Class Catalyst School Building
Chapin Hall - At the University of Chicago

Positive relationships between teachers and students benefit everyone in the classroom. These relationships can support students’ social and academic development, academic motivation, sense of belonging, school engagement, and self-esteem, as well as peer relationships and academic and behavioral outcomes. (1, 2, 3) Teachers benefit from positive teacher-student relationships, boosting their sense of joy, job commitment, and professional well-being. (4, 5)

Technology & Teacher-Student Relationships

Tracking UsageMore research is needed to help us better understand how technology can support positive teacher-student relationships and student social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes. Some promising uses of technology have been reported:
    • One pilot study of a new technological tool created to help teachers connect with their students found that teachers and students felt more open with one another; the tool helped teachers know their students better; and relationships were further enhanced for students of color. (7)
    • Another study examined how the introduction of iPads for every student affected the teacher-student relationship. The use of iPads resulted in increased connectedness. The study also highlighted the importance of teachers embracing the new technology in order to see positive relationship changes. (8)
However, in these study contexts, the technology was focused more on teaching and learning than on student SEL or teacher-student relationships.
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Class Catalyst: Technology for Supporting Teacher-Student Relationships

Student View with MessagesClass Catalyst is an example of a web-based check-in tool designed to help foster connections, self-awareness, and self-regulation, supporting the well-being of both teachers and students. Infusing Class Catalyst into a daily SEL check-in provides space for students and teachers to communicate about emotions, concerns, accomplishments, and support needs. By building stronger relationships, Class Catalyst can help create optimal learning conditions.

Next Steps for Relationships, Technology, & SEL Development

There is much yet to be learned about the interplay between technology in the classroom, teacher-student relationships, social, emotional, and academic development of students, as well as adult SEL competencies. Future research would help us understand these topics with an eye toward different experiences and outcomes among different groups (e.g., different racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic status).(9, 10)

Teacher Illustration21 Day Well-Being Challenge - MovementOne important consideration for future research is the context in which technology, including daily SEL check-ins, can be implemented effectively and meaningfully with students in different grade levels. Students in early grades spend a majority of their day with one teacher, while middle and high school students typically have different teachers for each subject throughout the day. These variations open different opportunities for students to connect with adults in the school building and different opportunities for adults to check in with students.

Research should also consider how technology-embedded check-ins can support professional well-being and sense of self-efficacy of teachers in ways that allow teachers to process their own emotions, recognize and appreciate diverse perspectives and experiences, respond to students’ feelings, and experience a sense of connection and belonging. More evidence is necessary to understand the potential roles of technology in supporting both adults’ and students’ SEL practice and cultivating reciprocal relationships.

Class Catalyst Foxy and CASEL GraphicWith expanded knowledge on these topics, school systems can enhance their utilization of technology platforms to form stronger and more supportive relationships throughout educational settings. Class Catalyst can be a promising tool for promoting a safe, trusting, and collaborative classroom environment that supports students’ motivation for learning, while engaging both adults and students in developing SEL skills and reflecting on their experience and needs. (11)


For more information on the impact of Class Catalyst and the Mindful Practices Framework on school communities, please contact Dr. Kiljoong Kim at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

1. Klem, A. M., & Connell, J. P. (2004). Relationships Matter: Linking Teacher Support to Student Engagement and Achievement. Journal of School Health, 74, 262-273.

2. Scales, P. C., Van Boekel, M., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2020). Effects of Developmental Relationships with Teachers on Middle‐School Students’ Motivation and Performance. Psychology in the Schools, 57(4), 646-677.

3. Lavy, S., & Naama-Ghanayim, E. (2020). Why Care About Caring? Linking Teachers’ Caring and Sense of Meaning at Work with Students’ Self-Esteem, Well-Being, and School Engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 91, 103046.


5. Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M., & Thijs, J. T. (2011). Teacher Wellbeing: The Importance of Teacher–Student Relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23, 457-477.

6. Harper, B. (2018). Technology and Teacher–Student Interactions: A Review of Empirical Research. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 50(3), 214-225.


8. Higgins, K., & BuShell, S. The Effects on the Student-Teacher Relationship in a One-to-One Technology Classroom. Educ Inf Technol 23, 1069–1089 (2018).

9. Scales et al. (2020)

10. Parra López, A., Jones, T. M., Malorni, A., Diaz, A., & McCowan, K. (2024). The Role of Teacher Critical Racial Consciousness in Cultivating Student–Teacher Relationships and School Belonging for Black, Indigenous, and Youth of Color. Psychology in the Schools, n/a(n/a).