Exploring the Variability of a Reading Block in First through Third Grade: Teacher Demeanor, Student Engagement, and Student Achievement

Exploring the Variability of a Reading Block in First through Third Grade: Teacher Demeanor, Student Engagement, and Student Achievement

First Author: Shawna Durtschi -- Florida State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Chelsea Funari; Beth M. Phillips; Carol Connor
Keywords: Teacher Demeanor, Off-Task Behavior, Vocabulary, Emotional Climate, Classroom Observation
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose
While classroom climate is often considered important for student learning, the emotional component of climate has been underemphasized (Evans, Harvey, Buckley, & Yan, 2009). This study explored emotional climate through the relation between teachers’ demeanor (e.g., positive and negative utterances and tone), students’ off-task behavior, and students’ vocabulary achievement.

Method
Within five schools, 28 1st grade teachers were videotaped in the fall, winter, and spring during literacy blocks. Teacher behaviors were coded in 30- second intervals. Observations averaged 113 minutes (ranging from 80 to 194 minutes); to ensure comparability teacher variables were analyzed as ratios. Multilevel analyses, accounting for students nested in classrooms (n=262 targeted), were conducted to test relations between teachers’ demeanor, student engagement, and students’ vocabulary achievement, measured using the Picture Vocabulary subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson III Reading Assessment.

Results
On average, first grade teachers used 2.4 times more positive exclamations than negative exclamations and engaged in positive tone twice as long as negative tone. Teachers’ negative exclamations predicted students’ spring off-task behavior over fall off-task behavior (B =.002, p<.05) but did not predict achievement directly. However, students’ spring off-task behavior did negatively predict their spring achievement (B = -5.131, p<0.05).
Based on these separate models, further analyses will aim to disentangle the directionality of the associations between student off-task behavior and teacher demeanor by testing for indirect and lagged effects.

Conclusion
Teachers’ demeanor during the literacy block varies widely across teachers and time of year, and these variations significantly directly and indirectly predict students’ off-task behavior and achievement.