by Jamie Amero, Pharm.D., PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, The Johns Hopkins Hospital
If asked “What contributes to students’ success in college?” many would respond with answers such as hard work, motivation, or talent. All of them are important contributors, but there is another component to success that often gets overlooked. Many people do not realize a positive relationship between the student and educator can have a large impact on a student’s success.
The influence the student and teacher relationship on student success in college courses has been examined. Researchers have found that a positive relationship between students and the teacher increases student motivation, satisfaction, confidence, and learning.1,2 One study by Marina Micari and Pilar Pazos evaluated the impact of faculty-student relationships in an organic chemistry course using a survey tool. This study was designed to evaluate if there was a correlation between the students’ perceived relationship with the professor and their performance and confidence in the course. The results found favorable student outcomes were correlated with certain student feelings such as looking up to the professor and, in return, feeling respected by the professor. Student success was also correlated with feeling comfortable approaching the professor. Positive relationships with the professor resulted in higher final grades and increased the students’ confidence.2 Other positive benefits include increases in student motivation to learn, influences on professional career choices, and increases in class attendance.3-6
Thinking back on my years as a student, the educators who made the biggest difference were the ones that created meaningful relationships with me. It is often easy to get “lost in the crowd” when sitting in a lecture of over 160 students. Those educators which took the time to get to know me were hands down my best professors. Having a relationship with the professor made it easier to ask for help when I was struggling and I was more interested in the course material. There are a variety of ways to build relationships with your students. Here are a few suggestions:
As an educator, it may seem as if there is no room in your schedule for relationship building. I encourage you to find the time. As a professional who recently graduated, the impact of positive relationships with (some) faculty is fresh in my mind. I contact those professors for help both in my work and personal life. A couple of hours a week can build relationships that will have a lifelong impact for both the learners and you.
- Starcher K. Intentionally building rapport with students. College Teaching. 2011;59:162.
- Micari M, Pazo P. Connecting to the professor: impact of the student-faculty relationship in a highly challenging course. College Teaching. 2012; 60:41-47.
- Wright et al. Attributes of excellent attending-physician role models. N Engl J Med. 1998;339:1986-1993.
- Haidet P et al. The role of the student-teacher relationship in the formation of physicians. J Gen Intern Med. 2006; 21:S16-20.
- Rimm-Kaufman S. Improving students' relationships with teachers to provide essential supports for learning. American Psychology Association [Internet]. Washington (DC), 2014 [cited 2014 Mar 10].
- Fjortoft N. Students' motivations for class attendance. AJPE. 2005; 69: Article 15.
- McKinney. What's your name again? Successful Academic News [Internet]. Chapel Hill (NC), 2005 [cited 2014 Mar 10].
- The Liberal Arts and Sciences Teaching Academy (LASTA), University of Illinois. Making the Most of Office Hours [Internet]. Urbana (IL) [cited 2014 Mar 10].
- Chickering A, Gamson Z. Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE 1997;39:252-262.