Exploring Links between Early Childhood Educators' Psychological Characteristics and Classroom Management Self-Efficacy Beliefs

By Bullock, Amanda; Coplan, Robert J. et al. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, April 2015 | Go to article overview

Exploring Links between Early Childhood Educators' Psychological Characteristics and Classroom Management Self-Efficacy Beliefs


Bullock, Amanda, Coplan, Robert J., Bosacki, Sandra, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Teacher self-efficacy represents a future-oriented belief about the level of competence a teacher believes she or he will demonstrate when confronted with a given teaching task (TschannenMoran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998). In this regard, teacher self-efficacy can be construed as both a task- and situation-specific construct (e.g., Chan, 2008; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). Specific domains of teacher self-efficacy that have received previous research attention include student engagement, instructional strategies, and classroom management (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001).

In the present study, we focused on classroom management among early childhood educators (ECEs- herein referring to preschool and childcare teachers of children aged 3-5 years). Carter and Doyle (2006) described several components of classroom management among ECEs: (a) organizing the physical setting to facilitate students' play and access to resources; (b) directing play that promotes academic and social competence; (c) capturing and maintaining students' attention and engagement; (d) devising and implementing rules and procedures; (e) observing and monitoring behaviour; and (f) intervening and reestablishing order when students display disruptive behaviour. In the present study, our focus was on classroom management as it pertained to responses to children's disruptive behaviours in the classroom.

It is of particular importance to study teacher self-efficacy for classroom management among ECEs, given that preschool-aged children tend to direct greater attention toward their peers and spend more time in social interactions than when they were younger (Coplan & Arbeau, 2009). This increase in peer interactions is accompanied by increases in both the frequency and intensity of peer conflicts (Vaughn, Vollenweider, Bost, AzriaEvans, & Snider, 2003), with ECEs responsible for establishing and maintaining order in the classroom. Further, dealing with classroom misbehaviours not only reduces the amount of time teachers can spend engaging children (Carter & Doyle, 2006), there is also the concern that peers may model each other's misbehaviours (i.e., contagion effect, Goldstein, Arnold, Rosenberg, Stowe, & Ortiz, 2001).

To date, relatively little is known about the construct of classroom management self-efficacy beliefs among ECEs (Gibbs & Powell, 2012). Previous research pertaining to efficacy for classroom management has been conducted almost exclusively among elementary school teachers (for a recent review see Klassen, Tze, Betts, & Gordon, 2011). Accordingly, the goal of the present study was to explore the predictors of teacher self-efficacy for classroom management in this understudied population. Specifically, we sought to explore the predictive relations between ECEs' teaching experience, personality, and classroom management self-efficacy beliefs.

Teacher Self-Efficacy

Previous research has linked teacher self-efficacy with teaching behaviours, the amount of effort exerted and extent of persistence, as well as cognitive and emotional reactions when dealing with difficult or unmotivated students (e.g., Almog & Shechtman, 2007; Fantuzzo et al., 2012; Klassen & Tze, 2014). For example, in one of the earliest studies on teacher self-efficacy Gibson and Dembo (1984) observed that whereas lower efficacy teachers tended to criticise students who responded incorrectly to problem questions, higher efficacy teachers instead praised students for trying to solve the problems. Higher efficacy teachers also tended to persist more with students who were struggling academically. Teachers with lower self-efficacy also report less job satisfaction (Klassen et al., 2009) and were more prone to job burnout (Aloe, Amo, & Shanahan, 2014).

Considering the specific importance of classroom management, elementary school teachers have reported that dealing with students who misbehave (e.g., act out) in class is one of the most challenging and stressful aspects of teaching (Alvarez, 2007; Clunies-Ross, Little, & Kienhuis, 2008). …

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