Instructional and behavior management practices implemented by elementary general education teachers

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  • a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 13 August 2012Received in revised form 12 October 2013Accepted 14 October 2013

    teaching experience or to the interaction of years of teaching experience and grade-level

    Keywords:Teacher assessmentTeacher behavior

    Journal of School Psychology 51 (2013) 683700

    Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

    Journal of School Psychology

    j ourna l homepage: www.e lsev ie r .com/ locate / j schpsyc1. Introduction

    Teacher accountability is a prominent topic of conversation in educational arenas (Bales, 2006; Reddy, Kettler, & Kurz, submittedfor publication). Recent changes in the American education system, including the passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation, havefocused attention towards general education teachers and their practices and performance in classrooms. At the same time, Responseto Intervention (RtI; Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, & Barnes, 2007) and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS; http://www.pbis.

    org; Sugai & Horner, 2002, 2007) frameworkthe general education teacher as a key indi

    The research reported here was supported by theUniversity. The opinions expressed are those of the au Corresponding author at: Rutgers University, 152

    E-mail address: LReddy@RCI.Rutgers.edu (L.A. RedACTION EDITOR: Renee Hawkins

    0022-4405/$ see front matter 2013 Published byhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2013.10.001assignment. Implications of results for school psychology practice are outlined. 2013 Published by Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of Society for the Study of School Psychology.a b s t r a c t

    This investigation examined 317 general education kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers'use of instructional and behavioral management strategies as measured by the ClassroomStrategy Scale (CSS)-Observer Form, a multidimensional tool for assessing classroom practices.The CSS generates frequency of strategy use and discrepancy scores reflecting the differencebetween recommended and actual frequencies of strategy use. Hierarchical linear models(HLMs) suggested that teachers' grade-level assignment was related to their frequency ofusing instructional and behavioral management strategies: Lower grade teachers utilized moreclear 1 to 2 step commands, praise statements, and behavioral corrective feedback strategiesthan upper grade teachers, whereas upper grade teachers utilized more academic monitoringand feedback strategies, content/concept summaries, student focused learning and engage-ment, and student thinking strategies than lower grade teachers. Except for the use of praisestatements, teachers' usage of instructional and behavioral management strategies was notfound to be related to years of teaching experience or to the interaction of years of teachingexperience and grade-level assignment. HLMs suggested that teachers' grade level was relatedto their discrepancy scores of some instructional and behavioral management strategies:Upper grade teachers had higher discrepancy scores in academic performance feedback,behavioral feedback, and praise than lower grade teachers. Teachers' discrepancy scores ofinstructional and behavioral management strategies were not found to be related to years ofInstructional and behavior management practices implemented byelementary general education teachers

    Linda A. Reddy a,, Gregory A. Fabiano b, Christopher M. Dudek a, Louis Hsu a

    a Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USAb University of Buffalo, USAs are being integrated into school systems. Both programs heavily emphasize the role ofvidual who implements best practice interventions for academic instruction, behavior

    Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A080337 to Rutgersthors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8085, USA. Tel.: +1 732 289 1365; fax: +1 732 445 4888.dy).

    Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of Society for the Study of School Psychology.

  • 684 L.A. Reddy et al. / Journal of School Psychology 51 (2013) 683700management, or both. The current United States Secretary of Education recently underscored this emphasis by stating, The quality ofthe teacher in the classroom is the single biggest in-school influence on student learning (Duncan, Gurria, & van Leeuwen, 2011).Thus what, how, and at what level of quality teachers utilize best practices are critical contributors to elementary classrooms.

    Perhaps one reason for the continued emphasis on the practices of general education teachers is that, in their role as a teacher,general educators may choose from a number of potential approaches to help students learn and ultimately achieve. Thesechoices and the degree to which a teacher uses (or does not use) a chosen strategy can have implications for learning in theclassroom. For example, one of the most robust predictors of academic achievement is the provision of academic responseopportunities. Academic response opportunities represent chances for the student or students to provide answers, applyconcepts, or contribute to group discussions on class content. Research has highlighted the number of academic responseopportunities present in the classroom to be related to student participation and engagement in learning (e.g., Partin, Robertson,Maggin, Oliver, & Wehby, 2010; Stitcher et al., 2009; Sutherland, Adler, & Gunter, 2003; Sutherland, Wehby, & Yoder, 2002;Taylor, Pearson, Peterson, & Rodriguez, 2003). Current research suggests these opportunities should occur frequently, as many as3- to 4 times per minute (Englert, 1983; Stitcher et al., 2009). In addition to providing these opportunities to respond, teachersmust also offer time for students to think about and process academic material (Stitcher et al., 2009).

    An additional strategy teachers may use to help present and integrate academic content is to frequently review lesson contentand material through summarizing concepts and lesson content. Concept summaries may include the activation of thinking aboutprior learning through review, serve as an advance organizer for the present lesson, reinforce learning through summary andrepetition, and subsequently improve students' organization and recall of material taught and overall understanding of lessoncontent (Brophy, 1998; Brophy & Alleman, 1991; Hines, Cruickshank, & Kennedy, 1985; Reddy, Fabiano, Barbarasch, & Dudek,2012; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986). Additionally, the quality of academic feedback and the promotion of metacognitive,higher-order thinking (i.e., students' thinking about thinking) can serve as ways of promoting engagement in learning (e.g., Adey& Shayer, 1993; Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004; Bender, 2008; Haywood, 2004; Mevarech & Kramarski, 1997; Tayloret al., 2003; What Works Clearinghouse, 2012).

    In addition to instruction-related strategies that are proximal to learning, there are classroom management strategies that can alsopromote effective learning environments (Gable, Hester, Rock, & Hughes, 2009). Multiple studies in the 1960s and 1970s illustrated thatteacher attention (following positive behaviors), reprimands (following negative behaviors), and instructions impacted studentbehavior and rule following (e.g., O'Leary, Kaufman, Kass, & Drabman, 1970). These behaviors include positive attending strategies suchas labeled praise or catching students being good. Multiple studies indicate that such contingent attention results in improvedclassroom behavior and rule-following (e.g., Hall, Panyan, Rabon, & Broden, 1968; Madsen, Becker, & Thomas, 1968; Thomas, Becker, &Armstrong, 1968;Walker & Buckley, 1968;Ward & Baker, 1968;White, 1975). Likewise, corrective feedback in the form of reprimands,informing the child privately and neutrally ofmisbehavior, or othermethods of redirecting (e.g., prompting and preventingmisbehaviorthrough routines) can also improve classroom behaviors (e.g., Abramowitz, O'Leary, & Rosen, 1987; Acker & O'Leary, 1987; O'Learyet al., 1970; Rosen, O'Leary, Joyce, Conway, & Pfiffner, 1984). In addition, clear behaviorally-specific instructions and commandsresult in higher rates of student compliance and follow-through compared to instructions and commands that are vague or unclear(e.g., Forehand & Long, 1996; Walker & Eaton-Walker, 1991).

    Based on this long-standing and considerable research literature, these teacher strategies have clear evidence as effectiveinterventions to promote student behavior and learning. However, this literature is limited in some respects. First, these strategiesare typically employed in a reciprocal, recursive, and ongoing fashion in classrooms with multiple combinations of strategiesbeing necessary and dependent on the content and type of lesson (e.g., White, 1975). Studying any single strategy in isolationignores the fact that teachers typically employ many of these strategies and some are dependent on one another (e.g., a teacherwho issues many vague directives may have to issue more corrective feedback if students are not following the directives). Thispoint is underscored when one considers the ratio of positive, supportive statements and demands or reprimands that occur inthe classroom. Recommended ratios of at least three praise statements for every demand or reprimand are often required forimproving student behavior and academic performance (e.g., Fabiano et al., 2007; Good & Grouws, 1977; Pfiffner, Rosen, &O'Leary, 1985; Stitcher et al., 2009). Second, there are important developmental considerations that may make some strategiesmore appropriate for younger ages relative to older ages in school. For example, White (1975) documented the decrease inteachers' use of positive attending strategies starting in the second grade of school. One explanation for this finding could be thatas children progress through school and learn routines and expectations, there may be a reduced need for frequent behaviormanagement in some situations (Brophy & Good, 1986). However, it remains unclear how educators' grade-level assignmentimpacts general instructional and behavioral management practices. In addition, there is a question regarding whether teachingexperience may play a role in the use of best practice strategies. Although intuitively it may make sense that more experiencedteachers utilize greater amounts of best practices, research findings regarding the effects of teacher experience on strategy use aremixed (Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997; Guskey, 1988), and this area of research is in need of additional study.

    This investigation examined general education kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers' use of classroom instructional andbehavioral management practices through direct observations with a new teacher assessment tool, the Classroom Strategies Scale(CSS)-Observer Form. One output produced from the CSS-Observer Form, is an actual frequency rating of a teacher's use ofspecific instructional and behavioral management strategies (e.g., providing opportunities to respond; providing correctivefeedback to students) as well as a complimentary recommended frequency rating of the degree to which the strategy should havebeen used given the classroom context. To facilitate the development of practice goals, a discrepancy score is calculated betweenthe frequency and recommended frequency rating. Small discrepancy scores indicate practice appropriate for the observedcontext whereas large discrepancy scores suggest areas of instructional practice that may need improvement.

  • To this end, twomajor research questionswere addressed. The first question concerns the frequency that teachers' use commonlyemployed general education instructional and behavioral management strategies. The second concerns possible effects of two factorson the frequency of use of these strategies and the discrepancy of strategy usage. These factors were (a) grade-level assignment and(b) years of teaching experience. No specific hypotheses were formulated for the first research question due to its descriptive nature.For the second, it was hypothesized that classroommanagement strategieswould bemorewidely employed at the lower grade levelsrelative to the upper grade levels. Given the mixed results of previous investigations concerning effects of years of teachingexperience (e.g., Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997; Guskey, 1988), we examined the relation between years of teaching experience and theinteraction of grade level and years of teaching experience on educators' use of behavioral and instructional strategies. Because of thenesting of teachers (N = 317)within observers (N = 67), the effects of grade level, teachers' years of teaching experience, and of the(grade level years of experience) interactions on the: (a) CSS frequency scores and (b) discrepancy scores (i.e.,|recommendedfrequency frequency ratings|) were estimated using hierarchical linear models.

    2. Method

    2.1. Sample

    A sample of 317 general education teachers was observed for the purposes of piloting and validating the CSS version 2.0 as anelementary classroom observation measure. The sample comes from 73 public and private elementary schools located within 39districts in New Jersey and New York that participated in the 2009 to 2010 school year. School characteristics were collected fromthe National Center for Educational Statistics Common Core of Data online database for the 2009 to 2010 school year (see Table 1).

    Teachers were stratified by grade-level assignment and included 60 kindergarten teachers, 48 first-grade teachers, 64second-grade teachers, 60 third-grade teachers, 41 fourth-grade teachers, and 44 fifth-grade teachers. The teacher sample includedpredominantly Caucasian (95%) women (92%) with an average age of 39 years (SD = 11.68 years). Within the sample, the averagenumber of students per classroomwas 21 (SD = 3.94). Educational degree of the participating teachers included 40%with a bachelordegree and 60%with amaster's degree. The average number of years of teaching experiencewas 11.91 (SD = 8.91). Years of teachingexperience was conceptualized into four categories: (a) less than 3 years, (b) 4 to 9 years, (c) 10 to 19 years, and (d) 20 and moreyears. Similar categories were used by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics (2010) and the

    685L.A. Reddy et al. / Journal of School Psychology 51 (2013) 683700National Education Association (2010) in annual publications relating to public school teacher characteristics.Observations were conducted by 67 unique individuals who were either school principals or research staff (i.e., graduate

    students or project staff) from both the New Jersey and New York sites. A total of 44 school principals (66%) filled out the CSS on168 teachers (53%). The principals were either Caucasian (97%) or Black (3%), and the sample was predominantly composed ofwomen (75%) with an average age of 46 years (SD = 11.40 years). Principals reported the following educatio...

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