Examining the contexts of children’s classroom behaviors: The influence of teacher control


The naturally occurring behaviors of children in two second- and two sixth-grade classrooms were videotaped during the systematic manipulation of four classroom contexts: Unsupervised Free Time, Unsupervised Desk Work, Supervised Free Time, and Class Lesson. These contexts represented combinations of the teacher being absent or present in the classroom with the absence or presence of an academic assignment. The classroom teachers were trained to arrange these contexts during the typical course of the school day, one per day. The frequencies of peer interactions, teacher interactions, solitary work behaviors, and solitary nonwork behaviors were coded. Second graders were most sensitive to the assignment manipulation, working on the assignment whether or not the teacher was present. With no assignment, second graders increased their frequency of peer interactions, particularly in the absence of the teacher. For sixth graders, with neither teacher control variable in place, time was divided between peer interactions and solitary work. Adding an assignment increased the number of work behaviors while leaving the frequency of peer interactions the same; the presence of the teacher (with no assignment) significantly increased work behaviors and decreased peer interactions. During the Class Lesson Context children of both grades behaved similarly: many teacher interactions and work behaviors and very few peer interactions. The findings are discussed in terms of the impact of social context on behavior and the importance of integrating the examination of context variables into developmental research. © 1993 by Academic Press, Inc.

Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology