Relationship-based Learning

The importance of the adult-child relationship cannot be underestimated. Countless studies point to the conclusion that students who have a positive relationship with at least one adult in the school have higher attendance and achievement levels than those who do not have such a relationship. It’s important to remember that ANY adult – teacher, aide, clerical staff, cook, custodian, bus driver, or administrator – can be the one who develops a positive relationship with students. 

Students also develop relationships with one another in meaningful ways that foster educational growth.  Teacher and author Christina Torres discussed the importance of designing classroom activities and assessments that build relationships in the article Rediscovering Relationship-Based Learning ( As you evaluate your educational activities and assessments, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this activity promote collaboration and strengthen student relationships? We know that collaborative learning increases student achievement, and we know that students benefit from developing relationships with their peers. The educational activities we undertake should leverage these opportunities for maximum impact.  
  2. Does this activity support both the intellectual and emotional growth of the student? The school experience is more than just knowing and doing. It is about expanding the whole student being. The educational activities we undertake should foster both content and social-emotional skills.
  3. Is this activity feasible for all students? Sometimes school projects extend beyond the walls of the school. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that our students all come from very different homes and support systems. The educational activities we undertake should be accessible to all of our students regardless of their socioeconomic status or home life. 
  4. Is this activity emotionally appropriate? Each student enters the room with individual prior emotional experiences that may not be immediately evident, and there may be some activities that cause an emotional response. If you are preparing an activity that may have something of that nature, be prepared to adjust on an individual basis if needed. 
  5. Does this activity or assessment provide for multiple means of mastery presentation? Students are unique individuals with a variety of talents, interests, and abilities. The educational activities we undertake should allow for a variety of mastery presentations. 

As you prepare for next week, ask yourself these questions and create answers that allow building healthy relationships. You and your students will be glad that you did!

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