"From Structure to Process: Do Students' Own Constructions of Their Classroom Drive Their Learning?"
AERA 2018 Annual Meeting: “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education”
April 13-17, 2018
Title: From Structure to Process: Do Students' Own Constructions of Their Classroom Drive Their Learning?
Author: Katerina Schenke (PhD Alumna)
Understanding the links between observed instructional practices and student perceptions could unlock a key component in understanding how instruction “gets” into students. This study is situated in social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986), which emphasizes an individual’s own construction of her environment in understanding her subsequent behavior. In the case of learning, students’ perceptions of that environment shape their achievement and learning-related behaviors (e.g., Wolters, 2004). This paper proposes a framework to understand how observations of classroom quality contribute to student achievement and self-reported effort. Specifically, I suggest that student perceptions of that environment explain the association between observed instructional practices and two outcomes: mathematics achievement and effort. One assumption of this study is that observations of the classroom and student perceptions of the classroom are not only multiple measures of the same construct, but that observations of the classroom environment presuppose students’ perceptions of it. That is, characteristics of the classroom (as measured by observations) influence students’ construction of it (following Weinstein, 1982) and this interpretation is a mechanism to explain the relationship between the observed practices and the student-level outcomes.
Data comes from the second year of the Measures of Effective Teaching study (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013) and included 2,986 students in 176 middle school math classrooms and 3,269 students in 322 elementary school mathematics classrooms from 6 school districts across the US. Classroom instruction was video recorded and coded using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta, Hamre, Hayes, Mintz, & LaParo, 2008) and students were surveyed about their perceptions of the environment. I used the following dimensions of classroom quality: emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support, and the following perceptions of classroom quality: emotional support, instructional support, and academic press. I used Multilevel structural equation modeling and ran separate models for each mediator (student perception).
Results showed: (1) classrooms rated higher on classroom organization were associated with higher student achievement, (2) observations of emotional support were associated with student perceptions, (3) individual perceptions had a more consistent effect on outcomes than classroom-level aggregates, and (4) student perceptions more consistently predicted self-reported effort than academic achievement.
The current study uses a large-scale dataset to understand whether students’ perceptions of the quality of classroom interactions, provided a mechanism for the association between observed dimensions of classroom quality and students’ achievement and achievement-related behaviors. Individual-level perceptions were consistently related to the outcomes investigated in this study suggesting that policymakers may want to include individual-level perceptions in their models of teacher effectiveness.