Behaviors associated with caring teachers : student perspectives and classroom observations
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The intent of this study was to determine what students perceive as caring behaviors in teachers, whether those views match teachers’ perceptions, whether these vary depending on students’ academic track, and whether teachers are observed to exhibit the behaviors identified by their students as indicative of caring. Eighty-two majority Hispanic high school students and eight teachers completed a four-section survey about caring behavior. These teachers and students were also observed four times in the classroom. The survey contained Likert scale and open-ended questions about teachers’ caring behaviors. It also probed how the students’ own teachers interacted with them daily in the classroom and their personal open-ended opinion about how teachers show that they care or do not care about them. Two groups were studied, specifically Advanced Placement (AP) and Regular students, to find out whether academic placement caused students’ to categorize caring behaviors of teachers differently. Results of the study indicated a significant difference in AP and Regular students’ attitudes about how teachers treat them. Teachers’ perceptions were also compared to students’ perception and differences were found. Differences included how often teachers interact in one-on-one conversations about certain issues with students, such as the need to complete homework assignments. Within these conversations some issues were reported to occur more frequently by teachers than students. On other issues, like disrupting class, there was agreement, but only for specific teachers and subjects. In addition, STEM and non-STEM classes were investigated and it was discovered that these students responded differently about the frequency with which their teachers had conversations with them about specific issues. Differences included disrupting class, not completing assignments, interests and things that are important to students, and plans for college and work. Observations made by this researcher further support the idea that there is similarity in how students define caring behaviors, but what behaviors they experience, like assisting in homework or listening to personal needs, is different. Although trends observed in this study are suggestive, more research is required to support the idea that academic placement and subject make a difference in students’ experiences of caring behaviors in teachers.