Oct 29, 2021 · 2 min read

Connections Before Content: The Importance of Prioritizing Student Relationships

CZI-hosted Panel at 2021 Aurora Institute Symposium


During their panel at the 2021 Aurora Institute Symposium, educators shared what they’ve learned about the importance of building strong teacher and student relationships in the classroom, and why we should be prioritizing connections before content.

Panelists highlighted research, such as a new survey of more than 1000 students that underscores how one-on-one student-teacher connections help students feel included, engaged, and motivated in school. And of the students who indicated that they have a strong relationship with a teacher in the classroom, 70% or more said that they pay attention or participate in class more and look forward to and enjoy class.

Panelists also shared resources to help educators, such as the SEARCH Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework, which recommends specific actions that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.

Emphasizing the value of one-on-one check-ins, teacher Sarah Styles described her experience using Along, a digital reflection tool that helps students feel seen and understood. She noted that it takes time and persistence to form relationships, and that her own vulnerable sharing through Along reflections helps build trust. 

Watch below: 

  • Susan Menkel, Program Manager – Learning and Development, Gradient Learning
  • Jared B. Fried (JBF), Program Manager – Data, Systems, and Insights, Gradient Learning
  • Sarah Styles, teacher, Rhodes Junior High School, Arizona



About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

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