Positive teacher-student relationships lead to

picture: Christi Bergin
to see Continued

Credit: MU College of Education and Human Development

COLUMBIA, Missouri — Previous research has shown that positive teacher-student relationships promote student academic success, such as better grades and test scores, but a new study from the University of Missouri found that Positive teacher-student experiences also lead to better teaching.

The findings underscore the importance of teachers demonstrating “soft” skills, or prosocial behaviors, in the classroom — such as being kind, compassionate, and caring for others — in relation to teaching students traditional “difficult” skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Students are more likely to learn when they feel loved and valued by their teacher,” said Christi Bergin, research professor at the MU College of Education and Human Development and lead author of the study. “One reason for this is that students tend to be more motivated to learn and engage in class when their teacher loves and cares about them. Positive teacher-student relationships change student behavior, and in this study, we found that building these positive relationships also leads to better teaching. It changes the behavior of teachers.

Bergin analyzed survey data from the Network for Educator Effectiveness, a teacher growth and evaluation system developed at the MU College of Education and Human Development that is now used in more than 280 Missouri school districts.

The survey asked students in grades 4 through 10 to rate their teachers on four teaching practices strongly linked to students’ academic success: stimulating cognitive engagement, critical thinking and problem solving, helping students to follow from one subject to another and make the program interesting and relevant. . Other relationship-building survey questions asked students whether they thought their teacher cared about them, was approachable to other students in the class, and whether they enjoyed learning from the teacher.

Bergin found that students who reported having more positive relationships with their teachers also reported that their teachers used higher-impact teaching practices related to student academic success. She explained that these high-impact teaching practices are often difficult to implement because they require a lot of effort and do not happen frequently in classrooms. The study provides evidence that one way to activate high-impact teaching practices is to promote caring teacher-student relationships.

“I became interested in prosocial behavior because research shows it leads to all kinds of positive outcomes in school and in life, including better grades and test scores, happier relationships, being liked more by their peers and feel more accepted at school,” Bergin said. “Our overall goal is to promote behaviors that help children become the people you want to work with, live next to, and marry off your children. Teachers play a key role in the development of children, not only teaching them to excel in academic subjects, but also teaching them to be prosocial human beings.

“Positive teacher-student relationships can lead to better teaching” was recently published in Learning and instruction. Teachers interested in receiving free prosocial education can contact Christi Bergin at [email protected]


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