Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning

Binod Kumar Yadav

Executive Member

NELTA Siraha

The behavior of the teacher influences the behavior of the student, subsequently affecting learning outcomes. Student motivation is affected by a variety of factors, some of which are directly influenced by what a teacher does (how he structures the course and how he /she behaves in class) and some of which are largely beyond the teacher’s control (expectancy and attitudes students bring with them to the class).

Gorhan and Millette(1997)


The term “rapport” lexically refers to “a friendly relationship in which people understand each other very well”, and in the context of teaching and learning, it means the relationship that the students have among themselves on the one hand and between teachers and students on the other hand. That is to say, the maintenance of a positive, enjoyable, respectful and socio-cultural relationship among the students themselves and with their teacher is the subject of good rapport – in the lack of which our expectation in teaching and learning realm ever remains as a wild goose chase. Human life takes its inception in society and ashes there too, where multiple actions are performed but are supposed to get successfully completed only if they are done in proper harmony with one another. It means a social action is effectively performed by understanding the desire or minds of one another that we call a social relation or an example of good rapport in society. Similarly, communicative activities in the target language (English) inside or outside the classroom are social actions wherein each participant should read the minds of others and develop a sense of social relationship among themselves and particularly between the teacher and students learners. This shows how socially they are participating in an activity; the good family behavior or the friendly one. So having a trustful relation between a teacher and students is what we call a good rapport. ‘A significant feature in the intrinsic motivation of the students depend on their perception of what a teacher thinks of them, and how they are treated’ (Harmer, 2008:25).

 Why a good rapport?

Teachers need to find creative ways to teach the language and increase the students’ motivation to learn the language and eventually appreciate language .It has been claimed that the more learners are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated the more they are independent , active, participating, autonomous and successful. One of teacher’s main aims, therefore, should be to help students to sustain their motivation using different activities or making them remind a variety of factors that can create a desire to learn. It means there are a number methods that English instructors can use to motivate students in class and outside and they (instructors) should flexibly imply the most suitable methods for the class. Kabilan (2000) stated “Teacher should develop mutual relationship with their learners”.  Thus, building good relation with learner by the teacher for learning and teaching process is a practical/ natural way of arousing curiosity in them to learn more and better. Motivation of the students also depend largely on their perception of what the teacher thinks of them and how they have treated. His/her behavior influences the behavior of the students and directly affects learning outcomes. It is also a fact that teaching and learning style or process with good rapport improves attitudes, behavior, motivation and learning.

Richard Amato (2003) states: “In classroom in which mutual respect is lacking, differing values can lead to conflict between student and teacher and between student and peer”.  Students are psychologically dominated by the teacher and they feel hesitation to participate in any activities; because they find much distance between them and their teacher; they lack mutual understanding and good relationship with one another. This is one of the major ever-failing factors for language learners. Unless there is a good social relation between them and teacher, they never enjoy their learning. It is only through good rapport, they can have the feeling of asking questions to the teacher, sharing their ideas with themselves inside or outside the classroom. A good teacher always welcomes/invites their learners to discuss what they need as an outcome anywhere. Such a teacher enjoys their company and treats students as friends- allowing them to talk to him/her frankly, face to face, on mobile, on public place, outside/inside the classroom, and on computer based technologies. Once I asked a question (in one of my class of ELT, 2nd year B. Ed) to my students ‘what kind of teacher do you prefer?’, and received the following answers which I think are worthwhile to mention:

-A teacher who knows how to deal with students.

-Teachers who don’t push their thoughts to the students.

-A teacher who has sympathy for us.

– The Teacher who keeps a smile on the face, funny, kind and caring.

-A teacher who never ignores students’ problems.

-Very friendly and active.

– The teacher who is always ready to  help us.

-A teacher who can read students’ minds and understand their need.

-A teacher who spends his time with students and work with them.

From many of them, the fact reveals itself that the learners want to be close to the teacher and share their problems with him/her. What occurs in the language classrooms must be extended beyond the walls of the classroom so that a link is created between what is learned in the classroom and what occurs outside of the classroom. But the problem is that the learners can’t share their knowledge with family members in general case. They need either their friends or their teacher, but they keep their touching on with them only if there is a good rapport between / among them. There is a cultural problem among the learners especially in Terai region regarding sound relationship between boy and girl students of the same or similar level/class. They are living in the same locality, encountering one-another very often, outside the school/campus areas, they hesitate to conduct any social discourse because they are still lacking a mutual relationship due to which they can’t create any link between what they have learned in the classroom with their real life contexts. Not only can’t this but they cannot share their feelings among themselves even inside the classroom.

Let me share one more experience that I have had currently from my campus to residence. Almost all my colleagues (even the most experienced ones in this field) blame me as a lenient and liberal teacher, not maintaining a good distance from my students (as they deliberately talk to me very friendlily, teasing me inside/outside the classroom). One day while we were having a little rest after our first class and about to leave for the second one, one student from B.Ed. 1st year whispered, indicating me from the door of the teachers’ room “Sir, it is your class” and  I signaled “I am coming “. Other teacher laughed at me simply because their students don’t have any dare to call them but mine did so. I didn’t take any care of their laughing at because I got an appropriate expression from my students in a different scenario. I have also found that the students talk to me more and better than any other teachers. I also find myself very pleased where I meet them in the market places and talk to them using very informal and broken English. All these seem to have taught me a lesson “It is the sound rapport between learners and teacher that determines the success and failure in teaching and learning process”. Children are good learners in the family because of sound support with their parents. Thus, if diagnosis of the right problem is said to be the half healing, building good rapport between teacher and learners and among learners is said to enhance natural way of learning, in which they also to take charge of their own learning.

The unanimous view from teaching professionals is diagnosis of the right problem is said to be half only healing” that can be appropriately obtained only through a friendship relation between students and teacher. Lack of students’ participants in classroom activities was the major encumbering factor for low performance level of English. We generally assume that teachers are just consumers who should adopt the new approaches, methods and techniques generated by the researchers or experts no matter how relevant they are to the needs of the students and classroom context .Sometimes the so called new techniques do not work in the classroom. So the first thing for the teachers is to find out what the real problem(s) is /is with his/her students. For this professional task of any teacher, only action research helps to find out the problems and ways to their solution which ultimately brings change in their teaching because it is directly concerned with a local problem and is conducted in new local setting but conducting an action research, teachers urge the learners to participate in new activities and solve the problems collaboratively as an ideal social group. This can possibly develop a sense of good relationship among learners and their relation with teachers. Therefore, the sense of good relationship can create the drive and energy to acquire the targeted language, enjoys the learning process, and experiences a real communication.

Ways to promote rapport

‘It is clear that teachers need to do everything possible to create a good rapport with their students, partly this happens  by providing interesting and motivating classes; partly this comes from such things as treating all the students the same” Harmer (2006). In order to develop a mental relationship between teachers need to understand the students who are from different backgrounds, have different interests, future goals, aims for English learning and most importantly, different personalities. Once the relationship develops, the classroom will become comfortable and enjoyable enough for students to learn positively from the teacher without any hesitation.

In my view, only a positive teacher can build a good rapport with his/her students because  such  a teacher is more interested in his students and his subject, learn all of the students names, allows for question and discussion in class, is available for conferences and encourages students see him/her if they need help. This is how the good rapport can also be developed. We can apply the following activities for building good rapport:

  • Teacher should maximally be guided with CLT approach, TBLT approach and other learner-centered approaches during teaching and learning process.
  • Group activities should be his/her preferred strategy
  • Articulating the name of his students while asking question or discussing.
  • Teachers need to acquire what students look for in teachers in order for -students to be motivated and activated in language learning.
  • Creating the classroom environment similar to a family one.
  • Presenting the lesson friendly, actively, and in funny styles.
  • Giving chances to students for discussion, frankly with teachers.
  • Teaching should be carried out more by doing and displaying than by saying.
  • All students are taken care equally.
  • Students are allowed to ask and talk to their teacher even outside the classroom.
  • Different programs should be organized: education tours, picnic, social visit etc.
  • Teachers should be tolerant and responsible for learner responses.
  • Lesson presentation should be  carried out with the involvement of the student.
  • Student’s actions should be praised.
  • Teacher should talk, stay, sit, watch TV, listen to radio and walk in the market with learners if possible.
  • Teacher should accept he/she also learner from students.
  • While working with students homework/class work teacher should call them one by one.
  • Teacher should conduct different language games inside/outside the classroom with students.


Brown,D.(1991) Principles of language learning and teaching . London: Prentice Hall.

Gorham ,J. and Millette, D.M.(1997).  A Comparative analysis of teacher and student perceptions of courses of motivation and demotivation in college classes.

Harmer, J. (2008). The practice of English language teaching. New York: Longman

Harmer, J. (2008). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Kabilan, M.K. (2000). Creative and critical thinking in Language classroom. The Internet TESL Journal

Richards, J.C. and Rodgers, T.S. (2005) Approaches and methods in language teaching .New York: CUP

3 thoughts on “Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning

  1. Binod ji, you raised real thing to be happening in our ELT class. We English teachers are regarded by the students more because of good rapport between teacher and students. I have also faced same sort of environment with teachers and colleagues when I made good rapport with my students.

    Birendra Kumar Sah.

  2. Thank you Binod ji for such a well-written piece. You very nicely connect your experience with the available literature in ELT. Lack of discourse between opposite genders is not only a case of Terai, but of other places as well. I grew up and got my schooling from Parbat, and we had the same issue. Girls sitting on the left side of the class, and boys the other side. Very little cross-gender communication. Let’s say- if somebody found me talking to a girls, the other day there would be something like B + Somebody. This cross-gender communication sometimes led to bullying in the public. But in the cities such as Kathmandu, it is not a big problem now, to my experience. In a plus 2 I taught, I have seen boys and girls sitting together and sharing plates of samosa. They are not necessarily boy-girl friends.

    I very much agree with you that teaches can play an important role for that. Class works and project can be designed in such a way that all types of students work together.
    Thank you for this nice piece. I encourage you to contribute in the future as well.

    Bal Krishna

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