Everyone knows students learn better when they have a good relationship with the teacher. There is no shortage of research and literature on that subject. Student academic achievement has long been linked to students’ relationship with their teacher, but did you know that same relationship may make the teacher teach better too?
Researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Texas at Arlington have found that the teachers in these positive teacher-student relationships actually deliver better instruction. Previously most of the research in this area was predicated on the idea that students were simply more engaged and tried harder for educators they connected with. While there is definitely some of that involved, this new study indicates that the effort and engagement works both ways.
Essentially the study highlights the importance of teachers demonstrating “soft” skills or prosocial behaviors such as kindness, or compassion as opposed to just the “hard” skills of the content.
Based on the previous body of research, one would assume these teachers would be able to pull more out of students purely on the strength of their positive relationships. However, teachers in this study were also linked to high-impact or best practice teaching strategies – techniques we know are higher quality in terms of instructing students. Though we know these practices are more effective, they often take more work and effort on the part of the teacher to implement in addition to more buy-in from students. Thus, such practices often don’t happen in classrooms. This study shows when the relationship is there the practices are more likely to follow.
The methodology to gather these findings was simple. The researchers analyzed survey data around teachers from various grade levels, subjects, and levels of experience. Students were told to rate their teachers’ instructional practices. They were also given questions designed to ascertain the quality of the teacher-student relationship. The conclusion is that when the teacher-student relationship was highly rated, so to were their instructional practices.
All of this research seems obvious, but people who work in schools and advocate for relationship-based strategies receive push back from people who don’t feel such measures are necessary. Having students “like you” may not be absolutely necessary, but the growing body of research indicates that it certainly doesn’t hurt and probably even helps.
Read the full study here (Learning and Instruction)