Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Teacher Expectations of Student Behavior: Which Skills Do Elementary and Secondary Teachers Deem Necessary for Success in the Classroom?

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Teacher Expectations of Student Behavior: Which Skills Do Elementary and Secondary Teachers Deem Necessary for Success in the Classroom?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examined teachers' expectations of student behaviors that teachers deem important for school success with attention to identifying how expectations converge and diverge according to grade level taught and program type. Teachers (n = 366) of kindergarten through twelfth-grade students rated which of 30 social skills they viewed to be essential for school success. Results suggest that all teachers viewed cooperation and self-control skills as significantly more important than assertion skills. Five skills, all of which constituted the cooperation and self-control domains, were rated by the majority of elementary, middle, and high school teachers as critical for success. Middle school teachers appeared to be the most homogeneous in their expectations. General education teachers, in comparison to special education teachers, viewed assertion and cooperation skills as more critical for school success. Whereas general and special education elementary and middle school teachers held similar views about the importance of self-control, high school special education teachers viewed self-control as significantly less important than did high school general education teachers. Implications for improving prereferral interventions, transition across the grade level, and inclusive experiences for students receiving special education services are presented.

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From house keeping and literacy centers in kindergarten classrooms to advanced placement English classes, students are expected to participate in these environments with certain social and behavioral competencies. Many teachers expect students to listen attentively, follow directions, produce correct school work, and control their temper in conflict situations (Hersh & Walker, 1983; Kerr & Zigmond, 1984). Research regarding teacher expectations also suggests that it is particularly important for students to demonstrate competence in the areas of cooperation and self-control skills (Gresham, Dolstra, Lambros, McLaughlin, & Lane, 2000; Lane, Givner, & Pierson, in press). Students who lack these skills are unlikely to meet their teachers' behavioral expectations and are at-risk for pejorative outcomes including poor school adjustment in the form of impaired relationships with teachers and peers, academic underachievement, high rates of disciplinary contacts (Coie & Jacobs, 1993; O'Shaughnessy, Lane, Gresham, & Beebe-Frankenberger, 2002; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995; Walker, Irvin, Noell, & Singer, 1992; Walker & Severson, 2002). In more extreme cases, students who fail to successfully negotiate the behavioral expectations set by their teachers may be referred to the prereferral intervention process to acquire interventions to help them better perform in the general education setting (Chalfant & Pysh, 1989; Fuchs et al., 1990; Lane, Mahdavi, & Borthwick-Duffy, in press). If these interventions prove ineffective, these students may be referred for special educational eligibility determination to determine if a more intensive, individualized educational program is warranted (Lane, Mahdavi et al., in press).

Unfortunately, it is possible that teachers' social and behavioral expectations may be unclear to the students. If expectations are unclear, either because the skills are not explicitly taught or not consistently enforced, it is difficult for students to meet these expectations in their current classrooms (Colvin, 2002). Further, if students are not aware of variations in teacher expectations across classrooms, grade levels, and educational settings, transitions become more difficult (Lane, Pierson, & Givner, 2002). Due to the trend towards inclusive programming (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994; MacMillan, Gresham, & Forness, 1996), students receiving special education services may also be further challenged given that they must successfully negotiate the demands of general and special education teachers. …

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