Interpersonal Relationships


Interpersonal relationships are the foundation for learning and human development. As such, a great deal of the information in the “Teaching and Learning” section is relevant to how our understandings about interpersonal relationships shapes goals and the methods or strategies that we use to actualize our goals.

In our school climate research we have discovered that there are three critical aspects of interpersonal relationships:

  • Respect for Diversity
    This aspect of relational life in school communities refers to what extent there is mutual respect for individual differences (e.g. gender, race, culture, etc.) at all levels of the school (student-student; adult-student; adult-adult) and overall norms for tolerance.
  • Social Support — Adults
    This aspect of relational life in school communities refers to the pattern of supportive and caring adult relationships for students. This includes the nature of expectations for students’ success, willingness to listen to students and to get to know them as individuals, and personal concern for students’ problems.
  • Social Support — Students
    This aspect of relational life in school communities refers to patterns of supportive peer relationships for students (e.g. friendships for socializing, for problems, for academic help, and for new students).


Building on the work of John Dewey, there is a growing awareness that we can and need to support healthy, safe, and engaged relationships that provide the optimal foundation for learning.


There is a range of strategies that we can use to actualize this goal: Promoting healthy, safe, and engaged relationships. These include:

  • Advisory programs
    There is a growing awareness and body of research that supports the importance of Advisory programs in Middle and sometimes Elementary and/or High schools. Advisory programs promote students feeling “connected” to responsible and caring adults. They can become a platform for personalized and meaningful social, emotional and civic learning.
  • Working to understand, appreciate and celebrate diversity
    Too often, differences make students anxious and/or become a focus for bully behavior. More and more schools and districts are invested in making their school community more inclusive for all students.
  • Promoting school-home-community partnerships
    A growing body of research has shown that when educators, parents/guardians and community leaders work together, student achievement and positive youth development are dramatically enhanced. It truly does take a village to raise a child. Click here to learn about:
    • o Strategies that create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and communities
    • o Strategies that help to provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life
    • o Strategies that foster a decision making process to promote student, family, and community engagement, academic achievement and staff empowerment

    In addition, if you can find more information to promote parent-community partnerships from NSCC newsletters, click here.

  • Learning to recognize and helpfully manage stress and distress
    Stress and distress are inevitable and normal aspects of life in and outside of school. When students (and staff) appreciate the helpful and – inadvertently – unhelpful ways that we recognize and manage stress and distress, we are promoting healthy relationships that support effective learning and teaching. You can find various strategies to cope with stress here.


We recommend comprehensive school climate assessment as a sound, realistic and most helpful first step in assessing the nature of interpersonal relationships in your school.


Relevant Readings (Download):

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2009.
  • Goodenow, C., & Grady, K. E. (1993). The relationship of school belonging and friends’ values to academic motivation among urban adolescent students. Journal of Experimental Education, 62(1), 60-71.
  • Haynes, N. M., Comer, J. P., & Hamilton-Lee, M. (1989). School climate enhancement through parental involvement. Journal of School Psychology, 27, 87-90.
  • Kosice, Joseph G. and Elizabeth M. Diaz (2006). The 2005 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools. New York: GLSEN.
  • Lee, V. E., & Smith, J. B. (1999). Social support and achievement for young adolescents in Chicago: The role of school academic press. American Educational Research Journal, 36, 907-945.
  • McNeely, C. A., Nonnemaker, J. M., & Blum, R. W. (2002). Promoting school connectedness: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of adolescent health. Journal of School Health, 72, 138-146.
  • Wentzel, K. R. (1997). Student motivation in middle school: The role of perceived pedagogical caring. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 411-419.