Teacher interactions in intermediate school classrooms

This research project will explore how teachers interact with students to provide culturally safe and inclusive classrooms.

Project overview

Classrooms are complex and busy places. At any given moment, in a school day, a plethora of actions, interactions, and exchanges are occurring such that teachers are called upon to make instant decisions, often with little opportunity for considered thought. Teachers need to act and react almost instantaneously at times. This means that their interactions towards students may not always be as equitable as teachers would like. This is because it is likely that as teachers interact spontaneously with students, it is impossible to monitor both verbal and non-verbal behaviours during the day-to-day complexity of classrooms. It is also possible that differential teacher behaviours may lead to differential outcomes for individual students, despite teacher ongoing efforts to be completely fair to all students. This requirement for instant decisions and behaviours contrasts, for example, with student assessments and planning for learning, often made outside class time, when teachers can consider thoughtfully many aspects about students and their learning in making their judgements. Teachers are much more likely to be equitable in their decision-making in these circumstances.

Why conduct classroom observations?

Classrooms have changed significantly over the past 30-40 years, yet few researchers since the late 1980s have observed the degree to which teachers provide an equitable environment for students and how they do this. Directly observing teacher behaviours is likely to provide us with an up-to-date picture of how intermediate classrooms function in today’s culturally diverse settings. We are interested in how teachers create a supportive and caring environment for all students. Further, with our increasingly diverse population, we are also investigating the ways teachers provide a culturally responsive and inclusive environment for their students. We will also be exploring teachers’ views of todays’ diverse classrooms as well as their perspectives on prejudice.

Project objectives

Our key research question is, how do teachers provide culturally safe and inclusive environments for students?

Accordingly, this research project has four primary objectives:

  • First, the researchers will measure teachers’ beliefs about how they provide a culturally responsive and inclusive environment for their students, teachers’ views on prejudice, beliefs about diverse students (focusing particularly on Pākehā and Māori students), how teachers support diverse students, and their enjoyment of working in culturally diverse classrooms.  
  • Second, the researchers will observe the teacher participants teaching mathematics on three occasions during the year and will record the teacher interactions with their students.
  • Third, in the classes of participant teachers, we will collect mathematics achievement data from students and measure their students’ beliefs. Students will be asked about their perceptions of classroom inclusion, whether they perceive differentiation in teacher behaviours, how they are supported by their teacher, their feelings of classroom belonging, how they seek help in mathematics, their mathematics self-efficacy, and how much they enjoy being in a culturally diverse classroom.
  • Fourth, by measuring teacher and student beliefs and observing in classrooms, we will be able to determine the degree to which the teachers’ beliefs are associated with their classroom behaviours and interactions with students, and with student academic and psychological outcomes.

What will participants need to do in this project?

The participants in this research are intermediate school teachers and their students.

What will teachers need to do?

Teachers will come into the Faculty of Education and Social Work once when they and their school join the project in order to complete our teacher measures. They need to come into the Faculty because the measures are all completed online and some are timed so we need to ensure that everyone completes them together. This meeting will occur after school so we will ensure that there is a nice afternoon tea ready for teachers when they arrive.

Teachers will also need to allow our research assistants to come into their classrooms on three occasions before the end of the year to observe the teachers teaching mathematics. These observations will occur at dates and times that suit the teachers.

What will students need to do?

We will seek the students’ and their parents’ permission for us to be given their standardised mathematics test results from the beginning and end of the year. Students will also complete an online questionnaire related to their beliefs about diverse classrooms and their enjoyment of mathematics. This questionnaire should not take more than 10 minutes to complete.

What are we offering in return?

Christine Rubie-Davies, the Principal Investigator, is a world-recognised leader in the field of teacher expectation research. Her book, Becoming a High Expectation Teacher: Raising the Bar has become an international best seller. She has delivered almost 100 professional learning and development sessions to teachers, school leaders, and educational organisations in New Zealand and overseas. She is offering at no cost a full day of professional development in high expectation teaching at a time and place convenient to each participating school.

Contact us

If you would like more information about this project, please contact the Principal Investigator: Professor Christine Rubie-Davies: c.rubie@auckland.ac.nz

Project team

Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, Principal Investigator

Associate Professor Danny Osborne, Principal Investigator

Dr Lyn McDonald, Associate Investigator

Annaline Flint, Associate Investigator

Mengnan Li, Senior Research Assistant

Layla Basma, Research Assistant

Yifei Wu, Research Assistant

Junita Purwandari, Research Assistant