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How to develop positive teacher-student relationships

Successful teachers are those that have the ability to maximise the learning potential of all students in their class. Developing positive relationships between a teacher and student is a fundamental aspect of quality teaching and student learning.

Positive teacher-student relationships promote a sense of school belonging and encourage students to participate cooperatively. Students develop confidence to experiment and succeed in an environment where they are not restricted by the fear of failure. Teachers are able to assist students with motivation and goal setting, and students can turn to them for advice and guidance. 

As a parent, it’s important to understand how to develop positive teacher-student relationships so you know what to look for at your child’s school.

What The Research Tells Us

The effects of teacher-student relationships have been researched extensively, and points to how positive relationships can have good social and academic outcomes. As a parent, this research highlights the need to ensure your son is being taught by highly trained, highly motivated teachers who are aware of the impact they have – not just on your son’s test scores, but also on his overall development inside and outside the classroom.

In 2015, a researcher by the name of John Hattie identified a number of influences related to effective learning and achievement. Some of these influences included teaching strategies, classroom discussion, classroom cohesion, teacher expectation, teacher immediacy, teacher credibility and classroom behaviour. Establishing a positive and supportive classroom environment, combined with productive relationships between teachers and their students, will provide a platform in which students are encouraged and motivated to grow both academically and personally.

Hattie noted in his study that a harmonious classroom can assist with the development of creativity as well as reduce anxiety levels amongst students. The impact of student-teacher relationships upon a student’s mental health should not be ignored. It is thought that the risk of young people struggling with mental illness can be diminished with the help of a support framework. Teachers are in a position to act as a powerful and effective means of support and encouragement when this may not always be available in the home environment. 

In another study, Gillespie (2002) recognised that the inherent qualities of a student-teacher relationship (caring, knowing, trust and mutual respect) and a teacher’s rapport with students resulted in a classroom environment where students were affirmed and supported to achieve their best. 

Emily Gallagher published an article that sites further research into the effect of teacher-student relationships on social and academic outcomes. In this article, she references Bridget Hamre and Robert Pianta’s 2001 study. Specifically she highlights how classrooms can become supportive spaces where students can engage in academically and socially productive ways. She also emphasises that students who have positive relationships with their teachers are more willing to take on academic challenges and work on their social-emotional development. 

Seven Signs of Positive Teacher-Student Relationships

There are many different ways teachers can build positive relationships with their students. Take some time to reflect on these while you are reading and consider if they are being applied at your son’s school.

1. They provide structure
The majority of students respond positively to a structured environment. Teachers should explain clear expectations to their students. Rules and regulations must be sensible and constantly reinforced. In these situations, a student’s trust in their teacher will increase and they will understand that their teacher has their best interests at heart.

2. They teach with enthusiasm and passion

3. They display a positive attitude

4. They make learning fun
The creation of an enjoyable learning environment encourages student attendance and participation.

5. They show an interest in your student’s lives outside the classroom
Teachers should take a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their students.

6. They treat students with respect.
A teacher who respects their students will experience reciprocal respect from their students.

7. They create a secure and safe environment for students.

Teachers need to set expectations where students do not criticise, bully or intimidate each other.

Developing positive teacher-student relationships takes significant time and effort; however, the benefit on both the teacher and student is immeasurable.

At The Scots College, positive relationships are viewed as just as important as academic results. We raise fine young men who are ready to learn, lead and serve in their community. Academic excellence is important; however, we want our graduates to achieve so much more – we empower them to change the world. 

Discover more about a Scots education by downloading a copy of our Prospectus.

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