Children’s temperament and teachers as mediators

A new article in Child Development reports on a Finnish study of children’s temperament and their maths and reading development, focusing on whether teachers’ interaction style acts as a mediator between pupils’ temperament characteristics and their skill development.

The study followed 156 Finnish children, each from a different class, during their first year of primary school (equivalent to Year 3 in the UK). The participating children completed maths and English tests in October and April, and parents and teachers completed questionnaires about the child’s temperament. Teachers also answered daily questionnaires over a one-week period about their interaction style with the target child.

There were four components of the child’s temperament: Task orientation (activity, persistence, and distractibility); inhibition; positive mood; and negative emotionality. There were three components of teacher’s interaction styles: Affection (a positive and warm daily relationship with the child); behavioural control (the degree to which the teacher aimed to directly influence the child’s behaviour); and psychological control (teachers expressing disappointment and appealing to guilt).

The authors found different results for reading and maths. Although children’s low task orientation and negative emotionality were negatively associated with the children’s initial reading skill level at the beginning of the year, temperament did not predict children’s subsequent reading skill development during the year. The authors suggest this may reflect the relatively late school starting age and the consistent nature of Finnish orthography.

In contrast, the study indicated that for maths, temperament does play a role, perhaps reflecting the different learning process. The results showed that the impact of children’s low task orientation and negative emotionality on maths skill development was mediated by teachers’ behavioural control and, among girls, also by psychological control. However, the negative impact of children’s inhibition on maths skill development was not mediated by teachers’ interaction style.

Source: Children’s Temperament and Academic Skill Development During First Grade: Teachers’ Interaction Styles as Mediators (2015), Child Development, 86(4).

Programme considering personality traits shows positive results

A recent study published in School Psychology Review investigated the effects of the programme INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament on the critical thinking, maths, and reading skills of 5- to 7-year-old children compared to a control group of children assigned to a supplemental after-school reading programme. The goal of the INSIGHTS programme is to train teachers and parents to recognise children’s personality types and adjust the learning environment as needed.

While all children in the INSIGHTS programme demonstrated gains, the greatest gains were made in groups of children classified as shy. The study followed 350 kindergarten (Year 1) pupils in 22 urban low-income schools in the US during kindergarten and into first grade (Year 2). Children whose teachers and parents were involved in the INSIGHTS group demonstrated greater gains in critical thinking than control children, and did not lose maths skills during the summertime as the control children did. Reading skills were comparable for both groups.

Shy children can be overlooked in the classroom and INSIGHTS provides strategies to help children who are shy to reach their potential. You can read more about the INSIGHTS programme in the next issue of Better: Evidence-based Education, which will be published soon.

Source: Enhancing Academic Development of Shy Children: A Test of the Efficacy of INSIGHTS, School Psychology Review, 43(3).