Title

Teachers' Perceptions of the Severity of Disciplinary Infractions At the Middle School Level

Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Thelma J. Roberson

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between a student's gender and teachers' perceptions of the severity of minor disruptive behaviors exhibited in the middle school classroom setting. Additional emphasis was placed on determining whether the gender of the student influenced the teachers' perceptions of when the discipline infraction warranted a disciplinary referral to a school administrator. The study also examined whether variables such as years of experience, gender, ethnicity certification endorsement, and teacher training impacted the decision-making process of the teacher. Eight Middle School Discipline Video Vignettes and a Middle School Discipline Vignette Survey (MSDVS) were developed for use in the study. The vignettes portrayed male and female students in the same behavior scenarios. The scenarios highlighted four behaviors: failure to follow directions, disrespect to staff, excessive tardiness, and class disruption. Eighty-eight teachers from one middle school in a school district in the midlands region of South Carolina were randomly assigned to one of two groups and asked to view the vignettes and, using a behavior severity scale of 1 to 10, rate the severity of each behavior infraction. Participants were also asked to determine if the behavior warranted a disciplinary referral to a grade-level administrator. The findings indicated that overall teachers perceived that discipline infractions exhibited by male students were more severe than the same discipline infractions exhibited by female students in the middle school. Teachers rated male students higher than female students on the behavior severity scale. This led the researcher to conclude that some type of "gender" bias is present and is not a manifestation of some of the variables listed above. This bias impacted the inequities exhibited by teachers in reporting discipline concerns and infractions. The study further revealed no significant relationship between variables such as years of teaching experience, gender, ethnicity, certification endorsement, and teacher training and how teachers rated male and female students on the behavior severity scale. The data revealed that teachers gave both male and female students more referrals for excessive tardiness than failure to follow directions, disrespect to staff, or class disruption. It was concluded that gender did not have an impact on the teachers' decision to give out discipline referrals to grade-level administrators.