Students' Perceptions of Emotional and Instrumental Teacher Support: Relations with Motivational and Emotional Responses

By Federici, Roger A.; Skaalvik, Einar M. | International Education Studies, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Students' Perceptions of Emotional and Instrumental Teacher Support: Relations with Motivational and Emotional Responses


Federici, Roger A., Skaalvik, Einar M., International Education Studies


Abstract

We explored whether students' perceptions of emotional and instrumental support provided by their mathematics teacher constitute separate dimensions of teacher support and how they are related. We also analyzed how students' perceptions of emotional and instrumental support in math lessons relate to math anxiety, intrinsic motivation, help-seeking behavior, and effort. The participants were 309 Norwegian students in 9th and 10th grade. The data were analyzed by means of structural equation modeling (SEM). The results revealed that emotional and instrumental support constitute separate but strongly correlated constmcts. Directly or indirectly, both emotional and instrumental support was related to all motivational constmcts. The strongest relations were found for instrumental support. Additionally, instrumental support predicted lower levels of anxiety. One implication of this study is that teachers should aim at providing both emotional and instrumental support.

Keywords: teacher support, anxiety, intrinsic motivation, help-seeking behavior, effort

1. Introduction

Research investigating motivational dynamics in schools often focuses on individual differences in students' underlying beliefs and capacities, such as academic self-concept, self-efficacy, goals, and values (Furrer & Skinner, 2003). Researchers also note the centrality of social factors in students' motivation (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 2000; Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Goldstein, 1999; Jang, Reeve, & Deci, 2010; Katz, Kaplan, & Gueta, 2010; Wentzel, Battle, Russell, & Looney, 2010). In particular, researchers are concerned with the quality of the teacher-student relationship and how it relates to different measures of motivation for schoolwork. A number of studies provide strong evidence that a positive teacher-student relationship is predictive of student engagement and motivation, effort, adaptive learning strategies, student achievement and student well-being (e.g., Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Marchand & Skinner, 2007; Niehaus, Rudasill, & Rakes, 2012; Pianta, Hamre, & Stuhlman, 2003; Sakiz, Pape, & Hoy, 2012; Wentzel, 1999).

The purpose of the present study was to explore relations between students' perception of teacher support and different motivational and emotional responses. Research identifies several dimensions of teacher support, such as emotional, informational, appraisal, and instrumental support (e.g., House, 1981; Malecki & Demaray, 2003). The number of dimensions and the labels used for them varies. However, in general, the two categories of emotional and instrumental support are typically reported (Semmer et al., 2008). Emotional support is characterized by empathy, friendliness, encouragement, esteem, and caring, whereas instrumental support is characterized by tangible support, for instance, when teachers help students solve a problem or accomplish a difficult task (Semmer et al., 2008). The present study first tests whether students' perceptions of emotional and instrumental support provided by their mathematics teachers constitute separate dimensions of teacher support and how strongly they are related. Secondly, we explore how students' perceptions of emotional and instrumental support in mathematics relate to math anxiety, intrinsic motivation, help-seeking behavior, and effort.

2. Theoretical Perspectives

2.1 Emotional Support

Definitions of emotional support typically include students' perceptions of tmst, warmth, respect, and love as well as communications of empathy and care from their teachers (e.g., Langford, Bowsher, Maloney, & Lillis, 1997; Patrick, Kaplan, & Ryan, 2011). Theoretically, one may distinguish between general and specific emotional support. General emotional support refers to students' general perception of the teachers or of a particular teacher as warm, friendly, encouraging, and accepting that students have different abilities. …

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