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Teachers play key role during school closure to keep students motivated

Published: 13th July 2023 Last updated: 13th July 2023

Teachers play a key role when it comes to making students feel seen, confident and motivated during forced school closings. The importance of emotional support is greater than teachers realize. Combined with high-quality online instruction, it makes vulnerable students participate better in classes. Also, it makes students feel more at home in school and increases their self-confidence.

This emerges from research on the effects of the COVID-19 school closure on the school adjustment (motivation, self-confidence, feeling at home at school) of youth with and without migration backgrounds and of high vs. low socioeconomic status (SES), lead by developmental psychologist Jessie Hillekens of Tilburg University. She also researched how to counteract any negative effects.

By chance, the researchers involved collected data one week before the first school closure, followed by another measurement during the school closure and one year after (when schools reopened).

The researchers found that school closure widened the gap in motivation, self-confidence and feeling at home in school between youth with no migration background. This gap narrowed again when schools reopened. For SES, the effects were less, but there were also indications that reopening schools boosted feeling at home at school for youth with lower subjective SES.  The main finding is, teachers play a key role by providing students with support and high quality online instruction during school closure, especially also for vulnerable students.

The study was conducted among Flemish adolescents between 12 and 14 years old (in the first two years of high school). It is expected that similar patterns can be found among Dutch adolescents, based on previous research, as well as among older adolescents.

Teachers play critical part

The research shows that it is important to provide more practical support, such as reviewing assignments. It shows that teachers also do this more with vulnerable students and that this also has positive effects. On the other hand, it is essential to give more emotional support as well. On the contrary, we see that teachers do this less with vulnerable learners. This lack of emotional support actually negates the positive effect of practical support. It is important to create awareness of both types of support and their importance for students during school closure (but actually in general).

Note for the press

The research is publicly available via this link:

For more information, please contact the press officers at Tilburg University via or +31 13 466 4000.