Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Classroom Management Affects Literacy Development of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Classroom Management Affects Literacy Development of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Article excerpt

Young children who are identified as having emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD) typically display disruptive externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression, noncompliance), internalizing behaviors (e.g., depression, anxiety), or both in the classroom (Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2004). These children are often identified by classroom teachers as exhibiting challenging behaviors that may prevent them from learning as fast or as well as their peers (Sutherland & Oswald, 2005). Fewer than 1% of children are identified for special education services for EBD under the label of emotional disturbance (ED), but even the most conservative estimates suggest an actual prevalence rate of 12%, meaning many students with EBD never receive special education services for ED (Fomess, Freeman, Paparella, Kauffman, & Walker, 2012). Despite the lack of specific special education identification, many of the children in early elementary school manifesting symptoms of EBD have been found to adjust poorly to the classroom environment and to have low reading achievement in school (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2010). In this article, we use the term with EBD to refer to students receiving special education services under the label of ED and the term at risk for EBD to describe students exhibiting symptoms of EBD who were not receiving special education services for ED.

The emotional and behavioral transactions taking place between teachers and students throughout the school day are largely influenced by teachers' classroom management actions. Positive interactions between teachers and students are especially important in early elementary school and may promote better long-term outcomes for children's academic and behavioral trajectories (O'Connor, Dearing, & Collins, 2011). These interactions, or proximal processes, have been identified as the drivers of development and are most effective when exhibited over an extended period of time (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). Unfortunately, young children with or at risk for EBD are likely to experience negative interactions with teachers that can lead to difficult adjustment to the classroom, fewer learning opportunities, and poorer academic performance (Gest, Madill, Zadzora, Miller, & Rodkin, 2014; Sutherland & Oswald, 2005).

Much has been written about the disproportionately high rates of disciplinary sanctions for African American students compared to their Caucasian peers (Skiba et al., 2011), including those with EBD (Krezmien, Leone, & Achilles, 2006), but there is also an issue of gender discrepancies. Between the ages of 6 and 12, boys are identified with EBD four times as often as girls (U.S. Department of Education, 2005), likely because boys exhibit more externalizing, disruptive behaviors in the classroom and girls exhibit more internalizing, nondisruptive behaviors (Walker et al, 2004). The vast majority of research on students with or at risk for EBD has focused solely on boys (Rice & Yen, 2010), even though both internalizing and externalizing behaviors are known to have negative influences on learning in school (Cullinan, Osborne, & Epstein, 2004; Walker et al., 2004). Although there is very little known on gender differences in teachers' classroom management interactions with children with EBD, research suggests boys are more often the target of teachers' attention for both positive and negative reasons (e.g., praise, reprimands; Beaman, Wheldall, & Kemp, 2006). Teachers of students with EBD have reported a preference for working with boys, often finding it more difficult to help girls with EBD (Rice, Merves, & Srsic, 2008).

The definition of classroom management has evolved from a narrow focus on discipline to one that includes all teacher actions inside and outside of direct instruction that set the stage for both academic and social-emotional learning to occur (Emmer & Sabornie, 2015). Teachers are expected to be emotionally supportive and to create an organized and efficient classroom to support students' achievement (Nie & Lau, 2009). …

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