Teachers believe they have considerable influence on student kindness in the classroom but according to a new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus, this influence seems to decline as students get older.
“When we examined trends across different grades it became obvious that teachers of younger students have a more favorable view of their influence on student kindness than teachers of older students,” says study lead author John Tyler Binfet, an assist. prof. in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Education.
According to Binfet’s study of more than 200 teachers in the Okanagan Valley, 79 per cent of respondents believe they have a very strong influence on children’s kindness. This influence may have far-reaching implications for student behaviour in later years.
“As students enter the upper grades, their relationships with teachers become less personal and more formal and this may influence the lack of kindness observed by teachers as students get older.”
More than 90 per cent of respondents considered students to be generally kind, while nearly 80 per cent of teachers reported that kindness is directed towards them fairly often or all of the time. However, Binfet notes this definitely changes as students get older.
“A teacher’s understanding of what it means to be kind at school likely influences their interactions with students and colleagues,” he says. “A teacher’s professional responsibility has a large effect on student behaviour both inside and outside the classroom setting.”
Understanding how teachers think about and enact kindness not only helps students’ interact positively with one another, it also contributes to the community of the school and beyond, he adds.
“Increasingly, teachers are expected to shape both the social skills and intellectual lives of their students,” says Binfet. “Findings from this study help define our understanding of a teacher’s role in the classroom and how they thereby influence society.”
Binfet’s study was recently published in the International Journal of Emotional Education.