A supportive relationship between teachers and students has been shown to have positive effects on students’ performance and social development. Preservice teachers’ relational competence is, however, an unexplored area. The purpose of this study is to contribute to educational research about relational competence in teacher education by introducing a Swedish project which focuses on interpersonal aspects. The study has three parts. In the theoretical part, a conceptualization of teachers’ relational competence using Thomas Scheff’s theory of interpersonal relationships is outlined. In the empirical (pilot) part, a methodology for prompting preservice teachers’ analyses of teacher–student relationships is described, as well as a thematic analysis of their responses. The theoretical conceptualization is then used together with the empirical data in the third part, in order to identify development needs of preservice teachers in terms of relational competence. According to the conceptualization, relational competence includes three sub-concepts: communicative, differentiation, and socio-emotional competence. From the analysis of preservice students’ texts, the article identifies development needs in relation to the three sub-concepts. The concluding discussion focuses on lessons learned from the study regarding how to promote teacher students’ relational competence.
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