Self-reported and actual use of proactive and reactive classroom management strategies and their relationship with teacher stress and student behaviour
This study investigated the relationship between primary school teachers’ self-reported and actual use of classroom management strategies, and examined how the use of proactive and reactive strategies is related to teacher stress and student behaviour. The total sample consisted of 97 teachers from primary schools within Melbourne. Teachers completed four questionnaires which gathered information on demographics, disruptive student behaviour, teacher management strategies, and teacher self-reported stress. In addition, 20 of the 97 teachers were observed in their classrooms while teaching, with teacher behaviour management strategies and student on-task behaviour recorded.
Observation and questionnaire data were then matched. The findings indicated that teacher self-reports accurately reflect actual practice, that relatively minor forms of student misbehaviours are a common concern for teachers, and that teachers are spending a considerable amount of time on behaviour management issues. The findings also revealed that the use of predominantly reactive management strategies has a significant relationship with elevated teacher stress and decreased student on-task behaviour. These findings have important implications for teaching practices and
Keywords: behaviour management; problem behaviour; teaching efficacy; primary
Classroom behaviour management and teacher stress have been well researched in the fields of psychology and education over the past 25 years. However, disruptive behaviours, teacher stress, and teacher burnout remain significant concerns in Australian schools. It is estimated that approximately 6% of students have behaviour problems that are considered serious enough to warrant intervention (Little, Hudson, & Wilks, 2000).
Research has found that student misbehaviour affects teacher stress, well-being, and confidence, and also impacts negatively on student learning time and academic achievements (Lewis, Romi, Qui, & Katz, 2003; Little & Hudson, 1998; Miller, Ferguson, & Byrne, 2000; Poulou & Norwich, 2000). It appears that difficulty establishing and maintaining effective classroom behaviour management is one of the main reasons teachers leave the profession and a significant factor in student disengagement (Beaman & Wheldall, 2000).
Disruptive behaviour within schools
In addition to the 6% of children in typical classrooms who have behaviour problems in need of intervention, there are many others whose behaviour significantly interferes with either their own or others’ learning (Farrell, 2005; Little, 2003). Beaman (2006) investigated troublesome classroom behaviour and the interactions between students and teachers in secondary schools. Using questionnaire data, she examined the perceptions of 145 secondary teachers from New South Wales with regard to behaviours they found to be troublesome in their classrooms. Talking out of turn (TOOT) was clearly identified by teachers as the classroom behaviour of most concern and most frequently occurring, and the main misbehaviour of the most troublesome individual students (Beaman, 2006). This behaviour involves calling out during times when the teacher or other students are speaking. These findings parallel research conducted in secondary schools. For instance, Infantino and Little (2005) examined the perceptions of 350 secondary school students regarding troublesome behaviours in the classroom. Results indicated that TOOT was the only behaviour perceived by both teachers and students as being the most troublesome and the most frequent (Infantino & Little, 2005).
In the primary school setting, the behaviours that cause the most concern to teachers are frequently occurring but relatively minor (Little, 2005). Past research has found that the most common behavioural problems reported by primary school teachers are TOOT and hindering other children (HOC; Wheldall & Merrett, 1988). HOC involves a range of distracting behaviours that result in other children being disrupted and spending less time on their work (Wheldall & Merrett, 1988). Other behaviours identified as troublesome
include disobedience, idleness/slowness, making unnecessary noise, and aggression (Little, Hudson, & Wilks, 2002; Stephenson, Linfoot, & Martin, 2000; Wheldall, 1991).
Sources of stress in the teaching profession
Disruptive student behaviour may lead to teacher stress. According to Lazarus (1993), stress is defined as a state of anxiety produced when events and responsibilities exceed one’s coping abilities. Often, an individual experiencing stress has appraised a situation as threatening and holds a belief that they do not have adequate resources or strategies to deal effectively with its demands (Lazarus, 1993). Teacher stress is a concern in many Westernised nations, with research continually indicating that stress within the teaching profession affects the school as an organisation, teacher performance, and the physical and emotional well-being of the
teacher and her or his family (Fontana & Abouserie, 1993; Harris, Halpin, & Halpin, 1985; Kyriacou & Pratt, 1985; Kyriacou & Sutcliffe, 1977; Long & Gessaroli, 1989).
Several factors have been identified as sources of stress for teachers. These include workload, lack of resources, poor professional relationships with colleagues, role conflict, inadequate salary, student misbehaviour, difficult interactions with parents, and the expectations of other staff (Center & Callaway, 1999; Long & Gessaroli, 1989; Pithers & Soden, 1998).
Griffith, Steptoe, and Cropley (1999) investigated job stress in 780 primary and secondary school teachers in Britain and found that the two major sources of stress were work pressure and student misbehaviour. Other researchers have found similar results (e.g., Cooper & Kelly, 1993; Kyriacou, 1987; McGrath, Houghton, & Reid, 1989; Whitehead & Ryba, 1995). After surveying 100 British primary and secondary school teachers, Hastings and Bham (2003) reported that disrespectful student behaviour predicted emotional exhaustion, while more severe student misbehaviour predicted burnout in teachers. These findings suggest that the cumulative effects of student misbehaviour lead to stress and burnout for teachers. Despite this awareness, there is still a lack of effective interventions occurring in the classroom.