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Title: Teachers' classroom decision-making : its relationship to teachers' perceptions of pupils and to classroom interaction
Author(s): Calderhead, James
Issue Date: 1979
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The relevance of decision-making to classroom teaching and to questions concerning teacher effectivenesst teacher training and curricular innovation has been noted by several researchers. However, teachers' classroom decision-making has frequently been conceptualised as a stage-wise, problem-solving task, involving the evaluation of alternative courses of action, and this would appear to be incompatible with the severe time restrictions experienced by teachers in real classrooms. Exploratory studies, investigating classroom interaction and teachers' and pupils' perceptions of it, involving observation, structured interview, repertory grid and rating methods, simulation, stimulated recall and sociometric methods, suggested in fact, that rather than making decisions, teachers tended to respond spontaneouslyt in a seemingly rule-governed manner, to configurations of cues in which pupil attributes ranked high in importance. A model of teachers' classroom decision-making was derived from the exploratory studies and previous researcht and it was suggested that the difficulties encountered by beginning teachers in making classroom decisions could be accounted for in terms of their lack of a cognitive framework of rules for action and their appropriate pupil distinctions. A main study involving six first-year probationer teachers and six experienced teachers was carried out to examine seven hypotheses concerning the inter-relationships of teachers' assessments of their pupilsp classroom interaction, teachers' reasons for their classroom interaction and pupilso self-perceptions and the difference between experienced teachers and probationers on these variables: hypothesis 1) Experienced teachers assess their pupils more quickly than probationer teachers (i. e. attribute more qualities to more childreng early in the term); 2) Experienced teachers' assessments of their pupils are more stable over time; 3) There are associations between the ways in which teachers perceive their pupils and the ways in which they interact with them; 4) These associations are stronger amongst experienced teachers than probationers; 5) Some of the unequal distribution of teacher-pupil interactions can be accounted for by the reasons which teachers give for their behaviour; 6) The reasonsp given by experienced teachers, which account for their classroom interactions are different from thosel given by probationer teachers, which account for their classroom interactions; 7) There is a relationship between a teacher's assessments of his/her pupils and the pupils' perceptions of themselves and their friendship choices. Hypothesis 7, which was intended to illuminate the extent to which pupils may influence the learning of beginning teachers, was further subdivided into five more specific hypotheses, after the finding that the probationer teachers in the sample were more reactive in their classroom behaviour, whereas experienced teachers tended to be more proactive; hence it was anticipated that probationers' assessments of their pupils would be more influenced by the pupils' assessments of themselves, whereas the experienced teachers may be more effective in communicating their assessments to the pupils and thus influencing their pupils' self-perceptions. Teachers' verbal descriptions of pupils, teachers' ratings of pupilso classroom interaction data, and pupils' self-ratings and sociometric data were collected at the beginnings of both the first and second terms of the school year. In addition, teachers each gave a commentary stimulated by a tape recording of a lesson taken in the second term. It was found that experienced teachers made more attributions concerning their pupils than did probationer teachers, although their ratings of pupils were no more stable between terms. A cluster analysis of teachers' ratings resulted in some common clusters which tended to engage in characteristic patterns of interaction, but the differences in interaction amongst clusters were not statistically significant. Teachers who had given particular reasons for their behaviour, which differentiated amongst pupils were found to be better represented amongst groups of teachers associated with particular cluster/interaction patterns. Although the reasons given by experienced teachers differed to some extent from those of probationers, the occurrence of patterns of interaction with particular clusters was neither more common amongst experienced teachers nor more significant. Consequently, analysis of the data indicated some support for hypotheses l, 3, 5, and 6, and although support was found for the hypotheses that probationers are more influenced by pupils' self-perceptions whereas experienced teachers have a stronger influence upon pupils' self-perceptions, it was noted that pupil self-perceptions were not very stable between terms and could have a tendency to 'drift'. possibly drifting in the direction of teachers' assessments where the teacher is proactive, regularly providing cues regarding her assessments of pupils. It also appeared that clusters derived from each teacher's ratings bore little resemblance to the clusters derived from pupils' friendship choices thus bringing into question the popularly conceived notion of teachers influencing pupil friendship groups. In additiong the data analysis revealed several consistent individual differences amongst the teachers, in particular between the probationers and the older teachers in the sample, which could be interpreted within the proposed model of classroom decision-making. In generalv the nature of teachers' classroom decision making which is suggested by the results supports the proposed model, and the issues arising from the study, concerning research methodology, data analysisp possible future research studies and their relevance to practical classroom teaching, and in particular the issue of diagnostic assessments of pupils and their relationship to teaching practice were noted and discussed.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Education
Department of Education

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