Today, we know more about teaching than we ever have before. Research has shown us that teachers’ actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff collegiality, and community involvement (Marzano, 2003a). We also know that one of the classroom teacher’s most important jobs is managing the classroom effectively.

Research not only supports the importance of classroom management, but it also sheds light on the dynamics of classroom management. Stage and Quiroz’s meta-analysis (1997) shows the importance of there being a balance between teacher actions that provide clear consequences for unacceptable behavior and teacher actions that recognize and reward acceptable behavior. Other researchers (Emmer, Evertson, & Worsham, 2003; Evertson, Emmer, & Worsham, 2003) have identified important components of classroom management, including beginning the school year with a positive emphasis on management; arranging the room in a way conducive to effective management; and identifying and implementing rules and operating procedures.

In a recent meta-analysis of more than 100 studies (Marzano, 2003b), we found that the quality of teacher-student relationships is the keystone for all other aspects of classroom management. In fact, our meta-analysis indicates that on average, teachers who had high-quality relationships with their students had 31 percent fewer discipline problems, rule violations, and related problems over a year’s time than did teachers who did not have high-quality relationships with their students.

What are the characteristics of effective teacher-student relationships? Let’s first consider what they are not. Effective teacher-student relationships have nothing to do with the teacher’s personality or even with whether the students view the teacher as a friend. Rather, the most effective teacher-student relationships are characterized by specific teacher behaviours: exhibiting appropriate levels of dominance; exhibiting appropriate levels of cooperation; and being aware of high-needs students.

Giving appropriate cooperation is the first characteristic. Cooperation is characterized by a concern for the needs and opinions of others. Although not the antithesis of dominance, cooperation certainly occupies a different realm. Whereas dominance focuses on the teacher as the driving force in the classroom, cooperation focuses on the students and teacher functioning as a team. The interaction of these two dynamics—dominance and cooperation—is a central force in effective teacher-student relationships.

Providing flexible learning goals is the second characteristic. Just as teachers can communicate appropriate levels of dominance by providing clear learning goals, they can also convey appropriate levels of cooperation by providing flexible learning goals. Giving students the opportunity to set their own objectives at the beginning of a unit or asking students what they would like to learn conveys a sense of cooperation.

Taking a personal interest in each student is also one of the characteristics for effective teacher – student relationships. As McCombs and Whisler (1997) note, all students appreciate personal attention from the teacher. Although busy teachers—particularly those at the secondary level—do not have the time for extensive interaction with all students, some teacher actions can communicate personal interest and concern without taking up much time. Teachers can talk informally with students before, during, and after class about their interests. They greet students outside of school—for instance, at extracurricular events or at the store. Teachers can single out a few students each day in the lunchroom and talk with them. Importantly, teachers can compliment students on important achievements in and outside of school.

Lastly, don’t leave relationships to chance which provide an essential foundation for effective classroom management—and classroom management is a key to high student achievement. Teacher-student relationships should not be left to chance or dictated by the personalities of those involved. Instead, by using strategies supported by research, teachers can influence the dynamics of their classrooms and build strong teacher-student relationships that will support student learning.

End Notes:

Marzano, R. J. (2003a). What works in schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Stage, S. A., & Quiroz, D. R. (1997). A meta-analysis of interventions to decrease disruptive classroom behavior in public education settings. School Psychology Review, 26(3), 333–368.

Emmer, E. T., Evertson, C. M., & Worsham, M. E. (2003). Classroom management for secondary teachers (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

McCombs, B. L., & Whisler, J. S. (1997). The learner-centered classroom and school. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

By: Carmencita P. Bautista | Teacher III | Mariveles National High School – Poblacion | Mariveles, Bataan

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