Studies show that early teacher-student relationships affect early academic and social outcomes as well as future academic outcomes (Pianta 1992; Hamre & Pianta 2001), but few researchers have looked at the effects of teacher-student relationships in later years of schooling.
Researchers who have investigated teacher-student relationships for older students have found that positive teacher-student relationships are associated with positive academic and social outcomes for high school students (Alexander, Entwisle, & Horset, 1997; Cataldi & Kewall Ramani, 2009).
Students in high-poverty urban schools may benefit from positive teacher-student relationships even more than students in high-income schools, because of the risks associated with poverty (Murray & Malmgren, 2005).
Risk outcomes associated with poverty include high rates of high school dropout, lower rates of college applications, low self-efficacy, and low self-confidence (Murray & Malmgren, 2005).
Teachers play an important role in the trajectory of students throughout the formal schooling experience (Baker, Grant, & Morlock, 2008).
Although most research regarding teacher-student relationships investigate the elementary years of schooling, teachers have the unique opportunity to support students’ academic and social development at all levels of schooling (Baker et al., 2008; Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998; Mc Cormick, Cappella, O’Connor, & Mc Clowry, in press).
Low-income students who have strong teacher-student relationships have higher academic achievement and have more positive social-emotional adjustment than their peers who do not have a positive relationship with a teacher (Murray & Malmgren, 2005).
Aligned with attachment theory (Ainsworth, 1982; Bowlby, 1969), positive teacher-student relationships enable students to feel safe and secure in their learning environments and provide scaffolding for important social and academic skills (Baker et al., 2008; O’Connor, Dearing, & Collins, 2011; Silver, Measelle, Armstron, & Essex, 2005).
Teachers who support students in the learning environment can positively impact their social and academic outcomes, which is important for the long-term trajectory of school and eventually employment (Baker et al., 2008; O’Connor et al., 2011; Silver et al., 2005).
When teachers form positive bonds with students, classrooms become supportive spaces in which students can engage in academically and socially productive ways (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).
Positive teacher-student relationships are classified as having the presence of closeness, warmth, and positivity (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).