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The Associations between Classroom Climate and Teacher-Student

Interpersonal Behavior in Primary Science


Ulfa Rahmi
Regional Centre for Education in Science and Mathematics
South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization
Penang, Malaysia

Abstract

The study explicates students’ response on teachers’ interpersonal behavior and its relation
with the classroom climate in primary science. The questionnaires, WIHIC (What Is
Happening In This Class) and QTI (Questionnaires on Teacher Interaction (QTI) were used
to describe students’ perspectives towards classroom climate and teachers’ interpersonal
behavior, respectively. The questionnaires were translated into Bahasa and distributed to the
students at SDN 47 Jambi, Indonesia (n=143) as a sample. Using SPSS programme, the data
were statistically analyzed and the results reveal that the questionnaires are valid and reliable
(Cronbach Alpha Reliability range from 0.51 to 0.93). Students perceive positively toward
their classroom climate (mean from 2.40 to 3.43) confirming that they already have a good
learning environment and Teacher-Student Interpersonal (mean from 1.39 to 3.20)
designating the teachers have a good behavior in leadership, helping/friendly, understanding,
good in admonishing and strictness, and seldom for being uncertain and dissatisfy. This study
also confirmed that classroom climate is influenced by students’ perceptions on teachers’
interpersonal behavior.

Keyword: Classroom Climate, Teacher’s Interpersonal Behavior, WIHIC, QTI.

Introduction

In Indonesia, science education is regarded as an important subject of the academic


curricula. Hence, it is implemented at primary level from grade four up to grade six in order
to develop an onset of students’ cognitive skills. Most science educators believe that a good
relationship with their student is a substantial matter to be present in the classroom. With
good interpersonal behavior from the teachers, we are expected to create a comfortable
climate in the classroom, thus the learning process will be more effective. As mentioned by
Brophy and Good (1986), effective teaching will be reflected by a conceptualization and
measurement of teacher effectiveness such as personality, attitude, experience and aptitude.
But are the teachers’ perception of their interpersonal behavior and classroom climate the
same as their students? Is there any correlation between teachers’ interpersonal behavior and
the classroom climate?
The aims of this study are to answer such question above, by assessing teachers’
interpersonal behavior and classroom climate using a convenient questionnaire (WIHIC and
QTI). The article also mentions previous research in using both types of the questionnaire and
examines correlation between the teachers’ interpersonal behavior as assessed by the QTI;
and classroom climate as assessed by the WIHIC.
Study into the classroom learning environment which is based on the students
perception of their classroom climate had been done by Frasser (1994). Furthermore,
researchers from Netherlands have swept this field by focusing in particular on the
interpersonal relationships between teachers and learners as assessed by the QTI (Wubbels,
Creton, & Hooymayers, 1992; Wubbels & Levy, 1993). The rationale here is that students’
perception on teachers’ interpersonal behavior in classroom will influence their learning
environment.

What Is Happening In This Class (WIHIC) questionnaires

WIHIC, What is Happening in the Classroom, is a questionnaire which is applied to


ascertain the students’ perception about their classroom environment (Frasser, Fisher &
McRobbie, 1996; Rawnsley & Fisher, 1997). Previous study by Wahyudi (2004) came across
the relationship between learner’ performance and the classroom climates, using Indonesian
WIHIC.
The WIHIC version used in this study is the latest developed instrument that comprise
of 35 statements which read learner’ perception in seven scales, and it was already translated
into Indonesian language. These scales read students’ perception by the amount of Student
Cohesiveness, Teacher Support, Involvement, Investigation, Task Orientation, Cooperation
and Equity.
Table 1 points all the WIHIC instrument, with a sample item for each scale. The
instrument has been pointed to be satisfactorily reliable and valid. These data have been
declared elsewhere (Frasser et al., 1996; Rawnsley & Fisher, 1997).

Table 1 Description with example items for each WIHIC scale


Scale Description Example Item

Student Extent to which students helping and Members of the class are my
Cohesiveness supporting each other. friends
Teacher Support Extent to which the teacher helps and The teacher is interested in
shows interest in students. my problems
Involvement Extents to which students participate in I ask the teacher questions
discussions, carry out additional work,
and enjoy the class.
Investigation Emphasis on the skill and processes of I explain the meaning of
inquiry and their use in problem solving statement, diagram, and
and investigation. graphs

Task Extent to which it is important to solve I pay attention during this


Orientation activities planned and to stay on the class
subject matter.
Cooperation Extent to which students cooperate rather I work with other students on
than compete with others on learning projects in this class
tasks.
Equity Extent to which students are treated My work receives as much
equally by the teacher. praise as other students’ work
Questionnaires on Teacher Interaction (QTI)

A key to escalate students’ performance and demeanor somehow is always connected


to the teachers’ interpersonal behavior. It is also always related to create such a good learning
environment. One distinctive development in classroom environment research originally
happened in the Netherlands by focusing particularly on the interaction between teachers and
students as assessed by the QTI (Wubbles et al., 1992; Wubbels & Levy, 1993). Hereupon,
the Dutch Researchers (Wubbles et al, 1988) explored teacher behavior in a class by adapting
communication process theory, from a system perspective which developed by Watzlawick,
Beavin and Jackson (1967). With those system, the behavior of participants is assumed
influence each other mutually . In addition, using an adaptation of the work of Leary (1957),
Wubbles, Creton and Hooymayers (1985) developed a model to map interpersonal behavior.
Leary concluded that there are two main dimension of interpersonal behavior described,
namely influence dimension (Dominance-D and Submission-S) and proximity dimension
(Cooperation-C and Opposition-O). These dimensions are represented in coordinate system
divided into eight equal sector, as in Figure 1.

Figure 1 The model for teachers’ interpersonal behavior (Wubbels et al., 1993)

This model was developed in the early 1980s in Netherlands with the first version of
the Questionnaires on Teacher Interaction (QTI) had 77 item consisting of eight scales based
on the eight parts of the model (Wubbels, Creton, & Hooymayers, 1985).
Later, the QTI has shown to be a valid and reliable instrument when USA version of
the QTI was used in California. Furthermore, it is also used in Australia, containing 48 items
which were applied in research involving upper secondary science classes in eight scales. The
scales are Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, Student Responsibility/Freedom,
Uncertain, Dissatisfaction, Admonishing and Strict (as shown in Table 2).
Table 2 Description with example items for each QTI scale
Scale Description Example

Leadership Extent to which the teacher able to lead a This teacher is a good
class and hold students attention. leader.
Helping/Friendly Extent to which the teacher is friendly and This teacher is friendly.
helpful towards students.
Understanding Extent to which the teacher understands and This teacher realizes we
cares the students. do not understand.
Students Extent to which students are given This teacher lets us fool
Responsibility/ opportunities. around in class.
Freedom
Uncertain Extent to which the teacher indicates his/her This teacher is hesitant.
uncertainty.
Dissatisfaction Extent to which the teacher dissatisfy with This teacher puts us
students. down.
Admonishing Extent to which the teacher shows anger in This teacher is too quick
classroom. to correct us when we
break a rule.

Strict Extent to which the teacher strict with and We have to be silent in
demanding of students. this teacher’s class.

In previous study conducted in Singapore primary level, students’ perception on the


teachers’ interpersonal behavior had a high score in Leadership, Helping/Friendly and
Understanding scale and had a lower score for being uncertain, dissatisfy, admonish and strict
(Goh & Fraser, 1998). With slight differences, similar condition happened in Brunei
Darussalam elementary school, by using the Australian version of the QTI, had confirmed
that the QTI was valid and reliable. The study also cited that students viewed their teachers as
mostly good in leading the students, a helpful teacher, understand their student and strict, but
seldom allowing student to be free in the classroom.

Research Question

The study is part of monitoring the learning climate in the classroom. The essential
questions to this paper are:
1. Are the Questionnaires on Teacher Interaction (QTI) and What Is Happening In This
Class (WIHIC) questionnaires valid and reliable?
2. What are students’ perceptions toward teachers’ interpersonal behavior?
3. What are students’ perceptions toward classroom climate?
4. Are there any correlation between students’ perspectives on teachers’ interpersonal
behavior and their classroom climate?
Methodology

The purpose of this study is to identify and reflect students’ perspective on teachers’
behavior and classroom climate and its correlation, hence it would be very convenient to use
the Indonesian version of Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) which derive from the
Australian 48-item version of QTI (Fisher, Henderson, & Fraser, 1995) and The What Is
Happening In This Class (WIHIC) questionnaires (Fraser et al., 1996). The QTI scales
comprise 8 scales with 40 questions in it and the WIHIC scales comprise 7 scales with 35
questions.
A sample of 143 students in Grade 4,5 and 6 from primary school at SDN 47 Jambi,
Indonesia were surveyed. Those grades were chosen for this study because their age was a
critical factor where the teacher played a substantial role for them, also they have to face an
examination at the end of the primary level which the content start from grade 4 till grade 6.
Using SPSS programme, the questionnaires (QTI and WIHIC) are analyzed by using
Cronbach Alpha Reliability (Cronbach, 1951) to ascertain its reliability and validity. After the
questionnaire is confirmed as reliable and valid, then the students’ perspective of each
questionnaire was being measured by using the Average Item Mean and standard deviation.
Next, to find out the correlation between teachers’ interpersonal and classroom climate, the
simple correlation and linear regression are used.

Finding and Discussion

Reliability and Validity of WIHIC and students’ view on classroom climate

Table 3 provides the statistics on the WIHIC for the present situation in the
classroom. It shows that the questionnaire is reasonably reliable and valid where the
Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient (Cronbach, 1951) ranged from 0.69 to 0.91 for each
scale of WIHIC. The students' perception on the classroom climate was obtained using scale
item mean. Using the four mean range value as following; poor (0.5-1.5), fair (1.5-2.5), good
(2.5-3.5) and excellent (3.5-4.0), the data were being interpreted. The result indicates that
students already experience a good learning environment which shows in the scale item mean
(range 2.40 to 3.43). In detail, the scores for each scale as follow; Student Cohesiveness
(mean = 3.43), Teacher Support (2.77), Involvement (mean = 2.66), Task orientation (mean =
3.38), Cooperation (mean = 2.76) and equity (mean = 2.99). The lowest score is for
Investigation scale (2.40). This indicates that the students experience investigation activity,
occasionally. With a small number of the standard deviation which is less than 0.73, there
was not large diversity in the students’ perception. Overall, the students already experienced
a good classroom climate.

Table 3. Cronbach alpha reliability () and Average Mean of WIHIC scales
Scale  Mean SD
Student Cohesiveness 0.90 3.43 0.49
Teacher Support 0.74 2.77 0.68
Involvement 0.69 2.66 0.57
Investigation 0.80 2.40 0.73
Task Orientation 0.91 3.38 0.48
Cooperation 0.69 2.76 0.60
Equity 0.86 2.99 0.68
Reliability and Validity of QTI and students’ view on teachers’ interpersonal behavior

The reliability and validity of the QTI instrument was checked using Cronbach alpha
reliability coefficient and the students' perception on the teacher interpersonal behavior was
obtained using scale item mean. There are four range value to interpret the data from the item
mean, as following; poor (0.5-1.5), fair (1.5-2.5), good (2.5-3.5) and excellent (3.5-4.0). All
the value is applied to the positive scale (Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, and
Student Responsibility/Freedom), while the negative scale (Uncertain, Dissatisfaction,
Admonishing, and Strict) is being conversed.

Table 4. Cronbach alpha reliability () and Average Mean of QTI scales
Scale  Mean SD
Leadership 0.73 3.20 0.54
Helping/Friendly 0.70 2.66 0.62
Understanding 0.66 3.19 0.55
Students Responsibility/ Freedom 0.59 2.10 0.55
Uncertain 0.87 1.39 0.40
Dissatisfaction 0.93 1.45 0.53
Admonishing 0.78 1.66 0.50
Strict 0.51 2.48 0.54

As shown in table 4, the alpha ranged from 0.51 to 0.93 confirming that each QTI
scale has acceptable reliability. The scale item mean (range 1.39 to 3.20) showed that the
scale of Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, and Strict behavior were the most
strongly perceived while the less desirable scale is Uncertain, Dissatisfaction, and
Admonishing. The students view that the teacher is a good leader in the classroom (mean =
3.20), care to help (mean = 2.66) and understand the students (mean = 3.19). Moreover, the
students view that the teachers only have a fair/average freedom (2.10). On the other hand,
for a negative scale, Uncertain and Dissatisfaction scale have considerably low scores 1.39
and 1.45, respectively-meaning that the students view the teacher having an excellent
behavior for being certain and satisfied with the student whereas for the Admonishing (mean
= 1.66) and Strict (mean =2.48) scale, students view that the teacher is good in admonishment
and strictness. In addition, the values of standard deviation for all scales are less than 0.62,
indicates that there was a small diversity in the students’ perspectives. Overall, the students
perceive a very positive behavior from the science teacher.
The result of this study is consistent with the assertions yielded from the previous
study (Goh & fraser, 1998; Scott, 2004) in which students viewed their teacher had a good
behavior in leadership, helping/friendly and understanding and less uncertain and dissatisfy.

Correlation of Teachers’ interpersonal behavior toward classroom climate

The correlation of the QTI toward classroom climate was examined in two ways.
Firstly, simple correlation was calculated between each QTI and each WIHIC scale. (shown
in table 5). Secondly, using multiple regression analysis to assess the association more
accurately between each QTI and WIHIC scale. (as shown in table 6)
Table 5 Correlation teachers’ interpersonal behavior toward classroom climate using simple
correlation (r)
Simple correlation (r)
Scale Students' Teachers' Task
Involvement Investigation Cooperation Equity
Cohesiveness Support Orientation
Leadership 0.37** 0.60** 0.50** 0.31** 0.49** 0.41** 0.59**
Helping/Friendly 0.49** 0.58** 0.53** 0.45** 0.47** 0.42** 0.54**
Understanding 0.51** 0.62** 0.59** 0.38** 0.48** 0.42** 0.59**
Students Responsibility/ 0.12 0.33** 0.39** 0.45** 0.17 0.37** 0.16
Freedom
Uncertain -0.11 -0.08 -0.04 0.15 -0.09 0.08 -0.09
Dissatisfaction -0.21 -0.23* -0.14 0.02 -0.29** -0.04 -0.30**
Admonishing -0.21 -0.06 -0.09 -0.02 -0.22* 0.01 -0.26*
Strict 0.34** 0.22* 0.25* 0.1 0.22* 0.19 0.23*

*p0.01
**p0.005

Table 6 Correlation teachers’ interpersonal behavior toward classroom climate using linear
regression analysis ()
Standardized Regression Coefficients ()
Scale Students' Teachers' Task
Involvement Investigation Cooperation Equity
Cohesiveness Support Orientation
Leadership -0.07 0.30* 0.14 0.02 0.2 0.24 0.28*
Helping/Friendly 0.36** 0.11 0.15 0.33* 0.22 0.18 0.17
Understanding 0.21 0.31* 0.35** 0.15 0.12 0.15 0.24
Students Responsibility/ -0.11 0.2 0.27** 0.33** -0.001 0.23* -0.07
Freedom
Uncertain 0.01 -0.03 -0.09 0.05 0.07 0.02 0.09
Dissatisfaction 0.11 -0.04 0.12 0.15 -0.06 0.1 0.05
Admonishing -0.26* 0.1 -0.03 -0.03 -0.08 0.09 -0.18
Strict 0.31** 0.02 0.04 -0.08 0.15 0.02 0.14

*p0.01
**p0.005

To begin with, the table indicates that four simple correlations between the QTI scale
and students’ cohesiveness were significant ( 0.01). The students’ cohesiveness was
influenced if only the teacher has a decent behavior in leading the students, being
helping/friendly, show understanding, and being strict for them. However, analyzing the scale
by using standardized regression coefficient, which measures the association when the effect
of the other scale is held constant, there are only three scale that show a significant
correlation, namely Helping, Admonishing and Strict. It means, students will be experiencing
more cohesiveness if the teachers being helping/friendly, admonish and strict in the
classroom.
Secondly, it shows that most of the QTI scale has a significant correlation with
teacher support in the classroom. Base on the analysis, the student perceive positively on the
five scales as follow; Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, Student
Responsibility/Freedom, and Strict. The teacher support in the classroom is negatively
associated with the dissatisfaction. Using the standardized regression coefficient, only two
scales show a significant contribution; Leadership and Understanding. This reflects, the
students view that support given by the teacher takes a place when the teacher provides a
better leadership and shows understanding.
Next, the correlation between QTI scale and the Involvement significantly appeared in
five scales by using the simple correlation. Having such a good behavior in the following
scale-Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, Student Responsibility and Strict-,
teacher might encourage the students’ involvement in the classroom. Furthermore, using the
standardized regression coefficient, the involvement was significantly encouraged by
teachers’ interpersonal behavior of understanding and student responsibility/freedom.
Then, it indicates that there are significant correlations between teacher’s
interpersonal behavior and investigation situation in the classroom. Using a simple
correlation analysis, it is found that teachers’ behavior on leadership, helping/friendly,
understanding students’ responsibility/freedom affected the students’ investigation in the
classroom. Meanwhile, analyzing with the standardized regression coefficient showed a
different result. Teachers’ interpersonal behaviors that could generate the students’
investigation significantly are being helping/friendly and providing students
responsibility/freedom.
The table also shows that almost all of the QTI scales have significant correlations
with task orientation set by the teacher in the classroom climate. The correlation analysis
showed that the students perceive positively on the four scales in which Leadership,
Helping/Friendly, Understanding and Strict has affected the Task Orientation significantly.
Moreover, two scales, namely Dissatisfaction and Admonishing influenced negatively.
However, there are no significant correlation viewed using the standardized regression
coefficient.
The correlation between QTI scale and the Student Cooperation in the classroom is
only happened because of four scales. The result showed that the positive behaviors
specifically, leadership, being helping/friendly, showing understanding and giving student
responsibility/freedom from the teacher had generated the cooperation in the classroom. On
the other hand, analyzing by the more conservative correlation,-standardized regression
coefficient-, only student responsibility/freedom of teachers’ interpersonal behavior had
affected the learning and teaching situation significantly.
Finally, by referring to the simple correlation table, it indicates that the equity in the
classroom was correlated significantly. The equity was influenced when the teacher have a
good interpersonal behavior in leadership, helping/friendly, understanding, dissatisfaction,
admonishing and Strict. However, using the standardized regression coefficient, the result
showed that the equity only associated significantly when teachers show a leadership
behavior in the classroom environment.

Conclusion

This study has confirmed the reliability and validity of the QTI and WIHIC when
used in primary science classes. Overall, the students view that the teacher has a good
interpersonal behavior and also they have experienced a good classroom climate. The study
also confirmed that there are correlations between teachers’ interpersonal behavior and
classroom climate. The more positive student perception on teacher behavior, the better the
classroom climate is. Teachers’ interpersonal behaviors that always influence the classroom
climate are good leadership, willing to help/be friendly and have an understanding of the
students. Base on those findings, it is recommended for the teacher not only to maintain a
good interpersonal behavior as previously achieved but also having to improve other
behaviors like giving student a responsibility and freedom in the classroom. In addition,
teachers have to diminish the negative behavior such as being uncertain, dissatisfied,
admonish, and strict.
In the future, it is recommended to do a further research for improving classroom
environments by matching students’ actual and preferred perception. Also, it is suggested to
do further investigation comparing the perception between teacher and student.

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