Citation Information

Spaulding, A. (2005, August 02). The Impact of High School Teacher Behaviors on Student Aggression. Current Issues in Education [On-line], 8(17). Available: http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume8/number17/


The Impact of High School Teacher Behaviors on Student Aggression

Angela Spaulding

West Texas A&M University

 

Abstract

Aggressive student behaviors are of concern to every school in the nation. Discovering ways to help teachers prevent and/or respond to such student behavior is of great importance. This reported research sought to discover if and how teacher behaviors impact student aggression in the classroom. In doing so, the researcher did not set out to blame teachers for student aggression; the goal was to discover how teachers might modify behavior and react in ways that will help create positive and peaceful classroom environments – and prevent student aggressive behaviors that can result in violence..


Table of Contents

 

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Literature and Problem Introduction

Aggressive student behaviors are of concern to every school in the nation. Discovering ways to help teachers prevent and/or respond to such student behavior is of great importance. This reported research, made possible by a grant from the Regents’ Initiative for Excellence in Education (2000-2003), sought to discover how teacher behaviors may impact student aggression in the classroom.

There has been a great deal of research conducted on the topic of teacher behavior. However, within this broad category, this particular research sought out specific information on how teacher behavior affects student aggression. In doing so, the researcher did not set out to blame teachers for student aggression; the goal was to discover how teachers can modify behavior and react in ways that will help create positive and peaceful classroom environments – and prevent student aggressive behaviors that can result in violence. The literature supports this effort: “If administrators and teachers want to change student behavior and attitudes, they should start by modifying their own behavior and attitudes. Students learn to act in the ways we have taught them to act” (Moore, 1997, p. 71). Van Acker, Grant, and Henry (1996) echo this sentiment when they state, “teachers require information on their pattern of interaction with individual students. Only then would differential treatment of specific students become evident” (p. 332).

In a study on student aggression and teacher behavior (Spaulding & Burleson, 2001), teachers reported that they see the following behaviors in fellow teachers: bullying, derogatory comments, gossip, disrespect of authority, harassment, predetermined expectations of others, discord between individuals and groups, and angry outbursts. Not only did teachers witness these actions among their peers, but, when asked to label these behaviors, they identified them as either violence or precursors to violence. Interestingly, these are some of the very behaviors schools are trying to eradicate from the student population, yet, eradication efforts will find only limited success if teachers are modeling inappropriate behaviors. As one respondent said, “Teachers model expectations – if they show aggression, they will get aggression” (Spaulding & Burleson, 2001).

The literature documents similar findings to those of the Spaulding and Burleson (2001) study discussed above. Hymen and Perone (1998) determined that at least 50-60 percent of all students experience maltreatment by an educator at least once in their school careers. Furthermore, research has found that a school may unwittingly contribute to student aggression through inappropriate classroom placement, irrelevant instruction, inconsistent management, overcrowded classrooms, rigid behavioral demands, or insensitivity to student diversity (Gable, Manning, and Bullock, 1997; Gable and Van Acker, 2000). Conversely, findings show that elements which may curb aggression include a positive school climate, identification of and response to early violence warning signs, relevant coursework which is neither to simple or too complex, clear classroom rules and expectations, and the avoidance of power struggles (Gable and Van Acker, 2000).

Other research has explored more specific teacher behaviors and results. For instance, Mullins, Chard, Hartman, Bowlby, Rich, and Burke (1995) studied teachers’ responses to children who were depressed. They discovered that there was an increase in a teacher’s self-reported level of personal rejection and a decrease in the level of personal attraction to children who were depressed. Furthermore, the same decrease in personal attraction and increase in personal rejection were found for boys aged six through eleven who showed an increase in social problems or delinquency. Finally, Mullins (1995), et al., reported that teachers’ negative responses to these troubled students were likely to grow stronger over time.

Van Acker, Grant, and Henry (1996) drew several conclusions from their research on school violence. First, they found a connection between school climate and violence resulting in the knowledge that schools can aversely affect student behavior. Secondly, they posit that teachers may displace their own feelings of anger and aggression onto students. And, thirdly, they discovered that the lack of positive teacher feedback for appropriate student behavior were likely to create inappropriate behavior in students. They describe this phenomenon in the following manner:

The lack of predictable feedback following desired behavior appears to suggest a situation in which the school may well provide a context for the exacerbation of undesired social behavior on the part of students most at risk for demonstrating aggressive and violent behavior (p. 331).

Krugman and Krugman (1984) echoed this idea of students behaving according to what is expected of them. They wrote that students adapt quickly to whatever label a teacher gives them in order to fit in the classroom environment.

Students with social, emotional, or behavioral problems are greatly affected by the way others respond to them and to the feedback that they receive. Pace, Mullins, Beesley, Hill, and Carson, (1999) stated that,

It is argued that children who have significant emotional and behavioral problems respond less positively to others and thus elicit fewer positive responses and more negative responses from others in interpersonal relationships. These problems create a lower sense of acceptance or attraction toward the child and may increase avoidance and rejection toward the child. Thus, as suggested by the authors, these processes may become entangled in a vicious circle of reciprocal causation (p. 151).

Moreover, White and Jones (2000) wrote “a consistent flow of public correction of a child may serve to exacerbate the negative impressions peers often have of disruptive, non-compliant classmates” (p. 320). This negative impression can be countered over time, but the reputation earned earlier is difficult for a student to overcome.

Further research documents how a teacher’s response to a student affects that student academically. Carr, Taylor, and Robinson (1991) found that children who misbehave in response to instruction receive less instruction than do compliant children. Carr (1991), et al., refer to this student behavior as “punishment of teaching efforts” (p. 532). Such punishment may lead to the “curriculum of non-instruction” whereby the teacher and the student covertly decide to leave one another alone (Van Acker, Grant, and Henry, 1996, p. 331).

This literature review documents the need for teachers to assess their own behavior and how it impacts their students. Obviously, how a teacher treats a student has a profound impact on student behavior, student instruction, and the classroom environment.

 

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Methodology

This is a qualitative study of teacher behavior and its impact on high school students. Grounded theory methods were utilized for collecting, coding and analyzing the data. Guided by grounded theory, the data are “inductively derived from the study of the phenomenon it represented (in this case, teacher behavior on student aggression). . . and verified through systematic data collection and analysis of the data” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 23). In other words, the data collection and analysis stood in reciprocal relationship with one another (i.e., such that data collection lead to analysis, and analysis lead to further data collection). Glaser (1978), Glaser and Strauss (1967), and Strauss (1987) refer to this process of constantly switching back and forth between data collection and analysis as the constant comparative process of grounded theory.

Specifically, data was collected through a qualitative questionnaire. The questionnaire was distributed to the study participants. Upon collection of the responses, each questionnaire was searched line by line to find units of data that served as (1) the basis for defining categories and (2) as a spring board for additional data collection. Follow up interviews were conducted with participants when new data emerged or when questions of intent were discovered.

Criteria were used to promote the credibility of the research. Credibility, according to Lincoln and Guba (1985), refers to the extent to which findings are accurate representations of the phenomena under study. Credibility criteria included triangulation, peer debriefing and member checking.

The questionnaire began with six questions related to demographics and five questions related to the respondents’ teacher education training. Following these initial questions were seven open-ended questions covering teacher behavior and student behavior. In addition, the survey asked the participants to label twenty-two teacher and student behaviors (identified by research literature) as precursors, violent acts, or neither. They were then asked if they see these same behaviors in students at their schools and whether or not they believed that teachers engage in such behaviors. Finally, the questionnaire provided space for additional comments.

 

Research Sample and Site

The group of respondents consisted of 156 randomly selected teachers in high need, public secondary schools throughout the Northern area of the State of Texas. Of these, 70% were female, and 30% were male. Sixty-one percent identified themselves as Caucasian, 19% as African American, 12% Hispanic, 2% Native American, and 6% chose not to answer the question. Anonymity was provided for all responders.

As for length of time teaching, there was a fairly equitable representation across the categories provided with 21% having taught less than five years, 21% five to ten years, 26% eleven to twenty years, and 20% more than 20 years. Two percent did not answer the question.

Respondents were also asked about the subject they teach. The majority (58.9%) teach one of the core subjects (math, English, science or history). Six percent identified themselves as special education teachers. The other teachers, accounting for 27% of the respondents, teach one of the following classes: foreign language, music/band/choir, physical education/athletics, speech/drama, business, industrial/vocational, art, computer technology, or ROTC. Almost 7% stated that they teach more than one subject.

Questionnaire: Teacher Education Training

Respondents were asked about their pre-service teacher education training as it relates to classroom management, school safety, and school violence. Asked if they had any classes or training in college to prepare them for school safety and violence, only 16.5% stated that they had received such training. Of those who had this specific training, only 12% rated it effective. When asked about training in classroom management, 72.5% reported that they received such training in their teacher preparation program. In a follow-up question, they were asked to describe briefly the worth and value of their classroom management class or violence preparation training. Less than 10% of the respondents reported a positive and worthwhile classroom management course experience. The exception to this finding was from teachers who had participated in a professional development school model during their teacher preparation programs. These teachers felt that that they lived the realities of the classroom in their PDS assignment and, as a result, gained a great deal of skill and knowledge on classroom management. Less than 8% of the respondents had been trained with a PDS component in their teacher education program. The overwhelming theme of responders was that their classroom management training had absolutely no relationship to real life in the classroom. The final question was “Do you believe school violence is an issue that should be addressed in University preparation programs?” The vast majority, 89%, said that school violence and student aggression needed to be addressed in teacher preparation programs.

Questionnaire: Teacher Behaviors and Actions

This discussion will focus on the survey’s open-ended questions. The responses will be reviewed together. The first question was, “What teacher behaviors and actions may help to prevent or de-escalate violent situations in the classroom or school?” Three categories of answers were revealed during the data analysis and can be found in Table 1.1. These include: 1) Classroom Management, 2) Attitudes and Behavior, and 3) Skills and Knowledge.

Table 1.1 Teacher Behaviors and Actions that May Help

Prevent or De-Escalate Violent Situations

Category

Specific Action or Trait

Classroom Management

  • Be visible and maintain order
  • Set boundaries; have, follow, and enforce class rules daily
  • Give students a voice in discipline
  • Be observant and aware of subtle changes or when something is getting out of control
  • Be proactive, prepared, and organized; keep students busy
  • React with authority to arguments
  • Pick battles – ones that can be won
  • Predictable behavior
  • Allow students to express themselves appropriately and teach them how to do this
  • Be fair
  • Positive learning environment and interaction

Attitudes and Behaviors

  • Build relationships with students
  • Self-control: control temper and anger
  • Respect students
  • Positive attitude: friendly, kind, encouraging, supportive

Skills and Knowledge

  • Understand body language – teacher’s and students’
  • Recognize and find assistance for abnormal student behaviors
  • Practice effective listening skills with and between students
  • Understand and model effective conflict management

What these responses reveal is that teachers need to be proactive and remove possible obstacles so as to create classroom environments in which all students feel valued and capable of learning and succeeding. Teachers need to be proactive through careful planning and preparation, establish clear rules and expectations (which are enforced consistently and fairly), be observant, building appropriate relationships with students, exercise self-control, and show students respect. Efforts such as these lead to a safe, positive classroom climate that de-escalates student aggression and violence.

Furthermore, teachers need to be aware of the nonverbal messages they are sending as well as how to interpret the nonverbal messages being sent by students. Understanding nonverbal communication is important because when verbal and nonverbal messages conflict, the nonverbal messages are, generally, the ones that will be received. Teachers must pay careful attention not only to what they say to students, but how they say it. The same applies to the nonverbal communications that students have with one another in the classroom. Aggression builds slowly from other emotions such as anger, frustration, depression, and embarrassment. An observant teacher will be able to discern subtle but serious shifts in a student’s mood and demeanor, and take appropriate action and interest in that student. One survey respondent summed up the comments of others by saying, “Those {teachers} who maintain good order in the classroom, show respect for others, and have high expectations for appropriate behaviors do not usually have violence issues to face” (emphasis in original).

The second survey question was: “What teacher behaviors and actions may increase the likelihood of student aggression or violence in the classroom or school?” The responses fell within two main categories: 1) classroom management, and 2) attitudes and behaviors. These are revealed in Table 1.2.

Table 1.2: Teacher Behaviors and Actions that May Increase the Likelihood of Student Aggression or Violence in the Classroom

Category

Specific Action or Trait

Classroom Management

  • No control or authority
  • Lack of supervision; not visible
  • Unclear rules or requirements; not addressing early behavior
  • Too controlling, rigid; unwilling to compromise
  • Inconsistent treatment of children
  • Paying too much attention to small problems

Attitudes and Behaviors

  • Backing kids into a corner; humiliating challenging, confronting, provoking, demeaning students in front of the class
  • Not listening to students
  • Failure to notice warning signs
  • Disrespectful, rude; verbal bullying and attacks; sarcasm; prejudice
  • Negative attitude/rapport with students; not caring, accepting, nurturing, sensitive
  • Getting and staying angry; not remaining calm with angry students; taking problems with students personally; being argumentative or belligerent
  • Unfair; operating under preconceived ideas
  • Threatening body language
  • Not asking for help from other adults
  • Not learning true situation of students
  • Very passive or too nice
  • Unreasonable expectations

Basically, these answers are the direct opposites of the behaviors given in response to the first question, particularly those listed under the category of classroom management. By far, the most common answer to what teachers do that may increase the chances of a violent situation was humiliating, provoking, or demeaning students publicly. For many of the respondents, it comes down to the issue of respect. There is no doubt that teachers expect to be treated with respect; however, according to the responses received, there is a problem with teachers who do not respect students. One teacher commented that “even the ‘worst’ kid can be treated respectfully within the classroom (by the teacher), and problems usually will not escalate into violence.”

Along with the lack of respect for students is the concern among our respondents that some teachers do not care about students, verbally bully students, are belligerent towards students, and, in general, have a poor rapport with them. One respondent stated, “I think that many teachers don’t like kids, but they choose to teach. If there is any way to get the concept that you must like children in order to teach, that would be great.” This concern is supported in the literature. Anderson and Anderson (1995) studied pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward children and found that 15% of the subjects in their study had negative attitudes toward children. They also found evidence that pre-service teachers are even more distrustful and hold more negative attitudes toward students after completing student teaching. Such teachers will be unhappy and frustrated in the classroom and will be less likely to display the attitudes, behaviors, and skills needed to decrease the risk of aggression and violence in the classroom.

Additional pitfalls for teachers include: not listening to students, negative body language, not noticing warning signs, and being too nice or passive. Just as one of the traits of an effective teacher was building positive relationships with students, one of the behaviors of a teacher more likely to experience student aggression was not understanding the problem represented through student actions. For example, one teacher related how she knew her students well enough to know that one particular eighth grader was unusually irritable and emotional. In an effort to understand his behavior, the teacher found out that his parents and sibling had moved while he was at school. They left no forwarding address. They were tired of feeding a big, growing boy and thought that he would be able to fend for himself. He did this for a few days by staying with friends but he was at a loss for any long-term solution to his problem. Through support services, the school arranged to help this student with his needs. Such events are more common than not in our high need schools. While there is no way to know if this student would have become violent, the teacher did feel that his emotions were becoming increasingly aggressive. When faced with such increasing emotions, the potential for violence does exist.

Finally, the respondents said that teachers who do not ask for help from other adults might increase the likelihood of classroom aggression. Teaching can be a very isolated occupation, and for those experiencing problems with students, this isolation may seem even more profound. These are times when it is imperative that help is sought. Just as teachers need to watch students for changes in behavior, fellow teacher and administrators should also be observant of one other for such changes. One respondent mentioned that school administrators need to support teachers, but this support will be limited if administrators, or other teachers for that matter, do not know what kind of support or assistance is needed.

Questionnaire: Responses to Previously Identified Behaviors

The research questionnaire also contained a chart that listed twenty-two behaviors that students exhibit that have been identified (in previous research) as behaviors that contribute to student aggression or violence. For each of these behaviors or attitudes, the teachers were asked three questions:

  • Would you consider this student behavior: a) violence, b) a precursor to violence, or c) neither?
  • Do you see this type of behavior in the students at your school?
  • Do you think that teachers engage in this same behavior?

The responses to these questions can be found in Table 1.3 below. (Although both was not one of the responses offered for the first question, several people utilized this response, so it is included on the chart.)

Table 1.3: Teacher Responses to Behavior and Attitudes in School

Behavior or Attitude

Precursor to Violence, Violence, or Neither?

Do you see this behavior in students at your school?

Do you think that teachers engage in this behavior?

Social Isolation

Precursor: 58.1%

Neither: 41.9%

Yes: 76.1%

No: 19.6%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 50%

No: 39.1%

No answer: 10.9%

Bullying

Precursor: 45.2%

Violence: 54.8%

Yes: 65.2%

No: 30.4%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 32.6%

No: 58.7%

No answer: 8.7%

Derogatory Comments

Precursor: 83.9%

Violence: 6.5%

Neither: 9.7%

Yes: 93.5%

No: 2.2%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 58.7%

No: 32.6%

No answer: 8.7%

Verbal Abuse

Precursor: 58.1%

Violence: 35.5%

Neither: 3.2%

Both: 3.2%

Yes: 82.6%

No: 10.9%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 39.1%

No: 47.8%

No answer: 13%

Threats

Precursor: 58.1%

Violence: 41.9%

Yes: 69.6%

No: 23.9%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 30.4%

No: 56.5%

No answer: 13%

Stealing/Theft

Precursor: 41.9%

Violence: 48.4%

Neither: 6.5%

Both: 3.2%

Yes: 76.1%

No: 17.4%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 8.7%

No: 76.1%

No answer: 15.2%

Truancy/Coming in late or leaving early

Precursor: 41.9%

Neither: 58.1%

Yes: 95.7%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 28.3%

No: 60.9%

No answer: 10.9%

Disrespect of authority

Precursor: 67.7%

Violence: 12.9%

Neither: 12.9%

Both: 3.2 %

No answer: 3.2%

Yes: 93.5%

No: 2.2%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 34.8%

No: 56.5%

No answer: 8.7%

Weapons possession

Precursor: 32.3%

Violence: 67.7%

Yes: 26.1%

No: 67.4%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 2.2%

No: 89.1%

No answer: 8.7%

Vandalism

Precursor: 41.9%

Violence: 58.1%

Yes: 80.4%

No: 15.2%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 2.2%

No: 89.1%

No answer: 8.7%

Bomb/bomb threats

Precursor: 12.9%

Violence: 87.1%

Yes: 43.5%

No: 47.8%

No answer: 8.7%

Yes: 2.2%

No: 89.1%

No answer: 8.7%

Exhibits improper dress or clothing

Precursor: 38.7%

Violence: 3.2%

Neither: 58.1%

Yes: 91.3%

No: 4.3%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 34.8%

No: 56.5%

No answer: 8.7%

Gang membership or activities

Precursor: 61.3%

Violence: 35.5%

Both: 3.2%

Yes: 78.3%

No: 15.2%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 4.3%

No: 89.1%

No answer: 6.5%

Physical fights

Precursor: 12.9%

Violence: 87.1%

Yes: 80.4%

No: 13%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 2.2%

No: 91.3%

No answer: 6.5%

Pushing and shoving

Precursor: 48.4%

Violence: 45.2%

Neither: 3.2%

Both: 3.2%

Yes: 82.6%

No: 10.9%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 4.3%

No: 89.1%

No answer: 6.5%

Harassment

Precursor: 61.3%

Violence: 35.5%

Neither: 3.2%

Yes: 80.4%

No: 13%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 17.4%

No: 73.9%

No answer: 8.7%

Gossip

Precursor: 51.6%

Violence: 3.2%

Neither: 45.2%

Yes: 89.1%

No: 4.3%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 63%

No: 26.1%

No answer: 10.9%

Pre-determined expectations of others

Precursor: 22.6%

Violence: 3.2%

Neither: 71%

No answer: 3.2%

Yes: 63%

No: 23.9%

No answer: 13%

Yes: 60.9%

No: 28.3%

No answer: 10.9%

Discord between individuals or groups

Precursor: 80.6%

Violence: 6.5%

Neither: 9.7%

No answer: 3.2%

Yes: 76.1%

No: 15.2%

No answer: 8.7%

Yes: 45.7%

No: 45.7%

No answer: 8.7%

Vulgar, obscene language or gestures

Precursor: 51.6%

Violence: 41.9%

Neither: 6.5%

Yes: 87%

No: 8.7%

No answer: 4.3%

Yes: 21.7%

No: 67.4%

No answer: 10.9%

Serious discipline problems

Precursor: 61.3%

Violence: 29%

Neither: 6.5%

Both: 3.2%

Yes: 80.4%

No: 13%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 6.5%

No: 82.6%

No answer: 10.9%

Angry outbursts

Precursor: 54.8%

Violence: 41.9%

No answer: 3.2%

Yes: 84.8%

No: 8.7%

No answer: 6.5%

Yes: 39.1%

No: 47.8%

No answer: 13%

In a review of Table 1.3, out of the twenty-two behaviors and attitudes, the following findings are evident:

  • Twelve behaviors are precursors to violence: social isolation, derogatory comments, verbal abuse, threats, disrespect of authority, gang membership/activities, harassment, gossip, discord between individuals or groups, vulgar or obscene language or gestures, serious discipline problems, and angry outbursts.
  • A majority of teachers state that they see the twelve precursors in their own school.
  • A majority of teachers believe that peer teachers also engage in the behaviors of social isolation, derogatory comments, and gossip.
  • Sizable minorities of teachers also believe that teachers exhibit the following negative behaviors: threats (30.9%), disrespect of authority (34.8%), bullying (32.6%), and angry outbursts (39.1%). The fact that a third of teachers believe that peer teachers engage in these behaviors tells us that these are behaviors that must be addressed. This supports unpublished research done by Olweus (1996, cited in Hyman and Perone, 1998), who found that 10% of 5100 Norwegian elementary and junior high school teachers had bullied their students on a regular basis.
  • Six of the behaviors listed were labeled as violence by a majority of the teachers: bullying, stealing/theft, weapons possession, vandalism, bomb/bomb threats, and physical threats. Of these six, a majority of teachers reported seeing three of these behaviors regularly exhibited in the students at their school. These include: bullying, vandalism, and physical fights.

 

Further Steps: Review of Findings by a Professional Focus Group

As part of the effort to add credibility to these findings and to seek additional solutions to the problem, a summary of the findings of this study were submitted to a group of experts from education and from fields outside of education including: a psychologist, a lawyer, a law enforcement officer, a nurse, a communications professor, a high school teacher, a high school principal, an educational leadership professor, and a business owner. The members of this focus group were asked to read the findings of the study and respond to the question: Do you find the results of this study to be credible? Without exception, the members of the focus group found the results to be believable and credible based on their own background experiences and discipline knowledge. The focus group provided the following suggestions with regard to this topic area:

  • Students and teachers need more assistance in becoming aware of their own behaviors.
  • Teachers must be willing to show respect for students and that a lack of respect is problematic in the classroom. Respect, for the focus group, meant that teachers became role models for students by admitting their mistakes and even offering apologies to students when warranted.
  • Teachers need to model appropriate behavior in the classroom. This modeling of appropriate behavior was seen as necessary for students to learn how to deal with their own mistakes and to engage in behaviors that de-emphasized the potential for violence in the classroom (e.g., how to disagree, how to admit mistakes, how to listen to other points of view, how to state one’s opinion, how to appreciate differences, how to show and feel compassion, etc.). Teachers need to be able to help students develop these skills in order to reach their potential and succeed in school because too many students lack these skills and do not receive encouragement and support at home.
  • Discipline should be age and maturity appropriate because not all students in the classroom were on the same level.
  • Teachers need much more in-depth study in the psychology of youth. It was felt that the small doses of knowledge provided by pre-service teacher institutions and school inservice programs were insufficient and problematic. Giving teachers vague, hit and miss training in psychology may be as dangerous as letting someone read about surgery and then allowing them to operate.
  • Teachers need access to trained professionals to help them understand and work successfully with student behaviors in the classroom.
  • Teachers need to learn to read and understand both verbal and nonverbal communication, as one member stated, to ‘listen with your eyes.’
  • Teachers need to be adaptable and not afraid of change.
  • Teachers need to be compassionate and truly care for their students or remove themselves from the profession.
  • Pre-service teachers should have more experiences to classroom environments through mentor relationships with current teachers and administrators, school counselors, and police liaisons.
  • University professors should spend more time in the schools so that they stay current with the issues and problems of the profession.

 

Implications

The final question on the research questionnaire asked, “How can teachers best be supported in their efforts to modify their own behavior in order to create positive and peaceful classroom environments.” Ninety-two percent of the teacher respondents felt that special training (e.g., seminars, classes or inservice workshops) should be offered on classroom behavioral skills – to include behavior awareness, nonverbal and verbal communications, conflict management, anger management, and listening skills. Teachers suggest that these trainings be taught by specialists both inside and outside the field of education. Suggested experts include: psychologists, arbitrators, law enforcement, school violence experts, communication experts, medical personnel and master teachers. Furthermore, teachers suggested that classroom awareness issues be addressed. Classroom awareness issues consisted of increased awareness of gang involvement, poverty, depression and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse. The respondents believe that teachers need a greater understanding of child and adolescent psychology and behavior. They also feel that experts who have experiences with youth should teach these courses. Respondents feel that these types of trainings should be continuous – not one-shot opportunities. Many feel that their original training and knowledge are now out-dated.

With regard to teacher preparation programs, respondents suggested additions to existing teacher education curricula. For instance, training in school law is not usually addressed in pre-service teacher training but in educational leadership programs. Yet, many teachers feel a need to know the legal ramifications of classroom actions and behavior. Additionally, criminal justice, nursing and psychology courses are not normally geared for future teachers; yet, these disciplines have much to offer in the effort to understand student and teacher behavior and to create peaceful classroom environments.

This project has resulted in an important first step towards helping teachers to become aware of their classroom behaviors and to finding concrete and practical ways to adapt behavior in order to promote a peaceful classroom environment. Such modifications will benefit not only the teachers themselves but also students and schools.

 

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Author

Angela Spaulding

Dr. Angela Spaulding is an associate professor of Educational Leadership at
West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, where she chairs the Department of
Educational Leadership and teachers courses in leadership, research, group
dynamics and curriculum.   She has been the recipient of the WTAMU Outstanding
Professor Award and has research interests that include leadership and group
dynamics, communication, conflict management, and micropolitics.  She has over
40 publications in these research areas.

She can be reached at

Dr. Angela Spaulding
Chair, Dept. of Educational Leadership
West Texas A&M University
WT Box 60208
Canyon, Texas 79016-0001

(806)651-2613 (office)
(806)651-3610 (fax)
aspaulding@mail.wtamu.edu

References

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