SOURCE: Panorama Education

Panorama Education

October 15, 2014 12:23 ET

Researchers From Panorama Education and Harvard's Graduate School of Education Develop Tool That Boosts Teacher-Student Connectedness and Students' Academic Performance

Preliminary Study Indicates That When Teachers and Students Learn What They Have in Common, Relationships Improve and Grades Rise

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - Oct 15, 2014) - Panorama Education (www.panoramaed.com), which helps K-12 schools improve through data analysis and feedback surveys of teachers, parents and students, announced today the results of a preliminary study by its Director of Research, Dr. Hunter Gehlbach, and his colleagues (Maureen Brinkworth, Aaron King, Laura Hsu, Joseph McIntyre, and Todd Rogers). The results indicate that knowing similarities between teachers and students can bolster social connectedness and may improve academic performance in the classroom.

For the study, Dr. Gehlbach and the research team surveyed students and teachers about their interests and values. Based on existing research that highlights how learning about similarities can strengthen relationships between two parties, they hoped that providing feedback about shared commonalities might help teachers and students better connect with each other. Sample question topics included the most important qualities in a friend, the sporting event they would most like to attend, and their views on when students learn the most.

A week after this initial "get-to-know-you" survey, students and teachers were randomized into different experimental conditions. The treatment groups received feedback on what they had in common with the other party (the control group did not). Five weeks after that, both students and teachers completed a more comprehensive survey to measure the effect of receiving this similarity feedback. The research team also gathered classroom grades at the end of the first quarter.

The study found that five weeks after the intervention:

  • Students and teachers who learned what they had in common with the other party perceived themselves as being more similar. 
  • When teachers learned that they shared commonalities with their students, they rated their relationships as more positive. (By contrast, the intervention did not significantly affect students' perceptions of their relationship with their teachers.)
  • When teachers received feedback about being similar to their students, the students earned higher grades.
  • The grade improvements occurred primarily for Black and Latino students. (The intervention showed no significant effects for White and Asian students.) For Black and Latino students, the achievement gap was narrowed by approximately 60 percent.

These early results suggest that similarities between students and teachers may be a promising lever to improve teacher-student relationships. The research team was particularly excited that the intervention also bolstered student achievement, especially for historically underserved students. "We plan to conduct further studies to explore why these improved relationships seem to have downstream benefits for students' academic performance," said Dr. Gehlbach. "Our findings suggest that there might be a lot of benefit to helping teachers and students see common points of overlap in their interests, values, and beliefs."

"This is a great example of a small intervention that can have a big impact on the relational climate in the classroom and on academic performance," said Aaron Feuer, co-founder of Panorama Education. "There's so much focus on test preparation and Common Core initiatives right now. I think people often forget the importance of that human connection in the classroom. That's one reason why we're excited to continue further studies like this at Panorama."

The study was conducted at a high school in the Southwestern United States during the fall of 2013. 315 students and 25 teachers participated in the survey. A blog summary of the results can be found at: http://blog.panoramaed.com/teacher-student-relationship-study/

To read the full results in a working paper, please visit: www.panoramaed.com/research/similarity

About Panorama
Panorama Education helps schools improve through data analysis and feedback surveys of teachers, parents and students. Panorama's technology platform helps teachers grow, and schools use Panorama's tools to address issues such as parent involvement, bullying prevention, school safety and student engagement. Panorama is used in 5,000 schools serving more than one million students. Based in Cambridge, Mass., the company is backed by Y Combinator, Mark Zuckerberg's Startup:Education, SoftTech VC, Google Ventures and others. Learn more at www.panoramaed.com.

Contact Information

  • For information, contact:
    Michelle Faulkner
    For Panorama Education
    Email Contact
    +1 617-510-6998