There are a variety of benefits associated with high-quality student-teacher relationships, especially for young and elementary learners. According to research posted by the American Psychological Association (APA), “students who have close, positive and supportive relationships with their teachers will attain higher levels of achievement than those students with more conflict in their relationships.” Students who trust their teachers and are encouraged to try—and even to fail—are more likely to experience higher engagement and enjoy more future success.
While the blended learning environment has risen in popularity, technology doesn’t preclude the formation of strong relationships in the classroom. In fact, the right ed tech tools can help teachers support high-quality relationships with their students both online and off. In this blog, we’ll examine how teachers can use tools in a blended learning environment to foster strong relationships with their students, even from an early age.
How High-Quality Relationships Support Learners
There are several benefits to high-quality classroom relationships. For teachers, they can lead to a more fulfilling work environment and make teaching a large class smoother. For students, they can improve engagement and lead to more positive experiences on their learning journey.
One area that benefits from these relationships is students’ academic success. A 2019 study of 291 elementary school students, their parents and their teachers found that relationship trajectories between teachers and young learners predicted math achievement in girls and reading achievement in boys. This study also found that when student-teacher relationships worsened over time—that is, became more conflictual—there was an associated negative impact on students’ scores.
Students also flourish in a classroom environment built on trust. They may feel more compelled to participate in their learning by taking chances if they feel that they can trust their teachers. “Positive teacher-student relationships draw students into the process of learning and promote their desire to learn,” the APA states. Trust can also empower students to approach their teacher for extra help if they’re struggling with a concept.
These findings are also supported by a recent study out of the University of Missouri, which found that students who felt that their teachers cared about them were more likely to get higher-quality teaching.
“One reason for that is students tend to be more motivated to learn and be engaged in the classroom when their teacher likes and cares about them,” noted Christi Bergin, associate dean and research professor at the University of Missouri and senior author on the study. “Positive teacher-student relationships change student behavior, and in this study, we found building those positive relationships actually leads to better teaching, too. It changes teacher behavior.”
The benefits of better student-teacher relationships are clear. So how do teachers foster them?
Building Relationships in the Classroom
Teachers can use personalized learning practices to encourage students to share. Fostering an environment in which students are empowered to voice their needs and desires can help bring about the benefits described above. When teachers focus on things like personalized pace and content, students feel more comfortable expressing their needs and interests. Personalized learning environments also naturally encourage students to think creatively and take risks with their learning while ensuring that they’re in a safe place to make mistakes.
Personalized learning can be made possible by using the right ed tech tools, like the right learning management system (LMS). Here’s how teachers are leveraging these tools with tactics that can help build high-quality relationships in the classroom:
1. Frequent One-on-Ones
Carving out one-on-one time with students is an important part of a successful blended learning environment. This ensures that students who need extra help know that they can ask for it in a private, safe environment. Trust between teachers and students ensures that these sessions are open and honest; teachers can also give and receive feedback from their students.
One-on-one sessions aren’t all about business, though. These sessions serve as great opportunities for teachers and students to build personal connections, allowing for conversations about interests and activities without the risk of derailing a lesson. These sessions can happen in person or virtually, with both options having their benefits.
2. Thoughtful, Timely Feedback
Ensuring that students get thoughtful feedback that they can implement in upcoming assignments helps build an environment in which students trust that their teachers want them to succeed. By using an LMS, teachers can upload grades as soon as they’re ready, while students can access them outside of class time. This means that students can implement their feedback sooner and recall it when needed.
An LMS makes marking things like quizzes nearly instantaneous, while the ability to align rubrics to assignments makes marking for an entire class at once quick and easy. Teachers can then go in and add more comments so that students know how they can improve.
3. Video Notes
Video notes are an engaging, personal way that teachers can interact with their students asynchronously. With personalized video notes, students can receive feedback, encouragement and comments from their teacher even when in-class time wouldn’t otherwise allow for it. These video notes, which are stored digitally, can be accessed again in the future for easy reference when it comes time to implement the feedback.
Students can also access these notes in private, which can make receiving constructive feedback easier. They can also share this feedback with their parents or guardians, who can in turn get the information from the source rather than secondhand.
4. Digital Curriculum Resources
Teachers spend hundreds of hours each year on things other than teaching. In 2016, Market Data Retrieval released a report that found that U.S. teachers spent about 12.5 hours per week creating or searching for instructional resources for their classes. Freeing up some of those hours can have a positive impact on students and classes: teachers who have less to do outside the classroom have more time to devote to relationship building.
An LMS can help by offering teachers native digital curriculum resources that are directly aligned with their districts’ course standards. This content is created by professionals—many of whom are teachers themselves—and it’s still engaging and fun, meaning that students reap the benefits of digital curriculum resources while teachers get to spend more time doing what they love.