How do you measure student teacher relationships?

Researchers at the University of Exeter have developed a scale to measure student-teacher relationships, but will it work here in the UK? They want to hear from teachers

Hayley Gains

Relationships

Student-teacher relationships are an important part of any classroom. When teachers develop close relationships with their students, they are less likely to experience emotional exhaustion, and more likely to feel a sense of personal accomplishment at work1.

For children, we see more prosocial behaviour2 and positive language and literacy outcomes3 among those with a positive relationship with their teacher. A study of 3817 secondary school pupils also found that the strength of student-teacher relationship predicted pupils’ mental health at a three-year follow-up4.

There are various ways to measure this key relationship in a child’s life, including interviews with students and teachers, or observations of classroom interactions by a researcher. One of the most widely used measures is the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale5, which asks teachers 15 questions about aspects of relationship closeness and conflict.

The Student-Teacher Relationship Scale was developed in the United States and has been adjusted to suit the educational context of many different countries including Italy, Germany and Spain. However, this scale hasn’t yet been adapted for the UK. Why is this a problem?

In our research at the University of Exeter Children and Young People’s Mental Health Collaboration (ChYMe), we have found that challenging relationships are difficult to describe. Even if a relationship is strained, teachers may be reluctant to describe any child as “sneaky” or “manipulative”, or to agree that a child “drains my energy”. However, these are some of the statements in the US Student-Teacher Relationship Scale.

We have therefore produced the UK Student-Teacher Relationship Scale – Short Form. We want to find out how reliable this questionnaire is for UK teachers and are inviting teachers to contribute to our evaluation of the UK Student-Teacher Relationship Scale here. By completing the scale anonymously, we can assess whether the UK measure is acceptable to complete and whether it is still sensitive to the many different levels of closeness and conflict between students and teachers.

We hope that this will be a useful measure for future educators and researchers to use in the evaluation of new teaching strategies and large-scale mental health interventions. We welcome discussion and would love to hear your thoughts. What makes these relationships special to you and what do you think of the UK Student-Teacher Relationship Scale? You can get in touch via email or Twitter to let us know.

You can take part in the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale survey here.

Author correspondence

Dr Rachel Hayes  – r.a.hayes@exeter.ac.uk / @rahayesuk

Hayley Gains – h.gains@exeter.ac.uk / @gainshayley

University of Exeter Children and Young People’s Mental Health Collaboration – @ChYMe_Exe

References

  1. Milatz, A., Lüftenegger, M. and Schober, B. (2015) ‘Teachers’ Relationship Closeness with Students as a Resource for Teacher Wellbeing: A Response Surface Analytical Approach’, Frontiers in Psychology, 6(DEC), p. 1949. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01949.
  2. Hughes, K., Bullock, A. and Coplan, R. J. (2014) ‘A person-centred analysis of teacher-child relationships in early childhood’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(2), pp. 253–267. doi: 10.1111/bjep.12029.
  3. Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M. Y. and Harrison, L. J. (2015) ‘Language development in the early school years: The importance of close relationships with teachers’, Developmental Psychology, 51(2), pp. 185–196. doi: 10.1037/a0038540.
  4. Lang, I. A. et al. (2013) ‘Influence of problematic child-teacher relationships on future psychiatric disorder: population survey with 3-year follow-up’, British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(5), pp. 336–341.
  5. Pianta, R. C. (2001) STRS Student-Teacher Relationship Scale. Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources

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