Building positive relationships with students improves learning potential

Sarah Montgomery

December 2020
I am proud of maintaining my enthusiasm to teach and inspire students even after 25 years of teaching. In fact, I am comfortable writing that I am enthusiastic to promote a love for learning more than ever.

Andrew Philp is a teacher of over 25 years, with a varied career teaching Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education. Currently teaching year 7 at Saint Ignatius College in Geelong, Australia, Andrew is also the Director of Sport. Over his career, Andrew has worked with many wonderful teachers and believes that there is one commonality between them - the ability to maximize learning potential by developing positive relationships with students.

Guided by well-known education researcher John Hattie, Andrew knows that establishing a positive and supportive classroom environment, combined with productive relationships between teachers and their students, will provide a platform in which students are encouraged and motivated to grow both academically and personally. Hattie noted in his 2015 study that a harmonious classroom can assist with the development of creativity, as well as reduce anxiety levels amongst students.

Developing positive relationships between a teacher and student is a fundamental aspect of quality teaching and student learning. Positive teacher-student relationships promote a sense of school belonging and encourage students to participate cooperatively.

Ziplet has helped Andrew create a more harmonious classroom

Two weeks out from the start of a new school year as a year 7 homeroom teacher, Andrew stumbled upon Ziplet while looking at EdTech tools. Experience has taught him that establishing positive relationships with students very early in the year is key to.a harmonious beginning, especially when these students are beginning their first year of secondary schooling.

Looking for an all-in-one place to collect information about what these students need easily, via a range of flexible response types, Ziplet was an easy solution. Using Ziplet in those first few weeks of the school year enabled Andrew to:

  1. Provide a safe place for students to tell him very early in the year how best they learn.
  2. Provide a safe place for students to tell him what classroom environment suits them to learn to their best potential.
  3. Provide a safe place for students to share with him the challenges they have faced in the past so he can quickly adapt my teaching approach so that their learning experiences from day one are valued and appreciated.

The problem solving ability of Ziplet means that teachers have direction from students with regard to decisions that are made about the day-to-day running of a classroom. This important process helps to develop cohesion, and a sense of harmony. For example, a result from students where the following question was asked, "How would you like Mr Philip to organize who sits where?":

Without Ziplet, Andrew says he would have normally just thought ‘this is what I think is best and this will be my decision.’ This quick process gave the students a safe opportunity to voice their preference without drawing attention to themselves. He says, "This is vital. I know only too well that many students’ choices are made because they feel uneasy making a choice that may not be what other students have chosen."

Probably one of the most powerful pieces of feedback he has received from a Ziplet question was regarding student wellbeing. Andrew created a project called GEM (practicing Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness), focused on improving the wellbeing of his students. For the past two years, on a daily basis, Andrew asked students to write down in a journal four things:

  1. What went well for you today? (To practice Gratitude)
  2. What kind act will you do for somebody today? (To practice Empathy)
  3. What are you most looking forward to about tomorrow? (To give hope and practice gratitude)
  4. How are you feeling ‘right’ now and why? (To practice Mindfulness – living in the now)

Ziplet helped provide insight into the success of this project - Andrew could feel that they were happy and calm but wanted evidence. The results of his questions were:

Chart question, "How has practising the GEM (Gratitude-Empathy-Mindfulness) journal changed you as a person? You can choose more than one"

In my 25 years of teaching there have been a great many changes. Whilst my belief in the importance of understanding student wellbeing hasn’t changed, using Ziplet has certainly made it easier.

Andrew has issued hundreds of Ziplet questions to students to gauge what they learned at the end of every lesson. These ‘exit tickets' take less than a minute to set up and organize and the student’s individual answer is recorded immediately. His high response rate shows me that my students feel safe using Ziplet, and gives incredible insight to build teacher and student relationships and then improve the learning outcomes of students.

Asking daily wellbeing questions on Ziplet has helped create positive relationships with students early in the year and to empower students to have a voice in their education. Support tools such as Ziplet help make it quicker and easier than ever to connect with and engage students to strengthen those relationships.

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