The effects of teacher stress on pupil outcomes

A new article by Keith C Herman, Jal’et Hickmon-Rosa and Wendy M Reink explores the relationship between teacher stress and pupil outcomes.

Their study, which was published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, included 121 teachers and 1,817 pupils between kindergarten and fourth grade (Years 1 5) from nine elementary (primary) schools in an urban Midwestern school district in the US. Data included survey responses from teachers on their levels of burnout, stress, efficacy and coping. Pupil outcome measures included teacher reports of pupil behaviour and the Woodcock–Johnson III Test of Achievement.

Based on the data, the authors grouped the teachers into four classes: stressed/low coping (3%), stressed/moderate coping (30%), stressed/high coping (60%) and well-adjusted (7%). The authors then linked these results with pupil behavioural and academic outcomes, and found that teachers in the high-stress, high-burnout, and low-coping class were associated with the poorest pupil outcomes.

In conclusion, the authors say that these findings suggest that investing resources in supporting teacher adaptation, both by equipping them with coping skills and by providing more environmental supports, may improve not only their well-being but also the well-being and functioning of pupils in their class.

Source: Empirically derived profiles of teacher stress, burnout, self-efficacy, and coping and associated student outcomes (October 2017), Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Volume 20, Issue 2

Class clowns are no joke

A longitudinal study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that the older pupils get, the less they approve of male classmates who are looked upon as class clowns. Specifically, boys who act mischievously to make their peers laugh in first grade (Year 2) start to be shunned for their behaviour by third grade (Year 4), and lose self-esteem.

Educational psychologist Lynn Barnett followed 278 children from kindergarten through to third grade (Year 1 to Year 4) to examine “playful” children’s perception of themselves and how others saw them as the school years progressed. To determine which children were the most “playful,” Barnett used the 23-item Children’s Playfulness Scale; surveys on teacher-, peer-, and self-rated social competence; and teacher-, peer-, and self-rated disruptive classroom behaviours, placing pupils named by at least 25% of their peers into the “playful” category.

She found that pupils in the first grade equally regarded girls and boys as class clowns, but by third grade, mostly boys were labelled as such, even when the girls still demonstrated playful behaviour. Although playful children were often popular in the early school years and saw themselves as having better social skills than others, by third grade the male class clowns were the ones likely to be played with the least, losing confidence and seeing themselves as socially incompetent. This is in sharp contrast to female class clowns, who did not lose popularity or self-esteem by third grade. One pattern of note was that in all Year groups, teachers did not view playful girls as negatively as they did playful boys. Dr Barnett discusses these implications, and teachers’ influence on the way male class clowns are perceived.

Source: The education of playful boys: class clowns in the classroom (March 2018), Frontiers in Psychology Volume 9, Article 232

A wide range of approaches may help improve pupils’ ability to manage behaviours and emotions

Research published in JAMA Pediatrics has found there are a wide range of different approaches that can be effective in improving self-regulation skills (the ability to control emotions, avoid inappropriate or aggressive behaviour and engage in self-directed learning) in children and teenagers.

Anuja Pandey and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of evaluations of interventions designed to improve pupils’ self-regulation. Data from 49 studies with a total of more than 23,000 pupils ranging in age from 2 to 17 years was examined. The interventions were classified as curriculum-based programmes (n=21), mindfulness and yoga interventions (n=8), family-based programmes (n=9), exercise-based programmes (n=6) and interventions focused on social and personal skills (n= 6). The researchers found that most interventions (n=33) were successful in improving pupils’ ability to manage behaviour and emotion. A meta-analysis showed there was a positive effect of the interventions, with a pooled effect size of +0.42.

There was no age group in which interventions were more effective. While a curriculum-based approach was most commonly used to deliver interventions, the study found that self-regulation interventions can be effective in family settings targeting parenting practices and sibling relationships.

Source: Effectiveness of universal self-regulation–based interventions in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis (April 2018), JAMA Pediatrics Doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0232

Two behaviours linked to dropout rates in high school

A study published in the Journal of School Health examines how two behaviours – aggression and poor study skills – may be a factor in why some pupils do not finish high school.

Pamela Orpinas and colleagues randomly selected 620 sixth-grade (Year 7) pupils from northeast Georgia schools. Teachers completed a behaviour rating scale for these pupils every year from grades six to twelve (Year 7 to Year 13). Based on teacher ratings, the pupils were categorised into low, medium and high aggression trajectories from middle to high school and into five study skills groups (low, average-low, decreasing, increasing and high).  Examples of behaviours considered to be aggressive were threatening to hurt, hitting, bullying and teasing others. Examples of study skills were doing extra credit work, being well organised, completing homework, working hard and reading assigned chapters. Participants in the study were classed as a dropout if they were not enrolled in school and had not obtained a high school diploma by the end of the spring term in grade 12 (Year 13).

Pupils who were identified in the high-aggression/low-study-skills group had a 50% dropout rate compared to pupils with low aggression and high study skills who had a dropout rate of less than 2%. The results highlight the importance of early interventions that combine academic enhancement and behavioural management for reducing school dropout rates.

Source: Longitudinal examination of aggression and study skills From middle to high school: Implications for dropout prevention (February 2018), Journal of School Health Volume 88, issue 3

Outcomes of a single-session intervention for teenage anxiety and depression

A study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examines whether a half-hour, self-administered, single-session intervention (SSI) teaching growth mindset can reduce depression and anxiety and strengthen perceived control in high-risk teenagers.

Teenagers (aged 12–15) and their parents completed separate baseline questionnaires about the young person’s anxiety and depressive symptoms, which were then repeated over a nine-month follow-up period. Teenagers also reported on their perceived behavioural control. The teenagers were then randomised to receive either a 30-minute computer-guided intervention teaching growth mindset (the belief that personality is malleable), or a supportive therapy control.

Compared to the control group, teenagers who received the SSI had greater improvements in parent-reported depression (effect size = +0.60) and anxiety (+0.28), as well as self-reported depression (+0.32) and perceived behavioural control (+0.29) from baseline to nine-month follow-up. The effects of the intervention on self-reported anxiety were +0.36.

The report concludes that the findings suggest a promising, scalable SSI for reducing anxiety and depression in high-risk teenagers.

Source: A single-session growth mindset intervention for adolescent anxiety and depression: 9-month outcomes of a randomized trial (September 2017), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Mindfulness-based interventions in schools

This Campbell systematic review examines the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) implemented in school settings on cognition, behaviour, socio-emotional outcomes and academic achievement. MBIs are interventions that use a mindfulness component, broadly defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, and is often combined with yoga, cognitive-behavioural strategies, or relaxation-skills training.

A total of 61 studies are included in the review, but only the 35 randomised or quasi-experimental studies are used in the meta-analysis, with a total of 6,207 pupil participants. Most of the studies were carried out in schools in the US (74%), with some in Asia (5%), Europe (16%) and Canada (5%). The interventions ranged in duration (4–28 weeks), number of sessions (6–125 sessions) and frequency of meetings (once every two weeks to five times a week).

The findings show that MBIs in schools have a small positive effect on cognitive outcomes and socio-emotional outcomes, but do not improve behaviour or academic achievement. There was little heterogeneity for all outcomes, apart from behavioural outcomes, suggesting that the interventions produced similar results across studies on cognitive, socio-emotional and academic outcomes, despite the interventions being quite diverse. Overall, Brandy Maynard and colleagues find a lack of support at post-test to indicate that the positive effects on cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes then translate into positive outcomes on behaviour and academic achievement.

Source: Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary school students (March 2017), A Campbell Systematic Review 2017:5