Examining the role of preschool classrooms’ behavioral composition as a predictor of the quality of teacher–child interactions
Research Findings: This study examined the relation between classroom behavioral composition and teacher–child interactions in preschool classrooms and the potential for teachers’ experience, education level, and area of study to buffer against the challenges of teaching in classrooms with high levels of disruptive behaviors. Classroom behavioral composition was operationalized in two ways (classroom mean and classroom proportion of children at or above 90th percentile) using teacher reports of children’s disruptive behaviors. Results indicated that the proportion of children at or above the 90th percentile was linked to a decline in the quality of teacher–child interactions in classroom organization and instructional support across the year. Marginally significant interaction effects suggested that holding a bachelor’s degree may be a protective factor for teachers’ emotional support quality at the beginning of the year, but more years of teaching experience seemed to worsen the negative effect of challenging classroom behavioral composition on the quality of emotional interactions over the course of the school year. Practice or Policy: The quality of preschool teachers’ practice showed declines across the year when teachers perceived very disruptive behaviors in the classroom. The results of this study have implications for preservice training, teacher professional development, and quality rating and improvement systems focused on teacher–child interactions. (author abstract)
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