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Positive Teacher-Student Relations Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

Positive teacher-student relations refer to the extent to which students experience both fair and supportive interactions with their teachers. Positive teacher-student relations are closely related to quality instruction and school climate, as teachers have the opportunity to support students both academically and socially (Baker, Grant, & Morlock, 2008).

The Learning Bar’s framework on the drivers of student outcomes includes measures of quality instruction, school context, classroom context and family context. Classroom context includes measures of positive teacher-student relations, positive learning climate, and expectations for success.

Why is it important?

Positive teacher-student relations are related to students’ academic achievement and well-being:

  • Students with positive teacher-student relations have a greater motivation to perform well academically compared with those who have poor teacher-student relations (Hughes, Cavell, & Willson, 2001).
  • Positive teacher-student relations are positively associated with students’ motivation to learn mathematics (OECD, 2013).
  • Teacher-student relations have strong positive correlations with gains in intellectual engagement (Dunleavy,Milton, & Willms, 2012).
  • Teachers’ interactions with students can affect peer acceptance (Hughes, Cavell, & Willson, 2001).
  • Schools vary in their level of positive teacher-student relations. Students in schools where teacher-student relations are poor are more likely to have low levels of engagement (OECD, 2013).

How do we measure it?

In Tell Them From Me, in both the primary and secondary school questionnaires, students respond to questions concerning their views of teacher behaviours and whether they feel supported by them. The data are scaled on a 10- point scale and the results are reported as ‘the average score for teacher-student relations’.



Baker, J. A., Grant, S., & Morlock, L. (2008). The teacher-student relationship as a developmental context for children with internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(1), 3-15.

Dunleavy, J., Milton, P., & Willms, J. D. (2012). Trends in Intellectual Engagement. What did you do in School Today? Research Series Report Number Three. Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Hughes, J. N., Cavell, T. A., & Willson, V. (2001). Further support for the developmental significance of the quality of the teacher–student relationship. Journal of School Psychology, 39(4), 289-301.

OECD (2013). PISA 2012 Results: Ready to Learn: Students’ Engagement, Drive and Self-Beliefs (Volume III), PISA, OECD Publishing.