Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Examination of Typical Classroom Context and Instruction for Students with and without Behavioral Disorders

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Examination of Typical Classroom Context and Instruction for Students with and without Behavioral Disorders

Article excerpt


Classrooms are complex social systems in which teachers and students interact in a variety of ways across contexts. Of issue is both the nature and frequency of teachers' use of what typically are considered effective instructional practice and the typical manner in which students respond to different teacher behaviors. This study expands upon earlier research using direction observation and coding systems to take a snapshot of how classrooms typically operate and to analyze how teacher behaviors predict student success rates. Over 1000 observations of elementary and high school classrooms were conducted during instructional contexts and the data for both teacher and student behavior summarized for analysis. Descriptive data on specific frequency and duration outcomes are presented for teachers and students and possible interactions are discussed.

Teachers are asked to assume many and varied roles for students outside that of the traditional instructor (e.g., counselor, surrogate parent, friend, etc). The multiple dynamics of a classroom can be a challenge for any teacher. Today, however, the role of the classroom teacher is becoming even more multidimensional. As a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), teachers are being asked to accommodate more students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) into general education settings. In fact, this has resulted in more than 80% of students with EBD being served in general education settings (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).

Teachers report that students with EBD engage in more disruptive classroom behavior (e.g., Wehby, Falk, Barton-Arwood, Lande, & Cooley, 2003). But for students with or at-risk for EBD, investigations into patterns of teacher-student interactions have raised some alarming results. These students receive less instruction, fewer instances of teacher praise and fewer opportunities to respond (Sutherland, Lewis-Palmer, Stichter & Morgan, 2008; Sutherland & Oswald, 2005). They also receive more reprimands, and are more likely to be engaged in ongoing, coercive interactions that increase in both frequency and intensity across time than their typically developing peers (Carr, Taylor & Robinson, 1991, Kauffman & Brigham, 2009). In other words a cycle of behavioral exchanges occurs in which off-task or disruptive behavior elicits fewer positive interactional initiations or responses from the teacher (e.g. praise statements and opportunities to respond) leading to ereater student levels of off-task and disruptive behavior.

In addition to behavioral concerns, failure to be academically successful in school is characteristic of students with EBD (Kavale & Mostert, 2004; Kauffman & Landrum, 2009; Lane, Carter, Pierson, & Glaeser, 2006; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004). These students are far more likely to be deficient in basic academic skills than are their peers without such difficulties (Reid, Gonzalez, Nordness, Trout, & Epstein, 2004; Wagner, Kutash, Duchnowski, Epstein, & Sumi, 2005) and are at much greater risk of school failure (Kauffman & Landrum, 2009; Wagner, Kutash, Duchnowski, Epstein, & Sumi, 2005). For example, estimates of the prevalence of academic difficulties, especially reading and arithmetic deficits, of students with EBD range from 25% to 97% (Reid, Gonzalez, Nordness, Trout, & Epstein, 2004). Clearly, as teachers' responsibilities increase in the face of these challenging students, their moment-to-moment instructional behaviors must become more precise. In the absence of effective teacher intervention practices, both the teacher and the student with EBD tend to experience failures that often result in burnout and attrition for teachers (Zabel & Zabel, 2002), and school failure for the student (Wagner, Kutash, Duchnowski, Epstein, & Sumi, 2005).

Because issues of classroom and teacher quality are obvious, there is no shortage of books, manuals, programs, or workshops on the subject of effective teacher practice. …

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