Best Practices in Evaluating Student-Teacher Relations and Students' Functioning

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School psychologists who promote and monitor healthy classroom environments are acting in accordance with calls for school-based prevention and universal intervention services intended to improve the mental health of all students. This column proposes a best practice model for schoolwide evaluation of teacher support, as well as the student outcomes linked to positive student-teacher relations.

EVALUATING STUDENT-TEACHER RELATIONS

Student self-report. Accurate assessments of teacher-student relations can be gained through student self-report, teacher report, and/or observer ratings. The Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale (GASSS; Malecki, Demaray, & Elliott, 2004), a selfreport measure intended for use with students in grades 3-12, assesses students' perceived social support from up to five sources via the Parent, Teacher, Classmates, Close Friends, and School subscales. The four types of social support assessed with the CASSS include emotional (e.g., trust, empathy), instrumental (e.g., resources, time), informational (e.g., advice), and appraisal (e.g., evaluative feedback). The Teacher subscale includes 12 statements, with three items designated per type of social support. Students respond to each item by indicating how often they experience, and how important they deem, specific teacher behaviors. Frequency and Importance ratings for each item can be added for total perceived teacher support scores.

Teacher rating scale. One teacher report measure is the 22-item Teacher Relationship Inventory (TRI; Hughes, Cavell, Sc Willson, 2001). Teachers indicate onas-point Likert scale the amount of support they provided to, or conflict they experienced with, a specific student. Three factors are measured by the scale, including support, intimacy, and conflict in individual student-teacher relations.

Direct observations. School psychologists have the unique opportunity to directly observe student behavior in the natural environment in which it occurs. Observer ratings of target behaviors within an ecological perspective can provide an objective indicator of teacher support. Despite the advantages of observations, the feasibility of regular or large-scale data collection by this time-intensive method is questionable in comparison to the efficiency of rating scales.

One systematic observation coding system that includes measurement of student-teacher interactions is the State-Event Classroom Observation System (SECOS; Saudargas, 1997). The SECOS assesses "state" and "event" behaviors of the student including: (a) social interaction with teacher, (b) raising hand to ask teacher a question, (c) calling out to teacher, and (d) teacher approach (e.g., teacher asks students a question) . A second method for observing student-teacher interactions and classroom quality is the NICHD Classroom Observation System that has been often used in studies of children in grades K-3 (e.g., NICHD ECCRN, 2005).

School climate. Healthy student-teacher relations are often included in conceptualizations of factors that contribute to a positive school climate. School climate refers to a generally shared perception among teachers, students, administrators, staff, and parents in terms of the quality and consistency of attitudes, interactions, and expectations within the school community (Lehr & Christenson, 2002). A variety of scales have been developed to measure school climate (for a review, see Lehr & Christenson, 2002). Some scales have sound psychometric properties (for instance, the California School Climate and Safety Survey; Furlong et al., 2005), whereas other scales described in the literature were utilized infrequently and/or developed for a specific sample.

One frequently used measure that has empirical supportforits reliability andvalidity is the School Climate Scale (SCS; Haynes, Emmons, & Ben-Avie, 2001). Four versions of the SCS have been developed for elementary and middle school students (53 items), high school students (55 items), school staff (79 items), and parents (55 items). …