Teacher-student relationships core to student attitudes to school

Kind, helpful and funny teachers encourage a lasting positive attitude in children towards school.
Jun 25, 2020
Be kind
Long term effects of teacher relationships revealed

Kind, helpful and funny teachers encourage a lasting positive attitude in children towards school while negative teacher student relationships contribute to disruptive behavior.

Fond memories of teachers seem to encourage good future relationships with teachers as well, which underlines the importance of combining responsive instruction and individual guidance with explicit warmth.

Students with a history of disruptive behaviour overwhelmingly remember negative relationships with teachers, up one-third of students who misbehave don’t remember a single positive relationship with a teacher.

A study by Associate Professors Penny Van Bergen and Naomi Sweller of Macquarie University and Professor Linda Graham of QUT yielded the findings.

The research team conducted a series of interviews with 96 students from grades 3-10. They included students with and without a history of disruptive behaviour in mainstream schools, along with students in special 'behaviour schools”'

“Using their memories of conflictual interactions, students may develop protective strategies: either shying away from that teacher or reacting with pre-emptive aggression,” the article says.

Causality is not binary though as forty percent of students with no history of disruptive behaviour also remembered at least one negative relationship.

Many of these students were 'model' students: prefects, student reps, and school duxes. Students in all groups highlighted pre-emptive reprimands, when they were told off before doing something, as being particularly unfair.

In the classroom, teachers could reflect on positive interactions with their students by sharing positive memories or identifying each other’s positive characteristics, strategies which are commonly used in positive psychological interventions to improve student wellbeing.

Professional learning to help teachers better manage the emotional pressures of classroom teaching is essential in fostering good student teacher relationships.

Penny Van Bergen, Linda Graham & Naomi Sweller. ‘Memories of positive and negative student-teacher relationships in students with and without disruptive behavior’. School Psychology Review.