Giving Compass' Take:

• Research shows that students of color can build better relationships with their teachers through bonding exercises. 

• How can these exercises be replicated across school districts? Can public schools implement the same techniques?

• Read about restorative justice practice at schools. 

Exercises that address middle school students’ worries about belonging can help black and Latino boys develop better relationships with teachers, according to new research.

Their research, which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that guided exercises in two or more 25-minute class sessions early in sixth or seventh grade reduced teacher reports of discipline issues—such as for disrespect, defiance, or insubordination—among black and Latino boys by 57 percent over two years in one study. In a second study, the reduction for black boys was 65 percent from sixth grade through 12th grade.

The researchers hope that their findings can help address the discipline disparity between black and Latino students and other groups. According to the US Government Accountability Office, in 2013-14, black boys represented 7.9 percent of public school students but 25.2 percent of suspended students.

Teacher reports of discipline issues, the researchers say, arise from a cycle of negative interactions that negative social stereotypes between teachers and students influence.

How could troubled relationships between teachers and students improve? In a prior study, Walton found that a brief online exercise to help middle school teachers take an empathetic rather than punitive mindset with misbehaving students cut the student suspension rate by 50 percent.

The latest research explores the flip side: Whether middle schoolers who feel more secure in their belonging also have agency to build better relationships with teachers.

Read the full article about bonding exercises can curb misbehavior by Melissa De Witte-Stanford at Futurity