ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: The teacher-student connection

By Emily Haas Brown
October 2020
Vol. 41, No. 5
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship,” said James P. Comer (Comer, 2001), renowned scholar, child psychiatrist, and designer of school programs. Indeed, a large body of research confirms what most educators know: Relationships are the foundation for learning and achievement in school (Anthony et al., 2012; Atkins et al., 2013; Bilica et al., 2014; Connell & Klem, 2004; Koomen, Oort, et al., 2011; McCroskey & Teven, 1996). Teacher-learner relationships affect student engagement, student motivation, student attendance, achievement, and test scores. They also affect teachers’ sense of well-being and job satisfaction. Teachers internalize their experiences with students, which in turn affect the teachers’ professional and personal self-esteem, either by creating meaning, purpose, enjoyment, and passion or by causing stress, doubt, and burnout (Koomen, Spilt,

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Sample from the Teacher Learner Relationship Survey

Please respond by circling the appropriate number.

To what degree does each statement describe the conditions of your classroom environment?

1=Never   2=Very rarely   3=Rarely   4=Occasionally   5=Very frequently   6=Always

1. How consistently do you include multicultural materials into your classroom? 1  2  3  4  5  6
2. How consistently do you find yourself being genuine with your students? 1  2  3  4  5  6
3. How often do you and the learners in your classroom trust each other? 1  2  3  4  5  6
4. How consistently would your students say that you are confident in their abilities? 1  2  3  4  5  6
5.  How consistently do you demand your students’ best effort? 1  2  3  4  5  6
6.  How consistently would students describe you as friendly in your classroom? 1  2  3  4  5  6
7. How often do you use the knowledge of your students’ learning styles in planning or instructing in your classroom? 1  2  3  4  5  6
8. How often do you explain something two or more times in your classroom? 1  2  3  4  5  6
9. How consistently would your students describe you as patient? 1  2  3  4  5  6
10. How consistently do students believe that you are vested in their success? 1  2  3  4  5  6



Anthony, E.R., Baker, A.M., Barile, J.P., Donohue, D.K., Henrich, C.C., & Weaver, S.R. (2012). Teacher-student relationship climate and school outcomes: Implications for educational policy initiatives. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3), 256-267.

Atkins, M., Bracket, M.A., Cappella, E., DeCoster, J., Downer, J. T., Hamagami, A., … Rivers, S.E. (2013). Teaching through interactions: Testing a developmental framework of teacher effectiveness in over 4,000 classrooms. Elementary School Journal, 113(4), 461-487.

Babad, E. (1990). Measuring and changing teachers’ differential behavior as perceived by students and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 683-690.

Baldwin, L.M., Genero, N.P., Miller, J.B., & Surrey, J. (1992). Measuring perceived mutuality in close relationships: Validation of the Mutual Psychological Development Questionnaire. Journal of Family Psychology, 6(1), 36-48.

Bilica, K., Gdovin, R., Moseley, C., & Wandless, A. (2014). Exploring the relationship between teaching efficacy and cultural efficacy of novice science teachers in high-needs schools. School Science and Mathematics, 114(7), 315-325.

Bondy, E. & Ross, D.D. (2008). The teacher as warm demander. Educational Leadership, 66(1), 54-58.

Comer, J. (2001). Schools that develop children. The American Prospect, 12(7), 33-35.

Connell, J.P. & Klem, A.M. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262-273.

Cowley, E.T., Hawk, K., Hill, J., & Sutherland. S. (2002). The importance of the teacher/student relationship for Maori and Pasifika students. Set: Research information for teachers, 3, 44-49.

Frenzel, A.C., Goetz, T., Ludtke, O., Pekrun, R., & Sutton, R.E. (2009). Emotional transmission in the classroom: Exploring the relationship between teacher and student enjoyment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 705-716.

Koomen, H.M., Oort, F J., Roorda, D.L., Spilt, J.L. (2011). The influence of affective teacher-student relationships on students’ school engagement and achievement: A meta-analytic approach. Review of Educational Research, 81(4), 493-529.

Koomen, H.M., Spilt, J.L., & Thijs, J.T. (2011). Teacher wellbeing: The importance of teacher-student relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4), 457-477.

La Paro, K.M., Pianta, R.C., & Stuhlman, M. (2004). The classroom assessment scoring system: Findings from the prekindergarten year. The Elementary School Journal, 104(5), 409-426.

McCroskey, J. & Teven, J. (1996). The relationship of perceived teacher caring with student learning and teacher evaluation. Paper presented at annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Diego, CA.

Rimm-Kaufman, S. & Sandilos, L. (2018). Improving students’ relationships with teachers to provide essential supports for learning.

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