Teacher attentional behaviour : an exploratory study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, in Education at Massey University

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Massey University
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This investigation reports an ex post facto exploratory study of teacher attentional behaviour, in which a number of theoretically and methodologically, but not logically, independent measures of attention were employed. There is evidence to suggest that teachers differentially distribute their attention in the classroom, and that such distribution may have implications for their pupils. The concern, however, is not only with the way in which teachers do in fact distribute their attention, but also with the factors, internal or external to the teacher, which may pre-dispose them to attend to some features of the classroom stimulus situation, and not to others. Thus, it was expected that teacher biographical; attitudinal and 'stylistic' characteristics would play a role in the structuring of teacher attentional behaviour. Furthermore, it was expected that correlations would exist between the various measures of attentional behaviour utilised in the study. All the teachers from two intermediate schools in a provincial area of New Zealand, participated in Phase One of the study, completing a Teacher Questionnaire designed to solicit teacher biographical information; several cognitive tests from the French Kit of Reference Tests for Cognitive Factors; a devised series of perceptual tasks, which required teachers to respond to a series of questions after viewing videotape extracts of teaching situations; and the Minnesota Teacher Attitude Inventory, which was included as a measure of teacher-pupil attitudes. Phase Two of the study, focussed on the 'in situ' attentional behaviour of eight teacher volunteers, who had completed all parts of Phase One of the study. These teachers were then videotaped in their own schools teaching their own classes during social studies lessons. Teacher attentional behaviour in Phase Two of the study was operationally defined in terns of teacher verbal behaviour, in interaction with their pupils. Each incident or exchange between the teacher and his pupils was coded three times, for Target (to whom was the teacher directing his attention); Function, or purpose of the interaction; and Action (the nature of the exchange). The analysis of the data revealed that there were no statistically significant relationships between the MTAI and the various attentional measures employed. Similarly, there only appeared to be chance associations between the Hidden Figures Test and most of the other variables utilised in the study, except that male teachers appeared to make significantly higher scores than female teachers. The Gestalt Completion Test, on the other hand, appeared to correlate significantly with most of the other attentional measures used (apart from the HFT), and with a number of biographical variables. Teacher 'in situ' attentional behaviour correlated with a number of biographical variables, and with the Gestalt Completion Test, but not with the HFT or the teacher responses to the video-tape extracts. The relative independence of the HFT and the GCT suggests that they may be measuring differing levels of attentional processing; a link between these differing levels of processing and attentional style is proposed and discussed.
Teaching, Teacher effectiveness, Classroom management