Teacher Support As a Catalyst for Positive Educational Attitudes and Behaviors of Elementary School Students
Methods: Data were collected on 1251 3rd- through 5th-grade students in 13 elementary schools using the Elementary School Success Profile (ESSP). The ESSP is a social environmental assessment that collects data from students, caregivers and teachers. The current study used two child-report subscales: “Teachers Who Care,” a measure of how supportive the teacher is to the child; and “A Fun Place to Learn,” a measure of how much the child enjoys school and learning. A third measure, “Home Learning Activities,” is a parent-report measure of parent encouragement of home literacy activities. A final scale, “Tries to Be a Good Learner,” is a teacher-report measure of how much the student engages in classwork. Structural equation modeling with Mplus 6.11 was used to test the hypothesis that teacher support is associated with home learning activities and positive student attitudes toward school, and that attitudes relate to learning behaviors in the classroom. The effects of race, poverty, and student gender on learning behavior were controlled.
Results: The hypothesized model had good fit (RMSEA=0.028, CFI=0.997, TLI=0.996). Each of the hypothesized relationships was significant. Teacher support was associated with home activities (β=0.132, p<.01) and student attitudes (β=0.611, p<.001). Home learning activities and student attitudes were both associated with learning behavior (β=0.164, p<.01; β=0.070, p<.001, respectively). The model explained 37% of the variance in student attitudes, and 23% of the variance in learning behavior. Only 2% of the variance in home activities was explained.
Conclusions and Implications: Teacher support was related to student learning behavior through two pathways—home learning activities and student attitudes toward school. By providing students with support in the classroom, teachers may be influencing student beliefs and behaviors in ways consistent with the social development model. Teacher support may do more than directly affect student educational attitudes; it may also extend to the home environment such that parents increase literacy expectations in the home. These results support efforts of school social workers to build home-school connections and student teacher relationships. Experimental and longitudinal research is needed to study these effects more thoroughly.