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How Teachers Establish Psychological Environments During the First Days of School: Associations With Avoidance in Mathematics


by Helen Patrick, Julianne Turner, Debra K. Meyer & Carol Midgley — 2003

Observations of the first days of school in eight sixth-grade classrooms identified three different classroom environments. In supportive environments teachers expressed enthusiasm for learning, were respectful, used humor, and voiced expectations that all students would learn. In ambiguous environments teachers were inconsistent in their support and focus on learning and exercised contradictory forms of management. In nonsupportive environments teachers emphasized extrinsic reasons for learning, forewarned that learning would be difficult and that students might cheat or misbehave, and exercised authoritarian control. Teachers' patterns of motivational and organizational discourse during math classes near the end of the year were consistent with the messages they expressed at the beginning of the year. When student reports of avoidance behaviors in math from fall and spring were compared with the qualitative analyses of these environments, students in supportive classrooms reported engaging in significantly less avoidance behavior than students in ambiguous or nonsupportive environments.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 8, 2003, p. 1521-1558
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11555, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 8:54:54 AM

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About the Author
  • Helen Patrick
    Purdue University
    E-mail Author
    HELEN PATRICK is an assistant professor in educational psychology at Purdue University. Her research interests include student motivation and self-regulated learning and their associations with classroom psychological environments. Recent publications include ‘‘Teachers’ Communication of Goal Orientations in Four Fifth-Grade Classrooms’’ (with L. H. Anderman, A. M. Ryan, K. Edelin, and C. Midgley) in Elementary School Journal, and ‘‘Teacher Discourse and Students’ Affect and Achievement-Related Behaviors in Two High Mastery/High Performance Classrooms’’ (with J. C. Turner, C. Midgley, and D. K. Meyer) in Elementary School Journal.
  • Julianne Turner
    University of Notre Dame
    E-mail Author
    JULIANNE C. TURNER is an associate professor, at the Institute for Educational Initiatives, University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include the relationship of classroom contexts and student motivation in mathematics and literacy, teacher discourse, and the role of emotion in motivation theory. Recent publications include ‘‘The Classroom Environ-ment and Students’ Reports of Avoidance Strategies in Mathematics: A Multimethod Study’’ (with C. Midgley, D. K. Meyer, M. Gheen, E. A. Anderman, J. Kang, and H. Patrick) in Journal of Educational Psychology and ‘‘Teacher Discourse and Students’ Affect and Achievement-Related Behaviors in Two High Mastery/High Performance Classrooms’’ (with C. Midgley, D. K. Meyer, and H. Patrick) in Elementary School Journal.
  • Debra Meyer
    Elmhurst College
    E-mail Author
    DEBRA K. MEYER is an associate professor and Buik Endowed Chair, in the Department of Education, Elmhurst College. Her research interests include classroom research on the cognitive, motivational, and affective processes that promote positive learning environments as studied through instructional activities and discourse. Recent publications include ‘‘The Necessity of Studying Emotion for Understanding Motivation to Learn in Classroom Contexts’’ (with J. Turner) in Educational Psychologist and ‘‘Teacher Discourse and Students’ Affect and Achievement-Related Behaviors in Two High Mastery/High Performance Classrooms’’ (with J. C. Turner, C. Midgley, and H. Patrick) in Elementary School Journal.
  • Carol Midgley
    University of Michigan
    CAROL MIDGLEY, a research scientist in the Combined Program of Education and Psychology, University of Michigan, died on November 23, 2001. Her research interests included adolescent motivation and the transition to middle school.
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