How do pupils in China and the US perceive school climate differently?

School climate includes factors that serve as conditions for learning, and support physical and emotional safety, connection, support and engagement, as the US Department of Education suggests. In this study published in School Psychology Quarterly, George Bear and colleagues examined how pupils in China and the US perceive school climate differently and how it relates to their engagement in schools.

A total of 3,716 Chinese pupils from 18 schools in Guangzhou and 4,085 American pupils from 15 schools in Delaware were compared in the study. All schools were suburban schools or urban schools. The sample of American pupils was randomly selected from a larger dataset consisting of 37,255 pupils prepared by the Delaware Department of Education to match the pupil numbers of the Chinese pupil sample. Pupils who participated in this study were from grades 3–5 (Years 4–6), 7–8 (Years 8–9), and 10–12 (Years 11–13). Grade 6 (Year 7) and grade 9 (Year 10) were excluded from this study since pupils in these two grades were placed in different levels in Chinese and American schools.

Pupils were compared in their perceptions of school climate, which included teacher-pupil relations, pupil-pupil relations, fairness of school rules, clarity of behavioural expectations, respect for diversity, school safety, engagement school-wide, and bullying school-wide. Pupils’ engagement was measured by the Delaware Student Engagement Scale. The findings showed:

  • Chinese pupils perceived all aspects of school climate significantly more positively than American pupils during middle school and high (secondary) school.
  • The difference was smaller in elementary (primary) schools, with no significant differences for fairness of rules, clarity of behavioural expectations and school safety.
  • US pupils’ engagement was greater in elementary schools, while Chinese pupils reported greater emotional engagement in middle and high schools.
  • A significant relation between school climate and engagement was found for American pupils but not Chinese pupils.

The authors suggest that the findings might encourage schools to develop and promote those social-emotional competencies, values and norms which have been shown to underlie the high academic achievement of Chinese pupils in addition to school climate.

Source: Differences in school climate and student engagement in China and the United States (June 2018), School Psychology Quarterly, Vol 33(2)

The academic benefits of pupil–teacher familiarity

A study published in the journal Economics of Education Review suggests that assigning pupils to the same teacher two years in a row may improve academic performance because teachers get to know their pupils and are able to adjust and target their teaching styles accordingly.

Andrew J Hill and Daniel B Jones used administrative data from North Carolina to observe the importance of pupil–teacher familiarity on academic performance in elementary (primary) school. They found that “looping”, in which an entire class moves to the next year with the same teacher, results in a small but statistically significant increase in pupil achievement. Pupils who spent a second year with the same teacher scored higher on end-of-year tests (on average 0.123 of a standard deviation) than those who weren’t matched. These benefits were greatest for minority pupils and lower-performing teachers (as measured by value-added).

Source: A teacher who knows me: The academic benefits of repeat student-teacher matches (June 2018) Economics of Education Review volume 64

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

Link between positive teacher-student relationships and good behaviour in teens

A new study has found that having a positive relationship with a teacher when a child is 10 to 11 years old can be linked to “prosocial” behaviours such as cooperation and altruism, as well as reducing problem classroom behaviours such as aggression and oppositional behaviour.

The study used data from a major longitudinal study of Swiss children among a culturally diverse sample of 7 to 15 year olds, and involved 1,067 students randomly sampled across 56 of the city’s schools. Only students who experienced a change of teacher when the student was 9 or 10 were used for the study, with data gathered from teachers, students, and their parents on an annual and later biannual basis.

Using this data, Ingrid Obsuth and her team were able to “score” the children on over 100 different characteristics or experiences that could potentially account for good or bad behaviour. They then matched students in pairs with similar scores in all respects except for how they felt about their teacher, and how the teacher felt about them.

Students who had a more positive relationship with their teacher displayed more prosocial behaviour towards peers (on average 18%, and 10% more up to two years later), and up to 38% less aggressive behaviour (and 9% less up to four years later), over students who felt ambivalent or negative towards their teacher.

Source: A Non-bipartite Propensity Score Analysis of the Effects of Teacher–Student Relationships on Adolescent Problem and Prosocial Behavior (2016), Journal of Youth and Adolescence