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icon of glasses and a book Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning


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FY Awards

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A Longitudinal Study of Teaching Practices, Classroom Peer Ecologies, and Youth Outcomes

Year: 2010
Name of Institution:
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Espelage, Dorothy
Award Amount: $2,164,277
Award Period: 4 years
Award Number: R305A100344


Co-Principal Investigators: Scott Gest (Pennsylvania State University) and Tom Farmer (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Purpose: Teachers have both the opportunity and the responsibility to optimize children’s interpersonal relationships in the classroom to facilitate learning. In this exploratory study, researchers will extend on-going longitudinal research that asks how features of classroom peer ecologies such as popularity, friendships, and cliques relate to academic achievement, aggression, and school relatedness. These indicators will then be examined to analyze how these peer ecologies are shaped by teacher practices in elementary school.

Project Activities: Researchers will identify teaching practices that are robustly related to key peer ecology features and child outcomes in diverse elementary classrooms. Four cohorts of teachers and students in 36 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade classrooms will be studied over 4 years. Assessments will occur 3 times during the school year, including self- and peer-reports, classroom observations of teaching, teacher surveys and interviews, direct tests of academic competencies, and school record information. Students will be asked about their social relationships (i.e., friends, enemies, peer group affiliates, whom they like most and least) and about the social behavior of their peers (i.e., cooperativeness, aggression, and popularity).

Products: Products of this project include preliminary evidence of potentially promising teaching practices that are related to classroom peer ecologies and child outcomes in elementary classrooms. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study takes place in 144 elementary school classrooms (1st, 3rd, and 5th grades) located in rural Pennsylvania, urban Illinois, and a large urban area in Indiana.

Population: The sample includes approximately 18 child participants per classroom for a total of 2,600 students and 144 teachers. Half of the classrooms will be located in rural Pennsylvania (primarily European American) and the remaining half will be located in urban Illinois (43 percent African-American, 8 percent Asian, and 3 percent Latino) and urban Indiana (mostly African-American and Latino).

Research Design and Methods: Using a multi-level design, measurements in classrooms will be obtained on three occasions: once in the 2nd or 3rd week of school (September), once two months later (November), and once near the end of the school year (May). At the first assessment, the full set of measures of teaching practices will be obtained, but abbreviated measures of the peer ecology and child outcomes will be used to minimize the burden on teachers and students so early in the school year. The final sample will include four cohorts of 36 classrooms (144 in total). Cohort 1 was studied in 2009-10 through earlier funding. Cohorts 2-4 are being studied in the first three years (2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13) of this IES grant. Year 4 of this grant (2013–14) will be devoted to combined analyses across the four cohorts.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: Key child outcomes include: (1) academic competence, measured through the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement, grades, teacher reports, and student self-report (e.g., Harter’s Self-Perception Profile); (2) aggression, bullying, and victimization, measured through peer nominations, teacher reports, and school records; and (3) school bonding and social relatedness, measured through teacher ratings, peer nominations, and student self-report. The classroom peer ecology is measured through unlimited nomination procedures in which children are asked whom they “like most” and “like least”, whom they consider to be friends, and whom they consider to be “popular,” “cool,” and “unpopular.” A social cognitive mapping procedure is used to identify social networks in the classroom (e.g., cliques) and features of those social networks such as tight-knittedness, subgroup distinctiveness, homophily (i.e., peer affiliations based on behavior), and ethnic integration and diversity. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System is used to measure three key dimensions of teacher-student interactions (Classroom Organization, Instructional Support, and Emotional Support). Teachers’ network-related teaching practices (e.g., seating arrangements) are also assessed.

Data Analytic Strategy: To test hypotheses regarding relationships between peer ecology features, teaching practices, and child outcomes, a multilevel modeling strategy is used. For each child outcome, researchers specify 4-level models of (Level 1) within-year assessments (early fall, late fall, spring), nested within individuals (Level 2), within classrooms (Level 3), and within schools (Level 4). To test hypotheses regarding links between teaching practices and peer ecologies, researchers specify 3-level models with assessments (Level 1) nested within classrooms (Level 2) nested within schools (Level 3). Newly emerging longitudinal modeling strategies (e.g., SIENA models) will be used to study within classroom friendship patterns and behavior to supplement interpretation of the multilevel models.


Book chapter

Rodkin, P.C., and Gest, S.D. (2010). Teaching Practices, Classroom Peer Ecologies, and Bullying Behaviors Among School Children. In D.L. Espelage, and S. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in North American Schools (2nd ed., pp. 75–90). New York: Routledge.

Rodkin, P.C., and Ryan, A.M. (2012). Child and Adolescent Peer Relations In Educational Context. In K.R. Harris, S. Graham, T. Urdan, S. Graham, J.M. Royer, and M. Zeidner (Eds.), APA Educational Psychology Handbook, Volume 2: Individual Differences and Cultural and Contextual Factors (pp. 363–389). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Ahn, H-J., and Rodkin, P.C. (2014). Classroom-Level Predictors of the Social Status of Aggression: Friendship Centralization, Friendship Density, Teacher-Student Attunement, and Gender. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4): 1144–1155.

Ahn, H-J., Rodkin, P.C., and Gest, S.D. (2013). Teacher-Student Agreement on "Bullies and Kids They Pick On" in Elementary School Classrooms: Gender and Grade Differences. Theory Into Practice, 52(4): 257–263.

Gest, S. D., Madill, R. A., Zadzore, K. M., Miller, A., and Rodkin, P. C. (2014). Teacher Management of Elementary Classroom Social Dynamics: Associations With Changes in Student Adjustment. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(2): 107–118.

Gest, S.D., and Rodkin, P.C. (2011). Teaching Practices and Elementary Classroom Peer Ecologies. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32(5): 288–296.

Henneberger, A.K., Coffman, D.L., and Gest, S.D. (2017). The Effect of Having Aggressive Friends on Aggressive Behavior in Childhood: Using Propensity Scores to Strengthen Causal Inference. Social Development, 26(2), 295–309.

Logis, H., Ahn, H-J., Rodkin, P.C., and Gest, S.D. (2013). Popularity as an Organizing Factor of Preadolescent Friendship Networks: Beyond Prosocial and Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescence, Special Issue: Network and Behavior Dynamics in Adolescence, 23(3): 413–423.

Madill, R.A., Gest, S.D., and Rodkin, P.C. (2014). Students' Perceptions of Relatedness in the Classroom: The Roles of Emotionally Supportive Teacher–Child Interactions, Children's Aggressive–Disruptive Behaviors, and Peer Social Preference. School Psychology Review, 43(1): 86–105.

Rodkin, P.C., Hanish, L.D., Wang, S., and Logis, H.A. (2014). Why the Bully/Victim Relationship is so Pernicious: A Gendered Perspective on Power and Animosity Among Bullies and Their Victims. Development and Psychopathology, 26(3): 689–704.

Serdiouk, M., Berry, D., and Gest, S.D. (2016). Teacher-Child Relationships and Friendships and Peer Victimization Across the School Year. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 46, 63–72.

Serdiouk, M., Madill, R.A., Logis, H., Rodkin, P.C., and Gest, S.D. (2013). Rejection and Victimization among Elementary School Children: The Buffering Role of Classroom-Level Predictors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(1): 5–17.

* Dr. Philip Rodkin was the Principal Investigator for this project from the time it was awarded until his passing on May 6, 2014.