Handbook of Research on Student Engagement

pp 365-386


Teacher-Student Relationships and Engagement: Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Improving the Capacity of Classroom Interactions

  • Robert C. PiantaAffiliated withCurry School of Education, University of Virginia Email author 
  • , Bridget K. HamreAffiliated withCenter for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, University of Virginia
  • , Joseph P. AllenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Virginia

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Classrooms are complex social systems, and student-teacher relationships and interactions are also complex, multicomponent systems. We posit that the nature and quality of relationship interactions between teachers and students are fundamental to understanding student engagement, can be assessed through standardized observation methods, and can be changed by providing teachers knowledge about developmental processes relevant for classroom interactions and personalized feedback/support about their interactive behaviors and cues. When these supports are provided to teachers’ interactions, student engagement increases. In this chapter, we focus on the theoretical and empirical links between interactions and engagement and present an approach to intervention designed to increase the quality of such interactions and, in turn, increase student engagement and, ultimately, learning and development. Recognizing general principles of development in complex systems, a theory of the classroom as a setting for development, and a theory of change specific to this social setting are the ultimate goals of this work. Engagement, in this context, is both an outcome in its own right and a mediator of impacts that teachers have on student outcomes through their interactions with children and youth. In light of this discussion, we offer suggestions or directions for further research in this area.