Classroom dynamics and young children identified as at risk for the development of serious emotional disturbance

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Marjorie Montague - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to investigate classroom dynamics as they relate to young children identified as at risk (AR) for the development of serious emotional disturbance as compared to not-at-risk (NAR) peers. Objectives of this study included examining: (a) teacher attitudes towards and perceptions of children, (b) student-teacher and peer social classroom interactions, (c) children's academic engaged time and perceptions of teachers' expectations, and (d) accommodations made by teachers for at-risk students.Using a between-groups design, results indicated that AR students, on a variety of factors, experienced a markedly different reality in the classroom than NAR peers. The following findings from this study supported this conclusion: (1) AR students were significantly more rejected by their teachers than NAR students. (2) AR students were perceived by their teachers as having significantly less ideal pupil attributes than NAR peers. (3) AR students received significantly more teacher feedback than NAR peers. However, teacher statements to AR students were significantly more negative, neutral, and non-academic in nature than statements to NAR peers. (4) AR students spent significantly less time academically engaged than NAR peers. (5) Teachers made limited accommodations for AR students and were generally resistant to changes in tasks, materials, and teaching methods to meet the individual needs of these students.No significant differences between AR and NAR students were found for peer interactions and positive perceptions of teachers' expectations. These results suggest that young AR students are socially accepted by peers and generally unaware of teacher bias.Implications for developing effective classroom interventions for AR children include: (a) improving teachers' attitudes, perceptions, and interactions in relation to these students, (b) increasing students' on-task behaviors, (c) utilizing peer support in classroom accommodations for these students, and (d) maintaining students' positive perceptions of expectations.


Education, Special

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text