"Associations Among Teachers' Depressive Symptoms and Students' Classroom Instructional Experiences in Third Grade"
AERA 2018 Annual Meeting: “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education”
April 13-17, 2018
Title: "Associations Among Teachers' Depressive Symptoms and Students' Classroom Instructional Experiences in Third Grade"
Authors: Leigh McLean, Tashia Abry, Michelle Taylor, Carol M. Connor
Recent work has identified connections among elementary teachers’ depressive symptoms, overall classroom quality and student achievement (McLean & Connor, 2015). Classroom quality includes the observed dimensions of instructional quality, classroom organization, and management/responsiveness to student needs, and together these teacher-driven dimensions have been found influence the types of instruction students experience (Connor et al., 2014; Kane, Staiger & McCaffrey, 2012; McLean, Sparapani, Toste & Connor, 2016; Pianta et al., 2007). As such, it is likely that students of teachers with more symptoms have different instructional experiences than peers in other classrooms, however the field lacks an in-depth examination of how exactly teachers’ depressive symptoms operate at the student level to influence what students experience during their time in the classroom. This study utilized student-level observation methods to investigate whether third grade teachers’ (n = 32) depressive symptoms influenced the amounts of time students (n = 326) spent in five types of instruction. Due to the increased fatigue and decreased motivation associated with depression (American Psychological Association, 2015), we predicted that types of instruction requiring more effort on the part of the teacher, such as direct instruction and providing organizational support, would be experienced less by students of teachers with more symptoms, and that types of instruction requiring less effort, such as having students work independently, would be experienced more. Lastly, we predicted that students of teachers with more symptoms would spend more time off-task and in transitions. The sample consisted of 326 third grade students and their 32 teachers. Forty-nine percent of students were female, 72% were Caucasian, 6% were African American, 4% were Asian, 3% were Hispanic and 15% reported other ethnicities. Students ranged in age from 7 to 11 years, with a mean of 8 years. All teachers met state certification requirements and had at least a bachelor’s degree in education. Students’ instructional experienced were assessed in the fall, winter and spring using the Individualizing Student Instruction framework (ISI; Connor et al., 2007; 2009; 2013) applied to video data. The ISI framework tracks the amount of time each student spends in each type of instruction. Teachers reported their depressive symptoms in the winter using an adapted version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (Radloff 1977; alpha = .85). Multilevel linear growth modeling revealed that students of teachers with more symptoms spent 1) decreasing amounts of time in whole-class academic instruction, 2) increasing amounts of time in independent work, 3) less initial, and decreasing amounts of time in planning/organizing instruction, and 4) more initial, and decreasing time off-task. Effects were largest for planning/organizing instruction. Results indicate that teachers’ depressive symptoms may negatively impact the instructional effort they put forth in the classroom throughout the year, with their intentional efforts to plan and organize particularly impacted.