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A study of British Columbia teachers' attitudes to students' behaviour problems Plenderleith, Eileen Mavis

Abstract

In 1928, Dr. E. K. Wickman published the results of a study of the attitudes of 511 Cleveland teachers to students’ behaviour problems. Wickman's results indicated that the attitudes of the teachers were almost in complete opposition to the attitudes of the thirty clinicians to whom the questionnaire was also administered. The chief objective of the B. C. study was to obtain a quantitative measurement of the average B. C. teacher's attitude toward the fifty behaviour problems on Wickman's questionnaire in order to compare the rank-order ratings of certain B. C. groups (male, female, city, rural; high, elementary) with one another and with the rank-order ratings obtained by Wickman’s teachers and Wickman's clinicians. The procedures utilized in the study in attaining the above objectives were: the construction of a fifty-four item B. C. questionnaire including the fifty original problems studied by Wickman in his investigation of teachers' attitudes to children's behaviour problems, the administering of the B. C. questionnaire to 838 B. C. school teachers and the use of 400 of the returns as a B. C. sampling. A comparison of the rank-order of the various groups of B. C. teachers indicates that there is a very close agreement in ratings. This fact is verified by the coefficients of correlation of the rank order arrangements between the various groups. These range from +.95 to +.97. The only significant differences in the rating of the fifty-four problems by the B. C. high school and elementary school teachers is found in the item dealing with: "Silliness, smartness, attracting attention", to which the average high school teacher assigns greater importance than does the average elementary school teacher. In general, the average B. C. high school teacher considers the list of problems to be slightly more serious, in an absolute sense, than does the average B. C. elementary school teacher. In the case of the B. C. male and B. C. female teachers the only significant differences in the rating of the fifty-four problems are found in items dealing with: "Untruthfulness" and "Heterosexual activity". In both cases the average female teacher assigns greater importance to the items than does the average male teacher. In an absolute sense, however, the average B. C. female teacher generally rates the list of problems as being considerably more serious than does the average male teacher. In the city and rural returns the only significant difference in the rating of the fifty-four problems is found in the item dealing with: "Carelessness", to which the average rural teacher assigns greater importance than does the average city teacher. In these two categories the rural teachers generally rate the list of problems as being slightly more serious, in an absolute sense, than do their city colleagues. A rank-order comparison of the final B. C. scores with those of the Wickman teachers indicates a positive correlation of .82. Although only fifteen of the fifty problems do not show a significant difference in rating, the B. C. teachers tend to fall into the typical teacher-attitude-pattern of the Wickman teachers in the seriousness- grouping of the problems. The comparison of the average B. C. teacher's rank-order scores with the rank-order of the Wickman clinicians indicates a positive correlation of .29. In all there are thirty-two items in which there are statistical differences between the two groups. In spite of this great variation in attitudes, the ratings of the B. C. teachers are much more closely in harmony with those of the clinicians that were the ratings of the Wickman teachers which showed a negative correlation. The four most important conclusions reached from the investigation were: (1) That there is a measurable movement towards the clinician’s ratings in the average B. C. teacher's attitude toward children's behaviour problems when the ratings of the 400 B. C. teachers are compared with the ratings of the 511 Wickman teachers. (2) That the average B. C. teacher generally rates as most serious those problems of an overt nature which transgress the teacher's moral sensibilities or frustrate her control over the learning situation and that the average B. C. teacher generally rates as less serious those problems of a recessive nature which affect only the welfare of the individual child. (3) That the average B. C. teacher has a better understanding of the relative importance of behaviour problems and a greater recognition of potential problem-behaviour than had the Wickman teachers. (4) That there is evidence that a much greater application of the principles of Child Psychology must be employed by the B. C. teachers in order to approach the standards advocated by mental hygienists.

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