Student-Teacher Positive Relationships


Introduction to the Study

For years, theorists have attempted to determine the most effective ways to educate our nation’s children. Millions of dollars have been spent in research to determine the best practices and processes to use for this purpose. Programs have been created, theories have been developed, and experiments have been instituted (Douglas, 2008; Pianta, Stuhlman, & Hamre, 2002). Some of these efforts have been successful and strategies have been efficiently applied by teachers, while some studies have been inconclusive.

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One finding identified as successful, that of creating a positive bond between students and teachers, is one of the most influential factors involved in teaching and disciplining school children (Maddox & Prinz, 2003). When children feel a sense of connectedness to their teachers, it reflects on students’ academic performance and also in their emotional judgment (Ladd & Burgess, 2001). When a student feels connected to a teacher, both are at ease even in difficult situations. Children tend to be more receptive toward discipline and constructive criticism and have a greater tendency toward openness when rapport with the teacher is strong. A positive manner of correcting student behavior allows students to be more open to learning while trying harder in their academic activities (Cervantes, 2007). Cervantes (2007) suggested that children who experienced nonjudgmental correction were more apt to work toward worthwhile goals in the classroom. Being able to accept correction good-naturedly makes students less hesitant. It follows that when they do well, it is likely that they gain recognition or praise from their teacher. Working harder ensures that students maintain a good relationship with their teacher. This concept is an interesting one to pursue because it is not known what impact caring relationships can have on the outcome of educating children and youth.

Background of the Study

Recollections of the researcher’s past school experiences and informal interviews with peers offer evidence that positive relationships with caring adults create considerable impact on student outcomes. A caring teacher appeals to a student’s need for approval, especially at an age when self-concept is being formed as early as in the preschool years. Serving as an inspiration, a caring teacher’s qualities, actions, and even philosophy are emulated by his/her students. Mboya (1995) and Pianta and Stuhlman (2004) contended that student-teacher relationships may be viewed as avenues for children to continue developing a personal view of themselves, others, and the world. Such relationships can validate how children perceive their value and worth.

Another significance of positive relationships between a caring teacher and a student is the development of the child’s well-being, which eventually results in greater academic success. Peisner-Feinberg, Culkin, and Howes (2009) conducted a longitudinal study that evaluated students’ performance in second grade as compared to their performance in preschool. The researchers concluded that those who had positive student-teacher relationships while in preschool performed better in areas of thinking, language ability, and math skills compared to those who did not. Other studies confirmed this conclusion when researchers observed higher scores in standardized tests of children who enjoyed positive student-teacher relationships as compared to children who were not exposed to caring, empowering relationships (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Helker, Schotterlkorb, & Ray, 2007).

Children’s social skills may also be predicted by the quality of relationships they have with their teachers. Emotional security with other teachers and peers may even stem from relationships with first teachers from day care or preschool, and these relationships are likely to have laid a foundation for positive or negative peer relationships (Howes, Hamilton, & Matheson, 1994).

Finally, developing a positive student-teacher relationship that may lead to mentorship can initiate deep learning. A teacher-mentor can carefully guide the mentee to see relationships, use ideas in new ways and apply ideas to new situations, and evaluate or challenge previous knowledge (Stoll, Fink, & Earl, 2003). Otherwise, students left to their own devices may resort to, for instance, memorizing facts and formulas in school and never make the necessary applications to other topical areas or to daily routines. Good mentors are good listeners, observers, and problem-solvers (Stipek, 2006). Mentees feel comfortable opening up to mentors without fear of being chastised for making mistakes. Mentors acknowledge, accept, and respect the mentees’ views and work together with the mentees in correcting what is wrong. This type of relationship requires reflection and effort from both mentor and mentee. According to Osterman (1990), “Reflection is the essential part of the learning process because it results in making sense of or extracting meaning from the experience” (p. 23). Together, mentor and mentee may go through a joint reflection on whether common goals (for example, improved performance in academics) are being met. Having a strong and positive student-teacher relationship is most likely to optimize a student’s learning potential.

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Students who are struggling in certain areas may benefit greatly from a positive relationship with a teacher and seek to overcome difficulties as a result of a positive relationship with a trusted adult. If a student facing academic difficulty does not have a supportive teacher, but is instead faced with a threatening teacher who elicits negative feelings and attitudes, then that student may not be motivated to perform well (Pianta, 1999).

Statement of the Problem

As education molds young people to be future citizens of the world, it is essential to consider all factors that would prepare students for such responsibility. What is important is to develop and hone talents and skills to optimal levels within an environment conducive to learning (Van Petegem, Aelterman, Van Keer, & Rosseel, 2008). While physical environment and curriculum may be controlled and standardized, the teacher factor is equally important (Van Petegem et al., 2008). Individual teachers determine how to deal with students. There are, however, many factors that determine how students perceive their teachers. It is believed that student perceptions of their teachers and the quality of relationship they share will have an effect on student learning and attitude ((Maddox & Prinz, 2003; Ladd & Burgess, 2001; Cervantes, 2007). The research problem addressed for the proposed study examines student perception of the student-teacher relationship: how it affects their academic performance, attitudes to school work, personal self-worth, and future study and career plans.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed study is to examine student perceptions of their teachers based on their interactions and/or established relationships, and to explore the resulting effects of those relationships on students’ academic performance, attitudes to school work, personal self-worth, and future study and career plans. The proposed study purports to determine if there is a relationship between students’ academic achievement as well as their personal self-worth and their perception of a caring, positive relationship between themselves and their teachers. The students’ attitudes towards school work will also be examined. In addition, information regarding students’ attitudes toward college and continuing education or career will be explored.

Students have a tendency to be disengaged in their academic tasks if they do not share a positive relationship with their teachers (Ladd & Burgess, 2001; Lander, 2009). Sharing a relationship that is perceived to be tense and filled with negativity, for instance, is bound to have negative outcomes specifically on the student. It is assumed that having positive student-teacher relationships will help improve students’ performance, self-worth, and attitudes toward school work and their future education and career plans (Fowler, Banks, Anhalt, Der, & Kalis, 2008). Teachers perceived to have positive, relational qualities are presumed to affect students’ motivation to work harder in their academic tasks in order to prove that they are good students and to please their teachers. The positive results of such effort are expected to sustain the positive relationship between the student and the teacher.

A positive student-teacher relationship that brings about positive outcomes for the student in terms of academic achievement, positive attitude to school work, healthy personal self-worth, and promising future study and career plans may be likened to a good mentoring relationship. Mentoring may be defined as the “pairing of a less skilled/experienced individual, the mentee, with a more skilled and experienced individual, the mentor, for the purpose of developing the mentee’s competencies” (Watts, 1996, p. 5). Implications of the findings of this proposed study will be thoroughly considered to generate recommendations that may help optimize teacher behaviors and student outcomes.

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This proposed study attempts to fill the need for research on the area of adolescent education because adolescence is a critical period in the formation of an individual’s character and development of his/her potential in order to be successful in the future. The researcher believes that relationships with teachers have great effect on the formation of adolescent personality and perspective in life. This study aims to fill the gap in research on adolescent student-teacher relationships because most studies done previously were on early childhood and middle childhood-aged children. The need to study perceptions of adolescents regarding the quality of their relationship with their teachers is crucial because of the issues and developmental changes that simultaneously happen to children at this stage of development that may trigger deep emotional impacts on their lives. The methodology of utilizing questionnaires and focus group interviews are believed to be the best ways to solicit adolescent students’ insights about how they perceive their relationships with their teachers and how such relationships influence their academic performance, attitudes to school work, personal self-worth, and future study and career plans. Findings from this research will be useful for educators in amending unsuccessful practices in terms of relating with their students, and teachers could become more aware of developmentally appropriate practices in interactions with adolescent students.

Research Questions

This study will utilize four specific research questions to support the investigation of the central research question which has been identified as follows: “In their own viewpoint, how do students’ relationships with their teachers affect their academic performance, attitude towards school work, personal self-worth, and future plans?”

Additional Research Questions

To supplement the central research question, the following research questions are likewise posited as follows:

  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his/her academic achievement?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his/her attitudes toward school work?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his/her personal self-worth?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and students’ future study and career plans?

Significance of the Study

What sets this study apart from other studies on student-teacher relationships (Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004; Birch & Ladd, 1997; Cervantes, 2007; Brekelmans & Wubbels, 1991) is the target age of students to be studied. The researcher intends to further the work of Pianta (1999) to a degree but will explore the effects of a positive student-teacher relationship in an older age group. While Pianta successfully argued that relationships between children and teachers affect students’ learning outcomes, he did not describe the degree of impact or the areas of impact in relation to older students. The degree of impact would be extremely difficult to measure in younger children. This study will seek to probe the depth of impact made on students by caring and nurturing teachers, and the investigation will focus on the ways students are impacted. Does a positive relationship create a desire to advance education, to perform to a higher level, or to behave more acceptably in school? How long does the impact last? Do students who benefit from positive relationships continue to show signs of improvement after the relationships fade? The questions assume that there is more to student-teacher relationships than mere transfer of knowledge. Findings from this research may have implications on how teachers deal with their students in the mentoring process.

This study will be beneficial for both student teachers and experienced teachers because the ulterior purpose of the study is to generate introspection in terms of teachers’ relational styles with their students. New teachers will learn how specific behaviors may be perceived by students and how these behaviors may affect self-esteem, academic performance, and plans for the future. More experienced teachers may compare and contrast the concepts discussed in this paper as well as the findings of the study to their own teaching practice and possibly develop more effective approaches in relating to their students. School supervisors may also learn new information about how to evaluate classroom teachers in terms of the establishment of classroom climate, motivation of students, and quality of teaching.

The most significant altruistic contribution of this study will be to identify and examine ways and means for educators to reach out to students in order for them to develop healthy self-esteem, achieve more in their academic performance, and be more optimistic and proactive about their future plans.

The findings of the study will be useful in determining how teachers can adjust the way they deal with their students in order to encourage positive outcomes. The opportunity to hear the opinions of adolescent students about their perceptions of the quality of the relationships they share with their teachers should be maximized by identifying the common weaknesses of teachers. At the same time, teachers’ strengths that impact positive relationships will also be identified.

Teachers who encourage students towards positive outcomes on many levels are needed by the youth of today. No matter how excellent a teacher’s educational background is, as reflected by his or her professional competencies, if his or her personal competencies are not adequate to address students’ need for positive relationships, then his/her talent for teaching may be considered futile. This is because teacher success is dependent on student success. Consequently, the researcher believes that students’ success will not materialize if they are not encouraged enough by positive student-teacher relationships to strive for academic achievement, positive attitudes toward school work, positive personal self-worth, and promising study and career plans for the future.

Hence, this study will be a welcome contribution to the literature on teacher development, student achievement, positive school relationships, and the establishment and maintenance of a positive school climate. It can spur further studies on teacher evaluation and self-appraisals as additional means towards personal and professional growth. This approach leads to a vision of excellent teachers who will be responsible in educating and helping raise more successful students who are not only academically proficient but also of good moral character.

Definition of Terms

Academic achievement

How a student performs in school as measured by the scores on standardized tests and the grades earned for academic tasks (Burchinal, Peisner-Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002).

Attitude toward school work

How a student views and anticipates the tasks entailed in academic study as reflected by his or her behavior towards it (Van Petegem et al., 2008).

Classroom climate

Everything that describes the feel of the classroom environment, from the physical structure to the psychological state of the teacher and students in it. Classroom climate speaks of the positive or negative feelings one gets from being inside the classroom (Douglas, 2008).

Effective classroom climate

A warm, child-centered, positive environment in which the teacher exhibits sensitivity to each student’s emotional and instructional needs, and structures instruction to encourage student autonomy and self-control. The teacher is enthusiastic and respectful of students and encourages students to pursue their interests. (Douglas, 2008, p. 41)

Future study and career plans

What a student will do after graduation from school. Plans may include options of pursuing further studies at the college level or taking vocational courses for personal and/or professional growth (Pianta & Allen, 2008).


A reliable and trusted guide molded into wisdom by his vast knowledge and experiences (Smyth, 1991).

Personal self-worth

How a person values himself or herself. Self-worth is related to self-esteem (Helker et al., 2007).


“An expression of approval or disapproval, indicating the extent to which a person believes himself or herself competent, successful, significant and worthy” (Coopersmith, 1981, p. 1).

Student outcomes

The student’s academic performance, attitude, and behavior that results from the student-teacher relationship (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004).

Student-teacher relationship

The quality of emotional connection between a student and a teacher (Bracey, 2009; Munro, 2007).


The proposed study comes with certain assumptions. One is that it is assumed that positive student-teacher relationships encourage positive student outcomes. On the other hand, it is also assumed that negative student-teacher relationships bring about negative emotions in students regarding themselves, their attitudes towards school and toward the teacher. Hence, their school performance will likewise be negatively affected.

The disclaimer in the introduction of the questionnaire that completion of the questionnaire will not have any bearing on students’ grades may either elicit honesty or nonchalance in the respondents: honesty if the respondents trust that their truthful answers will be held in confidentiality, and nonchalance if the respondents think that the task of answering the questionnaire will not bring benefits to them. Nevertheless, it is assumed that the participants will answer the questionnaire truthfully.

The remarks portion of the questionnaire will be filled in only if respondents have strong reactions to the items regarding a particular teacher they are evaluating. The open-ended questions at the end of the questionnaire are assumed to provide much enlightenment on some issues on student-teacher relations. This is also true for the focus group interviews, since the participants will have more opportunity to elaborate on their insights regarding student-teacher relationships.

There are no assumptions regarding the ethnicity or the socioeconomic status of the respondents. The influence of these traits will be observed only when the trending of the responses to the items is examined.


The researcher is aware that perfection may not be possible in this research due to some limitations. One limitation is that respondents may not trust that their responses will be kept confidential. The topic of this study centers on student perceptions, feelings, and attitudes toward their teachers. With high school students as the participants, it may be difficult to reap open answers, considering many of these students are in the developmental stages of adolescence and are attempting to establish their own identities (Erikson, 1968). The respondent information portion of the questionnaire includes the range of grades the respondents usually receive for their academic performance. This may serve as an indication of how well or how poorly they perform in school, and how the teacher they are evaluating may be responsible for it. In the introduction of the questionnaire, it is indicated that whatever they answer will not have any effect on their grades. This information may either bring about honesty or nonchalance in the respondents. On one hand, it can encourage them to be truthful in answering the questionnaire, especially if they trust that confidentiality is ensured. On the other hand, should the respondents believe that the task of answering the questionnaire will not be beneficial to them, then they can choose to complete the questionnaire haphazardly. Hence, it is imperative that the participants be provided all the necessary information so reliable and valid results will be derived.

The possibility of not getting significant numbers of surveys returned is another limitation. That is why the number of surveys sent will be in excess of the number expected to be returned. The survey questionnaire itself, as an instrument for this study, has limitations. Although there are many available instruments, it may still be difficult to find one that will effectively elicit the true answers of participants, considering that the topic itself may be sensitive in that it deals with human relationships. The researcher has therefore chosen the instrumentation known as the Teacher Perception Inventory, adapted from Mboya (1995) for the intended participants of the study. The results will determine if the instrument is generalizable to the population or applicable only to this group of participants.

The findings of this study may be generalizable only to the participants; however, the findings may be suggestive of implications of the effect of the student-teacher relationship on student outcomes.

Nature of the Study

This study will investigate adolescent students’ perceptions, feelings, and attitudes toward student-teacher relationships. The study intends to identify insights regarding the student-teacher effect on student learning and success outcomes. The study will make use of mixed methods including survey questionnaires, open-ended interview questions, and focus group interviews with a select number of students. Specifically, insights of participants who are adolescent high school students will be examined as to how their relationships with their teachers influence their academic performance and future plans (Cheung & Lau, 1985; Mboya, 1995).

Mixed methods have been found effective by Greene and Caracelli (1997). Using mixed methods is “a way to come up with creative alternatives to traditional or more monolithic ways to conceive and implement evaluation” (Sydenstricker-Neto, 1997, n.p.) Mixed methods may be considered as more useful and accountable to broader audiences. Mixed methods research is “research in which the investigator collects and analyzes data, integrates the findings, and draws inferences using either qualitative and quantitative approaches or methods in a single study or program of inquiry” (Tashakkori & Creswell, 2007, p. 4).

The use of mixed methods in gathering data is an attempt to create a comprehensive research study that will contribute to the field of educational psychology. Contributions could include gaining personal insights from students on their preferences for the quality of student-teacher relationships, and the effect of these relationships on academic performance, self-esteem, and future plans (Mboya, 1995). While this study involves both quantitative and qualitative approaches, it is heavily weighted toward qualitative methods as it endeavors to elicit elaboration of student perceptions of their relationships with their teachers.

Qualitative methods are best suited to fulfill this need because they allow for more information to be collected from the participants of the study since their responses will not be limited to close-ended answers or choices (Creswell & Miller, 2000; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The data will be analyzed with regards to its content and its comparison to information gathered from the literature. This study aims to identify any connection between the quality of student-teacher relationships and its effect on student motivation to achieve in school, as well as how the relationship affects students’ self-esteem. The items in the questionnaires, open-ended questions, and interview questions will be phrased in ways that invite the respondents to honestly share their insights and how they feel about their teachers and themselves. It is important for adolescents to process their feelings, which may be confusing for them (Cheung & Lau, 1985).

The quantitative approach for this study will use the Teacher Perception Inventory, a questionnaire that has been adapted from Mboya (1995), to suit the needs of the study. The items for the questionnaire will be reworded in relation to the current study on perceptions of adolescents on student-teacher relationships. This questionnaire will be used for data-collection purposes and will be analyzed by averaging responses given by the participants per item. The Teacher Perception Inventory includes the following six subscales: (a) relationship with the teacher; (b) opinion of teacher; (c) support, interest, and encouragement; (d) teacher’s behavior; (e) teacher’s challenge; and (f) teacher’s expectations. A remarks portion that may be filled out upon the participant’s preference follows each subscale. The instruments used in this study are believed to yield rich information on students’ perceptions of student-teacher relations, from various angles. Since this instrument is adapted from the original instrument of Mboya (1995), it was amended to suit the purposes of the current study. The amended instrument will be piloted by the researcher on a sample group of participants before it is used on the main participants of the study. During the pilot, the questionnaire will be answered by 20 randomly selected students and 3 teachers to ensure that all the items are understandable. The researcher may also ask these students if there are some items that they find difficult to answer, and any such items will be reworded accordingly.

In the focus group interview, the researcher needs to be tactful in delivering the questions so that the respondents will be candid in their answers. Using subjective terms or passing judgment will only intimidate the respondents into giving limited responses. This study focuses on student perceptions of student-teacher relations, whereas most studies on this particular topic focus more on teachers’ perspectives (Créton & Wubbels, 1984; Helker et al., 2007). Teachers have access to records of their students’ academic performance and may more easily interpret such performance as a result of their own treatments of their students (Lander, 2009). However, in this study the perception of the students will be emphasized and the researcher will not be privy to their academic performance, and hence will be objective in dealing with their responses. Academic achievement will be self-assessed by the students as they identify the grade range they belong to in the information part of the questionnaire. The qualitative portion of the proposed study includes the open-ended questions that follow the questionnaire and its elaboration in the focus group interview. The questions mostly ask about the students’ insights on how they think their relationship with their teachers affect their academic peformance, attitudes toward school work, personal self-worth and future plans. These questions will be discussed in more detail in the chapter on Methodology.

The proposed study intends to further theoretical understanding of the effects of the quality of student-teacher relationship from previous research studies. However, for the proposed study, it is more of the adolescent students’ perspective that will prevail in the contribution of information. In deriving this information, it would be useful for teachers and school administrators to be more aware of their actions, behavior and teaching styles and amend them accordingly in order to arrive at more positive outcomes in the learning processes of their students.

Structure and Organization of the Remainder of the Paper

This chapter has provided a thorough overview and introduction of the study topic and will be followed by detailed information in the next chapters. Chapter 2 will discuss the review of literature of studies and information related to the area of positive student-teacher relationships. Chapter 3 will detail the research methodology that will be used in this study. This will be followed by a chapter on data collection and analysis. The concluding chapter will present results, conclusions, and recommendations.

Literature Review

Schooling creates a lot of memories for people. Some adults look back fondly on their school days when they enjoyed learning and rewarding relationships with their peers and teachers. For some, however, school can trigger painful memories of negative experiences from childhood (Arends, 2001). Such experiences from school may have a profound effect on various aspects of a person’s life.

In school, socialization is inevitable. Establishment of relationships with others is to be expected of everyone. An individual develops acquaintances, friendships of varying degrees, and mentoring relationships (Pianta, 1999). The quality of these associations creates different levels of impact on a person’s life. Relationships that bring about strong emotions, whether positive or negative, affect an individual’s perception of the other person, and his or her own self-esteem (Meehan, 2003). An encouraging teacher may motivate students to believe in themselves, while a bully may incite personal fear and doubt regarding one’s ability to stand up against this strong character (Hyman & Peroné, 1998; Larson, 1998). These insights and feelings may have an effect on the student’s personality long after graduation (Lander, 2009; Pianta et al., 2002).

Pianta and Stipek are two of the leading researchers in the study of student-teacher relationships. Robert C. Pianta has studied the impact of the relationships between children and teachers on students’ academic performance. One of his greatest legacies is the thorough observation and evaluation of teachers in the way they handle their classes, covering all details from classroom climate, teacher sensitivity, classroom management, instructional strategies, and appropriateness of language used, among other things. He and his colleagues have developed the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which looks into three major dimensions in teaching: a teacher’s emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. The CLASS instrument is known to predict students’ positive outcomes in behavior, literacy, language, and math skills. Pianta’s work has pioneered a number of studies on student-learning outcomes and has generated much interest in research in this area of education (Pianta et al., 2002).

This chapter will investigate the effects of student-teacher relationships on students, focusing specifically on academic performance, attitudes toward school work, personal self-worth, and effects on future study and career plans of high school students. Chapter 2 will discuss factors that contribute to a student’s academic performance such as the classroom climate, the instructional characteristics and traits of an effective teacher, the kinds of learning derived from an effective mentoring process between a teacher and a student, and the importance of perceived caring, positive student-teacher relationships. This chapter will also review theories and models of student-teacher relationships to demonstrate that the topic of these relationships has been well studied and that such attention devoted to this area has had useful implications for optimizing student outcomes. However, most studies under review have focused on very young children and children in the elementary grades. This study will explore the effects of student-teacher relationships in high school students. Information gained from the review of literature will guide the researcher accordingly in designing a method to investigate further the area of student-teacher relationships.

While most of the research conducted to date is related to studies on the effects of student-teacher relationships on younger student outcomes (Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004; Burchinal et al., 2002; Howes et al., 1994; Van Petegem et al., 2008; Wilson, Pianta, & Stuhlman, 2007), the current study attempts to fill the gap in the literature on adolescents and their perceptions of caring relationships among their classroom teachers.

The study is guided by the theories of prominent academicians who have devoted much time and effort to researching student-teacher relationships and their impact on student academic performance. These theorists include humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, academicians Robert Pianta, Deborah Stipek, Jessica Cervantes, Mzobanzi Mboya, Timothy Leary, Theo Wubbels, and many others.

From the field of psychology, Carl Rogers popularized client-centered therapy and the person-centered approach. He applied his theories on learner-centered methods in the academic setting (Cornelius-White & Cornelius-White, 2004). Rogers (1969) theorized that education should aim to facilitate the whole and full function of a student. Each student should be treated as vital because without proper education, “the world will be in doom and is subject to universal destruction” (Rogers, 1969, p. 43).

According to Rogers (1969), the attitudinal qualities that exist in relationships between students and teachers affect the learning process. The facilitation of learning requires the development of trust between the teacher and the learner. This relationship of trust is followed by the creation of a climate that centers on acceptance and empathy. The student’s perception of care is critical.

Whether or not a caring relationship exists, the student must perceive it to be so (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Brekelmans & Wubbels, 1991; Cervantes, 2007; Mboya, 1995; Maddox & Prinz, 2003; Pianta, 1999; Pianta et al., 2002; Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005). Rogers (1969) referred to this perception as the learner-centered approach. In order for the approach to work, the teacher must have a great degree of flexibility in methods of teaching. Harmony of relationships and understanding of each other’s situation among students, administration, the public, and the teacher must also exist (Rogers, 1969).

A positive relationship is believed to result in positive behaviors. Pianta (1999) suggested that students become more engaged in their studies and reach higher levels of academic achievement when they enjoy a close relationship with their teachers. Deborah Stipek (2006) added that adolescents strive harder for teachers when they are treated as individuals and when their teachers show that they are interested in students’ lives outside of school.

One critical factor related to student behavioral issues is the perception of care and concern. Students show better attendance when they perceive that their teachers are highly supportive. They are also less likely to have discipline issues (Rosenfeld, 2000). In a study conducted among aggressive African American and Hispanic students, a sense of belonging was created when the students perceived a positive relationship with the teacher (Meehan, 2003). This study was further supported by the work of Cervantes (2007), who indicated that a positive student-teacher relationship has a great impact in schools that are performing below expected standards and serve low-income areas.

Many factors influence the problem of low student achievement (Wang et al, 1994; Burchinal, et al., 2002; Fowler et al., 2008; Stipek, 2006). Two areas of concern are the parent-child relationship and the student-peer relationship. Students’ social circles usually revolve around their families and friends, where they gain the social support they need as they face critical issues in their lives. Another factor that impacts student achievement is the teachers they have in school and the quality of the teacher-student relationship. When teachers are able to deal with students in a manner perceived by the student as positive, the students feel more at ease approaching teachers for help. The perceived approachability motivates the student to go to school regularly and may result in a greater desire to learn (Cervantes, 2007).

While evidence seems to indicate that a positive relationship encourages students to perform at higher levels in the classroom, a study by Fowler et al. (2008) indicated that poor student-teacher relationships were associated with low academic performance. In that study, students who shared openly indicated a strong disfavor toward teachers who often gave them busy work without explaining the material. Some teachers were reported to curse their students, causing students to feel uncomfortable in the classroom (Cervantes, 2007). Experiences of this nature diminished the students’ motivation to complete assignments (Cervantes, 2007).

This study will focus on the effect of positive student-teacher relationships on students’ academic achievement, attitude toward school work, personal self-worth and future study and career plans.

Classroom Climate

Several studies have been completed on the topic of classroom climate and how it affects student learning. Wilson et al. (2007) concluded that an effective classroom climate encompasses a warm, child-centered, positive environment in which the teacher exhibits sensitivity to each student’s emotional and instructional needs and structures instruction to encourage student autonomy and self-control. The teacher is enthusiastic and respectful of students and encourages students to pursue their interests. (cited in Douglas, 2008, p. 41)

The research suggested that when teachers provide a well-managed, positive classroom environment where teachers manifest sensitivity and allow students to be autonomous in their learning with their mentor’s evaluative feedback, it follows that the students develop positive social behaviors themselves (Wilson et al., 2007).

Carl Rogers (1969) advocated certain conditions within the classroom environment to improve student-teacher relationships.

When a facilitator creates, even to a modest degree, a classroom climate characterized by all that he can achieve of realness, prizing, and empathy … the student is on his way, sometimes excitedly, sometimes reluctantly, to becoming a learning, changing being. (p. 115)

This study indicates that the quality of interpersonal relationships between teachers and students determines the factors in the creation of a classroom climate. Fulfilling relationships flourish in pleasant learning environments, influencing academic achievement (Van Petegem et al., 2008). A pleasant learning environment brings about well-being among students, which is described as “a positive emotional state that is the result of harmony between the sum of specific context factors on the one hand and the personal needs and expectations towards the school on the other hand” (Engels, Aelterman, Van Petegem, Schepens, & Deconinck, 2004, p. 11).

Assessing students’ learning experiences in the classroom should not be restricted to what the classroom offers them. Munro (2007) contended that even if a classroom meets all the required structural features, it does not automatically follow that the students have the optimum learning experience. Dynamic factors such as the nature of students’ experiences in their positive interactions with their teachers are more essential than structural factors. According to Munro (2007), Pianta devised certain questions to explore these dynamics:

  • What do children experience in the classroom?
  • How do their experiences and interactions affect their learning?
  • How can the quality of interactions and experiences in classrooms be improved through observations and professional development? (p. 46)

When a teacher challenges students just above their current skill level, their interactions with each other provide the greatest opportunity for learning (Munro, 2007). Vygotsky (1978) came up with the concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). He defined the ZPD as the distance between a child’s independent problem-solving level and that obtained under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. However, such incidences have not been observed as often as desired. Pianta (1999), in his research on student-teacher relationships in preschool children, observed classrooms that had very passive students, and it seemed that such passiveness was encouraged. Instead of being allowed to learn best by experimenting and practicing by doing instead of merely listening, the young children in these classrooms spent much time listening, watching, and sitting when engaged in class activities. Much time was wasted on learning basic surface-level skills or on menial tasks and routines like collection of forms or distribution of snacks, activities which did not contribute greatly to students’ learning experiences.

Black (2006) suggested that when teachers infuse classrooms with patience and compassion and strive to know every student well, the chances of student success increase. Students become more cooperative, and their interest in learning, even for underachievers, indicates a more formidable willingness to take on increasingly challenging assignments. Although teachers are expected to know what to teach children in general, they also need to be able to adjust to the individual needs of their students, as not all students learn the same way, or at the same pace. Trafton (1975) suggested that individualization must include

acceptance of each child as an individual worthy of adult respect, and an acceptance of the child’s ideas, a provision of opportunities for pupil input in developing and selecting learning experiences, a concern for the quality of the child’s intellectual development, and a willingness to take time to know the child as an individual. (p. 39)

Tomlinson (2000) recommended teachers to provide of a wide range of learning tasks in consideration of the following differentiations:

  1. concrete to abstract,
  2. simple to complex,
  3. basic to transformational,
  4. fewer facets to multi-facets,
  5. smaller leaps to greater leaps,
  6. more structured to more open,
  7. less independence to greater independence,
  8. slower to quicker.

With the variety of learning activities, a teacher may be able to provide differentiated instruction to cater to the needs of individual children. Further, Tomlinson (2000) suggested the utilization of different texts, different support interventions, different expectations for learning outcomes, different student abilities, different curriculum tasks in the implementation of differentiation strategies.

Baglieri and Knopf (2004) advised that teachers need to create lessons based on their students’ needs rather than what graded or standard measures dictate. Appropriate objectives in planning what students should learn must be selected, and teachers should be clear about goals and standards while consistently evaluating whether student goals have been achieved (McTighe & Brown, 2005). On the other hand, students need to understand the goals set for them by teachers and view these goals as personally meaningful and relevant so they strive to reach them (McTighe & Brown, 2005). Because a student is given priority, he/she may find it easier to learn the concepts and skills being taught. Strengths are emphasized while weaknesses are harnessed. Identifying weaknesses is also important in order to imply a coping strategy until the concept is fully mastered. With this assurance, students can attain the high standards set (Dunn, 2000).

The classroom climate has been comprehensively studied by several researchers (Wilson et al., 2007; Douglas, 2008; Van Petegem et al., 2008; Munro, 2007; Black, 2006), and widespread agreement prevails that a positive and pleasant environment that emphasizes sensitivity to student needs from a caring and supportive teacher increases the likelihood of student success.

Instructional Characteristics and Traits of an Effective Teacher

While curriculum and instruction is multi-faceted and challenging, classroom management and discipline are two of the most difficult tasks performed by teachers. Lander (2009) observed that, unfortunately, teachers often engage in the psychological maltreatment of at-risk students in their attempt to fit them into the mold expected of their students. This includes making sarcastic comments, ridiculing, and name calling, all of which contribute to the worsening of maladaptive behavior of students (Hyman & Peroné, 1998). Teachers may resort to such psychological maltreatment if they lack the skills to deal with misbehavior or because of the intense emotional effects of such misbehavior. School suspension is the most common method of dealing with disciplinary problems; however, this strategy has been proven ineffective because it does not deal with the core problem of classroom behavior (Larson, 1998; Radin, 1988).

Several factors can help prevent disciplinary problems. An effective teacher is a good planner who anticipates the possibility that counterproductive situations may arise in the classroom. Thus, it is essential that teachers create a classroom management system to cover everything they need to do in order to avoid negative stimulus and the resulting behaviors. Part of classroom management is the designing of a learning environment suitable for the students. Brewer (2001) reported that previous research indicated that when the quality of the physical environment declined, teacher restriction and control increased, the teacher’s behavior became less friendly, the students became less interested and involved, classroom rules increased, and conflict among children increased. It was likewise observed that the learning environment influenced, and directly contributed to, children’s behavior and levels of learning. The physical environment should reflect the goals and expectations of the teacher. The environment also dictates student behavior in the classroom.

Classroom management involves not only the management of student behavior but everything that goes on in the class … from preparation for the class day, to what transpires during the day and up to when the students leave, to the details of the physical environment which must be conducive to maximizing student learning (Crosser, 1992). In terms of relating to students, Helker et al. (2007) advised that teachers have the courage to be genuine and demonstrate vulnerability with their students, showing that they, too, make mistakes. The teacher’s ability to model acceptance of both strengths and weaknesses helps students accept their own strengths and weaknesses and find security in expressing their honest thoughts, feelings, and experiences with their trusted teachers. Such relationships foster students’ ability to have the courage to take risks that help them grow socially, emotionally, and academically.

A teacher’s warmth and trustworthiness, optimistic expectations and caring, and low hostility help enhance a student’s functioning and strengthen children’s capacity to learn. A humanistic teacher orientation may reduce or even avert unwanted classroom behaviors (Lander, 2009).

Van Petegem et al. (2008) summarized some research findings regarding the effects of interpersonal behaviors of teachers on their students’ well-being based on the profiles created from the teachers’ Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) results. The dominant-cooperative profile, in which the teacher was tolerant yet a disciplinarian, appeared to exert a positive influence on student well-being (Brekelmans, 1989). A language teacher in the study belonged to the aforementioned group. The teacher offered students structure while giving them a fair amount of latitude. She was enthusiastic and created a stimulating environment that used various teaching methods that were mostly task-oriented. To her, test results were paramount, but she also considered the physical and emotional needs of her students. Such a combination of virtues creates a positive classroom climate and an effective learning environment. Students become motivated to perform their tasks because they find it enjoyable in a structured yet relaxed setting (Brekelmans, 1989).

In the same study, Brekelmans (1989) described a mathematics teacher perceived as having a submissive-cooperative profile as manifesting behavior typified as uncertain and tolerant. Students were allowed much individual space combined with less leadership and guidance. There was a lack of structure and task orientation, the students’ attention was not successfully captured, and they became preoccupied with other things. With students who are more motivated to learn, submissive-cooperative teachers need to increase the volume of their voice to overcome classroom noise, as appeals for attention have little or no effect. Still, the teacher will patiently continue to help students even if they are not listening. Such patience is extended in consideration of the general student attitude toward the subject. With predominantly abstract learning content, students get a lot of comfort in the knowledge that the teacher will be available for help when needed, and this helps in their sense of well-being (Van Petegem et al., 2008).

However, Brekelmans (1989) found that when the mathematics teacher adopted a more dominant role and became less tolerant and less helpful, the students’ sense of well-being decreased. Such behavior of teachers is typified as authoritarian. The students are made to obey and they stop being involved, as student initiative is discouraged. Sometimes, it is fear that forces them to comply. Classroom life is dominated by achievement and competition, with the teacher acting as the leader but giving little input into individual assignments. This behavior negatively affects students’ well-being and desire to succeed (Brekelmans, 1989).

Research studies such as the ones previously discussed should encourage teachers to be more aware of their students’ perceptions of their behavior and how this influences students’ well-being. Wubbels and Brekelmans (2005) saw communication as an integral part of the student-teacher relationship. Their systems approach assumed that one communicates in the presence of someone else whatever intentions he or she may have, as interpreted in his or her behaviors. If a teacher ignores a student’s question because she did not hear it, the student may interpret the situation in a number of ways. Either the teacher is too busy for him or thinks he is too dull to be understood, or perhaps she considers his question as impertinent. The systems approach considers every form of communication as having a content and relation aspect (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967). The lowest level of communication possesses a single unit of behavior, or the message level, having both a content and relation aspect. To illustrate, the words “I want to help you to learn” represent the content aspect. The words may be combined with either a smile or a frown, and this communicates the relation aspect. Upon repeated interactions, mutual perceptions between students and teachers are confirmed and reconfirmed, thus forming a stable basis for reactions.

The study of Wubbels and Brekelmans (2005) focused more on students’ perceptions of their teachers from what happens in the classroom and what they learn and do than on the intentions of the teachers for the students. However, the researchers contended that teachers’ intentions are likewise important variables because these intentions manifest themselves in the teachers’ way of teaching. This may explain the differences in relationships of teachers with different classes or with different students in one of their classes.

Beginning teachers must learn nonverbal behavior that sends appropriate messages and creates positive teacher-student relationships (Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005). These teachers learn that the more they disagree with their students on their perceptions of each other’s verbal and nonverbal behavior, the more their students view them as uncertain, dissatisfied with the relationship, and always admonishing them. These perceptions lead to counterproductive behaviors with respect to the promotion of cognitive and affective student outcomes (Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005).

An objective self-evaluation is necessary, as teachers’ self-perception is often more favorable than the reality experienced by their students. Engaging in self-reflection is another characteristic of effective teachers, as it offers insight and improvement in both personal and professional undertakings (Van Petegem et al., 2008).

Lourdusamy and Khine (2001) wrote that teachers often reflect on a lesson they have just delivered but rarely evaluate the interpersonal behavior they manifest with their students. Teachers often fail to realize that interpersonal relationships with students are valued as much as, if not more than, the delivery of a well-planned lesson. Arends (2001) contended that “effective teaching requires careful and reflective thought about what a teacher is doing and the effect of his or her action on students’ social and academic learning” (p. 18).

The studies on what makes an effective teacher all point to instructors being adept in classroom management and discipline (Créton & Wubbels, 1984; Crosser, 1992; Poplin & Weeres, 1994). Additionally, a caring and supportive attitude that motivates students to learn is essential to success. Anticipating possible issues and planning for these situations helps teachers prevent untoward incidences and makes the class environment more conducive to learning (Rosenfeld, 2000; Lander, 2009).

Models for Effective Teacher-Student Interactions

Several studies have been dedicated to teacher-student relationships, and a number of models for effective teacher-student interactions have been conceptualized over the years. Frameworks for these studies shall be discussed here in more detail.

Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behavior

Based on Timothy Leary’s (1957) research on the interpersonal diagnosis of personality, the model for interpersonal teacher behavior (MITB) has two dimensions: influence (dominance-submission) and proximity (opposition-cooperation). In Figure 1, these dimensions are represented on two axes.

Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behavior
Figure 1. Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behavior

Figure 2 shows the eight types of teacher behavior described by the model: leading, helpful/friendly, understanding, student responsibility and freedom, uncertain, dissatisfied, admonishing, and strict (Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005). The sectors are labeled according to their position in the coordinate system: DC, CD, etc. For example, the two sectors titled “leading” and “helpful/friendly” both fall under the DC sector and are characterized by dominance and cooperation.

Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behavior
Figure 2. Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behavior

Studies indicated that when students perceive influence and proximity to be higher, the difference between their and their teachers’ perceptions is smaller (Brekelmans & Wubbels, 1991; Wubbels, Brekelmans, & Hermans, 1987, Wubbels, Brekelmans & Hooymayers, 1992). Wubbels and Brekelmans (2005) concluded that appropriate student-teacher relationships possess high degrees of teacher influence and proximity toward their students, thereby resulting in better student outcomes. Interestingly, such is the preferred quality of students and teachers in their relationships (Créton & Wubbels, 1984).

The Leary model has been studied extensively in clinical psychology and psychotherapeutic settings. It has been proven effective in explaining human interactions (Lonner, 1980). It has likewise been used in cross-cultural settings. Adapting this model, the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) was developed by the designers of the model for interpersonal teacher behavior (Wubbels, Créton, & Hooymayers, 1992). With the same scales, the QTI has an original Dutch version with 77 questions, an American version of 64 questions, and an Australian version of 48 questions, all using a 5-point Likert scale. The American version is provided in Appendix D.

The following table describes the scales in QTI and what these intend to measure. It also gives a sample item from each scale.

Table 1. Self-evaluation of Interpersonal Behavior and Classroom Interaction by Teacher Trainees Descriptions and Example Items for Each Scale in the QTI:

Scale Description Item
Leadership [DC]—leads, organizes, gives instructions, sets tasks, holds attention, structures sessions Extent to which teacher provides leadership to class and holds student attention. This teacher explains things clearly.
Helping/Friendly [CD]—assists, shows, has considerate manner, inspires trust, will share jokes Extent to which teacher is friendly and helpful toward students. This teacher is friendly.
Understanding [CS]—listens with interest, accepts apologies, is patient, is open to students Extent to which teacher shows understanding/concern/care to students. If we don’t agree with this teacher, we can talk about it.
Student Responsibility/Freedom [SC]—gives freedom to students, negotiates Extent to which students are given opportunities to assume responsibilities for their own activities. We can influence this teacher.
Uncertain [SO]—has low profile, apologizes for errors, waits and sees what to do; unsure Extent to which teacher exhibits her/his uncertainty. It is easy to make a fool out of this teacher.
Dissatisfied [OS]—looks glum, shows dissatisfaction, criticizes, questions Extent to which teacher shows unhappiness/dissatisfaction with student. This teacher thinks that we don’t know anything.
Admonishing [OD]—gets angry, expresses irritation, forbids, punishes; punitive Extent to which teacher shows anger/temper/impatience in class. The teacher is impatient.
Strict [DO]—keeps tight control, strict, maintains silence, exact norms; inflexible Extent to which teacher is strict with and demanding of students. We are afraid of this teacher.

Note. Adapted from Self-evaluation of Interpersonal Behavior and Classroom Interaction by Teacher Trainees, by A. Lourdusamy and M. S. Khine, 2001, paper presented at the Educational Research Conference, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Western Australia.

Child-centered play therapy and kinder therapy

Child-centered play therapy (CCPT) has the following core conditions: unconditional positive regard, respect, child-directed stance, and child safety (White, Flynt, & Jones, 1999). These core conditions facilitate teacher-student relationships characterized by trust, acceptance, and understanding. A study using CCPT as part of teacher training yielded teachers who learned how to respond to children using the basic conditions of CCPT in six individual play sessions with a particular child. The results of the study implied that the children improved greatly in their academic performance and social skills in their classes while their teachers reported improvement in their perceptions of their students and their interactions with them (Helker et al., 2007).

Post, McAllister, Sheely, Hess, and Flowers (2004) expanded on CCPT to design special play sessions they named kinder therapy. These sessions helped teachers establish warm relationships by demonstrating acceptance of the child by letting him or her express all feelings and reflecting these feelings back to the child. Kinder therapy also respects the child’s ability to solve problems by creating environments with the least restrictions possible. Results of the study showed that children who participated in kinder therapy manifested less anxiety and depression. The participating teachers shared that they perceived the children as showing greater adaptability, leadership skills, and social skills as a result of the play sessions. These teachers became more responsive, empathic, and understanding of the children (Post et al., 2004).

To validate the effectiveness of kinder therapy, Hess, Post, and Flowers (2005) conducted further studies, the results of which have been promising. The results indicated that teachers who participated in the kinder therapy training believed in valuing children’s opinions and feelings more, as they gained a better understanding of the children’s opinions. Children are believed to make choices and to be able to make decisions for themselves. Setting limits, as related to giving choices, made discipline easier (Helker et al., 2007).


With the basic relational skills learned in CCPT, teachers learn to connect with their students. The CONNECT model is a guideline to remind teachers of the importance of establishing and maintaining positive relationships with their students. Helker et al. (2007) defined this acronym as follows:

  • C—Convey acceptance through words and actions
  • O—Offer understanding by reflecting feelings and wishes
  • N—Notice child’s behaviors and actions
  • N—Negotiate choices
  • E—Encourage self-esteem
  • C—Communicate limits by ACTing
  • T—Trust yourself to be genuine

Convey acceptance through words and actions

Teachers need to acknowledge their students’ uniqueness. Each child should feel that he or she is an individual worthy of respect.

Offer understanding by reflecting feelings and wishes

Children need to know that they are understood by their teachers. One way to communicate understanding is through the reflection of the student’s feelings. Teachers set aside their own thoughts and feelings and focus on their students’ feelings. This way, students understand that their feelings are important to their teachers and that these teachers care about them.

Notice the child’s behaviors and actions

Nonverbal communication is another way of making students feel understood so they gain awareness of themselves. Noticing student behaviors and actions by paying attention to nonverbal actions and then verbally expressing these visible observations keeps students and teachers connected.

Negotiate choices

Modeling responsibility for the consequences of their decisions is one duty of teachers to their students. Students need to practice making wise choices and be respected for their decision while teachers should provide choices that are age appropriate and equally acceptable to both the student and the teacher.

Encourage self-esteem

Students appreciate themselves and their personal value more when teachers use encouragement instead of praise. Praise externally motivates students and encourages dependency on the values and judgments of the teacher (Kottman, 2003). On the other hand, encouragement acknowledges effort and internally motivates the student (Giordano, Landreth, & Jones, 2005). For example, compare a teacher’s praise statement (“It’s beautiful!”) regarding a student’s finished project to a teacher’s words of encouragement (“You worked hard on that picture!”). The teacher’s use of encouraging statements demonstrates the teacher’s belief in the student rather than the finished product. Praise is available exclusively for those who do outstanding work; encouragement can be offered to anyone. False praise of substandard work is disingenuous and cheapens genuine praise.

Communicate the classroom limits by ACTing

Children need to know that they are in a safe and secure learning environment. Knowing their limits helps them feel safe and exercise self-control and responsibility. Landreth (2002) proposed the ACT model, which has three components: (a) acknowledging the feeling, (b) communicating the limit, and (c) targeting an alternative. This simple model guides teachers in communicating acceptance and understanding of children. Acknowledging how children feel tells them their feelings are accepted. Communicating the limit informs them what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable in a given situation, without judgment. Targeting an alternative gives the student choices and provides a more acceptable and appropriate outlet for the child’s self-expressions. ACT communicates to the student that while all their feelings are acceptable, not all their behaviors may be accepted.

Trust yourself to be genuine

Teachers have the opportunity to model humility and authenticity. When teachers demonstrate their fallibility to the students, children can feel safe knowing that everyone, even the teacher, makes mistakes, and they may feel more confident in trying out new things without fear of failure (Helker et al., 2007). In consideration of this, teachers must be prepared so they do not give students the impression they are not prepared for the day’s lesson.

Classroom assessment scoring system (CLASS)

Developed by Pianta’s team, this model is an effective observational tool providing the clear goals and set standards for teachers in maintaining high-quality classrooms. CLASS uses three sets of scales, each with several subdimensions:

Emotional support

Observers examine positive climate, negative climate, teacher sensitivity, and the teacher’s regard for student perspectives (Bracey, 2009). The following questions are considered:

  • Is the climate positive and respectful?
  • Is the teacher sensitive to the needs of individual students, creating an environment where they feel safe?
  • Does the teacher show respect and regard for students’ interests and points of view?

Instructional support

This dimension specifically includes behavior management, productivity, and instructional learning formats (Bracey, 2009). It deals with the following questions:

  • How productive is the classroom?
  • Are children learning rather than waiting or wandering around?
  • Does the teacher use effective behavior management strategies to prevent and redirect misbehavior?

Organizational management

According to Bracey (2009), this dimension includes language modeling, concept development, and quality of feedback. The following questions are asked:

  • Are effective strategies being used in encouraging students to solve problems, make associations with the information gained, and engage their higher order skills?
  • Does teacher feedback maintain the child’s engagement and expand learning and understanding?
  • How does the teacher stimulate opportunities for growth?

Scoring on the CLASS system entails consideration of the age and level of the students a teacher handles. For example, a teacher who clearly and consistently communicates rules to the students is active and not reactive in management. This teacher consistently praises students for meeting expectations and earns high marks for the behavior management dimension. If the classroom provides interesting materials and instruction and the teacher uses many modalities in instruction and looks for various opportunities that actively engage students, then that teacher scores highly on the instructional support dimension. Overall, teachers who score high on the CLASS system exhibit high regard for student views; consider student interests, motivations, and insights; promote student autonomy; and encourage students to share their ideas (Bracey, 2009).

Pianta said that this observation system is reliable and can predict positive outcomes that go beyond test scores (Bracey, 2009). Moving classrooms toward positive emotional climates, strong instructional support, and effective organizational management is likely to produce better outcomes (Munro, 2007). The CLASS system ensures that children are provided with the support they need since the average child generally receives only moderate levels of emotional support and classroom organization and low levels of instructional support (Bracey, 2009). If the children get positive interactions with their teachers, it is often impersonal and not individual. Minimal observation of positive one-to-one interactions between teachers and students in most fifth-grade classrooms were noted in various intervals during the day (Bracey, 2009).

The findings of several studies on effective student-teacher interactions have been presented in many ways. Some presentations use graphic charts; others use acronyms of a bigger and deeper meaning. These models have all been consistent in pointing out that positive student-teacher relationships lead to positive attitudes toward learning and to strengthening students’ self-esteem.

Kinds of Learning Derived from an Effective Mentoring Process

An effective student-teacher relationship results in a mentoring process with the teacher as the mentor and the student as the mentee. The responsibility of learning is two-way. The motivation to learn is affected by the reinforcements to learning. Stoll et al. (2003) explained that these reinforcements are:

  1. intrinsic motivation, or the inner drive to learn, which leads to personal fulfillment;
  2. extrinsic motivation, which consists of rewards such as high grades or a prize for performing well;
  3. social reinforcement, an example of which is praise and approval from significant persons in an individual’s life;
  4. achievement, or the attaining of the learning goal.

Having interplay of the four kinds of reinforcement is the most effective way to motivate a learner to pursue more knowledge and acquire more skills (Stoll et al., 2003).

Hay (1995) differentiated three levels of learning in a mentoring relationship. The first level is traditional learning, which is the usual coaching and teaching about how to do things properly. The next level is transitional learning, which is about how things may be done differently. Learners make transitions that require them to be deeply aware of their goals and objectives and what to do in order to achieve them by trying out a different approach. At every stage, learners need to reflect on whether they are on the right track. The deepest level of learning is transformational learning, which is about learning to learn. At this level, mentees have already developed skills of deep awareness and analysis of their motives and actions, and the mentor collaborates with them in increasing their openness to learning. The process of learning is emphasized more than skills and techniques.

Deep learning is something that more experienced learners become aware of. It entails “having a grasp of the structure of a discipline, seeing how things are related, using the ideas in novel situations and evaluating, even challenging the knowledge claims embedded in the discipline” (Stoll et al., 2003). This definition of learning is far different from the rote learning most children are exposed to—memorizing facts, formulas, and the like, which is more surface learning that goes with an unreflective attitude. Deep learning experiences are characterized by activities that engage conscious attention, organization and reorganization of ideas, as well as Piagetian assimilation and accommodation of new constructs, making new associations to connect ideas together. These thinking processes are considered higher order thinking, which must be developed in young people if the goal for them is to maximize their cognitive potentials.

Importance of Student-Teacher Relationships

Overwhelming evidence exists to support that positive student-teacher interactions and relationships are essential for the well-being of students, which ultimately leads to better outcomes (Pianta, 1999; Douglas, 2008; Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005). Evidence from previous studies emphasizes students’ increased interest and engagement in the lessons in situations where positive student-teacher relationships thrive. A follow-up study of children who were observed in preschool and then again when they were in the second grade, concluded that children who enjoyed warm student-teacher relationships performed better on thinking, language ability, and math skills compared to children who did not experience such relationships (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2009). Burchinal et al. (2002) reported that when teachers report a shared closeness with their students, the children improve in their receptive vocabulary and reading skills from the time they are in preschool up to the time they reach second grade. Birch and Ladd (1997) found that children who experienced positive student-teacher relationships scored higher in the Metropolitan Readiness Test (MRT) visual and language stanine scores than their counterparts with less positive student-teacher relationships (Helker et al., 2007).

On the other hand, in studies of children who experienced student-teacher relationships marked by conflict and dependency from the teacher’s perspective, the children tended to like school less, avoided school more, and were less engaged in class as compared to those whose teachers perceived more positive student-teacher relationships (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). This indicates that when children are disengaged from the classroom environment, they find it more difficult to master academic material.

Studies have also pointed to implications of student-teacher relationships affecting one’s self-concept. Mboya (1995), following the symbolic interactionist perspective, wrote that self-concept is developed in response to how other people react to an individual. Children and adolescents interpret the interactions they have with their teachers according to their own parameters. Indications are that an individual’s perception of another’s behavior is more important than the actual behavior, and this perception ultimately affects the individual’s self-concept (Blumer, 1969). Since the teacher has a significant influence on the students’ level of self-concept, it follows that the students’ perception of how the teacher interacts with them affects the development of their self-concept. Students who experience more positive attitudes toward school and their teachers are higher in self-concept (Mboya, 1995).

Cheung and Lau (1985, as cited in Mboya, 1995) suggested five general conditions related to positive self-concepts of adolescents: (a) greater involvement and interest in class activities, (b) greater affiliation and friendlier relationship among students, (c) greater teacher support and concern towards students, (d) greater order and organization in directing student activities and assignments, and (e) greater rule clarity in the guidance of classroom activities and behaviors. These conditions suggest that when a teacher’s role in the classroom is more involved, active, and supportive, a more positive relationship with the students is fostered, thus improving their self-concept.

The student-teacher relationship can also predict a child’s social skills. A study by Howes et al. (1994) examined three aspects of the student-teacher relationship linked to peer relationships: emotional security, dependency, and socialization. The study’s results indicated that a child’s emotional security and student-teacher interaction predicted aspects of social relationships with peers. The results also suggested that such emotional security may stem from the quality of relationship with a child’s first teacher from day care or preschool, and that this early relationship is likely to lay the path for positive or negative orientation to peer relationships. Birch and Ladd (1998) likewise suggested that children who experienced negative student-teacher relationships may not feel confident enough in demonstrating pro-social skills with peers. This may negatively affect the child’s ability to develop and maintain positive relationships with others and predict a number of behavioral and relational difficulties throughout his or her life (Birch & Ladd, 1998).

From the student-teacher relationship, a child comes to develop a personal view of self, others, and the world. The quality of the relationship validates either the child’s perception of being a valuable, worthy individual who is able to contribute in meaningful ways, or the child’s feelings of worthlessness and incapability (Helker et al., 2007).

To conclude, implications of positive, high-quality teacher interactions with students should create awareness and change in schools. Munro (2007) suggested that state regulations and training should focus on teachers’ interactions with their students in addition to the usual structural modules they learn to apply in their classrooms. Observation and improvement of dynamic factors in student-teacher relationships should ensure that more children experience high-quality classroom interactions. Finally, support for teachers in ensuring high-quality interactions must be provided by schools. Munro concludes that policy makers need to be vigilant in assessing the learning environment well enough and in providing the necessary feedback to teachers on how to implement best practices.

Although much has been learned about student-teacher relations from the point of view of educators, as studied from younger children, the perspective of adolescent students has not yet been explored so thoroughly. This study intends to fill that gap and contribute to the growing body of research on student-teacher relations and to make teachers of adolescents aware of how these young people perceive their teachers’ behaviors and attitudes regarding them. Keen insights toward the success or failure of a student may be gleaned from this work. Thousands, maybe millions of dollars are spent yearly in education programs designed to improve educational quality and impact. Dropout programs are created. It may be that we already have the key components to success in place and do not realize the importance teachers play in the life of a student.

This chapter has discussed previous findings/ information derived from scholarly research. It provides evidence that strong student-teacher relationships are effective motivators, especially for young students, to achieve positive outcomes in education. It has explained that teacher qualities need to be positive in order to affect students positively in many aspects of their learning. More research needs to be done, however, to understand the impact of student-teacher relationships experienced during adolescence.


The proposed research study will explore student perceptions of teachers based on interactions and/or established relationships, and the study will examine the impact of those relationships on students’ academic performance, attitudes toward school work, personal self-worth, and future educational plans. Specifically, the following research questions have been formulated as a guide to be used throughout the course of this study. The central research question is: “In their own viewpoint, how do students’ relationships with their teachers affect their academic performance, attitude towards school work, personal self-worth, and future plans?”

To supplement the central research question, the following research questions are likewise posited as follows:

  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his or academic achievement?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his/her attitudes toward school work?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and his/her personal self-worth?
  • What is the relationship between how a student views the quality of his or her relationship with his/her teacher and students’ future study and career plans?

Research Design

The proposed study will use mixed methods in gathering and analyzing data to investigate the research questions. The study is more qualitative in nature, in that it attempts to go deeper into the issues of student-teacher relationships and the perceived effect of these relationships on students’ academic performance and personal self-worth by probing the perspectives of students. The quantitative aspect of the simple descriptive research design (Lauer, 2006) includes the distribution of survey questionnaires that select high school students will complete using a Likert scale on questions pertaining to the research topic. The qualitative aspect of the research design will involve focus group interviews which will be conducted to probe more deeply into the relationships between students and teachers.

The literature review provides a wealth of information to help reflect upon and analyze the data to be collected for this study. Analysis will examine findings of previous studies on student-teacher relationships that may either validate or disagree with the data gathered for this study. Krippendorff (2004) contended that existing theories or practices as well as the experience or knowledge of experts and previous research provide an abundance of developed constructs related to the topic. Elo & Kynas (2008) suggested that content analysis is a strategy that aims to provide new knowledge and insights as well as a representation of learned facts, and a practical guide to action.

Qualitative content analysis flows from a humanistic tradition. White and Marsh (2006) contended that in place of hypotheses associated with quantitative research, open questions that guide the flow of research and the gathering of data are used in qualitative research. The researcher reads through the data and analyzes and codes responses to identify themes and patterns. The researcher may discover patterns and themes that emerge that were not foreshadowed but are nevertheless important to consider and report.

Using various data-collection methods is one way to add trustworthiness to the derived data. Such a strategy is known as triangulation, a concept borrowed from surveying and navigation. Creswell and Miller (2000) defined triangulation as “a validity procedure where researchers search for convergence among multiple and different sources of information to form themes or categories in a study” (p. 126). It is not simply putting together a variety of data, but its significance lies in finding the relationships of the data to each other in order to counteract possible threats to validity (Berg, 1995). Denzin (1994) suggested the incorporation of multiple kinds of data sources and multiple theoretical perspectives instead of just using multiple data-collection methods in order to strengthen the validity of the findings. Incorporating multiple data sources and theoretical perspectives improves the validity and reliability of the research (Golafshani, 2003). For this study, the data sources are the questionnaires to be completed by the students and the focus group interview discussions that follow to elaborate on students’ views previously shared in the questionaires. Trianglulation will be achieved when these data sources are compared and contrasted, and analyzed with the backdrop of the review of literature. Mathison (1988) elaborated, “Triangulation has risen as an important methodological issue in naturalistic and qualitative approaches to evaluation [in order to] control bias and [for] establishing valid propositions because traditional scientific techniques are incompatible with this alternate epistemology” (p. 13).

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Any kind of investigation producing information without statistical procedures or quantification is considered qualitative research (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Quantitative researchers determine the causes of some events, and predict and generalize their findings, while qualitative researchers search for enlightenment and understanding (Robson, 2002). This being so, different kinds of information can be derived from qualitative methods and quantitative methods, and this study will utilize both methods for purposes of achieving more credible findings, especially since triangulation will also be applied.

Taking on a more qualitative than quantitative stance, this study aligns with Glesne (1999) when she stated that qualitative researchers look for different perspectives and do not contain their multiple interpretations of data to just a norm. She added that in qualitative research, face-to-face interactions are the predominant distinctive feature and also the basis for the most common problem in this type of research. The problem, Glesne stated, includes the researchers’ involvement with the people they study and the accompanying challenges and opportunities that such closeness brings. Qualitative research designs primarily focus on the participants’ experiences, the participants ascribe to those experiences, and/or understanding a process from the insights of a process participant. Merriam (1998) provided a broad definition of qualitative research “Qualitative research is an umbrella concept covering several forms of inquiry that help us understand and explain the meaning of social phenomena with as little disruption of the natural setting as possible”(p. 5). The centrality of meaning appears again and again in the qualitative methods literature. Thus the revised research questions must reflect an attempt to understand the participants’ experiences, the meaning the participants ascribe to those experiences, and/or understanding a process from the insights of a process participant.

Strauss and Corbin (1990) advocated the use of qualitative research methods in demystifying and understanding any phenomenon with limited information. Qualitative methods are useful in unearthing new insights or perspectives on phenomena that are already much studied. It is possible to acquire more depth of information than what has surfaced so far, which may otherwise be difficult to explain quantitatively. Qualitative methods are initiated when the researcher has determined that quantitative measures do not adequately pull in the necessary information or interpretation of a particular situation (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Robson, 2002).

Sample Selection

Target schools will be contacted, and the researcher will approach school authorities to present the objectives of the study and to seek permission to conduct the study. A minimum of 100 randomly selected high school students will be surveyed using the Teacher Perception Inventory. These students will take part in the study only if their parents agree and complete the consent form for their children to be participants and if they have been in the school system for a minimum of two months. The study will take place within a high school setting.


Survey Questionnaires

The use of questionnaires as a means of collecting data from many students with the purpose of obtaining personal views on student-teacher relationships has been selected for this particular research. Getting firsthand information from the students themselves is essential. Campbell, McNamara, and Gilroy (2004) described questionnaires as “a very versatile data-gathering method; they are cheap, easy to administer, whether it be to three people or 300, and can be used to gather a great variety of data of both quantitative and qualitative nature” (p. 146). Cohen, Manion, and Morrison (2000) also praised the use of questionnaires for their efficiency. Surveys and questionnaires allow the researcher to collect a significant amount of information in one attempt, rather than conducting interviews over a period of weeks. Gillham (2000) wrote that questionnaires make efficient use of the respondent’s time, because the survey participant can complete the questionnaire at a time that is suitable, and the survey process does not require the researcher and respondent to match free periods of time to conduct the research. Cohen et al. (2000) and Gillham (2000) emphasized the usefulness of questionnaires for ensuring participant anonymity, which may be requested in this study because of the sensitive and controversial nature of the material being investigated. If the respondents know they will remain anonymous, they may be willing to write about issues and opinions more openly than they would in a face-to-face situation. It could be argued then that questionnaires are more likely than interviews to generate truthful answers as there is no personal contact with the interviewer.

However, a disadvantage of using questionnaires is that the only data collected are variety of tick boxes and brief responses, which means the data tends to have more breadth than depth (Watzlawick et al., 1967; Oppenheim, 1992). This outcome results from the lack of an interviewer to prompt for further information or more detail in the answers. The questionnaire or survey cannot interpret questions for participants who may be unclear about what is being asked, so each participant has to decipher what they are being asked independently. Participants may resort to their own subjective understanding of the questions (Oppenheim, 1992).


To supplement the data gathered from the survey questionnaires, a number of in-depth focus group interviews will be conducted with seven to 10 students each. Interviews enable participants to discuss interpretations of a concept. The interview gives participants the opportunity to express their own point of view regarding certain situations (Cohen et al., 2000). The interview method uses appropriate questioning or a discussion of issues with one or more people. It is useful to collect data which may not be accessible through observation or questionnaires (Blaxter, Hughes, & Tight, 2006). In this study, focus group interviews will be conducted to further examine participants’ questionnaire responses and gain deeper insights on student-teacher relationships from the students’ point of view.

Robson (2002) pointed out that the interview is a flexible and adaptable research tool. In face-to-face interviews, there is the possibility of following up on responses that require probing or additional questioning. Frey and Mertens-Oishi (1995) commented that respondent participation can be enhanced by the interviewer’s ability to sensitively guide the questioning and to answer any questions from the respondent. Oppenheim (1992) suggested that the response rate is higher in interviews than in questionnaires because participants become more involved. However, there are also disadvantages to using interviews as a research tool. As Robson (2002) mentioned, the interview process can be time-consuming, as it involves making arrangements, often having to reschedule appointments, the interview itself, and then writing up notes or transcribing the interview.

A major disadvantage in any interview situation is the possibility of bias (Grinnell & Unrau, 2008). Interviewers may unwittingly divulge their opinions or expectations by their tone of voice or in the way they ask questions. Even when interviews are recorded, the researcher should remain aware of bias and its possible effect on how answers are understood and transcribed.


This study uses the Teacher Perception Inventory, a questionnaire that has been adapted from Mboya (1995) to suit the needs of the study. The items for the questionnaire were reworded in relation to the current study on perceptions of adolescents on student-teacher relationships. This questionnaire is used for quantitative purposes and will be analyzed by averaging responses given by the participants per item. The Teacher Perception Inventory includes the following six subscales: (a) relationship with the teacher; (b) opinion of teacher; (c) support, interest, and encouragement; (d) teacher’s behavior; (e) teacher’s challenge; and (f) teacher’s expectations. A remarks portion that may be filled out upon the participant’s preference follows each subscale. Each participant will complete two questionnaires: one for the teacher the participant perceived to be the most influential and effective, and one for the teacher the participant perceived to be the least influential and effective (see Appendix C). The items are to be evaluated by the respondents by choosing their answer from a 5-point Likert scale that ranges from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

The qualitative part of the study is the interview portion. The interview questions follow the Teacher Perception Inventory in order to give participants an opportunity to elaborate on their responses in the questionnaire. The researcher worded the following questions in order to align to and generate responses for the research questions of this study. These questions will also be used for the focus group discussion among selected groups of students: These interview questions will be field tested with content experts. The field testers and their qualifications are reported to the IRB along with the summarized results of the field test.

  1. What words can describe your interactions/relationships with your teachers?
  2. What improvements would you want from your interactions/relationships with your teachers?
  3. Without using names, what words can you use to describe the character of your teachers?
  4. What is your attitude towards school? Tell me how your teachers affect it.
  5. What are your future study and career plans after graduation from high school? Tell me what effect your teachers have had on them?
  6. Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your interactions/ relationships with your teachers?

Data Collection

The surveys, to be disseminated to the participants during one approved class period in the school, are designed to ascertain the students’ perceptions of caring relationships among students and their classroom teachers. Participating students will be surveyed concerning their academic achievement, attitudes toward school work, personal self-worth, and future education and career plans. Surveys will be administered to students who have been in the school system for a minimum of two months. This is assumed to be sufficient time for them to know particular teachers with whom they may want to establish a relationship. It may also be enough time for the student to have imagined future plans after finishing high school.

Four focus group discussions will be conducted with between seven and 10 different students. These students will be selected based on availability for the scheduled session, willingness of the students, and consent of their parents. At the end of the survey questionnaire, there is a note asking if the student is willing to join a focus group discussion session to elaborate on responses regarding student-teacher relationships. The parents of those students who have checked “yes” will be given another consent form to grant permission for their children to join a more intensive focus group interview. This letter will detail the aims of the focus group discussion and give assurance that the participants will be under no obligation to continue should they choose to withdraw from participation. Confidentiality will also be ensured. The researcher will also seek the endorsement of the school administration and request a letter of endorsement that would go with the parent letter. In addition, the specific time and location of the focus group discussion will be included in the letter. Should the number of participants still be lacking, some other students may be invited to the focus group interview upon the granting of permission from their parents.

The interview questions stated above will also be included in the consent form so parents will know exactly what topics will be discussed in the interview. The documentation of the focus group interview will come in the form of an audio recording which will be transcribed verbatim. The identified interview questions will help guide the course of the interview. The participants will take turns answering questions and responding to others’ answers. The researcher himself will be the interviewer as he is the best person to play the role due to his knowledge and interest in the topic. He will facilitate the interview and may ask follow-up questions to clarify some answers. The participants are ensured of the confidentiality of their responses. Real names will not be used in reporting the responses as data. The focus group gives students the opportunity to elaborate and freely express their insights regarding student-teacher relationships. The focus group discussions are believed to add pertinent information to the study. In the last decade several authors have determined rigorous, interrelated design criteria, such as identifying the reasons for mixing quantitative and qualitative data (Creswell, Fetters, & Ivankova, 2004). It is believed that the qualitative data of this study will support, enhance, and explain, the quantitative data. Qualitative interviews allow the researcher to reach a deeper level of understanding within a smaller framework.

Data Analysis

Quantitative data from the Likert-scaled questionnaire will be analyzed according to the means derived per item. This method will give an idea as to which questions garner the most and the least degree of agreement from the participants. For example, for one item, a percentage of scores will be taken for each response (e.g., of all respondents, how many checked strongly agree (SA), how many checked agree (A), etc.).

Completed questionnaires will be disaggregated. Batches for most influential and least influential teachers will be separated and then sorted according to the grade students have said that they usually get (all A’s, A’s and B’s, B’s and C’s, C’s and D’s, or below D) as indicated in the demographic information in the questionnaire. Frequency counts on each agreement level (strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree) will be analyzed on each item in the questionnaire to determine the percentages of responses per item. The responses to the questionnaire will be analyzed per subscale, as follows:

  1. Relationship with the teacher
  2. Opinion of teacher
  3. Support, interest, and encouragement
  4. My teacher’s behavior
  5. My teacher’s challenge
  6. My teacher’s expectations

The data will be compared across items and grade categories. Data for the most influential teacher category will then be analyzed to get a broader picture of the attitudes of the representative sample regarding student-teacher relationships. The same will be done for the least influential teacher category.

Qualitative data from the open-ended interview questions that follow will be coded and sorted into the questions and input into the following table:

Table 2:Data Input Table for Qualitative Responses

Data for “Most Influential” Teacher
What words can describe your interactions/
relationship with your teachers?
What improvements would you want from your interactions/ relationship with your teacher? How do you feel about yourself with regard to your interactions/ relationship with your teacher? What is your attitude towards school? Does your teacher have or has your teacher had an effect on it? What are your future plans after graduation from high school? Does your teacher have or has your teacher had an effect on them? What influence does your relationship with the teacher have on your attendance?
Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your interactions/ relationship with your teacher?

The researcher will categorize the data. Responses of the participants will be written under the corresponding questions in the chart. With redundant responses, a representative response will be selected to input in the chart. The researcher will comply with the ethics code of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

The data gathered in the table will be analyzed with the backdrop of information yielded from the review of literature. The process of gathering data for this study may be very tedious; however, if faithfulness to objectivity is maintained, achieving the objective of answering the research question as well as gaining new insights into the area of student-teacher relations is expected.

All data, qualitative and quantitative, will be analyzed and compared. The qualitative data will be analyzed according to the categories they have been placed under. Quantitative data will consist of the descriptive means derived from the percentages recorded for each item in the questionnaire. This triangulation of results will determine if themes or consistencies exist between the qualitative and quantitative data. Emerging themes may then reveal pertinent and interconnected findings. The analysis of data will be geared to responding to the research questions and hypotheses established for this study.

Ethical Issues

This study aims to comply to ethical standards and considerations in conducting research with human participants as issued by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The necessary forms will be completed, as well as necessary permissions will be sought in relation to the recruitment of participant as well as the conduct of the interviews. Confidentiality of information will be ensured so that the trust of the participants will be established. Participation will be non-obligatory and participants will be told that they may withdraw anytime they feel like it.


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Appendix A. Letter to Parents/Consent Form

Dear _______(name of parents or guardian),

I am ____________________, a doctoral candidate working on my dissertation entitled “Student-Teacher Relationships: A Study on the Effects of Perception of Relationships.” I have been granted permission by the school district to conduct this study in your child’s school. In this regard, I am seeking your permission to allow your son/daughter, _____(name of son or daughter)____ to participate in my study by way of completing a survey questionnaire on students’ perceptions of their teachers and a focus group interview to elaborate on their insights and opinions regarding their responses from the questionnaires. These focus groups will meet after school hours or on Saturdays so as not to interfere with instructional time or to rush the work.

Please fill out the attached consent form to signify whether you give your child your permission to participate in this study and return the form to school, or return in the preaddressed envelope provided.


—————————————————————————————————————-Consent Form

I understand that my child’s participation in this study is entirely voluntary and that I may refuse permission for him/her to participate.

_____________ I consent to my child’s participation in this study.

_____________ I do not consent to my child’s participation in this study.

Student’s Name ___________________________________________________

Parent’s/Guardian’s Signature/Date __________________________________

Appendix B. Questionnaire

Questionnaire about (please circle): Most Influential Teacher Least Influential Teacher

This questionnaire is part of a research study I am doing on Student-Teacher Relationships. In order to participate in the study, you will fill out the Questionnaire two times: once for a teacher who has been influential in your life to date and once for a teacher who has had very little effect or influence on you. Fill out a questionnaire for each teacher. All the information you provide will be kept strictly confidential. Try to answer all the questions with the options provided. There are no right or wrong answers. Participation in this study will not affect your grades, so please answer as honestly as you can.

A “remarks” column is provided at the end of each subscale and at the end of the questionnaire to enable you to supply any additional information that you would like to add to the answers you have made related to any of the questions. Thank you for your cooperation.

Specify your gender: ______ Male ______ Female

Age: _______

Grade level:_______________________

What grades do you get most often in school? (circle):

  • All A’s A’s and B’s B’s and C’s C’s and D’s Below D

What is your ethnic background?

  • (circle) OPTIONAL
  • Caucasian Asian Black Hispanic

Appendix C. Teacher Perception Inventory

How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of these statements? Please check the appropriate box:


  1. Strongly agree (SA)
  2. Agree (A)
  3. Undecided (U)
  4. Disagree (D)
  5. Strongly disagree (SD)
A. Relationship with the Teacher 1 (SA) 2
  1. I am important to my teacher.
  1. My teacher thinks my ideas and opinions are important.
  1. I feel respected by my teacher.
  1. I am interesting to my teacher.
  1. My teacher notices my feelings.
  1. It is important to my teacher that I am successful on my projects.
  1. I matter to my teacher.
B. Opinion of Teacher
  1. I have faith in my teacher’s ideas.
  1. My teacher is very knowledgeable in the area of my project.
  1. I want my teacher to be impressed with my abilities.
  1. It is important that my teacher thinks well of me.
  1. I admire my teacher.
  1. My teacher understands my projects.
C. Support, Interest, and Encouragement
  1. My teacher encourages me to use my own ideas.
  1. My teacher encourages me to try my own ideas and be responsible for my own actions.
  1. My teacher is concerned about what I do.
  1. My teacher is concerned about my future.
  1. My teacher praises me for trying even if I do not succeed.
  1. My teacher makes me feel more confident in my work.
  1. My teacher supports me in the things I do.
  1. My teacher cares if I get good or bad grades on my project.
  1. My teacher is satisfied with my final project.
D. My Teacher’s Behavior
  1. My teacher was never satisfied with my work.
  1. I thought I did well on my school performance but my teacher thinks I could do better.
  1. My teacher does not feel I’m doing my best on my school performance.
  1. I don’t think I’m as smart as my teacher thinks I am.
  1. My teacher expects too much of me.
  1. My teacher is “pushy” when it comes to this project.
  1. When it comes to this project, my teacher expects the impossible.
  1. I’m basically lazy and if it weren’t for my teacher I would not have done as well on this project.
  1. My teacher pressured me too much about getting my work done.
  1. My project would have been more pleasant if my mentor was less demanding.
E. My Teacher’s Challenge
  1. My teacher introduced me to new interests, ideas, and experiences.
  1. My teacher pushed me to do a good job.
  1. My teacher gave me constructive criticism.
  1. My teacher pushed me to do things on my own.
  1. My teacher questioned my ideas and asked me to think again.
F. My Teacher’s Expectations
  1. My teacher would like me to have good grades on my project.
  1. My teacher wants me to work hard on my project.
  1. My teacher thinks it is important for me to do this project.
  1. My teacher thinks I can do well on my project.

What words describe your interactions/relationship with your teacher?


What improvements would you want from your interactions/relationship with your teacher?


What words describe your teacher’s character?


How do you feel about yourself with regards to your interactions/relationship with your teacher?


What is your attitude toward school? Does your teacher have an effect on it?


What are your future plans after graduation from high school? Does your teacher have an effect on them?


How has your teacher impacted your life in general? Has the impact been good or bad?


Is there anything else you would like to share with regard to your interactions/relationship with your teacher?


A focus group interview is a small group discussion with other students regarding the issues on the subject of student-teacher relationships. It will take approximately 1 to 2 hours. All discussions in the focus group interview will be confidential and will not be divulged to the teachers concerned. I would very much appreciate having you to join one of these groups. Are you willing to join a focus group discussion to elaborate on your responses regarding student-teacher relationships? (Please check)



Appendix D. Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI)

This questionnaire asks you to describe your teacher’s behavior. Your cooperation can help your teacher improve his/her instruction. DO NOT WRITE YOUR NAME, for your responses are confidential and anonymous.

This is NOT a test. Your teacher will NOT read your answers and your answers will not affect your grade. He/she will only receive the average results of the class, not individual student scores.

On the next few pages you’ll find 64 sentences. For each sentence on the questionnaire find the same number on the answer sheet and darken the circle you think most applies to the teacher of this class. Please use only a #2 pencil.

For example:

If you think that your teacher always expresses herself clearly, darken letter E on your answer sheet. If you think your teacher never expresses herself clearly, darken letter A. You can also choose letters B, C, or D, which are in between. If you want to change your answer after you’ve darkened a circle, please erase completely. Please use both sides of the answer sheet. Thank you for your cooperation.

Never Always
1. This teacher is strict. A B C D E
2. We have to be silent in this teacher’s class. A B C D E
3. This teacher talks enthusiastically about his/her subject. A B C D E
4. This teacher trusts us. A B C D E
5. This teacher is concerned when we have not understood him/her. A B C D E
6. If we do not agree with this teacher we can talk about it. A B C D E
7. This teacher threatens to punish us. A B C D E
8. We can decide something in this teacher’s class. A B C D E
9. This teacher is demanding. A B C D E
10. This teacher thinks we cheat. A B C D E
11. This teacher is willing to explain things again. A B C D E
12. This teacher thinks we do not know anything. A B C D E
13. If we want something this teacher is willing to cooperate. A B C D E
14. This teacher’s tests are hard. A B C D E
15. This teacher helps us with our work. A B C D E
16. This teacher gets angry unexpectedly. A B C D E
17. If we have something to say this teacher will listen. A B C D E
18. This teacher sympathizes with us. A B C D E
19. This teacher tries to make us look foolish. A B C D E
20. This teacher’s standards are very high. A B C D E
21. We can influence this teacher. A B C D E
22. We need this teacher’s permission before we speak. A B C D E
23. This teacher seems uncertain. A B C D E
24. This teacher looks down on us. A B C D E
25. We have the opportunity to choose assignments which are most interesting to us. A B C D E
26. This teacher is unhappy. A B C D E
27. This teacher lets us fool around in class. A B C D E
28. This teacher puts us down. A B C D E
29. This teacher takes personal interest in us. A B C D E
30. This teacher thinks we cannot do things well. A B C D E
Never Always
31. This teacher explains things clearly. A B C D E
32. This teacher realizes when we do not understand. A B C D E
33. This teacher lets us get away with a lot in class. A B C D E
34. This teacher is hesitant. A B C D E
35. This teacher is friendly. A B C D E
36. We learn a lot from this teacher. A B C D E
37. This teacher is someone we can depend on. A B C D E
38. This teacher gets angry quickly. A B C D E
39. This teacher acts as if he/she doesn’t know what to do. A B C D E
40. This teacher holds our attention. A B C D E
41. This teacher is too quick to correct us when we break a rule. A B C D E
42. This teacher lets us boss him/her around. A B C D E
43. This teacher is impatient. A B C D E
44. This teacher is not sure what to do when we fool around. A B C D E
45. This teacher knows everything that goes on in the classroom. A B C D E
46. It is easy to make a fool out of this teacher. A B C D E
47. This teacher has a sense of humor. A B C D E
48. This teacher allows us a lot of choice in what we study. A B C D E
49. This teacher gives us a lot of free time in class. A B C D E
50. This teacher can take a joke. A B C D E
51. This teacher has a bad temper. A B C D E
52. This teacher is a good leader. A B C D E
53. If we do not finish our homework we are scared to go to this teacher’s class. A B C D E
54. This teacher seems dissatisfied. A B C D E
55. This teacher is timid. A B C D E
56. This teacher is patient. A B C D E
57. This teacher is severe when marking papers. A B C D E
58. This teacher is suspicious. A B C D E
59. It is easy to pick a fight with this teacher. A B C D E
60. This teacher’s class is pleasant. A B C D E
61. We are afraid of this teacher. A B C D E
62. This teacher acts confidently. A B C D E
63. This teacher is sarcastic. A B C D E
64. This teacher is lenient. A B C D E
Student-Teacher Positive Relationships
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