It’s not really like educators need more evidence of the value of positive teacher-student relationships (see The Best Resources On The Importance Of Building Positive Relationships With Students).

But, I guess there will always be folks might pooh-pooh there importance (likely those who haven’t recently taught in an actual K-12 classroom).

If all those previous studies (you can find them at that “Best” list) don’t convince them, though, maybe this latest one will….

Developmental relationships and school success: How teachers, parents, and friends affect educational outcomes and what actions students say matter most just came out, and it was written by Jenna Sethi and Peter C. Scales.

Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall, but there are lots of ways to get free access to it (see The Best Tools For Academic Research).

It’s one of those very few academic papers that are worth teachers reading all the way through.

Here are a few key points (in addition to the quote in the text box at the top of this post).

That top quote refers to “developmental relationships.”  What are those, you might ask (as I did).

Here’s how they explain them:

Building on the work of Li and Julian (2012), Search Institute created the developmental relationships framework (Pekel et al., 2018), which names five interconnected elements that define a developmental relationship (see Table 1). In this framework, expressing care in a student–teacher relationship requires actions that show the students that they matter. Challenging growth involves the teachers’ actions that push their students to keep improving. When a teacher helps their students complete tasks and achieve goals, they are providing support. When a teacher treats their students with respect and gives them a say in the classroom, they are sharing power. And finally, to expand possibilities, teachers connect their students with people, places, and ideas that broaden their worlds.

So, in summary, those kinds of relationships are built when teachers:

Show students that they matter

Challenge students to regularly improve

Provide support

Shares power with them in the classroom

Introduce new ideas, concepts and possibilities


In addition, they suggest that teachers keep these points in mind as they present themselves to students:

You can trust me to be here through your good and bad days, and for the long haul

I will share some of my self with you as a person so we get to know each other, even maybe make each other laugh once in a while

I will be and fair honest with you

I will be flexible with you when I can be while still expecting a lot from you

I will give you the support you need to succeed.


This, however, was the most surprising result of the study – at least, to me:

But relationships with parents were not significant predictors of the outcomes for high school students. This finding aligns with the developmental literature that has documented how the salience of parental influence changes in some respects while that of non-parental adults often increases, as young people move through adolescence (Bowers et al., 2014; Sabol & Pianta, 2012; Varga & Zaff, 2017).


A lot to think about….