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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8856-3702

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

2020

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Claire Hamilton

Subject Categories

Disability and Equity in Education | Early Childhood Education | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education

Abstract

TEACHER INTERACTIONS, TEACHER BIAS AND CHILD BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

SEPTEMBER 2020

ELLEN ELLSBERG EDGE, BFA, THE COOPER UNION SCHOOL OF ART

Post BA, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

M.ED, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Ph. D., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Directed by: Professor Claire Hamilton

This study utilized a mixed methods study design to gain a clearer understanding of the thoughts and feelings of Lead teachers in Head Start programs who work with children with perceived behavioral health challenges. Utilizing a semi-structured interview, 11 teachers employed in a New England Head Start program were asked about their views associated with child behavioral health, the family’s child-rearing practices, their own background experiences, and their ideas about inclusion and pedagogy. So as to measure the relational climate of the classrooms as enacted by the Lead teacher, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) scores were collected from their classrooms over four scoring cycles covering two consecutive years (La Paro, Pianta, & Stuhlman, 2004). Teachers’ background information and classroom composition data were collected to control for contextual factors, and behavioral health outcomes data was collected. A case-study approach was used for data analysis. While no relationship could be identified between teacher background, classroom composition, classroom climate and behavioral health outcomes, a major finding was that teachers’ thoughts and feelings almost always connected their views of the family’s childrearing approach with the child’s behavior. Teacher responses also confirmed earlier studies indicating that teachers typically don’t consider the quality of their relationship with the child as a factor effecting the child’s behavior, but instead attribute the behavior to childrearing at home, or within-child pathology. Their comments indicated that they were less likely to make negative blame or attributive judgements about families with which they had empathy, and that they were more likely to feel empathy when they shared a feature in common with the family, typically socioeconomic status. However, shared economic status did not mitigate against biased feelings teachers might have towards families from different ethnic cultures, or families who were linguistically diverse. Finally, while Head Start regulates against early childhood expulsions, Abuse and Neglect (filing) emerged as both an outcome and as a theme for analysis, raising questions about the relationship between public programs serving economically diverse populations and the prevalence of abuse and neglect cases filed for low-income communities.

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