Student-Teacher Relationships: The Key to Motivating Students

Theater audience looking at red curtain

I recently concluded my Motivation in Education series, which explored Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation. Each of the model’s components (attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction) share a common thread: the relationship between a teacher and their students.

As teachers, it’s vital to build relationships with students by being approachable, showing our students that we believe in and care about them. In order to connect with our students, we need to meet them where they are at in their life journey, experience, and education.

Meeting Students Where They’re At

Several years ago I worked at a drama camp. One of my students was quiet, shy, and wouldn’t say a word, especially in large group settings. In order to meet her where she was at, I took the time to observe and interact with her.

One of the first things I realized is that she is very close with her outgoing and energetic best friend. When this friend brought out those qualities in the shy student, it was like she was a completely different person. In a small group with her best friend, I gave the shy student a script and she read it loudly, clearly, and included inflections in her voice. When I saw her potential, I gave her the lead role of Ariel in our scene from The Little Mermaid.

Since Ariel had the most interaction with Flounder, I cast her best friend as Flounder. By casting them in these roles, the shy student wouldn’t have to get over the barrier of learning to interact with someone new. I still remember her joy and excitement as she ran to tell her mom she got the part.

When I was this student’s age, I was extremely shy, so I was able to relate to her. Because I took the time to meet this student where she was at and build a relationship with her, my confidence and belief in her motivated her to perform without fear. And I still have a close relationship with her and her best friend to this day.

When you meet your students where they’re at, you’re able to find opportunities to help them grow.

Building Relationships With Students

While this is a face-to-face teaching scenario, the same strategies work for teachers in online and blended learning environments, which include:

  • Respond to emails in 24-48 hours.
  • Intentionally deepen and further the conversations in the discussion boards.
  • Take the time to learn what a student is passionate about and help him or her connect those passions to what they are learning.
  • Provide constructive, personal, effective feedback on assignments.
  • Let students know that you are approachable and willing to answer any of their questions and concerns.

Relationships Build Student-Teacher Connections

Building relationships with students ties attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction together. As we know, these four components of Keller’s ARCS Model motivate students in and outside of the classroom.

And in the process, you’ll make incredible connections with your students, some of which will last long after they leave your classroom.

Is there a student-teacher relationship you will always remember? What are your favorite ways to build relationships with your students? Let us know in the comments.

Author: modelelearning

Our team develops student-centered blended and online courses at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI.

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