The teacher–student relationship and adolescents’ sense of school belonging

Ali Ibrahim, Wafaa El Zataari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


In adolescence, humans begin to establish their adult identities. Their teachers are important in this development, but increasing work and accountability demands on teachers mean teacher–student relations suffer, negatively impacting adolescents’ sense of school belonging and behavioural, psychological, and academic development. We used ecological systems theory to study affect, power, and reciprocity dimensions of the student–teacher relationship at school level in the United Arab Emirates. Observations and semi-structured interviews with female eleventh-graders and their teachers showed that adolescents believed teachers tried their best, but their lecture-based teaching style was boring, and that teachers rarely engaged students in group work or considered their opinions. Additionally, not all teachers supported or respected students. Teacher–student power imbalance exacerbated these issues and led students to disobey or skip classes. Relationships based on care, trust, respect, affect, openness, and cooperation can foster student achievement, identity development, and school belonging and teacher accountability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-395
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescence and Youth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 31 2020


  • School belonging
  • UAE
  • adolescents
  • school accountability
  • teacher–student relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)


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