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ournal of
lassroom
nteraction
2011 VOL. 46 NO. 1

She Let Us be Smart: Low-Income


African-American First-Grade Students
Understandings of Closeness and
Influence
Heather A. Davis
Megan A. Gabelman
Rickiah D. Wingfield
North Carolina State University
Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do
Students and Teachers Agree?
Mieke Brekelmans
Tim Mainhard
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Perry den Brok
Eindhoven University of Technology,
The Netherlands
Theo Wubbels
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher
Affiliation, and Student Conduct
Marc A. Brackett
Maria Regina Reyes
Susan E. Rivers
Nicole A. Elbertson
Peter Salovey
Yale University
Improving Classroom Learning
Environments by Cultivating Awareness
and Resilience in Education (CARE):
Results of Two Pilot Studies
Patricia A. Jennings
Karin E. Snowberg
Michael A. Coccia
Mark T. Greenberg
Pennsylvania State University
H. Jerome Freiberg, Editor
College of Education,
University of Houston
Joan M. T. Walker, Guest Editor,
Pace University
Deborah L. Schussler, Guest Editor,
Villanova University
jci@uh.edu (713) 743-8753

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EDITORIAL REVIEW BOARD


Gwyneth Boodoo
Education Consultant
Bert Creemers
University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Heather Davis
Ohio State University
Judith Green
University of California, Santa Barbara
Gene Hall
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Mimi Lee
University of Houston
Debra Meyer
Elmhurst College
Lilia Ruban
University of Houston
Terry Stein
University of Houston
Sam Stringfield
University of Louisville
EMERITUS
David Berliner
Arizona State University
Jere Brophy
Michigan State University
Carolyn M. Evertson
George Peabody College,
Vanderbilt University, Emeritus
Michael J. Dunkin
Research Consultant
Virginia Richardson
University of Michigan
Guest Reviewers
Cheryl J. Craig
University of Houston
Assistant to the Editor
Maryam Hussain
Editorial Assistant
Sabra Jennings

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ISSN: 0749-4025
Copyright 2011
Journal of Classroom Interaction
All Rights Reserved
H. Jerome Freiberg, Editor
University of Houston
Houston, Texas

2011 VOL. 46 NO. 1

Editor
H. Jerome Freiberg, University of Houston
Guest Editors
Joan M. T. Walker, Pace University
Deborah L. Schussler, Villanova University

She Let Us be Smart: Low-Income African-American


First-Grade Students Understandings of Closeness and
Influence
Heather A. Davis

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers


Agree?

17

Megan A. Gabelman
Rickiah D. Wingfield
North Carolina State University

Mieke Brekelmans
Tim Mainhard
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Perry den Brok
Eindhoven University of Technology,
The Netherlands
Theo Wubbels
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and


Student Conduct




Marc A. Brackett
Maria Regina Reyes
Susan E. Rivers
Nicole A. Elbertson
Peter Salovey
Yale University

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating


Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of
Two Pilot Studies



27

Patricia A. Jennings
Karin E. Snowberg
Michael A. Coccia
Mark T. Greenberg
Pennsylvania State University

37

JOURNAL of CLASSROOM INTERACTION


The Journal of Classroom Interaction is a semi-annual
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Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Journal of Classroom Interaction, ISSN 0749-4025. 2011, Vol 46.1, page 3

From the Guest Editors


In the United States, education that serves the public
good requires a qualified, competent and caring teacher in
every classroom. Although each of these individual dimensions has been shown to support student learning, we have
a limited understanding of how they interact to support students school experience.
This special issue examines two essential teaching dimensions in tandem: competence (specifically, classroom
management) and care (the quality of teacher-student interactions). It does so by presenting a sample of current research with the intention of inviting researchers and practitioners to consider several essential questions. First, how
do we define competent management and care? Second,
how do these dimensions function in classroom settings?
Answering these questions is important given the need to
understand how teachers simultaneously organize efficient
learning environments that meet curricular requirements
while establishing and maintaining positive, caring relationships with students.
Posing these essential questions reveals limitations in
how management and care are often viewed in the research
and teacher education literatures. For example, textbooks on
the topic often take a functional approach, suggesting how to
organize the classroom and how to write rules or emphasize
a behavioral approach by detailing how to create specific
interventions for individual students. Yet these same texts
fail to offer teachers information about the more complex
challenge of establishing interpersonal relationships with
students and how and why those relationships are essential
to learning. Further, researchers often assume that classroom management practices have a direct impact on student
behavior and that teacher-student relationships can be measured via observation. While earning valuable information,
these approaches overlook students active role in their own
learning.
In contrast to an often narrow, teacher-centered approach to classroom management, the literature on care is
broad and largely conceptual. Starting in the 1970s the literature offered a generalized definition of care and how it
helps an individual find his or her place in the world. Later
it offered more complex conceptions of the nature of the caring relationship, specifically as a reciprocal relationship or
a relationship marked by power used to benefit others. As
these definitions have evolved, so has the treatment of care
as a variable in classroom-based research. In many studies

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

it emerges as an outcome, yet in others it is treated as a process variable. These different treatments obscure our understanding of how care functions in classrooms for teachers
and students.
The time seems ripe for taking a configural approach
that unites behaviorist-driven models of classroom management with more humanistic examinations of the role caring
and interpersonal relationships play in classroom learning.
There are theoretical and empirical models for doing so. For
example, in the field of developmental psychology Baumrind advanced modern understanding of effective parenting
by uniting two strands of research, one dedicated to parental discipline (which she called demandingness) and the
other to parental warmth (which she called responsiveness).
Similarly, the field of clinical psychology has shown that a
number of therapeutic approaches can be successful as long
as they are used within the context of an established bond
between therapist and client. In the classroom, the quality
of teacher-student relationshipsdefined as the presence of
both demandingness (i.e., management) and responsiveness
(i.e., care)may serve a similar foundational purpose, altering the influence of specific instructional practices.
In this issue the first piece by Davis and colleagues looks
at the role of teacher management and care at the elementary
school level with low-income, minority first-graders. They
focus on students understanding of these two teaching dimensions, giving insight into the developmental nature of
students perceptions of their relationships with teachers
and how they relate to engagement and learning. Echoing
these ideas, the second piece by Brekelmans and colleagues
asks whether high school students and their teachers look at
teacher-student relationships through the same psychological lens (i.e., comprised of both management and care) and
the extent to which they agree on what they see through that
lens. The third piece by Brackett and colleagues assesses
the emotional, organizational, and instructional quality of
classroom climates and how they relate to student conduct,
explicitly testing whether student perceptions of teacherstudent relationships mediate the link between the general
classroom emotional climate and student conduct. The final
piece by Jennings and colleagues analyzes the effects of a
program designed to help teachers create both a well managed and caring classroom by learning how to marshal their
own emotions. Results for implementation across two different settings are described.

Journal of Classroom
Interaction,First-Grade
ISSN 0749-4025.
2011,
Vol 46.1, pages
4-16 Closeness and Influence
Low-Income
African-American
Students
Understandings
of Teacher

She Let Us be Smart: Low-Income African-American First-Grade


Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence
Heather A. Davis
Megan M. Gabelman
Rickiah D. Wingfield

north carolina state university

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to explore low-income,
African-American first-grade students understandings of
teacher closeness and influence. Several questions guided
our inquiry: How do these children understand their relationships with their teachers, specifically with regard to
teacher closeness and influence? To what extent are their understandings of these concepts malleable? How might their
feelings of closeness and influence relate to their motivation to engage in mathematics activities? Qualitative data
for this project includes a sample of 27 interviews (16 boys,
11 girls). Findings are organized into a working model and
describe the ways in which childrens conceptions of closeness and influence were embedded in their understandings
and perceptions of equity in the classroom.

Introduction
In 1997, Gloria Ladson-Billings argued math and science literacy represents the new civil rights battleground
(p. 698) with access to math and science careers creating new
forms of participation in society and unrivaled economic opportunities. In the United States, few African-American and
Hispanic students evidence advanced mastery of science and
mathematics concepts (Tate, 1997). Gaps in achievement
along ethnic and cultural lines may begin as early as elementary school (Ball & Alvarez, 2004) and may not necessarily
be associated with enrollment in lesser quality schools or
student ability (Clewell, Anderson, & Thorpe, 1992). Rather,
they may be created and maintained by the micro-culture of
the classroom (Reyes & Stanic, 1998; Strickland & Asher,
1992). For example, minority students tend to perceive their
teachers as holding lower expectations for their success and
offering limited opportunities to achieve (Grouws & Lembke, 1996; Hart & Allexsaht-Snider, 1996). Moreover, minor4

ity students who perceive teachers as holding racial stereotypes or engaging in discrimination tend to underperform in
mathematics, report lower math self-concept and task values
(Eccles, Wong, & Peck, 2006), and have higher absences
from school and elevated alienation (Osborne & Walker,
2006).
Lower expectations and limited opportunities to learn
may be a function of math teachers enactment of deficit beliefs about diverse students (Ford & Grantham, 2003) or maladaptive beliefs they hold about mathematics (Stodolsky,
1985). Brophy (2004) outlines the ways in which teachers
communicate low expectations such as calling on students
less often, seating them farther away, seating them closer
as a form of behavioral control, paying less attention and
demanding less of them, offering inappropriate criticism or
praise, or failing to give feedback altogether. Math teachers
may also inadvertently communicate stereotypes about the
field including messages that minorities do not belong (Hoy,
Davis, & Pape, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 1997), yet many ethnographic studies of minority student resilience have documented the power of a single caring teacher to disrupt at
risk trajectories (see Davis, 2006).
This study explored the role of teacher-child relationships as a form of social capital that contributes to students
engagement in math. In this paper, social capital is defined
as the network of social relationships that contributes to perpetuating social status and participation in society (Van Gelen, 2004). We argue teacher-student relationships represent
an important form of social capital for low-income, minority
students (Murdock, 1999). Further, we argue the methods
that have been used to explore teacher-child relationships,
particularly those with young children, have been limited in
their ability to (a) capture the childs perspective (Murray,
Murray, & Waas, 2008) and (b) allow for longitudinal investigations of childrens perceptions of teacher relationships
(Davis, 2003).
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

sufficient for supporting students achievement motivation.


Rather, to have influence, teachers must also cultivate the
legitimacy of their academic content for students, demanding more than their students think they are capable of and
Active Demandingness
articulating the implicit cultural assumptions that impede
Type I:
Type IV:
student success. Using the two dimensions, Kleinfeld was
Traditionalist
Warm Demanders
able to classify the teachers in her study into one of four
s
types (Figure 1). Moreover, she argued that teachers with a
Professional
warm-demanding approach were the most effective in bringCloseness
Personal
Distance
ing about positive academic outcomes for students. While
Warmth
there have been several contemporary studies of warm-demanding teachers (Case, 1997; Irving & Fraser, 1998; Noblitt, 1993; Walker, 2008; Ware, 2006), few have examined
Type II:
Type III:
the contribution of students perceptions of teacher warmth
Sophisticates
Sentimentalists
and demand to their motivation and achievement in mathematics.
Passive Understanding
European scholar Theo Wubbels and colleagues (WubFig 1. Mapping Kleinfelds (1975) typology of teachers onto Aron, Aron, & Smollans
bels,
Brekelmans,
den Brok, & van Tartwijk, 2006; Wubbels
(1992)
model
of Inclusion
of Other
in the
Self. of teachers onto Aron,
Figure
1. Mapping
Kleinfelds
(1975)
typology
& Levy, 1993) have also identified the critical relationship
Aron, & Smollans (1992) model of Inclusion of Other in the Self.
that teachers expressions of influence, what they term dominant behaviors, play in improving student learning outcomes
such as attitude, achievement, and regulation of learning beRelating to Diverse Learners: The
haviors. In general, students tend to achieve at higher rates
Role of Closeness and Demand
with more dominant teachers. With that said, students tend
As den Brok and colleagues have noted, cultural mis- to report more positive attitudes with teachers who express
match between teachers and students can easily lead to mis- patience and understandingeven if they are issuing a dicommunication or conflicts, especially if both parties have rective. These results create a dilemma. . . . If teachers
little knowledge of the viewpoint and experiences of the want students to be both high-achieving and supportive, they
other (den Brok, Wubbels, Veldman, & van Tartwijk, 2009, may find themselves pulling in two directions: strictness corp. 120). Currently the majority of teachers hail from White, relates well with high achievement, while flexibility relates
middle-class backgrounds (Hoy et al., 2006). Thus, minority to positive attitudes (Wubbels, Levy, & Brekelmans, 1997,
and economically disadvantaged students are at risk for be- p. 84).
ing systemically excluded from the social capital afforded by
teacher-student relationships (Brown, 2004; Monroe & Obi- Capturing Students Conceptions of
Warmth/Closeness and
dah, 2004). Indeed, several contemporary studies of teacher
Demand/Influence
relationships with minority students have documented systemic differences based on the race of the teacher (Kesner,
If we are to succeed in promoting the engagement of
2000; Saft & Pianta, 2001), with more positive relationships
low-income
minority students in math, we need a frameamong same-race teachers.
work
that
allows
us to examine (a) how childrens underA handful of studies, however, have documented the
ways in which White teachers have been successful in bridg- standings of teacher relationships develop and (b) at what
ing the relationship gap in schools. In 1975, Judith Klein- point relationships and/or motivation to engage in math and
feld argued that, it is the teachers interpersonal style, not science erode. In 1992, Aron, Aron, and Smollan published
his ethnic-group membership, that is critical to success (p. a series of studies designed to explore the nature of relation304). She was able to classify teachers approaches to work- ship quality. They posit all relationships can be deconstructing with Native American children along two dimensions: ed along two dimensions: individuals feelings of closeness
personal warmth and active demand (see Figure 1). Per- to and influence by their relationship partner. To study closesonal warmth involved physical proximity such as smiling ness and influence in relationships, Aron et al. (1992) develfrequently and maintaining a close body distance. Kleinfeld oped a set of Venn-like diagrams (Inclusion of Other in the
argued that personal warmth, while a necessary condition Self scale, IOS). The closeness scale comprises two circles
for eliciting a high level of intellectual performance, is not that begin overlapping and increase in separation. The influFIRST-GRADE TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS 27

Influence

Figure 1

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

ence scale is comprised of a single circle to represent me


and a series of five circles ranging from significantly smaller
to significantly larger to represent the other. Participants
are asked to first rate how close they feel to a significant
other, second to rate how much influence that significant
other has over them, and then to provide rationales for their
choices. These measures revealed that participants understandings of relationships incorporated both perceptions
of the frequency and variety of interactions, the degree to
which they perceived the other influenced their actions,
and the extent to which they felt an escalation of reciprocity
and self-disclosure. Since its appearance, the IOS has been
used to examine how teachers and children include each other in their sense of self and the resulting impact on classroom
dynamics (Blanchard, Perreault, & Vallerand, 1998; Davis
& Bischoff, 2009; Newberry & Davis, 2008).
The IOS dimensions map cleanly onto Kleinfelds
(1975) framework (see inner axes, Figure 1). In an exploratory study of 93 high school students drawn from a high
achieving urban magnet school (60% non-White; 45% economically disadvantaged), we were able to use students IOS
scores to classify their teachers into one of Kleinfelds four
typologies. Once classified, we found anticipated differences in student motivation with students who perceived their
teachers as warm demanders showing the most adaptive patterns (Davis & Bischoff, 2009).
Because the IOS yields both qualitative data and continuous scores, it offers greater methodological flexibility
than Kleinfelds classification scheme. Using IOS ratings as
a continuous variable, we found that students who reported
high closeness and high influence tended to concurrently
report the highest rates of science self-efficacy (Davis &
Bischoff, 2009). Ratings of teacher influence also uniquely contributed to predicting students intrinsic motivation
in science. Student rationales for their ratings of closeness
and influence provided insight into the criteria they used to
judge these dimensions. Consistent with previous research
on student-teacher relationships (Brown & Hirst, 2007; Davis, 2003, 2006), frequent factors included the frequency and
quality of talk, teacher availability and support, and knowing the teacher.
Using the IOS as a methodology, this study explored
low-income, African-American first-grade students understandings of their relationships with their teachers. Specifically, we explored their understandings of teacher closeness
and influence, the malleability of their understandings of
these concepts, and how their feelings of closeness and influence related to their motivation to engage in mathematics
activities. The two dimensional framework and Venn-like
measures may provide scholars with a mid-level theoretical
measure to study relationship quality across developmental
6

periods (Davis, 2003).

Methods
Participants & Procedures
Participants were 27 first-grade, African-American students sampled from four classrooms in two public charter
schools serving low-income, minority students. In School 1,
both teachers were African-American; in School 2 both were
White. At each school, one of the participating teachers was
nominated by the schools principal for exemplifying the
characteristics of a warm-demanding teacher. Each student
participated in a semi-structured interview. The interview
for one student was corrupted and could not be analyzed.
Thus, data for this project includes a sample of 27 interviews
(16 boys, 11 girls). The children were interviewed individually at their school by the first two authors. Interviews were
recorded and lasted 30 to 45 minutes.
Measurement Development
The primary mode of inquiry was a semi-structured interview protocol based on the Inclusion of the Other in the
Self scale, described earlier (Aron et al., 1992). To allow the
children to share their intuitive understandings without being hampered by unfamiliar linguistic terms, we conducted a
word frequency analysis of the core concepts for this project:
closeness/close and influence/influenced. Table 1 depicts
the frequency students were exposed to terms according to
Carroll, Davies, and Richmans (1971) American Heritage
of Word Frequency analysis. Carroll et al. conducted an exhaustive analysis of childrens literature to identify the usage
frequency of terms by grade-level and subject area. To date,
the Carroll et al. objective corpus data (McGee, 2008) represents the best estimate we have for the emergence of childrens understanding of various American language terms.
Analyses revealed that students in the third to fifth
grades receive little exposure to the term relationship in
relevant texts. We expected this term to be somewhat unfamiliar and malleable among first-grade students. Similarly,
there appear to be few opportunities for students to have appropriated the meaning of influence/influenced from the
texts to which they are exposed. The frequency for these
terms peaks in grades seven to nine within the context of
social studies and science texts. In contrast, the term close
appears much more frequently in some third- to fifth-grade
texts and across a variety of academic content areas. Thus, it
may be that some first-grade students have had opportunities
to appropriate the meanings of close/closeness.
Interview protocol
Interviews began by asking children to explain what
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

FIRST-GRADE TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS 29

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

Table 1: Analysis of word frequencies for coreTABLE


constructs
1 from the American Heritage word
corpus (Carroll, Davies, & Richman, 1971). Note: Index of dispersion ranges from .00 to 1.00
Analysis
of word
frequencies
fordispersion
core constructs
fromthe
thecorpus.
American Heritage word corpus
with
higher scores
reflecting
greater
throughout

(Caroll, Davies, & Richman, 1971).

Frequency of
the Word in Index of
the Corpus
Dispersion

3rd

4th

5th

Feel

1,275

0.89

269

222

157

Feeling

540

0.81

61

85

69

Relatively stable dispersion


through grade nine.

Close

1,288

0.98

201

240

143

Declining frequency through


grade nine.

Closeness

0.56

Influence

200

0.84

10

20

Increasing frequency
through grade nine.

Influenced

97

0.73

Peak frequency in grades


seven and eight.

Influential

22

0.57

Increasing frequency
through grade nine.

Relationship

153

0.78

12

Increasing frequency
through grade nine.

Motivation

0.24

Low frequency item as are


derivatives of motivate and
motivated.

Notes
Declining frequency through
grade nine.

Note: Index of dispersion ranges from .00 to 1.00 with higher scores reflecting greater dispersion throughout the corpus.
it means to feel close (Q1: What does it mean to feel close
to someone?). When children struggled to generate a definition, we guided the discussions of closeness around the
context of family relationships (Q1a: What does it mean to
feel close to someone in your family?). If the child mentioned physical proximity, we followed up with: (Q1b: I
understand that part of feeling close to your family is having them be nearby, or close to you. Do you have any family members that do not live close by? What makes you
feel close to them?) Once the child demonstrated an understanding of closeness, we shifted to the context of the
teacher-student relationship (Q2: What does it mean to feel
close to a teacher?). We followed up with probes using the
criteria students generated from Q1. We ended with the IOS
(Q3: Using these circles, tell me how close you feel to your
teacher. Why?) and Q3a (Are there other things that your
teacher does to make you feel close to him/her?) until the
child did not generate any additional criteria.
Next, we asked the children to define what it means
to be influenced by someone (Q4: What does it mean to
be influenced by someone?). Consistent with the word freJournal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

quency data, initially all of the children reported they did not
know what the term influence meant. In anticipation, we
constructed a broad definition of influence that we offered
the children:
To influence someone means to get them to do something for us: to behave a certain way or to like or dislike certain things. People in our family, for example,
are people who have influence over us: they get us to
use manners at the dinner table, to do chores, and they
are often the people we look up to and want to be like.
People with a lot of influence can even get us to do
things we really did not want to do (things that are boring, or not fun).
As with closeness, we guided the initial discussion of influence around the childrens understanding of influence in the
family (Q4a: Can you think of someone in your family who
has a lot of influence over you?). Once the child demonstrated an understanding of influence, we shifted to the context of the teacher-student relationship (Q5: What does it
mean for a teacher to have influence over you?) following
with probes using the criteria embedded in the definition. To
7

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

to be fair to students? In what ways is your teacher fair/


unfair?

TABLE 2
Classifying childrens understandings of the concepts of
interpersonal closeness and influence
Conceptions of Closeness
Conceptions of
Influence

Limited

Emerging

Developing

Limited

1111

1111

Emerging

11

11111 11

11111

(n = 14)

11

111

(n = 5)

(n = 13)

(n = 8)

Developing
(n = 6)

(n = 8)

end, we introduced the IOS (Q6: Here are five circles that
grow in size from small to large. Using these circles tell me
how much influence your teacher has over you. Why?). After each response, we probed a little deeper (Q6a: Are there
other ways that your teacher has influence over you?) until
the child did not generate any additional criteria.
In the final portion of the interview, we aimed to identify the ways in which their teacher helped them to feel motivated to do math work (Q7: How do you feel about mathematics? Q8: What are the kinds of things your teacher
does to help you feel motivated in math?). To ensure the
students were thinking about specific interactions that happened during math time, prior to this, we asked the children
to describe the different types of activities they did in math.
As with the term influence, we anticipated the children might
be unfamiliar with the term motivation because it has low
frequency of use in grades three through five. In the event
the children did not understand what it means to be motivated, we offered this definition:
People often talk about motivation as the forces inside
of us that make us feel excited and make us want to
do things. People often feel motivated when they are
interested in activities and not motivated with activities
they find boring. Can you think of something that you
have a lot of motivation to do in school?
Follow-up probes sought to clarify teacher behaviors identified by students.
Midway through the interviews it became clear that
many children were uncertain as to whether a teacher should
have influence over students. Thus, we added two questions
to the interview protocol, Is it good for students to feel close
to their teachers? Is it good for teachers to have influence
over students? It also became clear the childrens understandings of teacher closeness and influence were connected
to their understandings of fairness or equity. Therefore,
we added the questions, What does it mean for a teacher
8

Data Analysis
Taped interviews were transcribed and analyzed using
grounded theory methodology (Corbin & Strauss, 1990).
The overall research question guiding our initial open-coding pass was: How do these African-American children from
low-income families understand their feelings of closeness
to and influence by their teacher? Our sub-question was:
How might the childrens feelings of teacher closeness and
influence affect their motivation to engage in mathematics
activities? Several passes were made through each transcript to identify themes for closeness, themes for influence,
emerging themes, and to classify students understandings.
Themes were inductively generated following the constant comparative method of data analysis (Corbin & Strauss,
1990). Through iterations coding we identified emerging
themes and sub-themes across students understandings of
teacher closeness, influence, equity, and motivation to engage in mathematics. Interviews were initially conducted
independently by the first two authors in order to allow for
comparison and validity checks. After coding independently,
we convened to compare the consistency of our coding and
the utility of our operational definitions and to reconcile discrepancies. Once we felt confident the themes, codes, and
sub-themes were stable, we created a master list (see Table
3) of the themes (9), sub-themes (13), and codes (30). Each
participant was profiled with regard to his or her understanding of closeness and influence (see Table 2). We made an
additional pass through the data to examine the frequency of
codes and to identify exemplary quotes for each theme and
sub-theme. This process clarified which constructs drove
the meaning of each theme and the pattern of relationships
emerging between themes and sub-themes.
Our final pass through the data was designed to classify
each child with regard to the level of his or her understanding of closeness and influence. We identified three levels of
understanding: limited, emerging, and developed. Children
with limited understandings either struggled to articulate an
understanding (even when prompted), articulated misconceptions, or for closeness articulated an understanding that
was limited to physical or temporal proximity. Children with
limited conceptions were not able to apply the definitions
provided or use contextualized understandings from family
relationships to describe their relationship with their teacher.
Children with emerging understandings, once prompted to
think about closeness and influence within the context of
their family, could elaborate on their feelings of closeness
to their teacher and were able to construct meaning (during the interview) around the ways in which their teachers
influenced them. Students with developed understandings of
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

TABLE 3
Table of findings including operational definitions and exemplary quotes from children with
emerging and developing conceptions
Theme

Operational Definition

Exemplary Quotes

Closeness as Proximity

Children reported feeling close or distant


because of perceived physical or temporal
proximity.

We are not so close because, shes there all


the way in the front when we are in our desks.
I wouldnt feel close cause, I hadnt been
[with my teacher] for a long time.

Closeness as an Affect

Children reported feeling close because of the


pleasant feelings they felt such as enjoyment,
fun, caring, exciting.

They are in my heart.

Closeness Involves Shared


Activities

Children reported feeling close because they


engaged in different activities with their teacher
such as play, lunch, or seeing them outside
school.

She plays with me at recess.


I like working with my teacher.

Closeness as Watchfulness

Children reported feeling close to their teacher


because they perceived she was watching over
them.

She tells us not to run on the rocks [on the


playground].
She asks, Why dont you have any work out
on your desk?

Influence as Evoking
Affect

Children reported teacher influence as the


potential to make kids feel good or bad about
what is happening in the classroom.

She make students get mad.

Influence as Getting
Students to Perform
Behaviors

Children reported teacher influence as the power


to get students to perform different behaviors
and classroom activities.

And if the teacher asks them to do something


one time, and if she asks you twice then youre
in trouble.
She gives us homework.

Influence as Administering
Discipline

Children reported teacher influence as the power


to discipline.

She has the influence to write you up and


dont come back to school.

Influence as Giving
Responsibility

Children reported teacher influence as the power


to award responsibilities to students in the class.

She tells me to take stuff to the office.


She let me pass out sheets.

Influence by Having
Something Desired

Children reported being influenced to act like


another person, including their teachers, because
they coveted their material possessions or
privileges.

[I want to] tell people what to do.

teacher closeness and influence generated their own definition, without prompts, that extended beyond physical or temporal proximity. For example, when asked what it means to
feel close to someone, one child said, Like theyre in my
heart. I have some people that died in my family, but theyre
still in my heart. Similarly, when asked what it means for
a teacher to have influence, one child replied, Because she
makes us do her rules, or Kids listen to Ms. G a lot because
they think she has a lot of influence.

Findings
Classifying Childrens Understanding
Consistent with the word frequency analysis (Table
1), most of the children interviewed were classified as holding limited or emerging understandings of one or more of
the concepts, suggesting that childrens concepts of teacher
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

closeness and influence are malleable constructs (see Table


2). Thus, children with emerging and developed understandings served as key informants (Patton, 1990) for developing
our conceptual model. Consistent with the word frequency
analysis we found that the concept of influence was a more
foreign, less developed concept than closeness. It is important to note that even students who held developed concepts
of teacher closeness and influence did not have understandings that were comprehensive of the different characteristics
implicated by the literature (Wubbles et al., 2006). While all
children with emerging and developed concepts mentioned
multiple dimensions, no child mentioned all of them.
A Working Model of Childrens Understandings
We organized findings into a working model (Figure
2). In the center of the model are the childrens understandings of closeness and influence (Table 2) which appeared
9

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence


FIRST-GRADE TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS
Figure
2

28

Figure 2. Working model of low-income, African-American students understandings of teacher closeness and influence.

Figure 2: Working model of low-income, African-American students understandings of teacher


closeness
influence. and perceptions of teacher eq- making sure they did not get hurt while on the playground or
rooted
in theirand
understandings
uity. Teachers perceived as both close and influential were
also seen as special or unique compared to the other teachers students had interacted with in the past. Underlying childrens feelings of closeness and influence were several factors including the classroom management system. In turn,
childrens perceptions of closeness, influence, and equity
contributed to their motivation during math time.

How did these First-Grade Students Understand


Teacher Closeness and Influence?
Children reported feeling close or distant because of
perceived physical or temporal proximity, because they felt
good when they were with them, because they engaged in
enjoyable activities together, and because they perceived
their teacher to be watching over them. Findings corroborate
the literature on teacher immediacy behaviors (Potee, 2002)
and shared activities (Davis, 2003, 2006; Tharpe, Estrada,
Dalton, & Yamauchi, 2000), indicating perceived physical,
emotional, and temporal proximity matter for young children. Findings also corroborate research by Wubbels et
al. (2006), which indicates teachers attempts to cultivate
pleasant emotions in the classroom, via the use of tones of
patience and expressions of understanding, also matter for
young children. Lastly, the children reported feeling close
to teachers because they might be all up on you to see your
own work. They also noted behaviors such as giving directions, making sure they were engaged in their work, and
10

while loading the bus. They perceived this watchfulness as


an expression of caring to ensure that they did well in school
(Waters & Cross, 2010).
The children identified three ways in which their teachers exerted influence over them: by making them feel or act
a certain way, through classroom discipline, and by affording them responsibilities in the classroom. The children also
reported teacher influence as the power to get students to
perform different behaviors and classroom activitieseven
undesirable ones such as homework. Many participants said
their teacher influenced them by rewarding good behavior
and punishing bad behavior. They noted the teachers had the
power to move paws, move frogs, and flip cardsall
references to the Positive Behavior Support systems enacted
in the classroom (Burke, Ayres, & Hagan-Burke, 2004; Scott,
Gagnon, & Nelson, 2008). When asked if teacher influence
was good or bad, most children responded that teachers need
to have influence in order to protect children: Our teacher
has influence so we wont get hurt. The children, however,
were careful to note that disciplinary behaviors such as yelling would lead to not feeling close to the teacher. The children also described teacher influence in terms of the power
to award responsibilities to students in the class. Students
noted that being selected to pass out papers, take things to
the office, erase the board, and other classroom jobs such
as serving as the workshop warrior were perceived as important and unique and motivated them to behave in ways
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

the teacher preferred. Finally, the children reported being


influenced to act like another person in their family because
they coveted their material possessions (e.g., toys, trophies,
cell phone) or privileges (e.g., sports, driving, going to college, job). In follow-up probes, several students noted they
desired their teachers access to the computers and authority
in the classroom. When asked if there were any ways she
wanted to be like her teacher, one student said, Yeah, tell
people what to do.
What Factors Influenced the Students Perceptions of
Closeness and Influence?
Factors Affecting Perceptions of Closeness. Children
described several factors that contributed to their feelings
of closeness: their perception that their teacher allowed the
class to do fun activities, treating students with kindness
and respect, and providing instrumental support. The most
common factor was that students felt close to their teacher
when they were afforded opportunities to do fun activities
(e.g., time for free centers, Fun Friday, or play). When
asked why he felt close to his teacher, one student said: She
lets us have one more minute for recess. Frequently, students also reported the perception of their teacher as nice
or described acts of generosity that contributed to their feelings of closeness: Because she treats me good. Being perceived as mean, not listening, or not treating students with
respect was associated with several students reporting they
did not feel close to their teacher: Because sometimes she
moves my paw and I didnt even do nothing. Similarly,
several students reported concerns that their poor behavior
would lead to feeling more distant from their teacher: One
day if youre bad they [the circles] can separate. Finally,
students reported they felt close to their teacher because she
provided instrumental support for classroom activities: Me
and Ms. T are very close because she helps me in the morning with my journal.
Factors Affecting Students Perceptions of Influence. Children noted two additional factors that contribute
to teachers having influence over them: trust and seeing their
teacher as a role model. Many students reported their teacher had influence over them because she was their favorite
teacher. Students who reported their teacher had influence
over them were more likely to perceive they could rely on or
trust their teacher to follow through with promises. One student commented that it was good for teachers to have influence over students because they always promise stuff and
making good on her promises means you can trust them.
Additionally, some students reported feeling influenced by
their teachers because they literally wanted to grow up to be
like them. When children said they wanted to be like their
teacher, they were very literal. They meant they wanted to
become a teacher when they grew up: When I get older like
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

[my teacher], I want to teach everybody to learn.


Closeness and Influence in the Context of Positive
Behavior Support. A reoccurring theme throughout the interviews was the relationship between teacher influence and
the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) systems in place in the
classroom (Burke et al., 2004; Scott et al., 2008). The two
passages below are excerpts from the same interview. In this
passage, the child describes how the PBS system affected
her behavior, her feelings of closeness towards others in her
class, and her perceptions of Mrs. Gs influence.
Interviewer: Why do you feel close to people who are
good to you?
Child: Because, so I can stay on green.
Interviewer: So you can stay green. What does stay
on green mean?
Child: Like you stay on green or yellow means, yellow
means miss 15 minutes of recess. And red you cant go
to recess.
... (later in the interview)...
Interviewer: So, why did you pick the little tiny circle
for Mrs. G?
Child: Because it means Mrs. G can be little.
Interviewer: Mrs. G can be little, okay. Why would
you want her to be little?
Child: Because. So I can play and no one can step on
my shoes and no one can step on my face.
Interviewer: Oh I see. So I think I hear that sometimes
Mrs. G keeps you from doing things you want to do?
Child: Yes.
Interviewer: So thats why you wish she had less influence since she was a little circle?
Child: Yes.
Interviewer: But sometimes is she a really a little bit
bigger than that?
Child: Yes.
This passage typifies conversations we had with the
children; that they chose to behave in ways their teacher desired in order to receive rewards. In most cases, having a
green day meant receiving tickets that could be cashed in
for privileges. Students also noted they were given opportunities to get back to green when they had trouble controlling their behavior. In essence, the children were corroborating the extant literature on effectiveness of the PBS
system for reducing disciplinary problems in the classroom.
Notably, the child above wishes her teacher had less influence suggesting that while the PBS system helped control
childrens behavior, it may not influence them to make more
cooperative choices as a function of understanding and internalizing interpersonal or classroom norms (Freiberg, 1999).
Such statements helped us to understand that the children
11

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

may not yet distinguish between influence and control (Brophy & McCaslin, 1992).
How did the Students Perceptions of Equity Affect
Teacher Closeness and Influence?
An emergent theme in the data was how the childrens
perceptions of equity influenced their relationship with their
teacher, including feelings of closeness and influence. Students reported they felt close to their teacher because she
gave them as much attention as the other students in the
classroom. One student specifically mentioned that being called on often, and as much as the other students, was
important to his feeling close to his teacher. Fairness also
involved understandings of sharing (i.e., food, toys, and
possessions with their siblings and/or friends), turn taking,
treating friends with respect, and getting the same amount.
However, the childrens understandings of fairness and sharing were complex. In the passage below, one child responds
that her teacher is not fair because she shares with the class:
Interviewer: So, what does it mean to be fair?
Child: It means she [the teacher] gets something and
I dont.
Interviewer: So, do you think your teacher is fair?
Child: No.
Interviewer: Why not?
Child: Cause she shares stuff, she shares a lot of stuff
with me.
Interviewer: So, you do think shes fair or you dont?
Child: Not fair.
Interviewer: And, why isnt she fair?
Child: Cause she shares stuff with us.
The interviewer went on to clarify one additional time
that the teacher was not fair because she shared. This left us
scratching our heads: How could sharing be considered not
fair? Then it dawned on us that when children come from
households that have limited resources, observing that others
have more material possessions might feel unfair. Another
child alluded to this unfairness when he said: If its fair,
you get something that they have, that theyre playing with,
and that they dont trust you to play with it. You have to ask
the teacher, Can I play with that toy? And they might say
yes and let you go. For both of these students, sharing and
fairness involved having access to someone elses material
possessions.
Other children experienced fairness as having to silently set aside their desires for those of another child. In these
cases fairness involved disappointment; disappointment they
were expected not to voice: [Fairness] means everything
you get, you dont make a fit. One child described how it
was not fair that his sister had to share her old, broken bike
but did not have to share her new bike. Another child described how he did not want to share his new computer game
12

with his siblings because, Its not fun to share because they
keep hogging it.
For some students, being a fair teacher involved giving good students rewards and punishing bad students.
Equity involved rewarding and praising only the children
who were perceived as deserving in the class. One student
responded that it was good for a teacher to be fair in this
way because, bad people dont need to get privileges like
good people, like me and Kimmie. For some children, it
was unfair to reward a child who had misbehaved in class or
who was mean to other children. Children also noted that a
fair teacher rewarded only the most deserving students: She
only gives the people with the most points the pizza party.
Other students perceived their teacher to be unfair because
she did not give privileges. When asked why he did not get
excited in math, one student responded because his teacher
doesnt fill out my [behavior] card, even when I do the right
thing.
Perceptions of equity also shaped the extent to which
they were influenced by their teacher. Perceptions of influence appeared related to their teachers enforcement of rules
and grading practices; with consistency in enforcing rules
associated with greater influence. One student noted, She
makes everyone follow the rules, that is why she has influence. Similarly, consistent press to have all students meet
performance expectations was associated with greater influence. One student said some teachers influenced kids to
learn better because theyd make everyone get good grades.
This finding corroborates links among minority students
perceptions of teachers high expectations with fewer disciplinary referrals and higher achievement (Hoy et al., 2006).
When asked if teachers having influence could ever be a
bad thing, one student said, It will never be a bad thing.
If a teacher has no influence, then that means the children,
the students, will have bad grades.
Caring Teachers as Unique. During our final passes
through the data, we noticed a poignant theme noted by a
handful (n = 4) of children who described how their relationship with their teacher was special and different from the
teachers they had in the past (i.e., kindergarten or preschool)
or other teachers in the school.
Child: Im not really excited about [other teachers].
Interviewer: What arent you excited about [them]?
Child: Having other teachers, substitutes. Im afraid
its going to turn out awful.
Interviewer: So, youre not excited about getting other teachers beside Ms. G? You just want to stay with
her?
Child: Yes.
Interviewer: So, does that mean you trust Ms. G?
Child: Yes, but not other teachers. Not mean teachers
or [teachers] that lie.
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Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

When asked what it means to feel close to a teacher,


another child responded, It means that we like the teacher
so much that we dont want her to leave. But sometimes,
when she leaves, we think that she wont come back. These
passages harkened back to the broader context of minority
teacher-student relationships (Baker, 1999; Mantzicopoulous, 2005). The relationships between minority students
and their teachers tend to be marked with higher rates of
emotional negativity. Moreover, when minority students
experience conflict in their relationships with teachers, this
conflict appears to have a more deleterious effect on their
achievement and motivation compared to their White counterparts (Pianta, Steinberg, & Rollins, 1995). These findings
reminded us that the experience of close teacher relationships for African-American students from low-income families may indeed be rare and that children may experience
them as tenuous and fragile.
Closeness, Influence, Equity, and Math Motivation
During the interview, the children were asked, How
do you feel about mathematics? and What are the kinds
of things your teacher does to help you feel motivated in
math? The children noted they felt motivated to do math
when there were opportunities to solve problems in different
ways and with interesting manipulatives. These findings corroborate the extant motivation literature concerning the importance of designing engaging activities (Schunk, Pintrich,
& Meece, 2008). Additionally, some children perceived engagement during math to be associated with a variety of rewards and consequences. When asked why he was motivated to do math, one young man reported: Because she gives
us free time on days when we got to do math and that makes
me feel happy. Similarly, another student noted math work
was sometimes used a punishment, When we dont listen
to the teacher, she says we have to do our math or reading
packet, Im kinda mad then. These findings corroborate
the (albeit short-term) benefits of reward structures (Schunk
et al., 2008). Two children noted they were motivated to
do math in order to go to college (Murdock, 1999). Both
children had referenced older siblings who were aspiring to
go to college. One child noted that collaborative grouping
during math was motivating: I like when we do partners because some people dont know what to do and we help them.
And when were done we get to help other people, we get
to go to other groups. And, several children described how
their teachers ability to adapt the level of challenge in the
class affected their motivation. These findings emphasize
the importance of teachers integrating nationally endorsed
best practices into their mathematics instruction (Learner
Centered Psychological Principles; APA, 1997).
Feedback was also important to students motivation
during math time. Students were also more likely to report
feeling motivated during math if they perceived their teacher
would provide instrumental support during math activities.
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Several noted they felt close to their teacher because she


helps me and helps other people or they noted receiving
help during a specific math activity (e.g., She helps you
find a pattern.). Another student noted the importance of
emotional support during math activities: She hugs you if
you dont know the answer.
Students noted receiving both approval (e.g., When I
add or minus, I get a Yes and smiley faces.) as well as disapproval (e.g., Only she put a sad face, that means youre
not doing so good.) during math time (Beaman & Wheldall,
2000). Students who perceived receiving approval during
math were more likely to say they were motivated during
math. Kamins and Dweck (1999) caution that personal feedback, even when positive, can create vulnerability and a
sense of contingent self-worth (p. 35). The critical finding
regarding student motivation involved student perceptions of
the teachers feedback about their aptitude in math (Kamins
& Dweck, 1999). Again and again, when asked what their
teacher did to help them feel motivated in math, students
used the same phrase, She let us be smart.
In sum, the students who felt motivated during math
perceived their teacher had created a context which allowed
them to feel smart. Close examination of the data from children who were motivated to engage in math revealed an underlying discourse of privilege: they had access to the resources they needed, they engaged in activities they enjoyed,
they were appropriately challenged and rewarded, and they
received feedback that permitted them to feel smart in math.
Many children reported a link between feeling close to their
teacher and being smart. One student put it poignantly that
feeling close to the teacher helps you learn and helps you
be smart.

Discussion
This exploratory study examined low-income, AfricanAmerican first-grade students understandings of teacher
warmth/closeness and demand/influence. Four central findings emerged from the study. First, the majority of the children in our sample had emerging understandings of one or
both concepts, indicating there is a great deal of malleability
with regard to how students think about their relationships
with their teachers. Awareness of this malleability means elementary school teachers can help first-grade students come
to understand the nature of teacher relationships by helping
them to broaden their understandings of what it means to
feel emotionally connected to another person, teachers in
particular, as well as the variety of ways people attempt to
influence each other.
Second, the children in our study drew from relatively
subtle teacher behaviors and communications to judge the
quality of their relationship. Our findings may have implications for how elementary teachers monitor their expressions
of enthusiasm and approval, make decisions about physical
13

Low-Income African-American First-Grade Students Understandings of Teacher Closeness and Influence

proximity, select students for classroom responsibilities, and


enact motivational strategies. Each of these factors, and the
extent to which they were perceived as equitably dispersed
across members of the class, were noted as affecting the childrens judgments of their relationship.
Third, findings suggest that teachers need to become
more knowledgeable about how the childrens perceptions
of teacher behaviors as unfairness affect their relationships
with their students (Eccles et al., 2006). In order to be successful with low-income, African-American children, teachers need to understand, and empathize, with the experience
of limited resources at home. The reality is that it is not fair
that children from low-income families get fewer opportunities to use and play with computers. It is not fair when they
are asked to share their few possessions with other children.
It is not fair when they are asked to settle for less than they
know other children receive. And it is not fair to ask them to
be silent about the inequities they observe in the classroom
(Delpit, 1988). If we want children to value diversity, the
classroom needs to become a stage where children have opportunities to understand equity, including social inequity,
and experience fairness.
Finally, we also asked the students questions about
how their interactions with their teacher contribute to their
motivation during math, and our results corroborate the extant literature on classroom motivation (Schunk et al., 2008).
However, the finding that stood out as critical was the childrens perceptions of the teachers feedback about their
aptitude in math (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). Children connected approval feedback to their feelings of closeness and
their perceptions of themselves as smart. Just as teachers
can communicate low expectations by offering inappropriate criticism or failing to give feedback altogether (Brophy,
2004), we worry these approval messages may contribute to
feelings of contingent self-worth in math.
Implications for the Structure and Function of Teacher
Management and Care
Findings from our project suggest the children were
evolving in their understanding of care. Whereas children
with more developed conceptions of closeness reported their
perceptions of the immediacy behaviors of tone, noticing, approval, and support, few children noted that their feelings of
closeness were enhanced by teachers use of disclosure, nor
did they mention that their teachers understood something
authentic or personal about them. These types of behaviors

communicate to students that their teacher cares about


them and also are consistent with Noddings (1995) and
Goldsteins (1999) definitions of caring. When the children
perceived that their teacher engaged in behaviors to support
their learning, it contributed to their feelings of care for their
teacher: Ms. G helps teach us and thats why sometimes
we care about her. That said, in their attempts to communicate care about their students performance, findings suggest teachers need to be cautious about providing feedback
that leads children to develop contingent self-worth in math.
Over time, feelings of contingent self-worth in math may
lead children to psychologically distance themselves from
the field.
Teacher Influence or Teacher Control?
Findings from our study regarding the childrens experience with the Positive Behavior Support system suggest
they may not yet distinguish between influence and control
(Brophy & McCaslin, 1992). While the PBS system may
have helped to control the childrens behavior, it did not appear to influence them to make more cooperative choices as
a function of understanding and internalizing interpersonal
or classroom norms. Findings from the field are consistent and clearchildren need to feel autonomous in order
to thrive (Reeve, 2006; Stefanou, Perencevich, DiCintio, &
Turner, 2004). The PBS system afforded teachers and children the illusion of controlthat children have the choice
to comply.
While few children in our study knew the word influence, most of them were able to articulate the ways in which
they were influenced by members of their family. Moreover, many of them were able to articulate ways in which
they perceived their teachers influenced themand their
reports were fraught with accounts of dominant communications (Wubbels et al., 2006) and controlling strategies. Few
students identified their teachers as providing rationales for
learning math (i.e., math is important, needing math as an
adult or for college), expressing high expectations for math
achievement (Case, 1997; Noblitt, 1993; Ware, 2006), or by
serving as math role models. If we want low-income, minority children to choose careers that involve mathematical
thinking and skills, we ultimately need to help them develop
more complex understandings of influence and to experience influential teachers who compel them to pursue math
without controlling their behavior.

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Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Heather A. Davis, Department of Curriculum, Instruction, & Counselor Education, North Carolina State University, 402 J Poe Hall, Box 7801, Raleigh, NC 27695-7801.
E-mail: heather_davis@ncsu.edu; phone: 919-515-0288.

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

TeacherInteraction,
Control and
Affiliation:
Do Students
Teachers
Journal of Classroom
ISSN
0749-4025.
2011, and
Vol 46.1,
pagesAgree?
17-26

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

Mieke Brekelmansa
Tim Mainharda
Perry den Brokb
Theo Wubbelsa
Utrecht University, the netherlands
Eindhoven University of technology, the netherlands
a

ABSTRACT
Using an interpersonal circumplex model, we examined whether teachers and students in secondary education
apply a similar frame of reference when thinking about how
a teacher relates to students. We also examined the alignment
of teacher and student perceptions of two dimensions of the
teacher-student relationship: Control and Affiliation. Results
showed that although teachers and students use a similar
framework, they do not agree on the amount of teacher Control and Affiliation in a given classroom. This study contributes to our understanding of teacher self-reports by comparing student and teacher perceptions of the teacher-student
relationship.

INTRODUCTION
In effective classrooms students are actively involved
in learning processes, feel comfortable, and their efficacy and
adaptive patterns of engagement are promoted (Davis, 2003;
Freeman, Anderman, & Jensen, 2007; Patrick, Turner, Meyer, & Midgley, 2003; Woofolk-Hoy & Weinstein, 2006). The
way teachers affiliate with students and control classroom
processes is an important factor in explaining the effectiveness of classrooms for student learning (Cornelius-White,
2007; Davis, 2003; den Brok, Brekelmans, & Wubbels,
2004; Pace & Hemmings, 2007; Pianta, 2006).
How a teacher relates to students may be studied by
observations or by perceptions of the persons involved. Research based on perceptions often focuses either on teacher
perceptions or student perceptions. The correspondence between these two points of view has received far less attention
(den Brok, Bergen, & Brekelmans, 2006). The present study
investigates (a) whether teachers and students in secondary
education apply the same frame of reference to their perception of how teachers relate to students, and (b) the degree of
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

alignment between teacher and student perceptions. Comparing teacher and student perceptions may contribute to insights in how teacher self-reports on the teacher-student relationship should be valued. Teacher self-reports continue to
be an important point of action in many teacher professional
development programs (Wubbels, Brekelmans, den Brok, &
van Tartwijk, 2006), and teacher perceptions are used in scientific studies as an indicator of the teacher-student relationship (e.g., Pianta, 2006).

Teacher Control and Affiliation


Previous research has indicated that the dimensions
of dominance vs. submission and hostility vs. affection are
primary for understanding various interpersonal outcomes
(Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007; Judd, James-Hawkins, Yzerbyt, & Kashima, 2005). In the current study, these two dimensions are utilized to describe how a teacher relates
toward students in class. To study these dimensions, the interpersonal circumplex model is widely used (Blackburn &
Renwick, 1996; Fabrigar, Visser, & Browne, 1997; Gaines
et al. 1997; Gurtman & Pincus, 2000). The two dimensions
in the circumplex model have been given different names,
such as Dominance versus Love (Leary, 1957), Control versus Affiliation (Kiesler, 1983; Tiedens & Jimenez, 2003),
Agency versus Communion (Locke, 2000), or Competence
versus Warmth (Fiske et al., 2007; Judd et al., 2005). Wubbels and colleagues (Crton, Wubbels, & Hooymayers,
1989; Wubbels et al., 2006) adopted the Leary circumplex
model (Leary, 1957) to the classroom context. Figure 1 is a
graphic representation of this model (Teacher Interpersonal
Circle), labeling the dimensions as Control and Affiliation1.
Affiliation is conceived as the warmth and care, and Control
1

In publications on research with this model the Teacher Interpersonal


Circle is also called Model of Interpersonal Teacher Behavior, with
Influence and Proximity as labels for the two dimensions.

17

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?


Figure 1.

as the authority or interpersonal influence a teacher conveys


in class. The eight octants arranged around the interpersonal
circle represent distinct combinations of the two dimensions,
Control and Affiliation. In Table 1 an overview is provided
of typical behaviors that relate to each of the eight octants of
the circle.
Research based on the Teacher Interpersonal Circle
used both teacher and student perceptions of a teachers
Control and Affiliation in class. Studying teacher perceptions underlines the active role that teachers play in classrooms. Studying teacher perceptions of teaching can contribute to the understanding of the interplay between teacher
intentions and teacher behavior. Studying student perceptions underlines the active role that students play in their
own learning in classrooms. Studying student perceptions of
teaching can contribute to the understanding of the interplay
between teacher behavior and student outcomes (e.g., Shuell,
1996). Research based on the Teacher Interpersonal Circle
has shown that students who perceive more teacher Control Tables
and Affiliation show greater cognitive achievement, stron-

Figure 1

Figure 1. Teacher Interpersonal Circle

Table 1

Typical Behaviors of a Teacher that Relate TABLE


to Each1of the Eight Octants of the Teacher
Typical Behaviors
Interpersonal
Circleof a Teacher that Relate to Each of the Eight Octants of the Teacher Interpersonal Circle

Octant
Leadership

Noticing whats happening, organizing, giving orders, setting tasks, determining, clear
procedures, structuring, explaining, holding the attention, acting confidently, showing
enthusiasm

Helping/friendly

Assisting, showing interest, behaving in a friendly or considerate manner, being able to


make a joke, inspiring

Understanding

Listening with interest, empathizing, showing confidence and understanding, accepting


apologies, looking for ways to settle difference, being patient, open, trustful

Student freedom

18

Typical behaviors

Giving opportunity for independent work, waiting for class to let off steam, giving
freedom and responsibility, approving of something

Uncertain

Keeping a low profile, apologizing, waiting and seeing how the wind blows, being
hesitant

Dissatisfied

Waiting for silence, considering pros and cons, keeping quiet, showing dissatisfaction,
looking glum, questioning, criticizing, being suspicious

Admonishing

Getting angry, taking pupils to task, expressing irritation and anger, forbidding,
correcting, punishing

Strict

Keeping reins tight, checking, judging, getting class silent, maintaining silence, being
strict, setting norms and rules
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

ger engagement, and more positive subject-related attitudes


than do students who perceive their teacher as performing at
lower levels of these dimensions (Brekelmans, Sleegers, &
Fraser, 2000; den Brok et al., 2004; Wubbels et al., 2006).
In other educational studies, equivalents of Control (Allen,
Witt, & Wheeless, 2006; Cornelius-White, 2007) and Affiliation (Goodenow, 1993) also have been highlighted as valuable concepts when studying classrooms, and Woolfolk-Hoy
and Weinstein (2006) underscored the importance of the
Authority and Care dimensions in their description of good
teachers. In the present study, teachers with relatively high
levels of Control and Affiliation, according to their students,
are therefore referred to as more interpersonally competent.

Do students and teachers agree?


Some of the few studies aligning teacher self-perceptions and student perceptions reported considerable differences. On average, teachers think they convey more Control
and Affiliation than do their students (Brekelmans, Wubbels,
& den Brok, 2002; den Brok, Levy, Rodriguez, & Wubbels, 2002; den Brok et al., 2006; Fisher & Rickards, 2000;
Harkin & Turner, 1997; Rickards & Fisher, 2000; Wubbels
& Brekelmans, 1997; Yuen, 1999). Some studies however
found that student and teacher perceptions were not that different (Ben-Chaim & Zoller, 2001; Fisher & Rickards, 2000;
Rickards & Fisher, 2000; Wubbels & Levy, 1991).
Wubbels, Brekelmans, and Hooymayers (1992) found
that, compared to student ratings, about two-thirds of the
143 teachers in their study viewed themselves as conveying more Control and Affiliation in class, whereas one-third
rated themselves as conveying less Control and Affiliation
than students perceived. Wubbels et al. (1992) assumed the
agreement between teacher perceptions and student perceptions was an indicator of the teachers ability to understand
how students perceived their behavior. They also assumed
student perceptions of the amount of Control and Affiliation
was an indication of the quality of teacher interpersonal competence. Taking this line, Wubbels et al. interpreted teacher
reports of higher levels of Control and Affiliation, relative to
their students, as overestimation and wishful thinking about
their relationships with students, and teacher reports of relatively lower levels of Control and Affiliation as underestimation and a form of protection from disappointment. They
found that the higher the differences between teacher and
student perceptions, the lower were the levels of Control and
Affiliation according to students.
These studies implicitly assumed that the frame of reference teachers and students used to describe teacher interpersonal behavior is identical. Yet teachers and students may
have different understandings of the dimensions of Control
and Affiliation. For example, teachers might see asking
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

students what they want as conveying uncertainty (i.e.,


relatively low levels of Control and Affiliation) whereas students might interpret such a question as conveying a relatively high level of Affiliation.
Moreover, research has highlighted the divergence
between self-ratings and others ratings, showing that selfperceptions are clearly less associated with actual behavior
(e.g., the observed amount of friendly remarks made by a
teacher) than are the ratings of others (e.g., this teacher is
friendly; Kolar, Funder, & Colvin, 1996). Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger, and Kruger (2003) suggested that this discrepancy stems from two sources: less skilled professionals
usually overestimate their performance because they are less
able to reflect accurately on what they do, and highly skilled
performers underestimate their skills. They hypothesized
that the latter result stemmed from skilled professionals
overestimation of other people and underestimation of, or
modesty, regarding their own skills. Kolar et al. (1996) used
the fish and water effect hypothesis to explain peoples
lack of awareness of their own behavioral patterns. For the
same reason that fish are said to find it difficult to detect
water, it would be difficult to detect ones own stable (positive and negative) behavioral tendencies. Leising, Rehbein,
and Sporberg (2006) confirmed this hypothesis, demonstrating that during interaction with others, dominant participants
underestimated their dominance, and submissive participants
underestimated their submissiveness.
Grounded in research on perceptions of teachers and
students of the teacher-student relationship and in social
psychology research demonstrating patterns of discrepancy
in self-perceptions relative to actual behavior, this study has
two purposes. First, we explicitly examined the assumption
that teachers and students use equal frames of reference by
testing the validity of the Teacher Interpersonal Circle simultaneously for student and teacher data. Second, we compared
teacher self-perceptions and student perceptions of teacher
Control and Affiliation. To add to the existing knowledge
base we (a) used a large sample (n = 6,060 teachers and the
reports of one class of their students) and (b) analyzed how
the perceptions of more and less competent teachers (based
on the level of Control and Affiliation reported by students)
differed in their correspondence with student perceptions. In
this way the study contributes to insights in the value of selfreports of teachers.

Method
Participants
An existing database was used that included data of
more than 18,000 Dutch secondary classroom groups that
rated their teachers as part of annual teacher evaluations
between 1990 and 2008. Over this time period the average
19

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

Control and Affiliation of teachers was rather stable.2 For


every teacher with more than one measurement, one measurement was randomly selected. The resulting sample consisted of 6,060 cases including a teachers self-perception
and one specific group of student perceptions of this teachers Control and Affiliation. Teachers were from more than
300 different secondary schools (public and special) in The
Netherlands (lower and higher general secondary education
and pre-university education). They represented all different
subject areas (math, science, language, social studies) and
had 1 to 43 years of experience (M = 7.9, SD = 8.6). Fiftyone percent of the teachers were male. Students represented
age group 12 to18.
Instrumentation
Teacher self-perceptions and student perceptions of
teacher Control and Affiliation were estimated using a 24item selection of the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction
(QTI; Wubbels, Crton, & Hooymayers, 1985; Wubbels et
al., 2006), which included three items for each of the eight
octants of the Teacher Interpersonal Circle. The question
printed on the student form was What do you think of your
teacher?; the question on the teacher form was How do you
teach this class?; examples of items include this teacher is
hesitant, this teacher is patient, or this teacher is strict
(to be rated on a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from
never to always). Control and Affiliation scores were
calculated based on factor loadings. These factor loadings
reflect the position of the items on the interpersonal circle.
Cronbachs alphas for Control and Affiliation for the current dataset were .85 and .81 for the teacher data and .79
and .88 for the student data (not aggregated and based on
theoretical factor loadings reflecting a model with equidistant octants3).
In the current study, students were treated as multiple
informants of their teachers (den Brok, Brekelmans, & Wubbels, 2006; Ldtke, Robitzsch, Trautwein, & Kunter, 2009).
As a result, studies of scale homogeneity or scale intercorrelation should be carried out with the classroom group as
unit of analysis (Cronbach, 1973, p. 9.18, as cited in Ldtke
et al., 2009). To check the psychometric quality of the aggregated student perceptions, intraclass correlations (ICCs)
were calculated (Miller & Murdock, 2007; Raudenbush &
Bryk, 2002). The ICC1 estimates the proportion of total
variance that can be attributed to between-class differences
We compared the mean scores for Control and Affiliation dividing the
25-year period in five periods of five years. Differences turned out to be
small (Control: 2 =.02; Affiliation: 2 =.01).
3
Factor loadings based on an equidistant eight octant circumplex model
are clockwise going from the leading to the strict octant for the Control
dimension: .92, .38, -.38, -.92, -.92, -.38, .38. .92 respectively; for the Affiliation dimension: .38, .92, .92. .38, -.38, -.92, -.92, -.38 respectively.
2

20

and indicates how reliable individual ratings represents the


class mean (.30 is regarded as high); the ICC2 provides an
estimate of the reliability of the class-mean ratings (.70 is
regarded as a sufficient level).4 For Control the ICC1 and
ICC2 were .46 and .92, and for Affiliation .51 and .94. Furthermore, the Average Deviation index (AD; Burke & Dunlap, 2002; LeBreton & Senter, 2008) was calculated, which
provides information on the agreement of students within a
classroom by indicating the average deviation of a student
rating from the class mean of Control and Affiliation (upper
limit cut-off score for the AD index is .20). For the current
sample the AD indices for Control and Affiliation were .07
(SD = .02) and .09 (SD = .03). Thus, overall, it was acceptable to regard class aggregated student ratings as reliable indicators of teacher Control and Affiliation in a given class.

Results
Student and Teacher Frame of Reference
In order to test whether teachers and students apply the
same frame of reference when rating how a teacher relates
to students in class, measurement invariance across teacher
self-perceptions and student perceptions was investigated
with a multi-group confirmatory factor analysis (MPLUS
software; Muthn & Muthn, 2001). The question of measurement invariance concerns whether a set of indicators
(i.e., the eight octant scores of the Teacher Interpersonal Circle) assess the same constructs (i.e., Control and Affiliation)
in different groups (i.e., teachers and students). Put another
way, does the QTI measure the same thing when teachers,
rather than students, complete it (Kline, 2005). Results are
presented in Appendix A.
First, a model (i.e., a free circumplex model, Gaines et
al., 1997) was tested with equal restrictions for the teacher
and student data. This model restricted the factor loadings of
the eight octants on the Control and Affiliation dimensions
to be equal for teachers and students, while factor variances
were allowed to be different. This model indicated a reasonable fit (Kline, 2005) to the data (2(28) = 1209.49; CFI =
.98; TLI = .97; RMSEA = .08; SRMR = .06). As a second
step, a model was tested that allowed the eight factor loadings for Control and the eight factor loadings for Affiliation
to be different for the teacher and student data, while still
assuming a similar factor structure for teachers and students
(i.e., the same general outline of the circumplex). This model
produced a better fit to the data (2(16) = 738.18; CFI = .99;
TLI = 0.97; RMSEA = .08; SRMR = .05), as a 2 -Difference
test (2d (12) = 471.32; p < .0001) indicated. Thus, the unrestricted model, which allowed different factor loadings of the
eight octants on the Control and Affiliation dimensions, is to
For details on the calculation of ICC1 and ICC2 see Ldtke et al. (2009)
or Snijders and Bosker (1999).
4

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Appendix
Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

Appendix A.
Estimates of the Unconstrained Multi-Group CFA
of TeacherAControl and Affiliation Across
APPENDIX
Teachers Self-Perceptions and Students Perception data

Estimates of the Unconstrained Multi-Group CFA of Teacher Control and Affiliation


Across Teachers Self-Perception and Students Perception Data
Control

Affiliation

Teacher

Student

Teacher

Student

Estimate

Standardized

Estimate

Standardized

Estimate

Standardized

Estimate

Standardized

.01**

<.01**

.01**

0.02**

DC

1.56**

0.82

1.98**

0.84

0.52**

0.32

0.56

0.48

CD (AF-fixed)

0.57**

0.37

0.71**

0.34

0.92

0.71

0.92

0.89

CS

-0.22**

-0.16

-0.10**

-0.07

0.89**

0.75

0.72

0.94

SC (AF-fixed)

-1.07**

-0.63

-0.81**

-0.59

0.38

0.27

0.38

0.57

SO

-1.90**

-0.85

-2.11**

-0.90

-0.38**

-0.2

-0.46

-0.40

OS (CO-fixed)

-0.38

-0.22

-0.38

-0.23

-0.82**

-0.56

-0.71

-0.87

OD

-0.01

0.00

0.15**

0.08

-0.68**

-0.43

-0.75

-0.77

DO (CO-fixed)

0.92

0.52

0.92

0.58

-0.31**

-0.20

-0.30

-0.39

Parameter
Factor variances
Factor loadings

Error Variances
EDC

<.01**

.24

<.01**

.06

ECD

<.01**

.37

<.01**

.10

ECS

<.01**

.42

<.01**

.11

ESC

<.01**

.53

<.01**

.33

ESO

<.01**

.23

<.01**

.04

EOS

.02*

.64

<.01**

.19

EOD

.03*

.81

.01**

.40

EDO

.02*

.69

.01**

.51

*p<.05. ** p<.01.
be favored. Differences between the teacher and student data
became especially apparent in the octants that contribute to
low levels of Affiliation (i.e., the left side of the model), the
other octants were more in line for teacher and student data
suggesting partial measurement invariance. Thus, results of
statistical analysis showed that teachers and students seem to
apply, at least partially, a different frame of reference when
rating how a teacher relates to students in class. A visualization of these results is provided in Figure 2, where the differences between the theoretical circumplex and the circumplexes according to the results of the performed multigroup
CFA are shown. The figure shows that the theoretical eight
octant scores, and the students and teachers octant scores
are all in the same octant.
Second, Pearsons correlations were calculated
between teacher Control and Affiliation according to the
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

theoretical factor loadings on the one hand and teacher


self-perception and student perceptions on the other. These
correlations were .97 and above.
We concluded that although there are some differences between the teachers and students frames of reference, these frames are similar when using Control and Affiliation dimension scores based on theoretical loadings for
both teacher perceptions and student perceptions. We therefore used these theoretical scores to compare the amount
of Control and Affiliation teachers and students perceive a
teacher conveys in class.
Student and Teacher Perceptions of Control and Affiliation
On average, teacher perceptions of Control (M = 0.15,
SD = 0.30) and Affiliation (M = 0.40, SD = 0.25) were higher
21

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

Table 2
TABLE 2
Teacher Overand Underestimation of Control and Affiliation
Teacher Over- and Underestimation of Control and Affiliation
Percentage of Teachers

M (SD)

Overestimation

55.4

0.21

Equal estimation

1.8

0.00

Underestimation

43.3

-0.18

Overestimation

66.0

0.25

Equal estimation

0.8

0.00

Underestimation

33.3

-0.16

Control

Affiliation

than student perceptions of Control (M = 0.12, SD = 0.24)


and Affiliation (M = 0.29, SD = 0.28). Table 2 presents results on disagreement between teacher perceptions and perceptions of their students in terms of the percentage of teachers who underestimated, overestimated, or equally estimated
their level of Control and Affiliation, as compared to their
students. Perceptions of teachers that remained within the
range of measurement error from student perceptions were
regarded as equal estimations.
Relative to the reports of their students, 66% of the
teachers overestimated their Affiliation and 55% overestiFigure 2.

Figure 2

Control

Affiliation

Figure 2. Circumplex models according to theory, and results for students and teacher perceptions.
22

mated their Control; 33% of the teachers underestimated their


Affiliation and 43% underestimated their Control. On average, the (absolute) difference between student and teacher
perceptions was 0.19 (SD = 0.16) for Control and 0.22 (SD=
0.18) for Affiliation. On both dimensions these differences
are larger than half a standard deviation in student perceptions of Control and Affiliation (0.6-0.9 SD, medium to large
effect; Cohen, 1988). So, on average the correspondence
between teacher and student ratings on both interpersonal
dimensions was rather low.
Differences in perception scores were then related to
teacher interpersonal competence (i.e., student perceptions
of a teachers Control and Affiliation). To be able to differentiate between overestimation and underestimation we used
real difference scores (in contrast with Wubbels et al., 1992,
who used absolute difference scores). Consistent with the
research of Dunning et al. (2003) and Leising et al. (2006),
we expected a negative correlation between the level of
Control and Affiliation and the difference between teacher
perceptions and student perceptions. For teachers rated as
having relatively high levels of Control and Affiliation, we
expected underestimation; for teachers whose students rated
them with relatively low levels of Control and Affiliation,
we expected overestimation. Figure 3 displays the relationship for both Control and Affiliation.
Indeed, for both Control and Affiliation, a significant
negative linear association between difference in perception and interpersonal competence was found. This association was stronger for Affiliation (r = -.56, p < .001) than for
Control (r = -.24, p < .001). For Affiliation, more than 30%
of the variance in difference in perception scores could be
explained by (student perceptions of the) teachers interpersonal competence, while for Control, this was only 6%.
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Figure 3.

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

Figure 3

Perception Difference

Affiliation

Interpersonal competence
Figure 3. Difference between teacher and students perceptions and interpersonal competence.

Discussion
The present study had two goals: it tested the assumption that teachers and students use the same framework to
interpret teacher Control and Affiliation, and it investigated
the correspondence between teacher self-perceptions and student perceptions of teacher Control and Affiliation. Results
show that the Teacher Interpersonal Circle is a valid model
to describe both teacher perceptions and student perceptions.
In terms of teacher Control and Affiliation, teachers and students apply a similar frame of reference when thinking about
how teachers relate to students in class. Second, although
both parties apply similar frames of reference, teachers and
students do not agree on the amount of Control and Affiliation a teacher conveys in class. The results showed that
teacher interpersonal competence (i.e., the average degree
of Control and Affiliation students of a classroom group perceive) is an important variable when explaining why some
teacher self-perceptions divert more than others from the
student perceptions. It may also explain why some teachers
underestimate rather than overestimate the quality of their
classroom practice. Difference scores showed that more
interpersonally competent teachers (i.e., those rated as using more Control and Affiliation, according to students) did
not necessarily share their students perceptions more than

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

less interpersonally competent teachers. Rather, in line with


Dunning et al. (2003) and Leising et al. (2006), the higher,
but also the lower, a teachers Control or Affiliation according to students, the larger the difference with the perceptions
of their students, but in a different direction. Put another
way, teachers with a high level of interpersonal competence
are more likely to underestimate their Control and Affiliation in class, while less competent teachers are more likely
to overestimate themselves (compared to their students ratings). This effect was more pronounced for Affiliation than
for Control. More pronounced disagreement on the Affiliation than the Control dimension might be related to the fact
that the teacher-student relationship is more clearly defined
for Control than for Affiliation due to the clear hierarchical
nature of the teacher-student relationship.
The current study shows that it is important to make a
clear distinction between teachers who overestimate and underestimate themselves for their relationships with students,
rather than to just think in terms of correspondence between
teacher and student perceptions. Underestimation may stem
from a certain degree of modesty, perhaps resulting from the
better understanding of the complexity of establishing positive classroom interactions, and may function for the teacher
as stimulation to inspire him- or herself to improve classroom interaction (c.f., Wubbels et al., 1992). Possible sourc23

Teacher Control and Affiliation: Do Students and Teachers Agree?

es for overestimation are self-enhancement in order to keep


up a positive self-image (Kenny, 1994) and limited ability to
reflect accurately on ones practice (Dunning et al., 2003).
Limitations and future research
The data used in the present study was collected as
part of teacher evaluations, which may have resulted in a
certain bias in teachers self-perceptions. Teachers, who are
less skilled in terms of Control and Affiliation, may have
reported even more positive self-images in such a context.
Nonetheless, the general pattern of over- and underestimation is in line with earlier studies (Dunning et al., 2003; Leising et al., 2006; Wubbels et al., 1992).
A second limitation is the self-perception instruction
teachers were given when completing the QTI. The question printed on the teacher-form was: How do you teach
this class?, while item formulations were similar to the student-form of the QTI (e.g., This teacher is patient). It may
be argued that rather than measuring perceptions of actual
behavior, the instrument may have captured teachers intentions. Future research could address this issue by explicitly
asking teachers to describe how they think students perceive
their Control and Affiliation and then comparing the results
(meta-accuracy; Kenny, 1994). Further, item-wording of the
questionnaire was in terms of a third person. Hofstee (1994),
on the basis of theoretical and empirical considerations, recommends that when self-report is used, the writing of personality questionnaires [should be done] in the third person
singular (p. 159). This practice is intended to improve the
accuracy of self-judgment by forcing one to take the psychological position of an outside observer on oneself. Future
research could compare the effect of (a) first person (e.g.,
item wording I am friendly), (b) third person (e.g., item
wording He/She/This teacher is friendly), and (c) explicitly addressing the meta-accuracy in studying teacher self-

reports (e.g., item wording Students see me as a friendly


teacher). Relating personal characteristics such as gender
and teaching experience, and class characteristics, including
educational level, to differences between student and teacher perceptions can also add to the understanding of teacher
self-reports.
Practical and scientific relevance
This study showed that although teachers and students
view teacher Control and Affiliation through the same lens,
what they see through that lens can be quite different. This
finding has consequences for researchers, as well as teacher
educators and school management, especially when interpreting (only) teacher self-reports about their practice.
In using teacher self-reports of classroom processes
one should keep in mind that the interpretation of teacher
perceptions is not straightforward. Students might perceive
their teachers as, for example, far more skilled than teachers
themselves.
As high perceptions of Affiliation and Control in the
teacher-student relationship are associated with teacher effectiveness, the associations found between teacher perceptions and interpersonal competence also show the potential
to contribute to teacher effectiveness through teacher professional development. Although our results do not allow for
causal interpretations, they may justify further research into
the reciprocal effects of the development of teacher perceptions of their relationships with students and teacher interpersonal competence. Such research can inform professional
development programs designed to help strengthen teacher
effectiveness. Dunning et al. (2003), for example, hypothesize that being less competent not only impairs actual practice, but also impairs the ability to accurately reflect on ones
practice.

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Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Journal of Classroom Interaction, ISSN 0749-4025. 2011, Vol 46.1, pages 27-36

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and


Student Conduct
Marc A. Brackett
Maria Regina Reyes
Susan E. Rivers
Nicole A. Elbertson
Peter Salovey
yale university

ABSTRACT
Using a multi-method, multi-level approach, this study
examined the link between classroom emotional climate and
student conduct, including as a mediator the role of teacher
affiliation, i.e., students perceptions of their relationships
with their teachers. Data were collected from 90 fifth- and
sixth-grade classrooms (n = 2,000 students) and included
classroom observations, student ratings of teacher affiliation, and conduct grades on report cards. As predicted, when
controlling for teacher characteristics and the organizational
and instructional aspects of the classroom, there was a direct,
positive relationship between classroom emotional climate
and conduct that also was mediated by teacher affiliation.
Effects were robust across grade level and student gender.
We highlight the role of emotionally supportive classroom
environments in promoting teacher affiliation and better
conduct among students.

Introduction
Student misbehavior is one of the most significant
stressors and causes of burnout among teachers (Boyle,
Borg, Falzon, & Baglioni, 1995; Byrne, 1994; Evertson &
Weinstein, 2006; Friedman, 2006; Travers & Cooper, 1996).
When students misbehave, they are disruptive to their classmates and teacher, less engaged in lessons, and consequently
perform worse in school (Finn, Pannozzo, & Voelkl, 1995;
Freiberg, Huzinec, & Templeton, 2009). One factor that influences student behavior is the classroom climate, which
is often delineated as the: (a) classroom emotional climate
(CEC), the extent to which teachers promote positive emotions and make students feel comfortable; (b) classroom instructional climate (CIC), the extent to which teachers implement lessons that promote higher-order thinking; and (c)
classroom organizational climate (COC), the extent to which
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

teachers structure students time effectively (Pianta, La Paro,


& Hamre, 2008).
The present study is grounded in evidence showing that
a civil classroom emotional climate that meets students basic
needs such as belongingness is linked to greater engagement
in learning and fewer disruptive behaviors (Battistich, Solomon, Kim, Watson, & Schaps, 1995; Ryan & Patrick, 2001).
Specifically, it examines the link between CEC and student
conduct. This work is important because explanations for
why non-instructional aspects of the classroom may result
in less misconduct have not been well established.

Classroom Emotional Climate


The academic objectives of schools cannot be met unless teachers provide students with a socially and emotionally healthy classroom environment (Noddings, 1992). This
claim is supported by evidence that emotionally supportive
classrooms are related to greater student motivation, interest, enjoyment, and engagement (Curby et al., 2009; Marks,
2000; Woolley, Kol, & Bowen, 2009), better student coping
strategies (Ruus et al., 2007), less violent behavior (Sprott,
2004), and greater school adjustment and academic achievement (Luo, Huang, & Najjar, 2007; Pianta, Belsky, Vandergrift, Houts, & Morrison, 2008; Rudasill, Gallagher, & White,
2010; Ruus et al., 2007).
The quality of social and emotional interactions in a
classroombetween and among students and teacherscreates the CEC (Pianta et al., 2008). CEC encompasses various
objective characteristics of the classroom as detected and
rated by observers trained in assessing classroom climate.
According to the Teaching Through Interactions Framework
(Hamre & Pianta, 2007), these characteristics include: (a)
teacher sensitivity to student needs, (b) warm, friendly, respectful, and nurturing teacher-student relationships, (c) regard for students perspectives and encouragement of active
participation, and (d) the absence of abrasive disciplinary
27

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

practices and cynicism. In contrast, classrooms rated low in


CEC tend to have teachers who are unresponsive to students
needs, an absence of emotional bonds between teachers and
students, and an atmosphere of mistrust and disrespect.
Why would CEC be instrumental to student conduct?
Theories from multiple disciplines converge on possible
reasons. Self-determination theory, for example, posits that
students are more likely to be engaged and well behaved in
school when their needs for relatedness, competence, and
autonomy are met (Connell & Wellborn, 1991). Another
possible explanation can be found in research on teacher
credibility, defined as the teachers competence, trustworthiness, and caring, which relates these teacher characteristics
with various student outcomes, including conduct (Finn et
al., 2009). The theory of emotional intelligence (Mayer &
Salovey, 1997; Salovey & Mayer, 1990) also can explain
why CEC might be associated with student conduct. Teachers who are both sensitive and responsive to their students
needs and refrain from using harsh discipline practices likely
are employing the skills of emotional intelligence. In order to
be sensitive to students needs, it is necessary for teachers to
perceive students emotional states accurately. For example,
correctly identifying a students escalating anger and acting
quickly on that information may prevent the student from
engaging in disruptive behavior. Another skill of emotional
intelligence, the ability to regulate emotions, likely influences teacher-student interactions and student conduct. For
example, teachers who are limited in their ability to regulate
emotionsboth their own and their studentstend to have
students who experience and express more negative emotions in class, often reflected in disruptive behavior (Sutton
& Harper, 2009).

Teacher Affiliation
Students relationships with supportive teachers are
expected to promote a sense of connectedness in the classroom, which should result in less problematic behavior and
enhanced prosocial behavior (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009).
Student reports of teacher affiliation have been positively
linked to engagement in the learning process (Furrer &
Skinner, 2003; Klem & Connell, 2004; Murray & Greenberg, 2001; Osterman, 2000; Wentzel, 1998) and to time on
task (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). Student reports of teacher affiliation also have been linked to fewer problems (Crosnoe,
Johnson, & Elder, 2004) and risk-taking behaviors, resulting in greater school attendance and academic achievement
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). In contrast, students who report experiencing inadequate relationships with their teachers may feel disconnected or alienated,
and students who feel alienated from school are more likely
to engage in antisocial and delinquent behaviors and to fail
28

academically (U.S. Department of Education, 1998). Including student perceptions rather than observers or teachers
reports of affiliation is important because previous research
has demonstrated weak or nonsignificant correlations between adolescents subjective reports of caring and observers reports (Feldman, Wentzel, & Gehring, 1989).

The Present Study


The literature suggests that teachers who create a
healthy CEC are more likely to foster students feelings
of connectedness or positive student-teacher relationships
and, in turn, better classroom behavior. This study tests this
idea by (a) employing multi-method assessments to reduce
common-method variance among the predictor (observed
ratings of CEC), mediator (student ratings of affiliation),
and outcome variables (conduct grades on report cards), and
(b) employing a multilevel mediational approach (Krull &
MacKinnon, 1999; MacKinnon, 2008) to examine whether
student reports of teacher affiliation mediates the relationship between CEC and year-end conduct grades.
Following the steps in mediation analysis (Baron &
Kenny, 1986; MacKinnon, 2008), we tested the following
hypotheses: (a) classrooms with higher observed CEC ratings have students with higher year-end conduct grades (direct link between predictor-outcome); (b) classrooms with
higher CEC ratings have students with higher ratings of
teacher affiliation (predictor-mediator); (c) ratings of affiliation predict student behavior grades; and (d) the relationship
between CEC and conduct grades is no longer a significant
predictor when student-rated affiliation is introduced into
the model. In addition, we hypothesized that all these relationships would remain statistically significant when teacher
characteristics and both classroom organizational and instructional climates were held constant.

Method
Participants
Participants were 63 teachers and 2,000 students from
90 fifth- and sixth-grade English language arts (ELA) classrooms in 44 schools from a diverse, urban school district
in the northeastern United States. These schools student
populations, on average, were 12% non-native speakers of
English, 28% recipients of free or reduced lunch, and 31%
low reading achievement. They were 50% female and racially/ethnically diverse with approximately 33% Black/
African American, 29% Hispanic, 25% White/Caucasian,
12% Asian/Pacific Islander, and < 2% multiracial or Native/
Aboriginal. The average student-to-teacher ratio in these
schools was 25:1. Teachers were 89% female, 83% White/
Caucasian, 9% Hispanic, and 8% Black/African American
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

and had been teaching for a mean of 15 years with a mean


of over nine years of experience at their current school. Approximately 41% of the teachers had earned masters degrees and 36% had earned bachelors degrees. About 14%
were working toward masters degrees and 3% had earned
degrees higher than a masters.
Procedure
Observational data were collected using digital camcorders and mini-DV tapes. Consenting teachers received
video equipment (camera, tapes, and a tripod) and brief instructions to record their entire ELA class on three separate
days during a two-week period. They positioned the cameras
at an angle where at least their profiles and most of their
students profiles were visible. Students with no parental
consent were seated so as to not be visible on the camera.
Teachers returned their tapes directly to the researchers using pre-addressed, prepaid mailers.
Ten members of the research team attended a two-day
training to become certified coders on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), used to code the videos (see
technical manual for more information; Pianta et al., 2008).
Each video included approximately 30 minutes of footage
from the class sessions. Because the CLASS is designed to
code 10- to 20- minute segments, we converted the mini-DV
footage into digital video for storage on a DVD providing
assurance that all coders would start and end coding at exactly the same point. Footage was divided into two segments of
equal length (M = 14.8 minutes, SD = 1.39). As a rule, segments lasting less than 10 minutes were discarded, as were
those tapes in which students were not visible throughout the
segment or the audio quality was poor. For each classroom,
we acquired up to six segments (two segments for each of
the three sessions).
The team of certified coders participated in weekly
reliability checks with one or more of three master coders. Reliability testing consisted of coding five videotaped
classroom segments with at least 80% of the codes assigned
within one point of the master code. Coders were required to
maintain this reliability level in order to continue coding. As
another means of ensuring reliability, we quadruple-coded
a randomly selected 40% of the segments. The coding protocol yielded an average of 13 sets of CLASS scores per
classroom with a range of three to 16 sets of scores with each
classroom segment being coded between one and four times
by a unique rater. Coders were not aware of which segment
or day they were observing.
Student ratings of teacher affiliation were drawn from
surveys administered by research assistants who collected
data during the regular school day. Research assistants read
the items and response options aloud; students responded to
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

each item by coloring a bubble that corresponded to their


response choice. ELA teachers were not present during data
collection. Year-end ELA conduct grades were obtained
from report cards.
Measures
Classroom climate. The CLASS assesses three domains of classroom climate: Classroom Emotional Climate
(CEC), Classroom Organizational Climate (COC), and
Classroom Instructional Climate (CIC; Pianta et al., 2008).
Each domain is a composite of three or four dimensions
scored on a seven-point scale (1-2 = low, 3-5 = mid, 6-7 =
high) based on the presence or absence, frequency, and quality of specific observable indicators.
CEC consists of the dimensions of positive climate (degree of warmth and connection observed in the classroom),
negative climate (degree of negativity observed in the classroom; reverse-coded), teacher sensitivity (teachers awareness of and responsiveness to students academic and social
needs), and regard for student perspectives (degree to which
the classroom is focused on students interests and motivations). COC consists of the dimensions of behavior management (teachers efficient and effective use of behavior management techniques), productivity (teachers management of
time to maximize learning opportunities), and instructional
learning formats (teachers use of methods to maximize
students engagement). CIC consists of the dimensions of
concept development (teachers promotion of higher-order
thinking in the classroom), quality of feedback (degree to
which teachers feedback promotes further understanding
and participation), and language modeling (degree to which
teachers support students language development).
Coders assigned dimension scores for each segment
based on the observed indicators. We then calculated a
composite domain score for each segment in a classroom
by averaging the dimension scores that comprise each domain. Domain (and dimension) scores were further averaged
across all segments of a given classroom to obtain a total
classroom climate score. Inter-rater reliability was established by calculating intra-class correlation values, which indicated adequate to high levels of inter-rater agreement: .83,
.83, and .78, for CEC, COC, and CIC, respectively.
Teacher Affiliation. The eight-item Affiliation with
Teacher Survey (Cook, Greenberg, & Kusche, 1995) assessed students perceptions of their relationship with their
teacher. Students rated, on a five-point Likert scale (1 = disagree a lot, 5 = agree a lot), the extent to which they agreed
with items such as My ELA teacher understands me and I
like my ELA teacher this year. Cronbachs for this sample
was .92.
Conduct. Student conduct in ELA was obtained from
29

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

TABLE 1
Intercorrelations
StudentsNested
NestedWithin
WithinClassrooms
Classrooms
Intercorrelations among
Among Variables
Variables in
in Two-Level
Two-Level Model
Model with
with Students

Level 1 students (N = 2,000)


1

1. Black/AA

1.00

2. Hispanic

-.44***

1.00

3. Other race/ethnic

-.28***

-.25***

4. Boy

-.03

5. Teacher Affiliation

-.10***

6. Student Conduct

-.20***

.06**

--

--

--

--

3.69

3.94

SD

--

--

--

--

1.08

0.91

.02
-.05*

1.00
.02

1.00

.12***

-.08***

.09***

-.22***

1.00
.24***

1.00

Level 2 classrooms (N = 90)


1

1. Grade (1=6th)

1.00

2. CEC

-.22*

1.00

3. COC

-.24*

.60***

1.00

4. CIC

-.12

.68***

.57***

1.00

--

4.93

5.55

3.09

SD

--

0.56

0.59

0.67

Note. Correlations are based on one of the multiply imputed datasets. Results did not vary across different datasets.
Student race/ethnicity was dummy coded where reference variable = White/Caucasian.
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

report cards. ELA teachers rated students behavior using a


descriptive scale ranging from unsatisfactory to excellent.
The scale was converted into a five-point Likert scale (1 =
unsatisfactory, 2 = needs improvement, 3 = satisfactory, 4 =
good, and 5 = excellent).
Covariates. Student-level covariates included gender
and three dummy variables for race/ethnicity (White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Hispanic, other race or
30

ethnicity). Classroom-level covariates included grade level


and CLASS scores on COC and CIC. Exploratory analyses
indicated that no other teacher characteristics were associated with outcomes.
Analytic Strategy
Due to the nested design of the study, we analyzed
all data using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) with
full-information maximum-likelihood estimation. Students
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct


Figure 1.

FIGURE 1
Mediation Analyses: Association Between Emotional Climate and Conduct Through Teacher Affiliation

Figure 1. Mediation model: Unstandardized parameter estimates. *p < .05; **p < .01; *** p < .001

(Level 1) were nested within classrooms (Level 2). To test


for multilevel mediation, we followed established procedures (MacKinnon, 2008) that are similar to those in simple
mediation (Baron & Kenny, 1986), but are interpreted in a
multilevel fashion (Krull & MacKinnon, 1999; Preacher &
Hayes, 2008). Dummy-coded variables were uncentered. All
other variables were grand-mean centered. Alpha was set at
p < .05. Missing data were estimated (15% for conduct and
7% for teacher affiliation) using multiple imputation procedures in NORM (Shafer, 2000).

Results
Table 1 presents correlations and descriptive statistics.
Among the primary Level 1 variables of interest, higher ratings of teacher affiliation were associated with higher ratings
of student conduct, as predicted. Among Level 2 variables,
the significant negative correlation between grade level
(dummy coded, 1 = sixth grade) and CEC and COC indicates that sixth-grade classrooms had lower scores on scales
than fifth-grade classrooms. There were moderate to strong
positive correlations among CEC, COC, and CIC.
To test the primary hypothesis that student ratings
of teacher affiliation mediate the relationship between observed CEC and student conduct, we ran a multilevel mediation model (MacKinnon, 2008) using HLM (Raudenbush &
Bryk, 2002). We set the significance level at p < .05. First,
we established that the independent variable, CEC, was
associated with the primary outcome, student conduct. As
shown in Table 2 (Step 1), higher levels of observed CEC
were associated with higher student conduct (t = 2.18, p =
.032, ES = .22). We then established associations between
CEC and the mediator, teacher affiliation. As shown in Table
2 (Step 2), higher levels of observed CEC were related to
higher student ratings of teacher affiliation (t = 2.31, p =
.02, ES = .28). The third step was to establish the effect of
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

the mediator on the primary outcome of interest when controlling for the independent variable. As shown in Table 2
(final column), higher ratings of teacher affiliation were associated with higher ratings of student conduct (t = 7.71, p <
.001, ES = .18) when CEC was controlled. Finally, to test the
last step in mediation, we examined the association between
CEC (the predictor) and student conduct (the outcome) to
ensure this association would become nonsignificant or of
a significantly lesser magnitude when taking the mediator,
teacher affiliation, into account. As shown in Table 2 (final
column), the association between CEC and student conduct
became nonsignificant (t = 1.72, p = .09, ES = .17).
To further establish the significance of this mediation
(i.e., the indirect effect of CEC on student conduct through
teacher affiliation is significant, path ab), we conducted a
Sobels test, which was statistically significant (Sobels z =
2.22, p = .030), supporting the mediation model. Figure 1
illustrates the mediation process. As shown in Table 2, the
final step had a significantly better fit than the first step as
specified by the significant 2. Adding teacher affiliation
into the final step significantly increased the Level 1 R2 from
2 = 7.66 to 11.22, as well. These findings suggest that CEC
is associated with student conduct through teacher affiliation.
Of note was one additional finding. COC was associated negatively with student conduct (t = -2.18, p = .030,
ES = .20). This may have been the result of suppression in
the statistical model, given the nonsignificant association between COC and student conduct in the absence of CEC ( =
-0.04, SE = 0.07, p = .56). Variables were constrained to be
equal across classrooms. No teacher characteristics were associated with or moderated by the variables of interest.

Discussion
This study tested whether students perceptions of their
31

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

Table 2

TABLE 2

Mediation Analyses: Association Between Emotional Climate and Conduct Through Teacher

Mediation Analyses: Association Between Emotional Climate and Conduct Through Teacher Affiliation

Affiliation

Step 1a

Step 2b

(ICC% = 16.36)
Conduct

(ICC% = 24.24)

Conduct

Teacher Affiliatione

SE

4.36***

0.07

Black/AA

-0.32***

0.07

Hispanic

-0.10
0.07

Intercept

Steps 3 & 4c

SE

4.05***

SE

0.07

4.30***

0.07

-0.18*

0.08

-0.29***

0.06

0.06

-0.07

0.08

-0.09

0.06

0.07

0.09

0.07

0.05

0.07

Level 1

Other race
Boy

-0.42***

0.04

-0.16**

0.05

-0.39***

0.04

--

--

--

--

0.17***

0.02

-0.17*

0.08

-0.37**

0.10

-0.11

0.08

CEC

0.20*

0.09

0.30*

0.13

0.15

0.09

COC

-0.19*

0.09

-0.14

0.11

-0.16*

0.08

CIC

0.06

0.08

0.00

0.11

0.05

0.08

Teacher Affiliation
Level 2
Grade 6

Fit Statistics
R2 % (00)

28.37

28.93

28.62

R % ( )

7.66

1.07

11.22

AIC

4,889.09

5,539.80

4,844.29

2(df)

--

--

46.80 (1)***

Note. AIC = Akaike Information Criterion. Change in 2 compares the direct effects model (Step 1) and the mediated effects
model (Steps 3 & 4). CEC = Classroom Emotional Climate; COC = Classroom Organization Climate; and CIC =
Classroom Instructional Climate. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Residual variance estimates
Residual variance estimates
c
Residual variance estimates
d
Null model variance estimates
e
Null model variance estimates
a

relationships with their teachers, referred to as teacher affiliation, mediated the association between observed CEC and
student conduct. Observations, student ratings, and report
card grades collected from fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms
showed a positive relationship between CEC and student
conduct that was mediated by teacher affiliation, even when
controlling for teacher and classroom characteristics, including the other CLASS dimensions. As hypothesized, CEC,
32

as rated by outside observers, predicted teacher ratings of


student conduct in the classroom, and student-rated teacher
affiliation mediated the association between CEC and student conduct. That is, classroom environments rated with
objective indicators to be emotionally supportive had a positive impact on student conduct, suggesting that in these emotionally supportive classrooms, students liked and respected their teachers more and, in turn, behaved better. These
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

findings align with a growing body of research evidencing


the influence of emotional aspects of the classroom in student motivation, engagement, performance, and conduct in
school (e.g., Battistich, Schaps, & Wilson, 2004; Brock et
al., 2008; Curby et al., 2009; NICHD, 2005; Pianta et al.,
2008) as well as the effect of students subjective experience
of student-teacher relations on student outcomes (Kosir, Socan, & Pecjak, 2007).
Understanding factors associated with student conduct
is important, not only for enhancing classroom management
and student productivity within the classroom, but also for
individual student outcomes over time. For example, in two
national samples representing the school experiences of over
3,000 students, both misbehavior and low academic achievement contributed to increased cigarette use over time (Bryant,
Schulenberg, Bachman, OMalley, & Johnston, 2000). Similarly, student misbehavior in kindergarten has been shown
to predict behavior problems in elementary school and middle school (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). Even when controlling
for family and socioeconomic variables and IQ, disruptive
behavior as early as kindergarten is related to school problems such as lower grades, placement in special classrooms,
and school dropout (Jimerson, Carlson, Rotert, Egeland, &
Sroufe, 1997; Parker & Asher, 1987). Although dropout rates
have decreased over the last 30 years, 8.7% of students in the
U.S. drop out of school (Planty et al., 2009), and the rates are
even higher among minority students and those from lowincome families (Chapman, Laird, & KewalRamani, 2010).
When they feel disconnected or alienated, failing students
are more likely to drop out (Finn, 1989), emphasizing the
need for the potential protective factor of supportive teacherstudent relationships (Crosnoe et al., 2004).
Insight into the links among classroom climate,
teacher-student relationships, and the impact of climate
and teacher affiliation on student behavior also has important implications for teachers. Teacher stress, burnout, and
well-being have been linked consistently to student conduct (Blase, 1982; Byrne, 1994; Friedman, 1995; Hastings
& Bham, 2003). When students misbehave, teachers stress
and burnout levels increase, thereby hampering their ability
to manage their classrooms effectively (Brouwers & Tomic,
2000). This progression of events can have a cascade effect
on classroom quality with classroom management and student behavior spiraling downward. When teachers are aware
that the emotional support and relationships they offer to
students can affect students behavior, they may invest more
energy into the emotional and social aspects of learning.
Accordingly, results from the current study have implications for school-based interventions. Interventions that
target classroom emotional climate by increasing teacher
affiliation may be most effective in improving student behavior (Brackett et al., 2009; Brackett, Rivers, Reyes, &
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Salovey, in press). Although educators and researchers have


suspected for years that emotions play a fundamental role
in teaching and learning (Ginott, 1971; Sutton & Wheatley,
2003), few systematic efforts have been made to train educators on emotion-related skills (Brackett et al., 2009; Elbertson, Brackett, & Weissberg, 2010), and relatively few
teacher preparation programs or professional development
opportunities for teachers already in the profession include
emotions in their content (Fleming & Bay, 2004). However,
in the last decade, educators, parents, and the public have acknowledged the need for broadening the nations educational
agenda to include improving schools social and emotional
climates (Metlife, 2004-5; Public Agenda, 1994, 2002; Rose
& Gallup, 2000), and social and emotional learning programs
have been designed to address this gap in education (Zins,
Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). The current study offers support for the importance of these types of programs.

Limitations and Future Directions


The strength of this study resides in its multi-method,
hierarchical mediational approach, but it also has some limitations to consider. Student behavior was assessed through
students report card grades in the category of conduct. The
conduct score was selected intentionally because (a) it was a
rating with which teachers were already familiar and which
could be gathered from all teachers across schools and (b)
it would be provided by the same teacher whose classroom
climate was being assessed. To determine the relationship
between the emotional climate a teacher creates and the conduct of the students within that same emotional climate, the
measure of student conduct had to be specific to the particular classroom which was observed and rated. However, we
do not know the factors that teachers use to assign a conduct
score to each student. For instance, an unsatisfactory score
could refer to passiveness or aggression; an excellent score
could simply indicate compliant behavior, or it could mean
the student participates eagerly. Further, teacher evaluations
of student performance often are based on expectations the
teacher holds for students (Jussim & Eccles, 1992). It is possible that the teachers ratings of students behavior could be
biased according to expectations that teacher holds related
to the emotional climate of the classroom. For instance, a
teacher who channels more of her efforts into enhancing
the emotional climate of the classroom may have higher expectations for her students in terms of their behavior in the
classroom. Although this is possible, research in schools has
shown that teacher expectations predict student outcomes
because those expectations accurately reflect the students
potential or likelihood to excel or fail in that area (Brophy,
1983; Jussim & Eccles, 1995). Future studies could enhance
the assessment of student conduct by including multiple as33

Classroom Emotional Climate, Teacher Affiliation, and Student Conduct

sessments of a range of behaviors by more than one rater,


possibly including a third-party observer, or qualitative data
such as interviews with key informants.
The analyses yielded one unexpected finding: COC
and student conduct were associated negatively. COC refers
to the teachers use of behavior management techniques,
time, and instructional formats in order to optimize learning.
A negative relationship between COC and student conduct
is counterintuitive because the degree to which a teacher devotes behavioral strategies, time, and instruction effectively
to learning seems likely to have positive effects on student
conduct. One possible explanation for the negative relationship between COC and conduct is that it resulted from
suppression in the statistical model, as COC and student
conduct were unrelated in the absence of CEC. However,
another plausible explanation is that teachers devote more
effort to the organizational aspects of the classroom when
student conduct is poor in order to better control student behavior. Future research examining the relationship between
COC and classroom conduct could shed light on the dynamic interplay of student behavior and teachers approaches to
managing the organizational climate of the classroom.
Although the results of this study suggest that CEC
should be targeted in teacher preparation, this study does not
address the question of whether CEC or other dimensions of
classroom climate can be developed in teachers through formal training, or whether shifts in CEC or other dimensions
of classroom climate as a result of such training increase
teacher affiliation or enhance student behavior. These questions are currently being tested in our laboratory. Initial find-

ings suggest that the infusion of such trainings can in fact


shift scores on CEC by about 12% after just eight months
(Brackett, Rivers, Reyes, & Salovey, 2010). The extent to
which shifts in CEC scores are associated with greater affiliation and better student conduct has yet to be tested.

Conclusion
A growing body of research, including the current
studys findings, emphasizes the need for a shift in the focus of education and, especially, teacher training. For over
a decade, during a crucial period of social and emotional
development, schools and classrooms are the childs environment for supporting and enriching these developmental
needs. However, after centuries of neglecting this reality of
schooling, the term emotion is not even mentioned in most
writing advocating educational reform (Hargreaves, 1998)
or in national legislation aimed at improving education (e.g.,
NCLB, 2001). Nevertheless, it is apparent to both researchers and educators alike that emotions are paramount to learning and to student outcomes within the classroom and beyond. The focus of training and professional development
for teachers as well as of academic interventions should
shift to include the social and emotional aspects of learning
(Brackett et al., 2009; Jennings & Greenberg, 2009; Zins et
al., 2004). When teachers can create a warm and open classroom environment that supports the emotions of students,
students feel more connected, behave better, and are more
apt to succeed in school and grow into successful adolescents and adult citizens.

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to all members of the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Laboratory.

Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Improving Classroom Learning


Environments
by Cultivating
and Resilience
Education
(CARE)
Journal
of Classroom
Interaction,Awareness
ISSN 0749-4025.
2011,inVol
46.1, pages
37-48

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating


Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE):
Results of Two Pilot Studies

Patricia A. Jennings
Karin E. Snowberg
Michael A. Coccia
Mark T. Greenberg

Pennsylvania State University

Abstract
Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education
(CARE) is a professional development program designed to
reduce stress and improve teachers performance. Two pilot
studies examined program feasibility and attractiveness and
preliminary evidence of efficacy. Study 1 involved educators from a high-poverty urban setting (n = 31). Study 2 involved student teachers and 10 of their mentors working in a
suburban/semi-rural setting (n = 43) (treatment and control
groups). While urban educators showed significant pre-post
improvements in mindfulness and time urgency, the other
sample did not, suggesting that CARE may be more efficacious in supporting teachers working in high-risk settings.

Introduction
Teacher quality has become a top priority of our national policy agenda to improve student academic achievement (Wilson et al., 2008). Additionally, there is strong
public support for a broad educational agenda that includes
enhancing academic achievement and students social-emotional competence, character and civic engagement (Public
Agenda, 1994, 1997, 2002; Metlife, 2002; Rose & Gallup,
2000). Although there is some evidence that teachers socialemotional skills and well-being are characteristics of quality
teachers capable of fulfilling this broad agenda (Jennings &
Greenberg, 2009), little research has explored this question.
The purpose of the present study was to examine whether a
professional development intervention can improve socialemotional skills and well-being and consequently improve
teachers ability to develop and maintain a well-managed
learning environment and provide optimal emotional and instructional support to their students.
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

One model that advances understanding of links between teachers social and emotional competence (SEC)
and well-being and classroom and student outcomes is Jennings and Greenbergs (2009) Prosocial Classroom theoretical model (see Figure 1). In this model, the link between
SEC and student outcomes is mediated by teacher-student
relationships, classroom management, and social and emotional learning (SEL) program implementation. To successfully address the management, instructional, and emotional
challenges of the classroom, teachers must employ a high
degree of social and emotional competence. When teachers
lack this personal resource, classroom management can suffer, resulting in lower levels of on-task student behavior and
performance (Marzano, Marzano & Pickering, 2003). As the
classroom climate deteriorates, the demands on the teacher
increase, triggering in the teacher what has been referred
to as a burnout cascade (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009, p.
492). Under these conditions, teachers responses to student
behavior may become hostile and punitive, reactions that
may derail student motivation and contribute to a self-sustaining cycle of classroom disruption. Over time, high levels
of distress may lead to burnout (Tsouloupas, Carson, Matthews, Grawitch, & Barber, 2010) and a downward spiral
of deteriorating teacher performance and student behavior
and achievement (Osher et al., 2007). In contrast, teachers
who regularly experience more positive emotions in their
work lives may be more resilient (Cohn, Brown, Fredrickson, Milkels, & Conway, 2009; Gu & Day, 2007) in response
to these stressors and more able to create and maintain supportive learning environments. This evidence supports the
need for specialized professional development that promotes
teachers SEC and well-being in the service of maximizing
their capacity to create and maintain optimal classroom organization and to provide instructional and emotional support to their students.
37

Figure
1. The
Prosocial
Classroom
Model Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)
Improving
Classroom
Learning
Environments
by Cultivating

Figure 1

Figure 1. A Model of Teacher Well Being and Social and Emotional Competence,

Figure 1. A Model of Teacher


Well
and and
Social
and Outcomes
Emotional Competence, Support and
Support
andBeing
Classroom
Student
Classroom and Student Outcomes

From: Jennings, P. A. & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in
Jennings,
P.A. &
Greenberg,
M.T.
(2009). The
prosocial
classroom:
Teacher
and from
relation From:
to student
and classroom
outcomes.
Review
of Educational
Research,
79, 491-525.
Reprinted
withsocial
permission
emotional competence
in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational
SAGE Publications,
Inc.

Research, 79, 491-525. Reprinted with permission from SAGE Publications, Inc.

The CARE Program Model


The Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) professional development program was produced by a team of educators and researchers at the Garrison
Institute. CARE was designed to reduce teachers distress
and promote improvements in teachers well-being, motivational orientation/efficacy, and mindfulness. Qualitative data
suggests that the program results in such improvements that
may also contribute to teachers abilities to provide organizational, instructional, and emotional support to their students (Jennings, 2011). The CARE program includes three
primary content areas described below that are presented in
a series of four day-long sessions presented over four to five
weeks.
Emotion skills instruction
Because emotional exhaustion is a major contributor to
teacher burnout and often interferes with teachers functioning, CARE introduces emotional skills instruction drawn
38

from the neuroscience of emotion. This involves a combination of didactic instruction and experiential activities
(e.g., reflective practices and role-plays) to support teachers
recognition of emotional states and the exploration of their
emotional landscapehabitual emotional patterns. They
also practice self-induction of positive emotions (Cohn et al.,
2009) to promote resilience and help reappraise emotionally
provocative situations. CARE aims to support teachers to be
more sensitive to students needs, more aware of classroom
emotional climate and better able to regulate their emotions
while managing provocative behavior.
Mindfulness/stress reduction practices
Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are effective
in reducing both stress and illness (Gross, 2009) as well as
improving psychological functioning (Weinstein, Brown,
& Ryan, 2009). Mindful awareness practices focus on a
nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises
in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

is (Bishop et al., 2004, p.232). Mindfulness involves two


primary components: self-regulation of attention and nonjudgmental awareness. Self-regulation of attention allows
for metacognitive awareness of ones emotional and cognitive experience as it occurs. This meta-awareness combined
with a non-judgmental awareness characterized by curiosity,
openness, and acceptance supports emotional and cognitive
self-awareness and self-regulation. Indeed, mindfulness enhances regulatory processes that buffer against psychological
distress (Jimenez, Niles, & Park, 2010). As MBIs promote
flexibility (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010) and self-reflection,
they may be well suited for helping teachers overcome the
tendency to make automatic, reactive appraisals of student
behavior that contribute to emotional exhaustion (Chang,
2009). Thus, developing greater mindful awareness may
support both effective classroom management and caring.
CARE introduces a series of mindfulness activities,
beginning with short periods of silent reflection and extending to activities that bring mindfulness into aspects of daily
living such as standing, walking, being present in front of
a group, listening to others, etc. Through these activities,
teachers learn to bring greater awareness to their classroom
organization and their relationships with students, parents
and colleagues.
Caring and listening practices
To promote empathy and compassion, CARE introduces caring practice and mindful listening. Caring practice
involves silent reflection focused on generating feelings of
care for oneself and others by mentally offering well-being,
happiness, and peacefirst to oneself, then to a loved one,
then to a neutral colleague or acquaintance, and finally to
a person who one finds challenging, such as a difficult student, parent, or colleague. Practiced over time, this activity
produces increases in daily experiences of positive emotions
and decreased illness and depressive symptoms (Fredrickson, Coffey, Pek, Cohn, & Finkel, 2008). Mindful listening
exercises develop the skill to simply listen to another and notice (without acting upon) emotional reactions such as urges
to interrupt, offer advice, or judge. These exercises help
teachers more effectively listen to students and to be more
sensitive to their needs, especially during conflict in which a
calm, supportive presence can support conflict resolution.
The Present Study
This paper presents data collected during the first year
of a two-year intervention development project presenting
CARE as an in-service professional development program
for working teachers. The program was piloted with two
samples of very different participants: teachers working in
a high-poverty urban setting (Study 1) and student teachers
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

and some of their mentors working in a semi-rural/suburban


college town setting (Study 2). We hypothesized that educators who received the CARE program would show increases
in measures of well-being, motivational orientation/efficacy,
and mindfulness. Among those enrolled in Study 2, we hypothesized that classrooms would show improvements in
classroom organization, instructional support, and emotional
support compared to control teachers classrooms.

Methods
Study 1
Participants
CARE was presented to two cohorts of educators
working in an urban region of the northeast who were recruited from four low performing elementary schools in high
poverty neighborhoods (85% economically disadvantaged,
95% minority). Cohort A (n = 15) consisted of seven regular
classroom teachers, six specialists (learning support, special education, preschool supervisor, vocational high school
teacher), one counselor, and one psychologist who received
CARE in the fall of 2009. Cohort B (n = 16) consisted of
seven regular classroom teachers and nine specialists who
received CARE in the spring of 2010. Cohort B participants
included two men, while Cohort A was composed of all
women. The primarily European American sample included
two African Americans and one Asian American. Participants had a mean age of 40 years (SD = 11.8). A majority
(n = 30) had bachelors degrees, 14 had graduate degrees,
and their years of experience ranged from 1 to 37 years (M=
13.23, SD = 10.23).
Procedures
After teachers were recruited and consent was obtained,
they completed a battery of questionnaires prior to and after
the CARE program to assess changes in well-being, motivational orientation/efficacy, and mindfulness. At post-test,
participants completed an additional questionnaire and participated in a focus group to assess the teachers perceptions
of program satisfaction, feasibility, and effectiveness. CARE
was presented to both cohorts by two of the programs developers. Cohort A (n = 15) received CARE in the fall of
2009 presented in the form of two weekends separated by
one month during which participants received phone coaching from program facilitators to help them practice the skills
they learned the first weekend and to apply these skills to
classroom challenges. The structure for the Cohort B program format was modified in response to feedback from the
Cohort A focus groups. Cohort A participants reported that
they felt the two weekends were spaced too far apart and
39

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

they wanted more frequent contact with facilitators. Therefore, Cohort Bs schedule was modified as follows: twoday weekend workshop, two-week intersession with phone
coaching, one-day workshop, two-week intersession with
phone coaching, one-day workshop. One participant from
each cohort dropped out of the program after the first weekend. During each program, each remaining participant was
assigned to one facilitator who provided the phone coaching
for 20 to 30 minutes over the phone approximately two times
over the course of the program.
Within a few weeks after each CARE program ended,
the participants attended focus groups (six to eight per group)
led by neutral university research staff blind to the study
aims. They were asked questions about their impressions of
the program, if and how their levels of emotional and physical awareness had changed as a result of their attendance,
and how this change of awareness may translate to different
behavior, changes in relationships with students and adults,
changes in ways they manage their classrooms, and changes
in their work-related stress levels.1 Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed.
Measures
A battery of self-report measures was used to assess
program impact on teachers well-being, motivational orientation/efficacy, and mindfulness. Cronbachs alphas indicated acceptable internal reliability for most measures (.70
or above).
Measures of well-being. Six dimensions of well-being
were measured using four different instruments.
Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). The
PANAS (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) assesses two
dimensions of affect. Multiple time frame stems have been
used with the PANAS. Our participants were asked to rate
how they felt during the past few weeks on 20 emotions
(such as hostile and enthusiastic) using a five-point
Likert-type scale (1 = very little or not at all, 5 = extremely). The mean ratings for the 10 items belonging to
the positive and negative subscales were computed. Each
subscale score ranged from 1 to 5 and higher scores reflect
more positive/negative affect.
The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale
(CES-D). The CES-D (Radloff, 1977) is a well-validated,
reliable measure of depressive symptoms. Participants are
asked to consider their depressive symptoms over the past
week and then rank the frequency of these feelings using
a Likert-type scale where 0 = rarely (less than one day)
to 3 = most of the time (five to seven days). The 20-item
scale includes items such as I felt that everything I did was
an effort, and I felt lonely. After reverse scoring the ap1

List of questions available upon request to first author.

40

propriate items, scores are summed and higher scores reflect


greater depressive symptoms.
The Time Urgency Scale (TUS). The TUS (Landy, Rastegary, Thayer, & Colvin, 1991) is a well-validated measure
developed to assess a multidimensional construct of time
pressure. The scale is composed of 33 items: 24 are part of
five subscales to measure speech patterns (five items such
as I talk more rapidly than most people), eating behavior
(five items such as I eat rapidly, even when there is plenty of time), competitiveness (six items such as I go all
out), task-related hurry (three items such as I often feel
very pressed for time), and general hurry (five items such
as I usually work fast). The remaining nine items can be
included in the mean to create a total scale score. Participants
are asked to respond to 33 statements that describe their behavior with respect to time usage using a Likert-like scale
where 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree.
The Daily Physical Symptoms (DPS). The DPS (Larsen & Kasimatis, 1997) questionnaire is a physical symptom
checklist containing 27 items. Participants were asked about
whether or not they experienced each particular symptom
today and if so, to rate the severity on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being very mild to 10 being very severe. Symptoms included
pain such as headache and backache, gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and diarrhea, cold and flu symptoms
such as cough and sore throat, and other symptoms such as
eye-related and ear-related symptoms. One score was constructed by calculating the sum of the items.
Measures of motivational orientation and teaching
efficacy. Four facets of motivation and efficacy were assessed with two different measures.
Problems in Schools Questionnaire (PIS). The PIS
(Deci, Schwartz, Sheinman, & Ryan, 1981) is based on Ryan
and Decis (2000) self-determination theory, and assesses
whether teachers are oriented toward controlling their students behavior versus supporting their autonomy as it relates
to promoting intrinsic motivation. The measure is composed
of eight vignettes, followed by four items representing four
possible behavioral approaches to the problem that is posed
in the vignette: highly autonomy supportive (HA), moderately autonomy supportive (MA), moderately controlling
(MC), and highly controlling (HC). A composite weighted
score represents general autonomous supportive versus controlling orientation (Reeve, Bolt, & Cai, 1999). Respondents
are asked to rate the degree of appropriateness of each of
the four options on a seven-point Likert-like scale where 1=
very inappropriate and 7 = very appropriate for each
of the eight situations resulting in a total of 32 ratings.
Teachers Sense of Efficacy Questionnaire (TSES). The
TSES (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) is a 24item measure of three components of teaching efficacy: efJournal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

TABLE 1

Table 1

Study 1 Comparisons
Pre-Post Comparisons
from
UrbanACohorts
A and Be Self-Report
Study 1 Pre-Post
from Urban
Cohorts
and B Self-Report
Measures Measures

M-pre

SD-pre

M-post SD-post

Well-being
PANAS Positive Affect

.91

3.40

.78

3.56

.58

.21

.38

PANAS Negative Affect

.85

1.95

.62

1.81

.66

.23

.24

CES Depressive Symptoms

.89

10.89

7.36

9.12

8.21

.24

.27

TUS Task-Related Hurry

.87

3.71

1.00

3.47

.91

.24

.01

TUS General Hurry

.53

3.50

.56

3.35

.63

.27

.08

--

25.26

30.18

28.28

31.26

.10

.66

--

1.74

2.61

1.77

3.83

.01

.85

TSES Student Engagement

.86

6.66

1.12

6.85

1.16

.17

.67

TSES Instructional Practices

.91

7.15

1.18

7.60

.84

.38

.11

TSES Classroom Management

.90

7.06

1.22

7.44

.98

.31

.33

FFMQ Observing

.79

2.95

.67

3.58

.54

.94

.00

FFMQ Describing

.89

3.46

.77

3.71

.69

.32

.00

FFMQ Awareness

.91

3.31

.78

3.47

.70

.21

.10

FFMQ Non-Judging

.96

3.55

.98

3.93

.71

.39

.06

FFMQ Non-Reactivity

.83

2.83

.68

3.36

.50

.78

.00

Interpersonal Mindfulness

.83

3.51

.46

3.73

.30

.48

.02

Daily Physical Symptoms


Motivation/Efficacy
PIS Motivating Score

Mindfulness

ficacy for instructional strategies (how much can you use


a variety of assessment strategies?), efficacy for classroom
management (How well can you keep a few problem students form ruining an entire lesson?) and efficacy for student engagement (How much can you do to foster student
creativity?). For each item, the respondent was asked to
rate the extent to which he or she can demonstrate a particular capability utilizing a nine-point Likert-type scale where
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

1 = nothing and 9 = a great deal. Three scale scores


were produced from the items, and a composite score of all
the items was also obtained.
Measures of mindfulness. Six dimensions of mindfulness were assessed: five within one instrument and the sixth
in a second instrument.
The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ).
The FFMQ (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney,
41

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

2006) is a 39-item instrument based on a factor analytic study


of five independently developed mindfulness measures: observing, describing, acting with awareness, and non-judging
and non-reactivity to inner experience. Subjects were asked
to indicate how true 39 statements are for them using a fivepoint Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 = never or very
rarely true to 5 = very often or always true. These items
form five subscales: observing (eight items such as I pay
attention to how my emotions affect my thoughts and behavior), describing (eight items such as Even when Im feeling terribly upset, I can find a way to put it into words), acting with awareness (eight items, all reverse scored, such as
It seems I am running on automatic without much awareness of what Im doing), non-judgmental (eight items, all
reverse scored, such as I criticize myself for having irrational or inappropriate emotions) and non-reactive (seven
items such as I perceive my feelings and emotions without
having to react to them).
The Interpersonal Mindfulness in Teaching Questionnaire (IMT). The IMT (Greenberg, Jennings & Goodman,
2010) is a 20-item measure designed to assess how teachers apply mindful awareness to their behavior and emotions
while teaching and during interactions with students (for example, When Im upset with my students, I notice how I am
feeling before I take action). Respondents are asked to rate
each item utilizing a five-point Likert-like scale where 1 =
never true, and 5 = always true. The mean of the item
scores was used as a total scale score.

Analyses and Results


Pre-post questionnaire data was compared using a nonparametric alternative to the repeated measures t-test appropriate for small samples (Wilcoxon signed-rank test). A more
liberal significance level of p < .10 was used to define prepost differences given the low power to detect significance.
We also report the effect sizes as Cohens d (see Table 1). We
performed analyses of change for each cohort and found that
they each supported the total sample results.
Well-being, motivation/efficacy and mindfulness.
For measures of well-being, two factors on the Time Urgency Scale showed significant change: task-related hurry (d =
.24) and general hurry (d = .27). No significant effects were
found on positive and negative affect (PANAS), depressive
symptoms (CES-D), or the Daily Physical Symptoms Inventory (DPS), although all scores except DPS changed in
the expected direction. For the motivational orientation and
teaching efficacy measures, no significant effects were found
for either the Problems in Schools Questionnaire (PIS) or the
Teachers Sense of Efficacy (TSES) (student engagement, instructional practices, or classroom management subscales),
42

however all scores changed in the expected direction. The


strongest effects were found for measures of mindfulness.
Results suggest substantial (p < .10) improvement at posttest for the five facets of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire ranging in effect size from d = .21 to .94 (see Table
1). Interpersonal Mindfulness in Teaching (IMT) improved
at post-test with an effect size of d = .48.
Program Satisfaction. Overall, CARE was well received by the participants. A large majority (93%) reported
that they strongly agreed or agreed that this type of program should be integrated into preparation and in-service
training for all teachers. Teachers reported that CARE improved their self-awareness (97%, n = 28) and well-being
(93%, n = 27). They also strongly agreed or agreed that
as a result of CARE they are better able to manage classroom behaviors effectively and compassionately (83%, n =
24) and are better able to establish and maintain supportive
relationships with the children they teach (79%, n = 23). Finally, as a result of the CARE program, participants noticed
improvements in their students (much better or better)
prosocial behavior (74%, n = 20), on-task behavior (74%,
n= 20), and academic performance (65%, n = 17).
Focus Group Findings. Focus group conversations
revealed that participants were not only overwhelmingly
satisfied with their experience in the CARE program but
had adopted new habits such as noticing anxiety and stopping to take some deep breaths, choosing to prioritize selfcare and cultivating greater caring and empathy for others.
Participants reported that CARE was helpful in increasing
their emotional awareness and acceptance of their emotional
states, helpful in lessening their distress levels in general
and that the skills learned in the program helped them recognize and regulate emotions related to managing challenging student behaviors. Many reported improvements in the
relationships with their students, co-workers, and families as
a result of applying CARE techniques. Participants reported
new awareness of their emotional triggers both in school
and in their personal lives, and many reported being more
mindful of slowing down and being newly able to respond
appropriately to challenging situations rather than automatically reacting out of strong emotions. Several reported feeling calmer at work and choosing to verbalize their emotional
states with their students, leading to greater understanding
between teachers and students and faster resolution of disruptive or conflict situations.

Study 2

Participants
Student teachers were recruited to participate along
with their mentor teachers. Eleven student teacher/mentor
pairs plus 21 individual student teachers were enrolled. One
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

mentor and three students dropped out of the study leaving


39 individuals with complete data and 29 classrooms total.
Schools were located in primarily upper- and/or middle-class
suburban or semi-rural neighborhoods (16% economically
disadvantaged, 12% minority). The sample was primarily
European American and nearly entirely female; one student
teacher was male. Student teachers had a mean age of 21
years (SD = .5); mentor teachers had a mean age of 43 years
(SD = 12). Mentor teachers were highly educated: five had
completed a graduate degree, five had some graduate training and one had a bachelors degree only. Years of experience ranged from four to 38 years (M = 16.7, SD = 11.8).
Procedures
After obtaining consent, all participants completed
the same online questionnaire used in Study 1, and their
classrooms were observed and coded. Immediately after the
baseline assessments, the 32 classrooms were randomly assigned for the associated student teacher or student teacher/
mentor pair to receive CARE in the winter of 2009 or in the
late spring of 2010 (waitlist control). Stratification was employed to ensure a balance of student teacher/mentor pairs
and suburban and semi-rural classrooms in both groups. At
the pre-test period, two groups were created from 43 subjects: a treatment group consisting of 16 students and five
mentors and a control group consisting of 16 students and
six mentors. At the post-test period, after four subjects (three
students and one mentor) dropped, 39 remaining subjects
comprised a treatment group consisting of 13 students and
four mentors and a control group consisting of 16 students
and six mentors. The CARE program was presented to the
treatment group by the same two program developers as in
Study 1 (utilizing the original two-weekend format as it had
not yet been revised) during January and February 2010.
Due to a heavy snowstorm, the third day of the program was
cancelled; the missed material was condensed and covered
on the final day. At post-test, participants completed the
same battery of online measures and an additional questionnaire on program satisfaction. Separate focus groups were
then held for students and for mentor teachers. These focus
groups were led by the same team of individuals and followed the same protocol as in Study 1. At post-intervention,
treatment group and control group classrooms were observed
again one time during the morning work period and coded
by researchers who were blind to the study participants assignments.
Measures
Self-report. Teacher well-being, motivation/efficacy,
and mindfulness were assessed by the same questionnaires
and protocol utilized in Study 1. At the end of the program,
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

participants also completed the same program satisfaction


questionnaire.
Observations. Each classroom was observed and
rated pre- and post-intervention using the CLASS (Pianta,
La Paro, & Hamre, 2003), a well-validated measure of
classroom climate. The CLASS rating system consists of
10 items that form three factors: (a) Organization; (b) Instructional Support; and (c) Emotional Support. Each item
is rated on a scale from 1 to 7 (low to high quality). Before
the classroom observations began, research staff attended a
three-day training workshop in the CLASS led by a certified
CLASS instructor and were subsequently tested and certified reliable. Classrooms were each observed once during
each assessment period, and 20% of the observations were
double-coded to ensure inter-rater reliability. 80% reliability
was maintained throughout each observation period.
Analyses and Results
Well-being, motivation/efficacy, mindfulness. Comparisons between the CARE treatment group and control
group were made at the post-test period using covariance
adjusted estimates. Each self-report measure was adjusted
for its baseline measurement at the pre-test period. Leastsquare mean comparisons were then made to test for a treatment effect. As a descriptive comparison to Study 1, repeated-measures t-test analyses were performed on the CARE
treatment group only to test for changes between pre-post
assessment periods. CARE teachers showed a mild non-significant reduction in negative affect (p = .17) compared with
the control group. The results of the ANCOVA model suggested significant treatment effect on Problems in Schools
(PIS) motivating total score (p < .05) where CARE teachers
showed more autonomy supportive orientation at post-test
compared to the controls (see Table 2). The results of the
non-experimental analysis involving simple pre-post differences confirmed the increase in teachers PIS motivating
score and also the increases in the instructional practices of
the Teachers Sense of Self-Efficacy scale and the observing
factor of the Five Facet Mindfulness scale.
Program satisfaction. Of the participants who completed the program satisfaction survey (n = 16), 88% (n =
14) reported that they strongly agreed or agreed that this
type of program should be integrated into preparation and
in-service training for all teachers. A majority of participants
reported that CARE improved their self-awareness (81%,
n= 13) and their ability to establish and maintain supportive
relationships with the children they work with (69%, n = 11).
81% (n = 13) of these participants reported being satisfied
or highly satisfied with the CARE program content, while
75% (n = 12) reported being satisfied or highly satisfied
with the program in general.
43

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

Table 2

TABLE 2

Study 2 Covariance Adjusted Post-Treatment Mean Comparisons from Suburban-Semi-rural


Study 2 Covariance Adjusted Post-Treatment Mean Comparisons from Suburban-Semi-Rural
Sample Self-Report Measures
Sample Self-Report Measures
alpha

M-ctrl

M-CARE

PANAS Positive Affect

.86

3.65

3.70

.11

.72

PANAS Negative Affect

.89

1.96

7.78

.43

.17

CES Depressive Symptoms

.94

10.74

9.99

.09

.78

TUS Task-Related Hurry

.82

3.84

3.85

.02

.95

TUS General Hurry

.69

3.37

3.27

.27

.38

--

14.17

14.90

.05

.87

--

1.72

2.71

.63

.05

TSES Student Engagement

.91

6.89

6.81

.07

.81

TSES Instructional Practices

.95

7.04

7.32

.26

.40

TSES Classroom Management

.92

7.24

7.08

.19

.54

FFMQ Observing

.79

3.12

3.25

.19

.53

FFMQ Describing

.91

3.49

3.55

.11

.73

FFMQ Awareness

.85

3.58

3.46

.21

.49

FFMQ Non-Judging

.85

3.54

3.61

.09

.78

FFMQ Non-Reactivity

.81

3.14

3.10

.08

.80

Well-being

Daily Physical Symptoms


Motivation/Efficacy
PIS Motivating Score

Mindfulness

Interpersonal
Mindfulness
Observation.
Comparisons
between the CARE.82
treatment group and control group CLASS factor scores were
made at the post-test period using covariance adjusted estimates. Each CLASS factor score was adjusted for its baseline measurement at the pre-test period. Least-square mean
comparisons were then made to test for a treatment effect.
Contrary to our hypothesis, the results suggested no significant treatment effects for any of the three factors.
Focus Group Findings. Analyses of the student teacher focus groups indicate that participants reported finding
44

3.69helpful in broadening
.02
.96 awareness of
the3.70
CARE program
their
their emotions, emotional triggers, and their distress level in
their classrooms and in their personal lives. They reported
recognizing habits such as rushing (walking fast and eating fast), but felt powerless to change these things due to
schedule and workload. These participants reported liking
the program but also raised concerns, noting their difficulty
concentrating during some of the longer practice segments,
difficulty with the program length, and some felt uncomfortable with some of the exercises. These participants reported
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

few changes in classroom dynamics or student relationships


as a result of the program, citing that the district they work
in already employs a level of community building that left
little room for improvement, and the children they work with
rarely present challenging behaviors.
The mentor teacher focus group revealed that these
teachers felt much less of a need for stress reduction; primary motivating factors for participating in the study were
supporting their interns and receiving compensation. Mentor teachers reported being interested in learning about their
own distress and learning stress reduction skills, but after the
program was completed some stated that they already knew
much the material covered and that the program served as
a good reminder. Some reported increased empathy for
other teachers and interns, and none reported changes in student relationships or classroom management techniques as a
result of the program.

Discussion
The purpose of the present study was to examine
whether the CARE professional development program improves teachers and student teachers social-emotional
skills (motivation/efficacy and mindfulness) and well-being and consequently improves their ability to develop and
maintain a well-managed learning environment and provide
optimal emotional and instructional support to their students. Results from Study 1 demonstrated improvements
for pre-post intervention in well-being. Two dimensions of
time urgency (task-related hurry and general hurry) showed
significant (p < .10) pre-post improvement in this sample,
suggesting that teachers felt reduced stress associated with
time demands. Changes in motivational orientation/efficacy
pre-post intervention were not significant but were in the expected direction of improvement. The most consistent significant effects were found among measures of mindfulness.
We found significant (p < .10) improvement at post-test for
the five facets of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire
ranging in effect size from d = .21 to .94, and the Interpersonal Mindfulness in Teaching (IMT) scores improved at
post-test with an effect size of d = .48. As expected, urban
teachers found the program to be enjoyable and beneficial
to their teaching. Overall, participants were highly satisfied
with the program and found it helpful in improving their
classroom management and relationships with students. A
majority reported improvements in their students behavior
and academic performance. The results of the focus groups
supported the program satisfaction findings and revealed that
as a result of CARE, teachers developed a greater awareness
of their stress and emotional reactivity and had developed
skills to better self-regulate during their busy working lives.
While we were unable to collect classroom observational
Journal of Classroom Interaction Vol. 46.1 2011

data during Study 1, we are currently doing so with a sample


in the same urban setting and it will be interesting to see if
CARE has effects on classrooms in these settings.
In contrast, the results from the suburban/semi-rural
sample were more modest. CARE teachers showed a mild,
non-significant reduction in negative affect (p = .17) as
compared with the control group. Regarding treatment effects among measures of motivational orientation/efficacy,
we found a significant treatment effect on the Problems in
Schools (PIS) motivating total score (p < .05) where CARE
teachers showed more autonomy supportive orientation at
post-test compared to the controls. We found no significant treatment effects on the measures of mindfulness. The
Study 2 sample did not report the same high level of satisfaction as found among the Study 1 teachers. Furthermore,
Study 2 participants did not report high levels of engagement with the program nor the same beneficial personal or
professional outcomes. Finally, data collected via classroom
observations did not show treatment effects.
Several factors may explain the differences in findings
across the two samples. The urban and suburban/semi-rural
school environments are extremely different. The urban district has very high levels of poverty and large numbers of
children with behavioral and academic difficulties that put
them at risk of school failure. Many of the teachers from this
district felt they had marginal institutional support. As an
added stressor, the district had recently experienced political
turmoil resulting in the firing of several top administrators,
some schools were closed, and teachers jobs came under
threat. In contrast, student teachers and mentors of the suburban/semi-rural school environments have lower numbers of
children at-risk and reported receiving stronger institutional
support. This district is stable and well-funded and has very
low teacher turnover. Indeed, mentor teachers were chosen
based upon their outstanding performance and these mentor
teachers reported that they felt CARE did not provide new
information but served as a reminder.
While student teachers reported having high levels of
distress associated with the pressure of academic performance (lesson plans, coursework, and performance evaluations), it is interesting that CARE did not appear to be as
relevant to their current needs as it did to the urban sample.
The context of CARE delivery where some mentors were
present with student teachers may have inhibited the uptake
of the material by the student teachers. It may be especially
important to consider social hierarchies when planning and
delivering CARE to groups in the future, as the presence of
superiors may inhibit participation. Furthermore, it is possible that the presence of the mentor teacher in the classroom
provided a buffer for the students that protected them from
the occupational distress that working teachers often report.
These contrasting results suggest that CARE may be
45

Improving Classroom Learning Environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE)

best suited for individuals who have already established


their teaching/professional identity but experience challenging occupational stressors that interfere with their performance. The CARE program may also be particularly suited
to supporting teachers working with at-risk populations of
students. As CARE was designed to support teachers who
are exposed to high levels of emotional stress and who find
that emotional reactivity interferes with their teaching, it is
possible that CARE may need to be modified to be more
helpful to student teachers.
These studies were designed to be exploratory and to
provide pilot data for further refinement to the intervention
and research protocol. Nevertheless, several limitations complicated our ability to adequately test the study hypotheses.
The primary limitation of these studies was the small sample
sizes: 31 participants in Study 1 and 43 participants (21 in
the CARE group and 22 in the control group) in Study 2.
These sample sizes substantially reduced the power to detect
significant differences pre to post in Study 1 and between the
experimental and control groups in Study 2. Despite these
sample size limitations, Study 1 results were encouraging.
Furthermore we learned that the social dynamic of presenting the CARE program to individuals at various power differentials may pose challenges to program uptake. Student
teachers may have experienced added anxiety participating
in such a program alongside mentors who were in an evaluative position. Mentors may have felt primarily motivated
to support their mentees rather than to engage in personal
exploration and learning. Furthermore, these conditions may
have limited participants openness to disclose challenges
and/or difficulties during both the program and the focus
groups.
Although further work is required to gain a more
complete understanding of CAREs effects under various
conditions, the results of Study 1 suggest that CARE is a
promising intervention to support teachers experiencing the
emotional stress of working in challenging settings. In this
manner, CARE may begin to address an important professional development need long ignored by the education research community. While research has demonstrated that
teachers may deal with highly stressful emotional situations

in ways that compromise their ability to provide support to


students, especially in high-risk settings, there is a paucity of
research aimed at supporting teachers SEC and well-being
as means of promoting resilience and improving their performance and the performance of their students.
This research contributes to our understanding of competent classroom management and teacher care and begins
to reveal how these constructs may be interrelated. In recent
years there has been a move towards a more authoritative and
proactive approach to classroom management (as opposed to
controlling negative behaviors through coercive measures;
Angell, 1991; Brophy, 2006; Glasser, 1988, 1998a; Levin
& Nolan, 2006). This approach encourages cooperation and
engagement through the careful application of teacher care
in the form of establishing warm and supportive relationships and learning communities, providing firm but sensitive
limit-setting and employing ongoing preventive strategies
(Kohn, 1996; Marzano et al., 2003; Noddings, 2005; Watson, 2003; Watson & Battistich, 2006). Particularly relevant
to this study is the suggestion that authoritative approaches
rely on teachers and students self-regulation for the development and maintenance of a learning environment where
students cooperate out of a sense of shared commitment and
responsibility rather than as a means to avoid punishment or
earn rewards (Weinstein, 1999; Woolfolk Hoy & Weinstein,
2006). This major paradigm shift has necessitated a greater degree of teacher SEC than was essential for classroom
management in the past. Indeed, this shift was presaged by
the work of Jacob Kounin who discovered a construct he
identified as withitness (Kounin, 1977) associated with the
teachers high degree of awareness of individual and group
social and emotional dynamics and the ability to influence
and regulate these dynamics proactively. His research suggested that SEC may help teachers maintain attentive and
responsive monitoring, which prevents disruptive behavior
and supports student on-task behavior. The pilot studies here
indicate that teachers own development is a key issue if we
are to improve the conditions of schooling, support teacher
caring and commitment, and improve the academic and social-emotional growth of students.

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Corresponding author: Patricia A. Jennings, Ph.D.,


Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University,
126C Henderson South, University Park, PA 16802, 814863-8207, paj16@psu.edu.
Funds for the research reported in this article were provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Educational Sciences #R305A090179.

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