New study on the effect of different teacher interaction styles

Learning styles have no effect, but teacher interaction styles do have. The teacher’s interaction style can either foster or slow down the development of math skills among children with challenging temperaments. This was shown in the results of the study “Parents, teachers and children’s learning” carried out at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.In the study around 150 children were followed and the researchers studied their interaction with parents and teachers across the first grade of primary school using the diary method.

If I look at this study, the key word is actually not “style”, the key word is “interaction” (bold by me):

Overall, the results of the present study suggest that low task orientation and negative emotionality (which both reflect a difficult temperament) may lead to increased behavioral control attempts by teachers, which then help the student improve his or her math performance in particular. The result is understandable since both temperament characteristics reflect difficulty in controlling one’s impulses: Where low task orientation reflects problems in keeping attention (represented by high activity and distractibility, as well as lack of persistence), negative emotionality reflects the inability to control emotional responses more so than behavioral responses. By helping students to control their impulsiveness (either emotional or behavioral) via direct rules and structure, teachers make the classroom more manageable. This then may not only support the overall working peace in the classroom but also help individual students to progress in their learning. In fact, the latter interpretation is consistent with previous literature concerning the importance of parents’ active responsiveness and scaffolding (accommodation of a responsive style) in children’s skill development: children’s cognitive development is best supported by responding to children’s individual needs and actions in learning situations

Or in short from the press release:

Ph.D. Jaana Viljaranta, along with her colleagues, studied the role of teachers’ interaction styles in academic skill development among children with different temperamental characteristics.

A child’s challenging temperament may show up in the classroom, for example, as low task-orientation and lack of concentration, or as a tendency to intense negative emotional expressions. Viljaranta et al. found that a child’s challenging temperament evokes two kinds of response styles among teachers. On the one hand, teachers try to regulate the child’s behavior via clear limit setting and instructions, and on the other hand they try to impact the child’s behavior via guilt-inducing techniques and by appealing to his/her emotions. In the study by Viljaranta et al., limit setting was found to be beneficial for children’s math skill development, whereas guilt-inducing techniques led to slower math skill development especially with girls.

The most interesting part is the different effect of the interactions between teachers and children versus parents and children:

However, the results of the present study showed that only teacher-rated negative emotionality, not parent-rated negative emotionality, predicted children’s math skills via teachers’ interaction style. This result suggests that the negative emotionality that teachers report for children is context specific; that is, it occurs differently in school and home contexts. For example, the teacher- and parent-rated perceptions of a student’s negative emotionality may not match because these perceptions are based on different things and might reflect the raters’ different roles, viewpoints, and social contexts.

Abstract of the study:

The present study followed 156 Finnish children (Mage = 7.25 years) during the first grade of primary school to examine to what extent parent- and teacher-rated temperament impacts children’s math and reading skill development during the first grade, and the extent to which this impact would be mediated by teachers’ interaction styles with the children. The results showed that the impact of children’s low task orientation and negative emotionality on their math skill development was mediated via teachers’ behavioral control and, among girls, also by psychological control. The negative impact of children’s inhibition on math skill development, in turn, was not mediated via teachers’ interaction styles. Temperament did not predict the children’s reading skill development during first grade.


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