Everyday Achievements

By Matthew Wheeland | September 1, 2006 | 0 comments

What’s the key to academic success for kids struggling in school, especially those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds?

While countless programs have been introduced into classrooms to try to reach these students, researchers Bridget K. Hamre and Robert C. Pianta of the University of Virginia examined how everyday interactions between teachers and students affect struggling students’ performance in school.

Their results, recently published in Child Development, show that first graders who have had problems in school fare significantly better when they receive ongoing emotional support from their teacher.

Jim Cummins/Corbis

“We consistently find that teacher sensitivity—what we call their ability to read kids’ cues and respond to them—greatly improves kids’ ability to perform well in a classroom setting,” said Hamre.

Hamre and Pianta used a sample of 910 first graders from a long-term study run by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. They found that even students who had had trouble in kindergarten showed significant increases in all-around academic performance if they were placed in a first-grade class with a teacher who was more sensitive and attentive to their emotional cues. Their levels of academic achievement were roughly the same as those of kids who hadn’t had problems in kindergarten.

The study is especially illuminating for its focus on everyday teacher behavior. Rather than implementing a complex—and often expensive—new curriculum, Hamre and Pianta have found that helping teachers hone basic interpersonal skills can give their students a big academic boost.

“The significance of this study is that by changing the way teachers and students interact on a regular basis, you can create a sustainable and long-lasting improvement in teaching,” said Hamre. “And importantly, the findings are not limited to early education. There’s no reason these methods won’t work in all grade levels.”

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Matthew Wheeland is a student at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in Alternet.org, PopMatters.com, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It
International House at UC Berkeley
April 29, 2017
6 CE Hours

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It

A day-long semiar with GGSC Science Director Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., celebrated compassion teacher Joan Halifax, burnout expert Christina Maslach, Ph.D., and UCLA psychiatrist Elizabeth Bromley, M.D., Ph.D.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement