To my Senior Thesis Web Page
Danielle Mathieu
Saint Anselm College


 
 

TEACHER-STUDENT INTERACTIONS:
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TEACHERS' POSITIVE SPEECH AND STUDENTS' PERCEIVED SUPPORT


 
 
Keywords Abstract Design and Procedure
Results Discussion References

  KEYWORDS

Teacher-Student Relationships, Positive Interactions, Support, Speech, Teacher Feedback, Student Participation, Positive Speech, and Students' Perceived Teacher Support.
 
 


ABSTRACT

    This study reports on the relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceptions of their classroom teacher and differences among these variables based on teachers’ and students’ gender and the classroom subject. It was hypothesized that teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support would positively correlate with one another.  The second hypothesis states that the strongest relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support would be found with female students in female English teachers’ classroom.  Stereotypically, female teachers are seen as more nurturing and supportive.  Because female students tend to rate female teacher higher than male teacher, ecspecially in gender approptiate subjects such as English, it can be expected that the second hypothesis will be supported.
    Two Science classrooms and Two English classrooms were observed; each with a male and female teacher (2 males and 2 females) . Recordings of teachers’ supportive speech in ratio to student participation were made to measure teachers’ positive speech. A total to of 64 seventh grade students were analyzed (29 males and 35 females) A Revised Version of the Teachers’ Support Scale (Marjoribanks, 1983) was administered to measure students’ perceived support.
 
    The analysis showed that for seventh grade students  teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support were positively correlated.  However, the results indicated that no significant relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support was found with female students in the female English teachers’ classroom.

 


 
 

DESIGN AND PROCEDURE

Participants
 The participants in this study included 64 seventh grade students (29 males and 35 females) from a rural Middle School in New England.  Two male teachers were analyzed, one teaching a Science classroom and one teaching an English classroom.  Two female teacher were also analyzed one teaching a Science classroom and on teaching an English classroom.
Apparatus
An observation schedule was designed (see Appendix A) which recorded various aspects of teachers’ supportive speech and student participation. Observations of teachers’ supportive speech and students’ participation were recorded; a ratio between these two scores were tallied and defined as teachers’ positive speech. For each act of teachers’ supportive speech and student participation, one point was rewarded. To measure the amount of positive speech the gender of each student was recorded according to where they sit in the classroom; each student was also assigned a subject number. Teachers’ positive speech were coded and defined by the following behaviors:

Supportive Speech
Any measure that is a positively responsive language, which includes praise, nonverbal gestures, and approval (Leaper, Anderson, & Sander, 1998).  Praise is further defined as compliments directed to a child, for example, “Good job,” “Nice work,” and “Well done, I agree very much.”  (O’Brien and Bi, 1995).  Nonverbal gestures refers to any smile, nodding of the head suggesting approval, thumbs up, or touch contact implying positive meaning. Approval is coded when a student gives a correct response and the teacher responds positively, for example, “Yes”, “That is correct,” or “Okay”.

Student Participation
 Student participation was defined by using a portion of the Brophy-Good Teacher-Child Dyadic Interaction System called response opportunities (Brophy & Good, 1970).  A response opportunity is when a student responds to a question posed by the teacher and the teacher acknowledges in some way that a response has been given.  Three different types of behaviors were recorded for student participation, which include direct questions, call outs and open questions.  Direct questions occur when a teacher calls on a student who has not volunteered to answer a question.  Call outs occur when a student spontaneously answers a question posed by the teacher without waiting to be called on. Finally, open questions occur when the teacher asks a question, waits for students to raise their hands, then calls on a student who has raised their hand.

  A pen and pencil measurement to analyze students’ perceived support was created.  A Revised Version of the Teachers’ Support Scale (Marjoribanks, 1983) is the instrument that was created to measure students’ perceived support from their teacher (see Appendix B).  The instrument was revised to gain a complete and specific understanding of students’ perceived support within the classroom. The original Teachers’ Support Scale measured students’ support within the entire school; the Revised Version measures students’ perceived support concentrating on the teacher who teaching in the classroom.
There are a total of 40 items on Revised Version of the Teachers’ Support Scale. Scoring is based on a 1-5 Likert scale; the scores range from 40-200. The Revised Version of the tests’ reliability and validity is unknown.

Procedure
    The principal, teachers, students, and students’ parents signed consent forms; instructions were explicitly stated before procedures began. All participants in this study were notified of their right to complete confidentiality. (See Appendix C).
 Each classroom was observed for a 45-minute periods at three different times for a total observation time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Teachers’ supportive speech and student participation was recorded, which provided a score of teachers’ positive speech for each student.  After observations were made, students were given the Revised Version of the Teachers’ Support Scale.  The total running time of this measurement took 20-30 minutes.  All participants were thanked for their participation in this procedure.  Finally, by using the SPSS 9.0 version teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support were correlated by using the Pearson r bivariate analysis.
 
 


RESULTS

     A series of correlational analyses were conducted to assess the amount of positive speech given to students in relation to students’ perceived support from the teacher.   Gender of the student, gender of the teacher, and classroom subject were all taken into consideration when looking at the relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support.  A total of 27 correlations were examined.  The results of the correlational analyses  show that 14 out of the 27 correlations were statistically significant.
    The correlations of teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support among all conditions revealed that the two variables are positively related  (r = 0.46). However, the results also indicate that in certain situations teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support in relation to each other tend to be of higher significance or no significance at all. Correlational analyses were performed to examine the association between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support in the following conditions: (1) gender of teacher, (2) subject matter, and (3) gender of the teacher by subject matter.
    There is significance between the correlations for female students in classes taught by male teachers (r = 0.50), however, no significance is shown for male students in classes taught by male teachers (r = 0.09).  For all students there is a significant correlation between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support
 (r = 0.47).  The opposite is found in situations which the classes are taught by female teachers; significance is found for male students (r = .63), but no significance is found for female students (r= 0.36).  For all students, there is a significant correlation between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support (r = 0.52).
    In English classrooms, there is no relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support for male students (r = 0.50).  However, for female students a significant relationship is found for teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support (r = 0.51).  For all students, the results indicate a positive correlation (r = 0.47). In Science classrooms, the results are very similar to those found in the English classrooms. There is no relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support for male students (r = 0.46).  However, for female students a significant relationship is found for teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support (r = 0.51).  For all students, the results indicate a positive correlation (r = .47).
    Correlational analyses were conducted to assess the degree of association between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support according to the gender of the teacher combined with the subject matter. In the male Science teacher’s classroom, no correlation was found for male students (r = 0.37), nor was there a correlation found for female students (r = 0.50) or for all students (r = 0.46).  In the male English teacher’s classroom, there was no significant relationship found for male students (r = -0.11).  For female students, within the male English teachers' classroom, a positive correlation was found between teachers' positive speech and students' perceived support (r = 0.73). For all students in this condition a positive correlation was also found (r = 0.19). In the female Science teacher’s classroom, there was no significant relationship found for male students(r = 0.50), female students (r = 0.55), or for all of the students (r = .47).  In the female English teacher’s classroom, the teacher’s positive speech and students’ perceived support was not positively correlated for male students (r = 0.06), or for female students (r = 0.48).

DISCUSSION

    The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support to gain understanding of teacher-student relationships.  Two hypotheses were generated and the effects of teachers’ gender and classroom subject were analyzed.  The first hypothesis predicted that teachers’ positive speech  would positively correlate with students’ perceived support.  The second hypothesis predicted that the strongest relationship between teachers' positive speech and student's percieved support would be found with female students in the female English teachers’ classroom.
    The results support the first hypothesis stated.  Overall, teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support is positively related to one another.  The results support the idea that positive feedback given by teachers can impact a student (Jussim and Eccles, 1992).  If a teacher responds positively to students’ participation, it can be predicted that the student will perceive the teacher with a greater amount of support.
    From this analysis, it can be concluded that teachers’ use of positive speech is crucial in order to provide a nourishing environment for the student.  Sadker and Sadker (1986) indicate that it is important for students to feel comfortable in the classroom.  Healthy teacher-student relationships can provide students with a sense of security, which may enable them to excel academically or socially within the context of the classroom.  Students’ may be able to perceive teachers’ as more supportive if teachers respond more positively to students’ participation.  Situations in which teachers can give students positive speech will most likely create a healthy teacher-student relationship.
    Because the interaction between teachers’ positive speech and student participation is positively correlated with students’ perceived support, this supports the literature which claims students will affirm teachers who affirm them (Plax, Kearney, and Downs, 1986).  Teachers’ behavior towards students can elicit positive outcomes in students.  For instance, Cristophel (1990) indicates that teachers who respond with immediacy can prompt students’ motivation and provoke higher levels of cognition and learning.  It is clear that teachers who promote positive speech in relation to student participation will enhance the effectiveness of the classroom.
    Research has suggested that student learning is crucially effected by teachers’ supportive communication, students’ respond better to teachers’ immediate behaviors, and that teacher-student relationships greatly benefit from positive interaction (West, 1998).  Brophy and Good (1974) stated that students’ self-esteem could be embellished through teachers’ rewarding behaviors. It is highly predictable that if teachers’ respond positively to student participation those students will perceive the teacher as supportive.  Therefore, such behaviors do nothing but benefit students academic experiences in most aspects.
    However, it should be noted that these two variables are related to one another.  Teachers’ use of positive speech directed towards students who participate does not necessarily cause students to rate their teachers with higher levels of support.  It may also be predicted that those students who feel that his/her teacher is very supportive are more likely to receive greater amounts of positive speech from their teacher.
    For instance, teachers who find students to be academic achievers, cooperative or prosocial may rate teacher-student relationships to be higher with these individuals (Brophy and Good, 1974; Birch and Ladd, 1998). Students who display these types of behaviors may rate teachers as more supportive.  Because such students perceive teachers to be supportive,  teachers’ may behave more positively towards those students offering them greater  positive speech.  Students’ behavior may affect the behavior of the teacher and vice versa (Aldermatt, Jovanic, and Perry 1998).

    Stereotypically, female teachers are seen as more nurturing and supportive.  Because female students tend to rate female teacher higher than male teacher, ecspecially in gender approptiate subjects such as English, it can be expected that the second hypothesis will be supported. However,  the results do not support the second hypothesis which stated the strongest relationship between teachers’ positive speech students’ perceived support will be found in the condition of the female English teacher and female student; there was no statistical significance in this situation. There was no relationship found in male students, nor was there overall significance found for all of the students. The results suggest that in this particular classroom teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support is not related to one another.  It may be concluded that females do not necessarily need to receive positive speech in order to perceive their female English teacher with high levels of support.
    It was presumed that because female teachers are seen as more nurturing and caring that they would receive the greatest scores for student perceived support (Grossman and Grossman, 1994). To further this notion, research has suggested that female students are more cooperative in the classroom and feel more comfortable participating in subjects that are gender-appropriate i.e. English (Hechtman and Rosenthal, 1991).  However, according the results of this study, female students did not report greater support due to teachers’ positive speech in this condition.  Perhaps the gender-appropriate subject along with teacher gender does predict how female students will rate their teacher in the aspect of support.
    Other factors may be involved to explain why there was no significant correlation in this situation, but overall teachers’ positive speech is correlated to students’ perceived support.  Only six female subjects were used to correlate students’ perceived support from their female English teacher. Because there was a limited amount of female students in the female English teachers’ classroom a significant relationship may have not been found. It may be likely that the combination of the teachers’ teaching style and the small number of females in the classroom may have not produced significance.
    Individual differences in teaching styles have different effects on students (Sadker and Sadker, 1986).  Neither males nor females in the female English teachers' classroom rated their teacher with higher levels of support according to the use teachers’ positive speech.  Therefore, the teacher may be using some other tactic to promote support perceived by students in the classroom.  In this particular environment, the individual difference of the teacher may have not produced a significant correlation between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support.
    The same type of finding is found in the male science teachers’ classroom.  The relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support was not statistically significant for male students in this condition.  Therefore, the same type of conclusion can be drawn. Teachers’ gender and subject matter does not predict the relationship between students’ perceived support and teachers’ positive speech.  More subjects are needed to accurately predict the relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support in specific conditions.

    According the results, the gender-appropriateness of the subject and the teachers’ subject does not seem to predict when students will rate teachers with higher levels of support.  However, the results do suggest that in different circumstances the relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support tend to differ according to the gender of the student and the gender of the teacher. It was found that there was no relationship between teachers’ positive speech and students’ perceived support for male students who have male teachers. However, there was a significant correlation between these variables with female students and male teachers.  Therefore, positive speech was not predictive of how male students would rate their male teachers support but it was predictive for female students.  Interestingly, the same results were found with female teachers.  Positive speech was not predictive of how female students would rate their female teacher but it was predictive for male students.
    Teachers who are the same sex as the students received sufficient amounts of support regardless of positive speech.  These findings support the literature based upon students with same sex teachers. Examining teachers’ gender is an important factor when analyzing teacher-student relationships.  Female students have stated that they learn more from their female teachers, and male students have stated that they learn more from their male teachers (Menzell and Carrell, 1999). Perhaps it can be concluded that relationships among same sex students and teachers are more easily formed and maintained.
In sum, it can be concluded that teachers’ positive speech with students benefits teacher-student relationships.  It can be predicted that students will rate teachers with higher levels of support if teachers respond to students’ participation positively.

References

Altermatt, R., Jovanovic, J., & Perry, M. (1998).  Bias or responsivity?  Sex and achievement-level effects on teachers’ classroom questioning practices. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 516-527.

Birch, S.H., & Ladd, G.W.  (1998).  Children’s interpersonal behaviors and the teacher-child relationship.  Developmental Psychology, 34, 934-936.

Brophy, J.E., & Good, T.L. (1970).  Teacher-child dyadic interaction: A manual for coding classroom behavior. Austin, TX.  The Research Development Center for Teacher Education.

Brophy, J.E., & Good, T.L. (1974).   Teacher-student relationships: Causes and Consequences.  New York: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston.

Christophel, D. (1990).  The relationship among teacher immediacy behaviors, student motivation, and learning.  Communication Education, 39, 332-340.

Grossman & Grossman (1994).  Gender issues in education.  Boston; Allyn and Bacon.

Hechtman, S.B. & Rosenthal, R.R.  (1991).  Teacher gender and nonverbal behavior in the teaching of gender-stereotyped materials.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 21, 446-459.

Jussim, L., &  Eccles, J.S.  (1992).  Teacher expectations II:  Constructive and reflection of student achievement.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 947-961..

Menzell, K.E., & Carrell, L.J. (1999).  The impact of gender and immediacy on willingness to talk and perceived learning.  Communication Education, 48, 31-40..

Plax, T.G., Kearney, P., and Downs, T.M. (1986). Communication control in the classroom and satisfaction with teaching and students.  Communication Education, 35, 379-388..

Sadker, M.P, & Sadker, D.M. (1982).  Sex Equity Handbook for Schools.  NewYork:  Longman.

West, R. (1998). Voices seldom heard: A descriptive analysis of female and male teachers’ positive interaction with young people. In L.L. Longmire & L. Merrill (Ed.), Untying the Tongue: Gender, Power, and the Word. London:  Greenwood Press.


 

TO: dmathieu@anselm.edu