What single factor makes for an excellent education? The simple answer to this question is human relationships. Learning is not just cognitive; it has social and emotional properties, and evidence shows that with a focus on relationships, achievement gaps can be halved. Students want to feel welcome in the classroom AND evidence shows this will makes them more likely to succeed. The blog below with videos explains Relationship-Rich Education for building connections to our students and to help our students build connections with one another. The following blogs will describe other constructs for building human connections in teaching.
Human Connections 2: Growth Mindset and Sense of Belonging
Human Connections 3: Love, Equity, and Justice and Student Partnerships
Which construct matches best with your discipline and personality?
What single factor makes for an excellent education? Relationship-Rich Education
Felten and Lambert (2020) argue that there’s a simple answer to this question: Human relationships. Social and emotional components of learning can reduce achievement gaps by half through teaching in ways that promote connection and encourage student success. For their book, Relationship-Rich Education, Felten and Lambert interviewed multiple professors and students for ideas on building connections to our students and to help our students build connections with one another. For example, in the Oakton Community College Persistence Project, faculty committed during first three weeks of semester to:
- Learn to use student names
- Articulate high academic standards paired with support for where students struggle
- Return an assignment with formative feedback
- Meet one-on-one with each student for 10 minutes
Some other examples…
- Pause class to ask students to compare notes with a few students around them. Students comment on content and format of notes.
- For large classes, let students know you will be there five minutes before class starts to spend some time getting to know each other. Watch this video from Meghan Porter where she describes the kinds of questions she asks (30 secs, starting at 4:06).
- (In a math course) when students express doubt, encourage them to skip the homework tonight, and instead read about imposter syndrome. Take five minutes in class next day to talk about imposter syndrome.
- At the end of class, ask students to write in the chat, some success they had in the last week, which could be anything from seeing their family or getting into medical school.
- In this video Kalani Craig (History/Digital Humanities) shows social network analysis as an icebreaker.
Most instructors know how to build relationships with our students that can lead to increased belonging and success. If we simplify these efforts and do it more, we’ll get good results.
Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Encouragement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. The Higher Education Academy.
Felten, P., & Lambert, L. M. (2020). Relationship-rich education: How human connections drive success in college. JHU Press.