There is substantial research on the importance of teacher-student relationships in the early elementary years (Pianta, 1992; Hamre & Pianta 2001).
However, little is known about the effects of teacher-student relationships on high school students.
For students who are considered at high risk for dropping out of high school, math achievement is significantly impacted by the perception of having a caring teacher (Midgley et al., 1989).
Furthermore, students who went from low teacher closeness to high teacher closeness significantly increased in math skills over the transition year, from elementary to middle school (Midgley et al., 1989).
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).
Due to the influence of expectations on motivation, expectations can be an important factor on a students’ academic achievement.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).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).In one intervention study that aimed to increase positive relationships between low-income high school students and their teachers, results showed that students who participated in the intervention significantly improved their GPA over the course of five months (Murray & Malmgren, 2005).Such research shows that positive teacher-student relationships can improve academic skills in students as early as middle school and as late as high school (Midgley et al., 1989; Murray & Malmgren, 2005).Through this secure relationship, students learn about socially appropriate behaviors as well as academic expectations and how to achieve these expectations (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).Students in low-income schools can especially benefit from positive relationships with teachers (Murray & Malmgren, 2005).In addition to positive teacher-student relationships, students’ motivation to learn is another factor that influences social and academic outcomes.A possible reason for the association between academic improvement and positive teacher-student relationships is students’ motivation and desire to learn (Wentzel, 1998).