New research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has shed light on what makes a real impact in the classroom.
ECU School of Education lecturer, Helen Egeberg, recently surveyed 360 WA high school students from six schools to ascertain their views on this topic.
The study found that most students want structure, discipline and caring relationships from their teachers. The findings run contrary to the stereotypical view of students trying to get away with bad behaviour.
“What we found was that the things that students want most is a sense that their teachers genuinely care about them, explain concepts clearly and control classroom behaviour,” Egeberg said.
“Of those students surveyed, 85% agreed that effective teachers make them feel like they care about the students as individuals and 88% agreed that effective teachers respect their ideas and suggestions.”
Further, 82% of students agreed that effective teachers ensure that behaviour in their classrooms remains under control.
“This flies in the face of the common stereotype that some high school students don’t care about their education and just want to muck around all day at school,” Egeberg said.
Following the survey the researchers conducted in depth focus groups at each of the six schools involved in the study.
Egeberg said one of the key themes to emerge from the discussions was the need for teachers to form strong relationships with their students.
“This was something that was brought up again and again in the focus groups, students respond best to the teachers who they felt cared about them and had worked to establish a relationship of mutual respect and trust,” she said.
The second major theme to come out of the focus groups was teachers who were able to balance providing boundaries for their students without being too harsh.
“The students said that the best teachers were neither too friendly and let them get away with anything nor too strict,” she said.
Egeberg said the next step in her research was to examine the attitudes of those teachers students identified as doing well.
Responses from student focus groups shed light on this, with one student saying they would be less inclined to do work for a teacher who they couldn’t stand.
“It’s the most important thing, I won’t do any work for teachers I can’t stand but those that give a … you know which ones those are and you kind of want to do the right thing by them,” the student said.
Another student said teachers must demonstrate that they care about their students on both a personal and academic level.
“Teachers earn respect by building a relationship with students and getting to know them through knowing that they care about what they’re teaching and that they care about you,” the student said.