Archana Ambike, M.A. (May 2008)
(Mentor: David Schultz)
The past two decades have seen substantial increases in the prevalence of mental disorders and aggressive behaviors in children and youth. Violence prevention has become a priority for many federal agencies. Several school-based prevention programs have promoted social competence and reduced aggressive behaviors. In most cases, significant results were obtained when program developers or researchers were in charge of program implementation. However, little is known about what happens when these programs are implemented in the larger community. Several studies have documented variations in implementation when programs were implemented by personnel other than program developers or researchers. To ensure successful program implementation and desired outcomes, it is essential to investigate factors that influence whether or not schools implement the programs.
One such factor that needs examination is teacher attitudes. Teachers are key to successful program implementation given their familiarity with daily workings of the classroom and the school system and their students. The goal of the current study was to develop a questionnaire that examines teacher attitudes toward social and emotional learning programs. I identified seven key concepts that investigated teacher attitudes and hypothesized that the proposed questionnaire would produce reliable scales assessing seven concepts: administrative support, training, perceived self competence with program delivery, program necessity, program effectiveness, time constraints, and perceptions of responsibility.
Participants in the current study were 145 preschool Head Start teachers from 15 participating Head Start centers across Baltimore city. They used a rating scale that ranged from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ to answer 52 items pertaining to the previously mentioned seven concepts. In addition, they also answered some individual items including years of experience as a teacher, years of experience with program delivery, and their perception of program implementation.
Six concepts emerged from analyses conducted on obtained data. Based on the items that constituted the concepts, I labeled the six concepts as follows: administrative support, training, competence, program effectiveness, time constraints, and curriculum priority. Two hypothesized concepts did not emerge, namely, program necessity and perceptions of responsibility. One non-hypothesized concept emerged, which I labeled curriculum priority. I made some criteria-based item retention decisions and labeled the 31 retained items as Teacher Attitudes about Social and Emotional Learning (TASEL).
The TASEL makes a useful contribution to the field of prevention science. It is a self-administered questionnaire completed in less than 15 minutes. Useful at both an individual school level and at school district level, school/center personnel or program researchers could utilize the TASEL to assess teacher attitudes about a certain program either prior to or during/after program implementation. Prior to implementation, it could be used as a tool to examine the school environment in which a program will be implemented and also to help identify potential barriers to program implementation. Information gathered could aid in making informed decisions about addressing those barriers, specifying training needs, and developing new program materials to further increase effectiveness of training sessions. The TASEL can also be used as a tool to evaluate ongoing program implementation. Additionally, it could be instrumental in improving relations between teachers and administrative personnel, thereby fostering a positive change in school climate. Finally, administration of the TASEL may in itself help motivate program implementation.