How Students and Teachers Relate

How a teacher relates to his or her students has tremendous influence on a student’s learning experience. So Matthew G. Mandelbaum of Fordham University and PsySoEd Dynamics, LLC asked childhood and early-childhood educators about the approaches they use in their classrooms to solve problems and maintain motivation.

He asked whether they would develop a new curriculum in an adventurous or a structured style, if they typically seek to develop deep relationships with students (relational approach), and if they pursued professional development opportunities (mastery).

In general, he found that teachers who were adventurous were also more relational. Among early childhood educators, those who were adventurous were also more relational and more interested in developing their skills as teachers.

These findings may be especially important in early childhood settings, because having adventurous, relational teachers who like to grow their knowledge could help students develop a strong academic foundation.

However, Mandelbaum surmises that such qualities could be found and fostered in teachers across the grade levels.

“If you think back on your own academic career,” Mandelbaum says, “I am sure you could find at least one teacher, if not more if you are lucky, who was adventurous and loved learning and who took the time to get to know the real you.”

While the significant findings come from a small sample, such research is important because how teachers solve problems and maintain motivation affects the design of the classroom environment and influences the way in which information is presented to students, which ultimately affects student achievement.

More research is needed to understand the how teacher-student relations impact achievement. However, Mandelbaum posits that interventions could be developed to grow such qualities in teachers and to help students reach their full potential.

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