High school students’ views of caring behavior by teachers

What behaviors do high school students perceive as “caring behaviors” by teachers?

In a recent study in Urban Education, researcher Ruben Garza says he identified 5 common themes in comments of 49 Latino and 44 white students, ages 14-18 responding to 10 prompts (e.g. “I feel that my teacher cares about me because….”, “I feel that my teacher does not care about me because, etc”). Of the 5 predominant themes, 2 of the teacher behaviors related to academic support rather than purely emotional support.

Students most often referred to the 5 following behaviors as “caring behaviors” by teachers:

  1. Provide scaffolding during a teaching episode
  2. Reflect a kind disposition through actions
  3. Are always available to the student
  4. Show a personal interest in the student’s well-being inside and outside the classroom
  5. Provide “affective” academic support in the classroom.

The researcher says while the white and Latino students cited the same 5 behaviors, the 2 groups gave different priorities to the behaviors. For instance, Latino students commented most frequently on “provides scaffolding during a teaching episode”, while white students referred most often to “actions reflect a kind disposition.” The latter was mentioned least frequently by Latino students. The behavior cited least frequently by white students was “provides affective academic support in the classroom setting.”

While many studies highlight the importance of cultivating relationships with Latino students, in his study, the researcher says Latino students highlighted behaviors that related more to academics. One reason for that, Garza says, is that the 2 teachers who participated in the study had authentic bonds with the students so that the students “unconsciously ignored the value of the teachers’ affection and selected other attributes to describe caring behaviors.”

The Urban Education article provides many specific examples of what high school students perceive as caring behaviors by teachers. The researcher says such examples, in the students’ own voices, could be used in professional development to provide teachers with concrete examples of what high school students view as critical to fostering relationships and a sense of belonging.

“Latino and White High School Students’ Perceptions of Caring Behaviors: Are We Culturally Responsive to our Students?” by Ruben Garza, Urban Education, Volume 44, Number 297, 2009.

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