The positive influence of classmates’ behaviour

Prior research has indicated that an individual adolescent’s behaviour is influenced by the behaviour of his or her classmates. But while most studies have focused on negative peer influence, a study published in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether individual anti-social behaviours in adolescents can potentially be reduced by promoting pro-social behaviour at the classroom level.

In order to determine whether classmates’ pro-social behaviour is related to lower anti-social behaviour of pupils, Verena Hofmann and Christoph Michael Müller conducted a longitudinal study among lower secondary school pupils in Switzerland (mean age = 13.8 years). The sample included 55 classrooms in eight schools, and the researchers analysed data collected at the end of Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 9 (Years 7–10). Participants completed self-reported assessments on pro-social behaviour, anti-social behaviour, and anti-social attitudes. Classmates’ pro- and anti-social behaviour for each pupil was calculated by averaging all pupils’ scores in a class, excluding the pupils’ own score.

While children generally developed more anti-social behaviour over time, particularly those who had higher initial levels of anti-social behaviour, results indicated that more pro-social behaviour among classmates predicted lower levels of individual anti-social behaviour and anti-social attitudes in the future.

Source: Avoiding antisocial behavior among adolescents: The positive influence of classmates’ prosocial behavior (October 2018), Journal of Adolescence, volume 68

Urban violence and pupil performance

A new study published in Sociology of Education finds that children who attend school with many pupils from violent neighbourhoods can earn significantly lower test scores than peers with classmates from safer areas. The lead author of the study was sociologist Julia Burdick-Will from Johns Hopkins University.

Burdick-Will studied pupils who attended Chicago Public Schools from 2002 to 2010, analysing administrative data from the school system, crime statistics from the Chicago Police Department and school surveys from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. She looked at five cohorts of pupils who were freshmen (Year 10) between the autumn of 2002 and 2006, and followed each pupil for up to four years. Results indicated that in schools where more pupils have a high exposure to violence, their classmates score as much as 10 percent lower on annual standardised maths and reading tests.

According to the report, the study shows that when pupils experience higher levels of neighbourhood violence, the whole school reports feeling less safe, having more disciplinary problems and feeling less trust in their teachers.

Source: Neighborhood violence, peer effects, and academic achievement in Chicago (June 2018), Sociology of Education DOI: 10.1177/0038040718779063

 

Least restrictive…for whom?

Numerous studies show the academic and social benefits for children with emotional and behavioural disorders (EBD) of including them in classes with children who do not have these issues. Few studies, however, examine the effects of this inclusion on their non-disabled classmates.

Given that children who have EBD often cause disruptions, and that disruptions are associated with reduced student engagement, Michael Gottfried, Anna Egalite, and J Jacob Kirksey recently examined the correlation between the absentee rate of non-disabled kindergartners (Year 1) who had peers with EBD in their classrooms with those who didn’t.

Subjects were the nationally representative sample of kindergartners used in the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study 2010-2011, a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Results showed more annual absences in classes that included peers with an EBD than in classes that didn’t. The incidences of chronic absence were also higher for students who had an EBD classmate. Patterns emerged for absent students: girls were more likely to be absent than boys, as were non-ELL and higher-income students. Patterns also emerged showing that students with EBD classmates were less likely to be absent when they had teachers with more experience, teachers certified in special education, or teachers who spent more time on discipline. They found that including children with other types of disabilities did not cause the same types of disruptions as including those with EBDs.

Source: Does the Presence of a Classmate with Emotional/behavioral Disabilities Link to Other Students’ Absences in Kindergarten? (2016), Early Childhood Research Quarterly