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Motivation may play a key role in the relationship between teacher-student relationships and academic outcomes (Bandura, 1997; Fan & Willams, 2010; Pajares & Graham, 1996; Ryan, Stiller, & Lynch, 1994; Wentzel, 2003; Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992).
Motivational theorists suggest that students’ perception of their relationship with their teacher is essential in motivating students to perform well (Bandura, 1997; Fan & Willams, 2010; Pajares & Graham, 1996; Ryan, Stiller, & Lynch, 1994; Wentzel, 2003; Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992).
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).
Students who have positive relationships with their teachers use them as a secure base from which they can explore the classroom and school setting both academically and socially, to take on academic challenges and work on social-emotional development (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).
This includes, relationships with peers, and developing self-esteem and self-concept (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).
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).
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).Academic Outcomes Although many studies focus on the importance of early teacher-student relationships, some studies have found that teacher-student relationships are important in transition years; the years when students transition from elementary to middle school or middle to high school (Alexander et al., 1997; Cataldi & Kewall Ramani, 2009; Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989).Studies of math competence in students transitioning from elementary to middle school have found that students who move from having positive relationships with teachers at the end of elementary school to less positive relationships with teachers in middle school significantly decreased in math skills (Midgley et al., 1989).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).