Impact of Teacher-Student Interactions on Student Learning

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we will examine the classroom practices that relate to teacher-student interactions and how they impact learning. We'll look at three different scenarios and examine best practices for each one.

Student Learning

Student learning outcomes are one of the most important parts of being a successful teacher. Student learning outcomes are the desirable qualities of learning as expressed through objectives in teaching. But how do teachers achieve these outcomes and keep them coming year after year? Although organization, pedagogy, and lesson planning are important, studies have shown that one of the most important determinants of student learning outcomes is teacher-student interactions. Teacher-student interactions should be grounded in respect and understanding and involve good communication. Today, we're going to be looking at three different scenarios of teacher-student interactions for students between grades four and nine and examining how they impact student learning.

Teacher-student interactions are one of the most important factors that determine student learning outcomes
teacher and student

Scenario 1: Redirected Interests

Jose is an active, energetic student in the 5th grade. Jose's new teacher, Mr. Alfaro, has been warned about his energy levels. Teachers have found Jose unmanageable in the past and wished Mr. Alfaro the best in educating Jose. However, Mr. Alfaro uses best teaching practices and tries not to judge his students before he meets them. Yet, in the first week of school, it's clear that Mr. Alfaro is going to need some good strategies for interacting with Jose as his energy has already caused multiple disruptions in the class. On Friday, Mr. Alfaro asks to speak to Jose during lunch away from his peers. He starts by complementing Jose on his never-ending energy and asks him how he feels like he is doing in class. When Jose admits that he is easily distracted, Mr. Alfaro offers to help. He gives Jose several tasks to do during class time that can redirect his energy, such as passing out papers, keeping track of the sticker chart, and distributing materials to other students.


In this scenario, Mr. Alfaro redirected Jose's ample energy, or put it to another more productive use. He also did not shame Jose for his behavior, which most likely, Jose cannot control. Instead, he admitted what a great skill it was to be so energetic, and offered to help Jose. This allows Jose to still feel like he has agency over his choices and allows him to feel respected in the classroom. This teacher-student interaction helped start the process of undoing years of shame based on Jose's demeanor in class.

Scenario 2: Undone Assignments

Ms. Carol is a first-year teacher in a social studies assignment in 7th grade. The school has a reputation for being tough, but Ms. Carol is ready for the challenge. Unfortunately, it hasn't been an easy year, and the week before winter break, none of her students did the homework assignment. When she asked them to take out their work, they stared blankly at her. Reining in her emotions, Ms. Carol decided to start a class discussion on why students didn't do the assignment. She used a strategy of think-pair-share, where students first brainstorm a response on their own, then share it with a partner, and finally out to the whole class. She found that many students felt the reading assignment was too hard. Using this information, Ms. Carol designed scaffolds for future readings that included pre-teaching vocabulary and chunking the assignment into smaller sections.


Ms. Carol could have blown up at her class in her feelings of disappointment. However, shame is not a good long term motivator for students, and this would have alienated her class further. Instead, she showed her class respect and asked them to communicate what was wrong with the assignment. She worked with them to develop strategies in order to help them achieve more student learning outcomes through her interactions with them.

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