Analysis of Teacher-Student Interactions within Classroom Activities: Implications for Effective Instructional Practices
Objectives: This study utilized video observations to examine the relations between teachers' responsive language and students' initiations within a sample of school-age children with ASD.
Methods: Participants included (n = 123) preschool–3rd grade students with ASD and their teachers across 66 schools and 16 districts enrolled in a longitudinal study evaluating the efficacy of classroom-based Pivotal Response Training (PI Stahmer). At study entry, ASD diagnoses were confirmed using the ADOS-2, and IQ was estimated using the Differential Abilities Scales-II (DAS-II; Elliott, 2007). Video-recorded classroom observations of students and their teachers were collected across a two-year period. The current study utilized video observations from the beginning of the school year, measuring the frequency of teacher responsive language and students’ communication initiations across three categories, commenting, asking questions, and seeking clarification. Trained research assistants coded the teacher and student dimensions within classroom activities using Noldus Observer® Video-Pro Software (XT 14). Inter-rater agreement between the coders using percent agreement and Cohen’s Kappa coefficients indicated overall good reliability, with coefficients ranging between 80–97% in agreement (Kappa = 0.72) across behaviors within each dimension.
Results: Lag sequential analysis was used to examine the frequency of student initiations following and preceding teachers’ responsive language. Preliminary analyses including 30 students (Mage = 7.09, SD = 1.84) and 21 teachers indicated that on average students initiated communication 2.5 times following teachers’ responsive language within a 10-second tolerance window (56% on-topic commenting; 30% seeking clarification; 12% asking content-related questions). Teachers responded 5.2 times on average (45% of the time) to students’ communicative initiations across the observation. Furthermore, quality ratings (1–3) assigned to each activity as a measure of overall responsiveness were associated with a higher frequency of student on-topic commenting (r = .54, p < .01) and asking on-topic questions (r = .47, p < .01) after controlling for NVIQ (M = 85.09; SD = 13.49).
Conclusions: These data provide preliminary conceptualization and operationalization of key student and teacher interaction dimensions, providing insight into patterns of interaction between students with ASD and their teachers within classroom activities. Findings suggest that teachers’ use of responsive language is associated with a higher frequency of student on-topic initiations. These data may have important implications for understanding the quality of instructional practices for students with ASD within educational settings.