Teachers' Perceptions of Students' Challenging Behavior and the Impact of Teacher Demographics

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study is to update the research regarding perceptions of specific challenging behaviors that teachers find to be most prevalent and/or problematic. This study analyzes the role of teacher demographics (gender, race, grade level, and years of experience) on their perceptions of specifically defined challenging behaviors. After conducting a comprehensive review of the literature, nine categories of challenging behaviors in schools and classrooms were created. Using these definitions, this study analyzed 800 surveys of kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers in five districts of one state to measure their perceptions of these nine categories of challenging behavior. Teachers were also surveyed for demographic data to investigate response patterns for different challenging behaviors. Analyses indicated that 'Off-task' was the most prevalent and problematic challenging behavior and 'Isolation/No social interaction' was the least prevalent and problematic challenging behavior. Statistically significant differences in ratings were noted according to gender, grade level and years teaching. Limitations and future directions are discussed.


Ineffective classroom management and difficulties resulting from inappropriate student behavior have historically been contributing factors to other school-related issues, including reduced academic achievement (Algozzine, Wang, & Violette, 2011), school safety (Ski-ba & Sprague, 2008), and teacher attrition (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003). In fact, managing students' challenging behavior continues to be a struggle for many classroom teachers, resulting in loss of instructional time and increased levels of frustration (Robers, Zhang, Truman, & Snyder, 2012). In an era where data-based decision-making is fundamental to addressing school-related issues (e.g., Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports [PBIS]), it is important to understand teachers' perceptions of students' challenging behavior and the impact of teacher demographics on these perceptions in order to address the issue effectively.

Identification of teachers' perceptions of which challenging student behaviors are most prevalent and problematic serves multiple purposes. First, measuring baseline rates of the most prevalent challenging behaviors can lead to targeted interventions for specific challenging behaviors. Identifying the most prevalent challenging behaviors has the potential to impact pre-service and in-service teacher training and the development of effective and focused interventions to address students' challenging behaviors (Quinn et al., 2001; SWPBIS for Beginners, 2013). Effective interventions are predicated on accurate operational definitions of the problem being addressed (Alberto & Troutman, 2012). Second, more homogenous behavioral standards and behavioral descriptions can be established for researchers and practitioners. Third, a clearer picture of the current state of classrooms as seen through the eyes of teachers can provide information to the field and debunk current perceptions often perpetuated by the media (e.g., that high magnitude incidents of aggression and disruption are the major behaviors teacher face today; Landrum, Scott, & Lingo, 2011). Research conducted in 1986 also suggested this point noting, "The great majority of disruptive behavior in primary classrooms is of a mild nature relating to poor attention, persistent infringement of class rules and procedures and inconsistent on-task behavior" (Fields, 1986, p. 56). However, the perception that schools are battlegrounds plagued with high-magnitude disruption and aggression continues. Fourth investigations into teacher perceptions may also lead to further research into the differential impact of different behaviors on the lives of teachers including job satisfaction, stress, self-efficacy, and teacher retention (Friedman, 1995; Hastings & Bham, 2003; Lamude, Scudder, & Furno-Lamude, 1992; Landers & Alter, 2008). …


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