Research Topic

Student-Teacher Relationship Quality Research: Past, Present and Future

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Since the publication of Robert Pianta's 2001 handbook on the quality of the teacher-student relationship, much has been accomplished and research contributions have multiplied from different authors and countries. This testifies to the richness and continuous evolution of this field of research. The quality ...

Since the publication of Robert Pianta's 2001 handbook on the quality of the teacher-student relationship, much has been accomplished and research contributions have multiplied from different authors and countries. This testifies to the richness and continuous evolution of this field of research. The quality of the teacher-student relationship has been recognized as an important factor in the psychological development of students and seems to increase their adjustment to the school context. A good quality of relationship, according to attachment theorists, is characterized by closeness, affection, and respect. In this direction, the teacher can offer a relational context that can support the child in their learning processes and psychological development, preventing negative outcomes. The research focused on defining the salient features of this educational relationship and refining tools that could collect the perceptions of students and teachers, trying to identify the possible outcomes associated and the mechanisms involved.

Twenty years after the publication of Pianta's manual, it is necessary to attempt a synthesis of the path taken in this area of research to understand where we have arrived and what steps to take in the future investigations. Although much work has been done in this area of research, many questions remain unanswered. For example, some dimensions of the teacher-pupil relationship (i.e., closeness and conflict) are much more investigated than the dependency dimension. We need to investigate the characteristics of the teacher-child relationship and how they vary by gender, age, ethnicity, and teacher and student characteristics. It is necessary to investigate how pupils and teachers perceive their relationship with each other, and to study their concordance. Where there is more than one teacher, it is important to consider the relationship that the student has with the teachers, taking into account the type of subject and the hours spent in the classroom. Further contributions could also study the association between the quality of the relationship and developmental outcomes, identifying the mechanisms involved. Finally, adopting a cross-cultural perspective, we could better identify which aspects of the quality of the teacher-teacher relationship tend to be universal and which ones, and in what way, are shaped by culture.

Therefore, this Research Topic aims to offer a synthesis of the state of the art on research on teacher-student relationship quality and to collect original contributions that can offer new insights and stimuli for future research. This article collection welcomes both theoretical and empirical (qualitative and/or quantitative) works that contribute to the consolidation of current knowledge, highlight limitations and critical issues of current research, or offer new ideas and reflections to support future research. Original empirical research from different parts of the world (including validation of instruments in cultures not yet surveyed) is welcome, and cross-cultural comparisons are valued more highly. Narrative reviews, commentary, systematic reviews and meta-analyses that have a significant impact on understanding the association between quality of the teacher-student relationship and its connection to child and adolescent developmental processes are also welcome. They should offer a concrete impetus to the advancement of knowledge in this area of research and guide future research are also welcome.


Keywords: student-teacher relationship, educational psychology, school psychology, attachment, Pianta


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