Building effective relationships with students

24 July 2024

Relationship building is key to effective teaching. Research shows that increasing student connectedness and creating positive student-teacher interactions has benefits for student learning and development.

“All educational encounters start with an opportunity for intentional connection” (Bond, 2019). Strengthening that connection has some key benefits for students including:

  • Increased motivation and investment – leading to greater willingness to engage
  • Increased retention of information – leading to better assessment results
  • Sense of security and comfort – leading to greater participation

Positive student-teacher interactions occur when the teacher develops connection, rapport, and trust. This is done by expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power, and expanding possibilities. Being a student-centred teacher, who is passionate and enthusiastic about teaching and the course content helps students feel more connected. This takes effort on the part of the teacher, both inside and outside the classroom, with teachers needing to move away from being ‘providers of knowledge’ to being ‘facilitators of engagement and learning’.

Some actions that will help strengthen your relationship with your students include:

  • Consciously model excitement and enthusiasm
  • Be purposefully present when you enter a classroom, physical or virtual
  • Show genuine interest in students’ learning journeys
  • Create an open and inviting atmosphere
  • Ask community-building questions
  • Engage empathically and show an interest in students’ personal lives and wellbeing
  • Value the individuality of each student – show them they matter and so does their opinion
  • Reward vulnerability – thank students by their preferred name for asking questions, answering questions, or offering comments
  • Emphasise your own personal experiences as a parent, partner, student, and employee, in addition to your role as an educator and “encourage students to bring their diverse lived experiences into the classroom as well” (Bond, 2019)
  • Take the time to actively listen
  • Be approachable
  • Provide honest and constructive feedback on assessment in a timely manner
  • Keep classes engaging using active learning
  • Develop an etiquette for your physical classroom or netiquette for your virtual classroom
  • Humanise your conversations with personal language like “you” and “I” instead of dehumanising terms like “the examiner” or “the student”
  • Remember the five magic words: “Please come talk to me.” This simple phrase has been shown to cause students to perceive the instructor and course in a much more positive light.

Also see our tip on Encouraging students to ask for academic help and our past workshop on How to create teacher presence online



Bond, N. (2019). Reflections on forming a virtually feminist pedagogy. The Scholarly Teacher.