Positive teacher-student relationships

Positive teacher-student relationships is a research-based measure from the Tell Them From Me surveys. It is a source of evidence linked to What Works Best and the School Excellence Framework.

What is it?

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.

The Tell Them From Me surveys ask students their views of teacher behaviours and whether they feel supported by them. Students are asked about their interactions with teachers across the school. They are not asked about individual teachers or teachers that they have for specific subjects. The results are reported as students’ average score for teacher-student relations.

Why is it important?

Teacher-student relations have strong positive correlations with gains in intellectual engagement. Students with positive teacher-student relations have a greater motivation to perform well academically. Teachers’ interactions with students can also affect students’ relationships with their peers, particularly peer acceptance.

School improvement links

School Excellence Framework element What works best theme
Effective classroom practice
Classroom management


Evidence base

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), Ready to learn: Students’ engagement, drive and self-beliefs (PISA 2012 results: Volume III). Paris: OECD Publishing.

Image: This explainer has been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar.

Explainers of the Tell Them From Me measures have been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar. The Tell Them From Me measures are provided by, and remain the intellectual property of, The Learning Bar. The explainers can also be found online within the Tell Them From Me portal. Tell Them From Me and TTFM are trademarks of The Learning Bar.


  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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