As defined in a recent article on the subject, psychological capital is “a set of positive psychological resources encompassing hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism.” As far as students are concerned, this “PsyCap” should “facilitate the processes necessary for attention, interpretation, and retention of positive and constructive memories that are conducive to wellbeing and performance.”
Social factors are likely play an important role in the formation of psychological capital. Indeed, Self-Determination Theory posits that feeling connected to others is a basic psychological need and a fundamental ingredient for functioning at optimal levels. In a school context, the perceived quality of the relationship between students and teachers could play a particularly important role. As explained by the authors: "Students with high quality TSR (teacher-student relationship) will be in a better position to persevere in their objectives (i.e., have hope), rely on their own abilities (i.e., be efficacious), overcome obstacles (i.e., be resilient), and be optimistic about their future; in turn, these set of four resources would foster AP (academic performance.)"
To test this hypothesis, the researchers surveyed 771 students in 3 different high schools in Chile. TSR was measured at the end of the first academic semester using the Teacher-Student Relationship Scale developed by Andrew Martin. This instrument asks students to rate from 1 to 7 their agreement with such statements as: “My teachers give me the help and support I need.” 9 weeks later, another questionnaire assessed the participants’ PsyCap with an adaptation to the academic context of Avey et alia (2011)’s Psychological Capital Questionnaire. Finally, data was gathered on students’ academic performance (grade point average) at the end of the following semester.
As reported by the authors: “We found that students who perceive high-quality relationships with their teachers are more likely to report higher levels of academic PsyCap. In a similar vein, our findings confirmed… that students who have high levels of academic PsyCap are more likely to achieve better academic performance.”
The practical implications of the study are quite straightforward: “rather than focusing exclusively on increasing academic knowledge and skills, teachers should also focus on the affective elements of high-quality relationships with their students; that is, getting along with them, caring about them and showing interest, and providing help and support, among others. According to our results, this focus will help --through increased academic PsyCap--to achieve bettter academic performance.”
Reference: Carmona-Halty, Schaufeli and Salanova (2019), Good Relationships, Good Performance: The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital --A Three-Wave Study Among Students, Frontiers in Psychology.