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Teacher Support of Student Autonomy in Comprehensive School Reform Classrooms


by Amanda R. Bozack, Ruby Vega, Mary McCaslin & Thomas L. Good — 2008

Background/Context: Research in the self-determination theoretical (SDT) tradition indicates that teachers’ autonomy-supportive behaviors result in students’ greater perceived academic competence, better academic performance, and increased achievement. This study describes autonomy-supportive teacher behaviors in schools participating in Comprehensive School Reform (CSR).

Research Question: In a 2006 pilot study to determine if autonomous opportunities occurred in CSR classroom contexts, Bozack, McCaslin, and Good identified the presence or absence of autonomy-supporting teaching in their written narratives of classroom practices. The current study moves that pilot research forward by asking, Are autonomy-supportive teaching practices present? And if so, what is the nature of the teacher-student interactions in these classrooms?

Population: The sample consisted of 696 intervals of field notes from 106 classroom observations in five CSR schools in Grades 3, 4, and 5.

Research Design: Comprehensive School Reform Classroom Observation System (CSRCOS) observation field notes were analyzed using the Autonomy Supportive Behavior Instrument (ASBI). The scale was developed based on previous SDT research suggestions about how teachers can foster autonomy in the classroom.

Conclusions: Results indicated that all eight teaching practices suggested by SDT were present in our field notes; however, their frequency and form varied considerably from SDT expectations. Students had many opportunities to manipulate objects, but in half of the codes, we found that students were using the same objects for the same tasks in the same way, suggesting that there was little opportunity for students to choose how they wanted to work with objects. Students had many opportunities to talk. Teachers prompted and guided student learning most of the time, yet rarely helped students to relate ideas and concepts from one topic to another or from one lesson to another. Opportunities for student choice were infrequent, and when our field notes included verbal exchange, we found that teachers consistently responded to student questions and student-initiated dialogue. We rarely identified explicit instances of encouragement or teachers engaging the experiences, expertise, or perspective of students.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 11, 2008, p. 2389-2407
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15280, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 6:14:43 AM

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About the Author
  • Amanda Bozack
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA RABIDUE BOZACK is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include novice teacher professional development, student and teacher motivational dynamics, and elementary education. Recent publications are, with coauthors M. McCaslin, T. L. Good, S. Nichols, J. Zhang, C. R. H. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, et al., "Comprehensive School Reform: An Observational Study of Teaching in Grades 3 Through 5," in Elementary School Journal (2006), and, with coauthors M. McCaslin, A. R. Bozack, L. Napoleon, A. Thomas, V. Vasquez, V. Wayman, & J. Zhang, "Self-Regulated Learning and Classroom Management: Theory, Research, and Considerations for Classroom Practice," in C. Evertson & C. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and Contemporary Issues (Erlbaum, 2006).
  • Ruby Vega
    University of Arizona
    RUBY VEGA is a master’s student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include college students' experiences of belongingness in their classes and their achievement goal orientations.
  • Mary McCaslin
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    MARY MCCASLIN is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Arizona. Her scholarship focuses on the relationships among cultural, social, and personal sources of influence that coregulate student adaptive learning, motivational dynamics, and emergent identity. Her recent publications are “Co-Regulation of Student Motivation and Emergent Identity” in Educational Psychologist (in press), and “Co-Regulation of Opportunity, Activity, and Identity in Student Motivation: Elaborations on Vygotskian Themes” in S. M. McInerney and S. Van Etten (Eds.), Big Theories Revisited: Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning(Information Age, 2004).
  • Thomas Good
    University of Arizona
    THOMAS L. GOOD is the Editor of the Elementary School Journal and is the head of the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Arizona. His research interests include the study of teacher-student communication in classrooms as it unfolds in both the formal and informal curriculum. Recent publications are, with coauthors T. L. Good, S. Nichols, J. Zhang, C. R. H. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, et al., “Comprehensive School Reform: An Observational Study of Teaching in Grades 3 Through 5” in Elementary School Journal (2006); and, with coauthors T. L. Good, M. McCaslin, H. Y. Tsang, J. Zhang, C. R. H. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, et al., “How Well Do 1st-Year Teachers Teach: Does Type of Preparation Make a Difference?” in Journal of Teacher Education (2006).
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