Positive, complicated, distant, and negative: how different teacher-student relationship profiles relate to students’ science motivation

Emma C. Burns*, Penny Van Bergen, Annie Leonard, Yusriya Amin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Researchers note a consistent decline in adolescents’ motivation and participation in science. It is important to examine factors vital to students’ motivation in science, such as teacher-student relationships (TSRs). Limited research in science has examined TSRs from a multidimensional or person-centered perspective. The present investigation adopts Ang's tripartite relational framework to examine three dimensions of TSRs: socio-emotional support, instrumental help, and conflict. Such research is needed to better understand the diversity of relationships that exist within a science classroom and their impact on science motivation. Methods: This study examined N = 2669 Australian high school students (66% girls; Mage = 15.11 years; SD = 0.69). Data were collected via online sampling in the final quarter of 2020. The data are cross-sectional. Latent profile analysis was used to (1) determine if distinct student profiles based on the three dimensions of TSRs existed and (2) the extent to which these profiles were associated with varying levels of science motivation: self-efficacy, intrinsic value, utility value, and cost. Results: Four distinct profiles were identified: Positive, Complicated, Distant, and Negative. Students in the Negative TSR profile reported the lowest adaptive motivation and highest cost. The associations between profile membership and motivation were more varied for the Positive, Complicated, and Distant TSR profiles. Conclusions: Findings indicate that dichotomous perspectives (positive vs. negative) may be insufficient to describe the diversity of relationships within science classrooms. Results also suggest that concurrent attendance to all dimensions of TSRs is needed to improve relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1162
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number8
Early online date19 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • adolescents
  • latent profile analysis
  • motivation
  • science education
  • teacher-student relationships


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