Student management: Teacher interns wrestling with assumptions

by Stephanie Huffman

This study sought to determine (1) if teacher interns' assumptions regarding student management changed during the internship and (2) if the changes, if any, in interns' assumptions were influenced by their cooperating teachers' assumptions. 444 preservice teachers and 444 corresponding cooperating teachers from 10 NCATE programs in Arkansas completed Views About Students Survey . Three findings emerged:

1. Preservice teacher assumptions shifted from Theory Y assumptions toward a Centrist or Theory X perspective.

2. Secondary preservice teachers indicated the greatest degree of change over the teaching internship (mean difference = 9.91).

3. Secondary cooperating teachers had a greater effect on preservice teachers while no significant correlation was noted for middle level or elementary.

Background of the Study

The internship is one of the most influential training experiences for teacher preparation programs (Godfrey, 1995). Yet, colleges and universities have had limited control over this crucial area of the teacher preparation. While the internship is taking place, the cooperating school district and the cooperating teacher are the ones playing major roles in the final round of educational training for the preservice teacher (Acheson & Gall, 1997).

The school's culture, climate, and the cooperating teacher have a tremendous impact on the preservice teacher (Fukui, 1986). The impact is reflected in the findings of several research studies:

* Securro (1994) examined the perceived effects of six major elements of the internship: the college supervisor, the placement environment, participant expectations, the cooperating teacher, the students, and the skill attained from campus programs. The study found preservice teachers attached more significance to the role of the cooperating teacher than that of the college supervisor (1994).

* According to Hale (1994), during the internship the preservice teacher was "in the process of reframing their self-image" as a teacher rather than a student, thus making the culture, climate, and the cooperating teacher once again major contributors to the final stages of the teacher preparation program (1994).

* Yee (1969) examined the effects of the cooperating teacher's attitudes on that of the preservice teacher. Yee found the attitudes of the preservice teacher "generally reflected the predominate attitudes of the cooperating teacher" (1969, p. 328).

The internship is traditionally the first time that the preservice teacher will have control of a classroom. However, the classroom does not, of course, truly belong to the preservice teacher. The classroom is the cooperating teacher's and has been structured to fit the management style and educational philosophy of the cooperating teacher. These circumstances place the cooperating teacher in a position of considerable influence over the development of the preservice teacher (Securro, 1994).

In particular, the cooperating teacher has significant influence in regard to classroom management style, a significant variable regarding student achievement. According to the research done by Margaret Wang, Geneva Haertel, and Herbert Walberg (1994), the most influential category affecting student learning is classroom/student management. They note that student-teacher "social interactions also have a profound effect on school learning" (p. 75). These interactions are largely defined by and depend on classroom management. Effective classroom/student management increases student engagement, decreases disruptive behaviors, and promotes good use of instructional time.

Managing a class effectively is inextricably linked to teacher success (Classroom Discipline, 2002). In fact, Bridges (1986) reported that teacher incompetence could be defined as chronic failure to maintain classroom discipline. Other studies concluded that to have a sense of self as a teacher the novice teacher needs well-planned standardized classroom procedures to reflect an integration of management and instruction (Charles, 1992); (Kagan, 1992).

Given the evidence of the importance of classroom/student management, it is appropriate for teacher preparation programs to be concerned with the classroom/student management skills of preservice teachers. Studies report that knowledge gained in university courses did not provide student interns with practical classroom/student management procedures for resolving problems (Chamberlin & Vallance, 1991). Tucker, Plax, and Kearney (1985) found that preservice teachers have a meager repertoire of management strategies, regardless of the examples and descriptions of various misbehaviors. In other words, they have the declarative knowledge but not the procedural and conditional knowledge so necessary in managing potential discipline problems. Procedural and conditional knowledge is primarily gained through practice, in particular, gained initially during the teaching internship under the tutelage of the cooperating teacher.

Purpose of the Study

This study addresses two questions:

1. To what extent, if any, do the assumptions of the preservice teacher on student management change over the course of the teaching internship?

2. Does a correlation exist between any change in the preservice teacher's assumptions of student management to the assumptions of the cooperating teacher's survey?

A useful perspective for investigating the assumptions of teachers and interns comes from management theory. McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y is one perspective used to gauge a manager's assumptions about employees. The assumptions that managers hold about employees not only reflected the manager's assumptions but also are evident in managerial decisions directly affecting the employees. For example, a manager who assumed the employees, are lazy, avoid responsibility, and can not be trusted selects practices which compensate for or capitalize on those assumptions; this type of manager elects to maintain strict control over subordinates (Theory X). In contrast, Theory Y managers view employees as being self-activating, inner-controlled, and desiring responsibility. Theory Y managers generally select totally opposite managerial practices from ones chosen by Theory X managers (Jacoby & Terborg, 1975) (Ciulla,, 2003).

The manager/employee and teacher-student relationships are closely analogous. Teachers, in part, create the work environment, assign jobs, promote students, and socially interact with students. By the same token, managers create the work environment, assign jobs, promote employees, and socially interact with employees. The manner in which a teacher manages his/her students is driven by assumptions regarding the basic nature of students. The teacher is in a managerial role in the classroom; therefore, the beliefs and assumptions about the students affect the decision-making process (Harris, 1988).

Instrumentation and Population

The survey instrument utilized in the study was an adaptation of the Views About People Survey: Theory X and Theory Y, created by Mike Woodcock and Dave Francis (1981) and based on Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y managerial philosophies. The survey consisted of 15 items containing 30 bipolar statements. One statement represented a Theory X point of view and the other statement a Theory Y perspective. Participants were asked to respond by circling a number on a semantic differential scale. The scale ranged from one to five with participants deciding which of the two statements most accurately represented the participant's view. Each participant's responses generated a score between 0 and 75. The nearer a score was to 0, the greater the Theory X orientation; the nearer the score was to 75, the greater the Theory Y orientation. A score falling within a 5-point swing o the middle score 37.5 indicated a Centrist score.

The population of the study consisted of preservice teachers and their respective cooperating teachers in the state of Arkansas and occurred during the fall semester of the 2001 academic year. All 17 NCATE accredited colleges and universities in the state of Arkansas were invited to participate in the study, invitation to participate in the study via a phone call. Ten colleges/universities agreed to participate.

Of the 592 preservice pre-survey instruments and 592 post-survey instruments, 500 were returned to the researcher, thus yielding an 84%

(500/592 = .84) overall return rate for both the pre-survey and post-survey instruments. An equal number of returns for pre-survey and post-survey instruments, indicated every preservice teacher who volunteered to particapate in the study completed the study. The preservice teacher return rate by level yielded an 87% (277/318 = .87) rate for elementary, an 89% (24/27 = .89) rate for middle level, and an 80% (199/247) rate for secondary. Cooperating teachers had an overall return rate of 75% (444/592 = .75). The cooperating teacher return rate by level yielded a 75% (237/318 = .75) rate for elementary, 89% (24/27 = .89) for middle level, and a 74% return rate for secondary (183/247 = .74).

Because the return numbers were unequal for elementary and secondary preservice teachers pre- and post-survey returns to that of the cooperating teachers survey returns, a random sample of elementary and secondary preservice teachers' pre-survey and post-survey instruments was conducted in order to have equal numbers of returns for comparisons. The random sample size chosen was 237 elementary and 183 secondary preservice teachers (pre & post). The two sample sizes were chosen because the numbers matched or were equal to the corresponding cooperating teacher returns for the respective level. SPSS software version 10 was utilized to generate the random sampling. All middle level returns were utilized (24 pre- & post-survey instruments and 24 cooperating teacher survey instruments), since there were equal returns for the level. This was the first year the state of Arkansas' colleges and universities teacher preparation programs prepared preservice teachers for the middle level. Consequently, the middle level sample was extremely small.

Data Collection

The schedule for administering the survey instruments was as follows:

1) Prior to the teaching internship, the preservice teacher was given the pre-survey.

2) On the first day of initial contact in the internship, the preservice teacher hand delivered the survey instrument to the cooperating teacher.

3) Upon completion of the teaching internship, the preservice teacher was given the post-survey.

Data Analysis

The data were disaggregated into three groups: elementary, middle, and secondary. Each group had two sub-divisions - preservice teacher and cooperating teacher. Data were analyzed using the Pearson's Correlation Coefficient in order to ascertain if a correlation existed between any changes in the preservice teacher's presurvey scores to the cooperating teacher's survey scores.


Research Question 1

To what extent, if any, do the assumptions of the preservice teacher on student management change over the course of the teaching internship?

Regardless of grade level, almost all preservice interns (94%) on the pre-internship survey identified with Theory Y management assumptions. After the internship, 30% (94% - 64% = 30%) of preservice teachers had moved from a Theory Y set of assumptions to a Centrist position or to a Theory X set of assumptions. Elementary preservice teachers changed the least. Eleven percent (97% -86% = 11%) of the elementary preservice teachers moved from a Theory Y set of assumptions to either a Centrist position or a Theory X set of assumptions. Middle level preservice teachers changed somewhat during the internship, with 42% (96% - 54% = 42%) moving from a Theory Y set of assumptions to a Centrist position or a Theory X set of assumptions. Secondary preservice teachers made the largest change, with 53.5% (90.5% - 37% = 53.5%) of the preservice teachers moving from a Theory Y set of assumptions to a Centrist position or a Theory X set of assumptions.

Research Question 2

Does a correlation exist between any change in the preservice teacher's assumptions of student management to the assumptions of the cooperating teachers? In answering this question, it is first interesting to note the survey scores of the cooperating teachers:

* Only 3% of the elementary teachers identified with Theory X assumptions, 21% with centrists, and 76% with Theory Y.

* Only 4% of middle level teachers identified with Theory X assumptions, 63% with Centrists, and 33% with Theory Y.

* 20% of secondary teachers identified with Theory X assumptions, 50% with Centrists, and 30% with Theory Y.

A Pearson's bivariate indicated a correlation of r = .409 with the correlation being significant at the .01 level (2-tailed; p = .000) between the cooperating teachers' survey scores and the preservice teachers' post-survey scores. The positive correlation denotes that the cooperating teachers' survey scores and the preservice teachers' post-survey scores progressed in the same direction.

The data also indicated a correlation of r = -.214 with the correlation being significant at the .01 level (2-tailed; p = .000) between the cooperating teachers survey scores and the difference scores (pre-survey - post-survey = difference score). The correlation r = -.214 indicates a negative relationship between the cooperating teachers survey score and the difference score, meaning the higher the cooperating teacher survey score, the lower the difference score.

Secondary cooperating teachers had a relatively greater effect on their corresponding preservice teachers (r = -.147; p = .047; .05 level) than did elementary and middle level teachers. The data did not indicate a significant correlation for elementary and middle level groups, only for the secondary group was there a significant correlation.


Over the course of the teaching internship, preservice teacher's assumptions regarding student management migrated from a Theory Y set of assumptions in the direction of a Centrist perspective, As a group, they were less idealistic in their assumptions than they were at the beginning of the internship experience. The secondary interns, in particular, experienced more change than the elementary and middle level interns. Why might be the subject of another study. However, attributing the interns' change to the Theory X/Theory Y assumptions of the cooperating teacher might be unwise; the correlations, though statistically significant, are so weak that any practical application/significance is doubtful.


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University of Central Arkansas


Arkansas State University


Southaven High School

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