Positive teacher-student relationships aid achievement
Teachers who show an interest in and respect for their students are actually helping them to achieve academically,an international study says.
by Michael Salvatori, OCT
When the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report were released last December, I couldn’t help but feel proud.
Once again Canadian students ranked high academically among developed nations. Moreover, one of the key findings in the PISA report was that schools with good discipline and better student-teacher relations achieve better reading results.
Is it possible that the warmth of a smile and an extra moment of personal attention can spark the engine of student achievement? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s PISA study says “yes.”
Establishing close connections with students – as reflected in Ontario’s professional standard of commitment to students and their learning – improves learning for everyone.
According to the PISA data, students in 20 of the 38 participating countries said that their teachers listened to them – a significant jump between the 2000 and 2009 studies. “Positive student-teacher relationships are crucial for establishing a classroom environment that is conducive to learning,” the report concludes.
The standardized assessment has been administered internationally four times since 2000. The 2009 data (the latest report) were released in December 2010. Typically, between 4,500 and 10,000 15-year-old students take part in each country.
Internationally, in 2009, more students reported they were treated fairly by teachers and got extra help when they needed it than did their counterparts in 2000. Over 70 per cent of the participating Canadian students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “Most of my teachers really listen to what I have to say.”
Close to 90 per cent reported that they receive extra help from their teachers when they ask. That measure of support put Canada third among participating countries.
The research shows that students, particularly those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, learn more and have fewer disciplinary problems when they feel that their teachers take them seriously.
The data also reflect and reinforce Ontario standards – what it means to be a member of the teaching profession in this province and the widely held and modelled beliefs of practitioners.
Ontario teachers are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect. They are sensitive to the factors that influence individual student learning, and they help students develop as contributing citizens of Canadian society.
Students learn more and act out less when their teachers take them seriously.
Furthermore, their practice is predicated on a solid ethical foundation with care, respect, trust and integrity as the four cornerstones.
Trust is the cornerstone of strong and effective student-teacher relationships. I recently had the opportunity to meet Dr. Brenda Beatty, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne, when she visited Toronto. An accomplished scholar and researcher, Dr. Beatty spoke about trust and its impact on relationships and well-being.
One of the concepts that resonated with me was Dr. Beatty’s description of benevolence as the feeling of confidence we have that another person has our best interests at heart and will protect those interests.
In the PISA study, students were asked to agree or disagree with statements regarding their relationships with their teachers.
Researchers wanted to know: Did they get along? Were teachers interested in the students’ personal well-being? Did students feel that their teachers took them seriously? Did their teachers treat them fairly?
Students learn more and act out less when their teachers take them seriously. Around the globe, students are engaged in school, and student-teacher relations are getting better.
The resulting data are both instructive and comforting. It’s good to know that the moral and ethical underpinnings of our practice bear fruit where it matters most in student achievement.