June 22, 2022

Positive student-teacher relationships improve the quality of teaching

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Diving Brief:

  • Positive student-teacher relationships not only help students, but benefit teachers in interesting ways – leading them to use more engaging teaching techniques, which in turn improves students’ academic achievement, according to a study by the ‘University of Missouri.
  • Using “prosocial classroom behaviors, such as showing kindness and compassion, increased teacher motivation and confidence, according to a University of Missouri study. It has also led teachers to use more engaging teaching techniques that make lessons interesting and relevant to students, said Christi Bergin, research professor at Mizzou and co-author of the study, which will be published in the Learning and Instruction journal.
  • Understanding the positive influences of prosocial behaviors on teaching practices could support improved student outcomes, as well as help prevent teacher burnout and stem the tide of teacher shortages, Bergin said.

Overview of the dive:

Although there is research showing positive teacher-student relationships can boost students’ academic and social development, this is Bergin’s first knowledge study that shows how positive teacher-student relationships can impact effective instructional practices.

To better understand the influence of positive classroom relationships on teaching, researchers analyzed survey data from the Network for Educator Effectiveness, a teacher growth and evaluation system developed at the College of Education and Development. MU human.

This system is used in more than 280 Missouri school districts and assesses teachers on high-impact teaching practices that can lead to student success. These practices under the Educator Effectiveness Network are:

  • Cognitive engagement in content. It refers to the mental engagement of students in learning activities, such as teachers prompting responses from all students.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving. This includes teachers asking students to explain and justify their thinking or the thinking of others.
  • Affective engagement in the lesson. Teachers can do this by using materials and activities that interest students and by helping students set achievable but challenging goals.
  • Pedagogical follow-up during the course of the lesson. This practice refers to teachers’ strategies for checking student understanding during class and the ability to adjust instruction based on student progress.

The data used in the analysis is based on the Teaching Effectiveness Student Survey in the Network for Educator Effectiveness database. The survey asked students in grades 4 to 10 to rate their teachers on their teaching practices. It also asked students if they thought their teacher cared about them, was approachable to other students in the class, and if they enjoyed learning from this teacher.

The researchers analyzed two sets of survey data from the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years from 844 general education teachers across all grades, subjects and at various stages of their teaching careers, Bergin said. , who is also director of Prosocial Development. & Education Research Lab at MU.

The study concluded that when teacher-student relationships are positive, teachers are more likely to use complex, high-impact instructional practices that support greater student achievement.

These high-impact teaching approaches are difficult to apply consistently, Bergin said. “It’s just hard — really, really hard — and we don’t see a high frequency of these kinds of teaching behaviors, but we know they’re really effective,” she said.

There is skepticism, however, that building teacher-student relationships would have much influence on student outcomes. Some doubters say focusing on instructional strategies for academic content is the only driver of academic success, Bergin said.

“There are a lot of people, both lawmakers and even some teachers themselves, who say it’s not important,” Bergin said.

But Bergin said these relationships have multiple benefits and may even be the best way to support students. mental health wellbeing and retain teachers, especially as school systems recover from the pandemic.

“If you can address…that basic level where you have a classroom in a school that feels like a warm, welcoming, safe place, then even kids who come with a history of trauma will function better,” he said. she declared. . “It creates a more positive classroom environment where teachers and children want to be.”