Ongoing advancements in technology have allowed humans to connect more now than at any other point in history. Constantly surrounded by screens, we have the ability to text, call, video, and read up on just about anyone, whether overseas or in an adjacent area code.
But how meaningful are these connections? “Engagement” with others has been diminished to posts and pictures rather than in-person meet-ups, and updates are learned via notifications instead of direct discussions in the present.
For 21st century educators, attaining meaningful connections with students can pose an even greater challenge, even when done in-person.
The importance of strong student-teacher connections
Over the past five decades, research has been conducted to better understand the significance of relationships between students and their teachers. In an analysis of 99 different studies sampling a total of 129,423 K-12 students, researchers found that teacher-student relationships remained important for students even into late adolescence.
An additional Review of Educational Research analysis determined that developed connections between students and teachers led to improved student success. Students were more engaged, had better grades and attendance, and fewer behavioral issues. Connections to teachers are especially important for students who come from disadvantaged economic backgrounds, have learning difficulties, and that are academically at risk of dropping out.
Impacted relationships as a result of COVID-19
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers at U.S. public schools spent upwards of 1,300 hours together during a typical school year. Despite occupying the same physical space, many teachers struggled to connect with the students in their classes. Some attributed this disconnect to devices. A Harvard research study conducted in 2016 found that of 2,300 teachers polled, 75% reported that the attention spans of their students had decreased as a result of cell phones in class.
Due to nationwide school closures in Spring 2020, spending hours together in-person was not possible. A recent study conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association found that 89% of educators had little to no experience with teaching remotely before 2020. Without adequate virtual support systems or prior knowledge, teachers had difficulty engaging their students despite the ability to “connect” online. The elimination of in-person immediacy cues like eye contact and body language also prevented the same level of connection.
The significance of teacher-student/peer-to-peer/teacher-adult relationships before, during, and after the pandemic became a primary topic at the National Safe School Reopening Summit held last month. Conducted by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, the Summit featured First Lady Jill Biden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other prominent figures in local and national education.
“Our connection with families is much stronger than it ever has been, in terms of our teachers in the remote space, online, talking to parents and students every single day and really getting to know the families and understand the challenges,” said Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union
Despite frustrations with remote-learning, some participants at The Summit noted significant improvements, particularly regarding connection to student’s families.
“Our connection with families is much stronger than it ever has been, in terms of our teachers in the remote space, online, talking to parents and students every single day and really getting to know the families and understand the challenges,” said Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union.
Through these increased interactions with parents, teachers are more equipped to help their students succeed.
Streamlined solutions to cultivate connections at home and on-campus
Although the landscape for learning has shifted significantly over the past year, the need for strong student-teacher connections hasn’t. The challenge educators now face is cultivating connection by accommodating students joining remotely AND in-person during the same class.
ConexED offers teachers, students, and parents the opportunity to develop and maintain authentic human connections from anywhere and on any device. Through use of our video, chat, and interactive whiteboard features, ConexED users can correspond with one another via numerous forms of communication. By offering multiple solutions to engage at once, students and teachers can easily reconvene conversations online that began in-person and vice versa.
The dynamic ConexED platform provides the ability to meet one-on-one and also accommodates those joining in-person or remotely for any class or webinar. The breakout room feature allows the instructor to foster peer-to-peer engagement while moderating multiple rooms at the same time, making group projects an easy way to increase engagement and collaboration.
Easily navigable, the ConexED platform enables students to take initiative for their own success while teachers help to monitor all elements of the student experience, communicating and supporting every step of the way. Student-teacher connection in today’s world is contingent on the right technology and empowering educators who can match the technological proficiency of their students. ConexED is the unified student success and communication platform that offers solutions to both.