Associations between Student-Teacher Relations and Students' Academic and Psychological Well-Being

By Suldo, Shannon; Friedrich, Allison et al. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, October 2008 | Go to article overview
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Associations between Student-Teacher Relations and Students' Academic and Psychological Well-Being

Suldo, Shannon, Friedrich, Allison, White, Tiffany, March, Amanda, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

The current era of educational accountability and high-stakes testing has led to an appreciable focus on student academic performance, but likely at the price of increased stress among teachers, reduced flexibility in classroom teaching practices, and a narrow definition of student success. While teachers maybe increasingly aware of how their teaching practices relate to students' attainment of district and state benchmarks, they should also know that the emotional climate teachers create in their classrooms is linked to students' functioning. This column summarizes results of empirical studies that demonstrate significant associations between student-teacher relations (specifically, teachers' provision of social support to students) and two desirable student outcomes: academic achievement and perceived quality of life (PQOL). PQOL, a broad indicator of psychological well-being, refers to global evaluations of the quality of one's life (i.e., life satisfaction or happiness) or satisfaction with specific areas of life, such as one's schooling experiences.


Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. G. (2005). Can instructional and emotional support in the first-grade classroom make a difference for children at risk of school failure? Child Development, 76, 949-967.

Hamre and Pianta (2005) evaluated the effects of instructional and emotional support on the academic achievement of first grade students identified as at risk for school failure. Participants were 910 children who were grouped based on functional and demographic indicators of risk. Functional indicators of risk included measures of sustained attention, social skills, externalizing behavior, and academic competence (i.e., teacher-rated classroom learning behaviors). Level of maternal education comprised the demographic risk indicator. Achievement was measured using the Woodcock-Johnson Revised. The Glassroom Observation System for First Grade measured classroom process variables related to both emotional support (e.g., teacher sensitivity, positive climate) and instructional support (e.g., literacy instruction, evaluative feedback).

Although neither support variable had a significant main effect on achievement, the interaction between instructional support and demographic risk as well as the interaction between emotional support and functional risk were significant. Children of mothers with less than a 4-year college degree (i.e., low maternal education) who were placed in classrooms with moderate to high instructional support achieved equal to peers whose mothers had at least a 4year college education. Alternatively, children with high demographic risk who were placed in classrooms with low instructional support achieved significantly below peers of low demographic risk. Additionally, children identified as functionally at-risk (i.e. ,had two to four functional risk factors) who were placed in classrooms with high emotional support achieved similarly to children with one or no functional risk factors. Functionally at-risk children placed in classrooms characterized by low to moderate emotional support, however, had significantly lower achievement than those not functionally at-risk.

These findings suggest that the quality of teacher support partially determines the risk of early academic delays. Implications for practice include an increased effort from school psychologists to (a) advocate for such positive classroom experiences for students, (b) educate school personnel on the malleability of children's academic developmental trajectories, and (c) encourage teacher accountability with regard to providing both emotional and instructional support to students.

Hughes, J., & Kwok, O. (2007). Influence of student-teacher and parentteacher relationships on lower achieving readers' engagement and achievement in the primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 39-51.

Hughes and Kwok (2007) tested a model of school adaptation that hypothesized that (a) children's demographic characteristics (gender, ethnicity) predict the quality of parentteacher and student-teacher relations and (b) these social relationships impact achievement via their influence on students' active engagement in the classroom.

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