I Believe I Can Connect: Exploring Teachers' Relational Self-Efficacy and Teacher-Student Relationships
Robinson, Carly Dolan
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CitationRobinson, Carly Dolan. 2020. I Believe I Can Connect: Exploring Teachers' Relational Self-Efficacy and Teacher-Student Relationships. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractUnequivocally, students with more positive teacher-student relationships attain countless more desirable outcomes than students with less positive relationships. But cultivating positive relationships is not easy. We all have worried we will not be able to connect with new people or get a relationship back on track after a conflict. Teacher-student relationships, in particular, pose unique challenges: teachers and students are assigned to each other more or less at random each year, their power differential is exacerbated by an age gap, and teachers have to evaluate students. Despite these challenges, teachers rarely receive training or support on how to cultivate positive teacher-student relationships. Thus, it is completely reasonable that teachers may lack confidence in their ability to develop and maintain these consequential relationships with students.
Research on self-efficacy shows that people’s beliefs about their ability in a domain impact their performance in that domain, yet we know little about teachers’ confidence in their relationship-building skills with students. In this dissertation I introduce the concept of teachers’ relational self-efficacy, which I define as teachers’ beliefs about their capability to successfully form, maintain, and repair relationships with students. My theory-driven research addresses the policy- and practitioner-relevant question of how we can improve teacher-student relationships in the classroom. In Paper 1, through a longitudinal study, I provide evidence that we can measure teachers’ relational self-efficacy and that it predicts subsequent teacher and student perceptions of the teacher-student relationship. In Paper 2, I conduct a randomized field experiment showing that an intervention can increase teachers’ relational self-efficacy and their downstream teacher-student relationships. As a follow-up to the field experiment, Paper 3 is an online survey experiment that examines the logic of certain study design choices. These studies demonstrate how changing beliefs may be a lever for improving relationships.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365864
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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