Understanding Interactions Between Teacher Behavior Management and the Social Learning Environment

November 19, 2023

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Self-Efficacy

This article aims to take a step towards a better understanding of which aspects of the social learning environment pre-service teachers and their students take into account when positioning themselves on behavior management efficacy.

Primary School Behavior Strategies Lose Their Effectiveness in Higher Grades

While many researchers have been interested in teachers’ difficulties relating to behavior

management, little work in this field concerns secondary school classes specifically (e.g., Schwab et al., 2019). This is surprising since behavior management can be particularly challenging when it comes to adolescents with whom several strategies, although well suited for primary school students, lose their effectiveness (Malmgren et al., 2005), probably contributing to the fact that secondary school teachers seem to have to face bigger challenges leading to higher levels of emotional exhaustion (Lazarides et al., 2020).

Let’s note, however, that although teachers’ sense of self-efficacy is considered to be a reliable student and teacher behavior predictor (Brown et al., 2015), it is difficult, if not impossible, to know which comes first: positive behavior or the feeling of self-efficacy, given that they influence each other (Pajares, 1996).

Positive Relationships Are Necessary for Behavior Management

Data was collected in a teacher training institution as well as in secondary schools in Fribourg, Switzerland. 686 middle school students from 35 classes took part in this study; no demographic information concerning students is available. 

These classes were chosen through 35 pre-service teachers, 23 women and 12 men for an average age of 26 years, in their last year of training.

Students had paper questionnaires split into 2 parts, an adapted version of the scale of teacher self-efficacy questions and the student version of the Classroom Learning Environment Scale

(Author, 2012) which covers class cohesion, teacher proximity, rules and organization, innovation, student difficulty, and task orientation and implication. Students were asked to rate the learning environment of the classroom using a 6-point Likert (from 0 to 5).

Teachers completed an online questionnaire split into three parts. The first part is comprised of demographic questions (age and sex). The second part is an adapted version of the scale of teacher self-efficacy regarding behavior management in the classroom for middle school teachers (Author, 2018). The third part is the Classroom Learning Environment (for teachers) Scale (Author, 2012). The number of items and dimensions is the same as in the version submitted to students so that a comparison can be made. Results showed that the social learning environment’s dimensions are associated with the perception of teacher efficacy by students.  

It also highlighted that effective behavior management within the classroom requires a positive relationship between teachers and their students and the way rules and organization are taken into account by students demonstrates the need for a proactive approach in which teachers’ expectations are clear.

Comparing Teaching and Parenting Styles

The report mentions that “students rely on their perception of the social learning environment to determine whether their teacher is implementing effective classroom behavior management or not.” This would be interesting to unpack further, what creates a positive perception for a middle school student vs. what an adult feels creates a positive perception. Especially when they refer to “Baumrind’s studies of parenting styles show that the most adaptive parenting style for children combines both parental demandingness (rules, discipline) and responsiveness (warmth and acceptance)” (Baumrind, 1991; Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

The sample consists of pre-service teachers working in fairly advantaged schools so it would be interesting to see how the results would compare across different socioeconomic status schools where resources, funding etc. will be different.

Notable Quotes: 

“While many researchers have been interested in teachers’ difficulties relating to behavior

management, little work in this field concerns secondary school classes specifically (e.g., Schwab et al., 2019).”

“The classroom’s social learning environment is the subjective and multidimensional perception of the environment and of the functioning of personal and academic relationships between students and the teacher of a class by these same individuals (Author, 2004).”

“It can be anticipated that students will expect an efficient teacher…to be able to create a healthy relationship with appropriate rules and class organization. “

Personal Takeaway: 

I would love to know more about why similar research in the past has not spent as much time focusing on secondary school students. Having taught students up to the ages of 16, there are many layers of complexity when it comes to understanding teens and young adults and it would be so interesting to see how students from diverse backgrounds respond to behavioral management and the social learning environment in the classroom.

It would also be interesting to know how much representation matters. As there is no demographic data on the students and no race/ethnicity data for the teachers we don’t know the diversity of backgrounds and cultures within this study so it would be interesting to see if/how behavioral management develops within diverse classrooms and/or if the teaching staff do not represent a diverse student body.—Lilly

Bapst, Malika S., Philippe Ambroise Genoud, and Marine Hascoët. “Taking a step towards understanding interactions between teacher efficacy in behavior management and the social learning environment: a two-level multilevel analysis.” European Journal of Psychology of Education (2022): 1-16.

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