Developing Rapport With Students: Why It's Important & How to Do It

September 7, 2023 Watermark Insights

Developing Rapport With Students: Why It's Important & How to Do It

Have you ever had a teacher ask you about your favorite hobby, share their interests, or stay after class to speak with you about the course material? While you may think these are signs of an enthusiastic teacher, they're also examples of building rapport. Rapport requires professors to create an emotional connection between themselves and their students to establish trust and improve the overall learning environment. 

Nationwide, colleges and universities struggle to secure suitable funds, fill their halls with qualified staff, and implement student retention best practices. And with many learners opting to forego college altogether, institutions are on the lookout for strategies to improve student success and increase retention. Building rapport is a highly accessible and affordable method to maximize the value of college while creating an environment students can't wait to take advantage of.

What Is Rapport? 

At its most basic level, rapport is the relationship of students with their teachers — an established connection that grows naturally or with common interests. This relationship grows as professors learn more about the learners in their classrooms. Establishing a meaningful rapport is a fantastic strategy for conveying information effectively and is crucial to building a safe, supportive, and productive environment. 

Why Building Rapport Impacts Student Success

Between college's social, emotional, and intellectual aspects, it can be tough for students to find their footing. Throw a negative teacher interaction on top and they could experience more stress or anxiety than they can handle. Establishing rapport is an essential skill that  can do a world of good for all parties involved. It begins on the first day with the first few interactions and lasts the rest of your time with them. 

While it's not always easy for teachers to connect with their students, getting to know them will put them at ease. They'll be more likely to open up and provide helpful information about themselves and their situation when feeling comfortable with you, which means you'll be better equipped to guide them toward success. This collaboration also benefits teachers, improving faculty engagement to better facilitate learning and encourage student development. 

Building rapport can also help students: 

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase trust and respect
  • Create a positive learning environment
  • Instill a sense of accomplishment

The Most Common Positive Effects of Building Rapport

Allowing an advisor-student relationship to develop will have a positive influence on a student's academic success, now and into the future. True relationships encourage students to care about and continue with their studies and thus increase student retention rates. Attentive teachers fuel this passion for education, striving to engage their students throughout the learning process by creating a lively atmosphere and fostering meaningful communication to overcome obstacles.  

Creating student-rapport provides benefits including:  

  • Higher student motivation: Students who enjoy rapport with instructors are more motivated to complete assignments and engage in class discussions.
  • Improved classroom dynamics: When you have rapport with your students, they are likely to listen to your instruction, which in turn fosters higher retention rates. 
  • Better opportunities for intervention: Creating an open and trusting environment allows you to identify students who are struggling or falling behind and take proactive measures to assist them in getting back on track. 
  • Elevated overall student satisfaction: Students will have a more positive outlook on their higher education institution and education when they feel safe and supported.

How to Build Rapport With Your Students

Establish rapport by finding common ground with the student. Do you share a favorite sports team? Do both of you have cats? Are you from the same hometown? Regardless of which similarities you home in on, the first step is to find something that interests you both.

Don't forget, however, that the conversation must primarily be about the student. Active listening is a crucial component of building rapport with students. A teacher spends tons of time lecturing, giving instructions, and leading group discussions. Conversations with your students should focus on their interests, ambitions, concerns, and triumphs. The goal isn't to solve their problems but to show your students that you care. 

While getting to know your students, you should remain nonjudgmental and avoid interrupting them when speaking. Pay attention to their body language during class time and work hard not to display any negative facial expressions or body language that could send mixed signals. At the end of the day, all they want to know is that you're there for them, ready to help them achieve their hopes and dreams. 

The Importance of Developing Rapport With Students: Why It’s Important & How To Do It Micrographic

10 Strategies to Successfully Build Rapport With Your Students

Building rapport with your students is critical to fostering trusting and successful relationships, so paying careful attention to how you interact with them is key. Some tips to help build a successful rapport with your students include the following:

  1. Learn and use their names: Learn your students' names and make it a point to use them during the discourse. 
  2. Ask questions: Ask students about their hobbies, outside interests, and long-term aspirations to get to know them better. 
  3. Create relevant examples: Make your course material relatable with personally relevant examples during lectures and discussions. Personalize their learning to connect them with you and their studies. 
  4. Give them extra time: Consider arriving early to class and staying late occasionally so you and your students can converse in a relaxed setting.  Also, post and keep office hours so students can reach you outside of standard class times.
  5. Get online: Utilize email or school discussion platforms to increase accessibility to your students.
  6. Provide a safe space: Actively listen and create safe conversations, avoid judgment in your interactions, and encourage open and honest discussions. 
  7. Demonstrate mutual respect: If you expect your students to show you respect, make sure you’re showing them respect in return.
  8. Empower your students: Involve students in decisions and give them a choice in relevant aspects of the coursework. 
  9. Inquire with intention: Use appropriate questioning techniques to elicit authentic and actionable responses. 
  10. Use nonverbal communication: Monitor your body language, eye contact, and gestures to convey openness and ease. Don’t forget to smile too!

Tips to Cultivate Meaningful Student Relationships

Creating ongoing rapport is about how you conduct yourself throughout student interactions. Learning outcomes are much more likely to improve if students feel comfortable around you and have an authentic connection with you. But, building meaningful rapport isn't about checking off items on your checklist, and it isn't about preaching to them. It requires lots of active listening and a genuine interest in who they are and what they want to get out of learning.

Rapport building should be a pivotal part of your teaching strategy, within which you should always act genuine, natural, and professional, and bear the following tips in mind:

  • Be positive throughout conversations.
  • Demonstrate empathy and respect.
  • Make intellectual connections with your students.
  • Don’t be afraid to crack a joke now and then, when appropriate.
  • Be consistent and follow through.
  • Relate to your students on personal matters when relevant.
  • Highlight students' strengths and interests.

Ensure Student Success With Watermark Insights

Building rapport with students plays an essential role in their success. By building rapport, you get to know your students and create a relationship of mutual respect. When students respect you, they are more likely to engage in lectures and be motivated to complete assignments.

The Watermark Student Success & Engagement (formerly Aviso Coaching) software platform can help track and guide these important interactions between advisors and students. Using this software, student advisors can understand whether their efforts to build rapport with students are fruitful. To learn more about the other features and tools available in Watermark Student Success & Engagement and how you can help improve retention and student success at your institution, schedule a demo with us.

Ensure Student Success With Watermark Insights

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