Positive Teacher-Student Relations

How is it defined?

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

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

Why is it important?

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

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

How do we measure it?

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



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

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

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

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