Do Your Students Like You? Here’s Why it Matters…

Do Your Students Like You? Here’s Why it Matters…

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A teacher’s perceived credibility plays a huge role in student success. Here are 3 practical tips you can use to positively influence students’ perceptions of you to raise their achievement.

By Samuel Kett

Do my students like me? Worrying about what others think of me has played too much of a role in my life. It has impacted some of my on-stage performances, created anxiety in social situations, stopped me from taking risks, and in general, has led me to be a bit of a people pleaser at times. 

This thinking pattern in psychology is considered a cognitive distortion that goes by the name of “mind-reading. It’s not helpful and often not true, but becoming more mindful and aware of it has helped me to start letting these kinds of thoughts go more easily.

In saying all of this, however, research suggests that being concerned about what our students think of us as educators might just be warranted.  Our students’ perceptions of us directly impact their learning. Maybe we should care whether our students like us or not.

Teacher Credibility

According to John Hattie’s 2016 Effect size research, 252 influences related to student achievement were compared according to their effect size. “Teacher Credibility” came in as having the 7th biggest impact on student achievement; ranked ahead of popular strategies such as “feedback”, “parental involvement” and “reciprocal teaching”. Teacher credibility can be defined as “the perception a student has about their teacher’s quality of character”.  It can be broken into 3 aspects; these are aspects that students view as important to the way they feel about their teacher.

“If a teacher is not perceived as credible, the students just turn off”

John Hattie

When students like you, the impact on their learning is above average.

The 3 Aspects of Teacher Credibility

According to Shaun Killan (follow him on Twitter) at Evidence-Based Teaching, there are 3 aspects of teacher credibility: 

  • Competence
  • Trusting Relationships
  • Passion

Tips for Demonstrating Competence

  • Plan your program so that you are maximising your strengths. The students will be benefit from your unique skills and knowledge and when you need to teach something you are less competent in, the students already have confidence in you as they see you at your best on a regular basis.
  • If you have supportive and flexible colleagues, arrange things so that you can focus on planning and teaching subject areas that are of interest to you and you have strengths in.
  • If this is not an option. Be open with the students about your deficiencies. Be a leader, but learn alongside them. Your honesty and humour will make up for any perceived weakness in this area.
  • Managing behaviour, yuck! This can be one of the really crappy parts of teaching. However, a good place to start is; only step in and disrupt a lesson when someone’s behaviour is negatively affecting others. If this is happening, not all of the pressure should be on you, do your best at the time, then at the next available moment go and see senior management or a team leader and share the responsibility. Kids really dislike it when one or two students in the class ruin the vibe.

Tips for Building Trusting Relationships

“Every kid is one caring adult away from a success story”

Josh Shipp

  • Make student well-being a priority. You can do this by collecting “student voice” regularly. Have students add their thoughts to wall displays titled “Problems”, “Ideas”, “Questions” and “What I’m grateful for”. Let the displays build up over a week and discuss their thoughts and feelings as a class at the end of the week and create solutions together, answer any questions, help resolve issues and acknowledge what we are grateful for.
  • Tell your students stories from your childhood, especially ones where you got into trouble or something funny happened to you. Set aside a whole lesson, have the kids settle in and listen to your funny stories. You could make a list of them and students can select the stories they like the sound of. Your students will love this and feel like they can relate to you and visa versa. This can even be part of a narrative writing exploration. 
  • Let the students see you as a real person, bring your interests and passions into your teaching, share your goals, ask for their opinion, be vulnerable. This gives students the confidence to express themselves and it lets them know they can trust in you. 
  • Develop mindfulness around your emotions. Our emotional reactions can have lasting effects on our students, we need to stay calm and make the time students spend in our class as positive of an experience as possible.
  • Make an extra effort to develop relationships with your quiet students.

Tips for Showing and Discovering Passion 

  • Students find lessons delivered and supported by teachers who are passionate about what they are teaching more engaging. Being passionate about something is infectious and therefore students are more engaged and learn more. Teachers cannot fake passion for teaching a subject that they are not passionate about, students can easily pick up on this. However, students do pick up on a teacher’s passion to support them to learn even when the material isn’t something that the teacher particularly enjoys.
  • Again, try to work closely with colleagues so that you can all share the workload so your interests and strengths are being maximised.
  • If you hate teaching reading, be open about that with your colleagues, some may be taken aback, but this will actually open up trust within your team where people feel they can speak openly. Also, one of them will love teaching reading and they can lead this.
  • You can take responsibility for another area of learning so everything balances out fairly. 
  • Run optional workshops for students based on a special skill or interest of yours. It could be philosophy, cross-stitch, graphic design etc. 

In Short

So, yep. There are strong links between whether our students like us or not in relation to their learning. But in my opinion, just as importantly, it impacts their experience at school as well as our day to day lives as teachers and human beings. I strongly encourage you to implement some of the tips above and would love to hear how they go. How we are perceived by our students is the 7th most influential factor out of 252 on student achievement. So developing ourselves and the relationships we have with our students is really important. Our sanity and the research demands it.

Your Turn

Many of you, I’m sure, already have built a fantastic rapport with your students. I’d love to hear your ideas, strategies and opinions for any of the 3 aspects of Teacher Credibility. Your comments will be appreciated and I’m sure will go a long way to helping and supporting others who are keen to have more positive experiences in their teaching lives.


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