Systematic Classroom Observation of the Quality of Teacher Behaviors and Student Engagement in Ethnically Diverse Pre-Kindergarten Through Second-Grade Classrooms
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The purpose of the study was to observe pre-kindergarten through second-grade public school classrooms, specifically noting child-centered and teacher-directed pedagogical approaches, by simultaneously examining: student behavior and activity structure, teacher instructional orientation and rationale, and overall classroom environment. The quantitative study built upon the work of Pianta, examining classroom instruction and its effect on student engagement and educational quality; however, unlike previous studies, researchers in the current study observed the nature of activity structure and various student demographic variables. Additionally, dissimilar to prior classroom observation studies, which typically included an overwhelming percentage of White students, Hispanic and African American students comprised a large percentage of the sample. And because policy-makers have called for more research-based information on classroom instruction in the early childhood setting, an additional contribution is the use of systematic observation and analysis of young learners’ experiences within their classrooms. The multi-faceted approach to classroom observation yielded one critical result: Little to no variation existed in the activities in which young children were engaged in their classrooms, nor in the instructional practices utilized by their early childhood teachers. Accordingly, the study revealed few differences in student behavior and teacher practices by student sex, student ethnicity, grade-level, English language proficiency, and/or economic status. Instruction in these classrooms was almost entirely standardized; however, three statistically significant findings showed that: (a) students taught by teachers rated as having a higher developmentally appropriate instructional practices (DAIP) score were more likely to be on-task and less likely to be off-task; (b) students taught by teachers with a higher DAIP score were significantly more likely to be working kinesthetically, answering teacher-posed questions, and freely exploring; and (c) students taught by teachers with a lower DAIP score were significantly more likely to be distracted and/or not engaging in activity. Study findings were significant, as, despite research showing the unfavorable effects that highly teacher-centered, scripted classrooms have on young students’ engagement and subsequent learning outcomes, students continue to be taught in the same way—one in which reaching a designated test score appears to be the singular, ultimate objective.
Subjectsystematic classroom observation
early childhood education
teacher instructional behaviors
developmentally appropriate practice
Alford, Beverly Lynn (2011). Systematic Classroom Observation of the Quality of Teacher Behaviors and Student Engagement in Ethnically Diverse Pre-Kindergarten Through Second-Grade Classrooms. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from