The Effects of Reciprocal Imitation on Teacher–Student Relationships and Student Learning Outcomes


Jiangyuan Zhou, Graduate School of Education, Binghamton University–State University of New York, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902; e-mail:


Neuroscientific and developmental psychological research in imitation has yielded important insights into building teacher–student relationships and enhancing students' learning. This study investigated the effects of reciprocal imitation on teacher–student relationships and students' learning outcomes in one-on-one teacher–student interactions. In a within-subjects design, participants learned eight English vocabulary words under two conditions: one condition paired with teacher's imitative behaviors and the other with teacher's random behaviors. Students' self-rating surveys and quiz scores on new words were assessed. When the teacher imitated the students' behaviors in interactions, the students reported significantly higher perceptions of rapport, more confidence in and satisfaction with learning outcomes, and had significantly higher quiz scores. Results had important implications for teachers in using imitation as an effective teaching tool to build teacher–student relationships and enhance students' learning.