Episode 11 – PISA Question #3

In this episode Maggie and Duane continue digging into the OECD report “Ten Questions for Mathematics Teachers…and how PISA can help answer them.”

You can download the report here.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please Tweet us at @dhabecker and @pelelover1

Show notes at http://theothermath.com

Today’s Question is Question #3:  As a mathematics teacher, how important is the relationship I have with my students?

It is almost a silly question. Really? We actually need to ask whether the teacher’s relationship with his/her students has an impact on student achievement? Okay, here’s the answer.

Relationship is really important!

Of course, that would make an entirely too short podcast, so let dig into the PISA data to learn more.

Think about your classroom climate. Specifically, think back to your last great teaching day:

  • How was the learning environment in your classroom?
  • Did you continually have to discipline students because of their behavior?
  • Were students late for class or causing other disruptions?
  • Or were learners staying on task, actively participating and treating you and their peers with respect?

Things probably went amazingly smooth that day. You probably noticed some things:

  • More time was  spent on teaching
  • Less time was spent on addressing disruptions
  • You felt more positive about your job and your own ability as a teacher


Jim Knight’s Big Four of Coaching begins with classroom environment before moving to content, instructional strategies, and formative assessment. The OECD report clearly agrees with Knight’s Big Four.  They identify the prerequisites for high-quality instruction as:

  • Positive classroom climate
  • Good classroom management
  • Strong relationships between teachers and learners.

Why are those prerequisites?

To begin with, more teaching and hopefully more learning occurs in a positive school environment. Disciplinary climate of the classroom is related to what/how teachers are able to teach (Less disruptions = more ability to use cognitive-activation strategies).

PISA data suggest a clear link between the behavior of students in a class and their overall familiarity with mathematics in general. In most countries, a better disciplinary climate is related to greater familiarity with mathematics, even after comparing students and schools with similar socioeconomic profiles. (Disciplinary climate in math lessons and student performance go hand-in-hand.)

This finding is especially important as students’ familiarity with mathematics and their access to mathematics content at school can affect not only their performance in school but also their social and economic situation later in life.



According to PISA data, students say that their teachers are more likely to use all teaching practices if there is

  • a better disciplinary climate (except for student-oriented strategies)
  • a system of classroom management in place
  • students feel supported by their teachers and have good relations with them.

TALIS 2013 asked teachers about both the climate of their classroom and their relationships with their students.  Their responses revealed important connections between the quality of the learning environment and teachers’ job satisfaction, as well as their confidence in their own abilities as teachers. (Basically, a teacher is confident, satisfied, and happy when they are able to teach a well-behaved/well-managed classroom. When they feel that way, their teaching is more effective/successful and the performance of the student is positively affected.)



  • Focus your time and energy on creating a positive classroom climate.
    • Ask for help if you need it. Go observe a colleague for ideas.
  • Invest time in building strong relationships with your students.
    • This will help your students and benefit your well-being.
    • Students want to feel like their teachers are fair, will listen to them and will continue teaching them until they understand the material.

Thoughts? Leave comments below!