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Teacher Management of Elementary Classroom Social Dynamics: Associations With Changes in Student Adjustment

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Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Published online on


Teachers and students in 54 elementary school classrooms (first, third, and fifth grades) participated in a multi-method longitudinal study of classroom social dynamics. At each of three assessments within a single school year, observers rated teacher–student interaction quality, students completed sociometric assessments and reported on their sense of peer community and school bonding/motivation for schooling, and teachers rated students’ social behavior. Teachers also completed end-of-year ratings of their strategies and beliefs regarding the management of classroom social dynamics. Multilevel models indicated that teachers’ efforts to mitigate status extremes and support isolated students were associated with more positive patterns of within-year change in students’ sense of peer community, responsive teacher–student interactions predicted positive changes in school bonding/motivation, and teacher-rated efforts to manage aggression and promote prosocial behavior among aggressive students predicted within-year declines in peer-nominated aggression. Teacher attunement to classroom friendship and victimization patterns, when combined with responsive teaching, was associated with more positive changes in school bonding/motivation. Teachers rated children’s aggressive/mean behaviors as being more important for their teaching than social status or friendship dynamics and were more likely to believe that children should solve the latter issues on their own.