of the common issues with any