McDevitt, Teresa M.

Committee Member

Cochran, Kathryn F.

Committee Member

Lalonde, Trent L.


Educational Psychology


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





206 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


The powerful role teachers have on students’ learning and academic performance has been well established in the empirical literature. However, researchers have not been successful in explaining what exactly it is about teachers that foster students’ academic success in the classroom. The premise of this dissertation was that teachers who provide affirming, supportive, and organized interactions, also known as teacher interactional quality, have beneficial effects on students’ academic achievement. This dissertation used the largest education dataset of United States students, known as the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET), to examine the association of teacher interactional quality on classroom achievement. The MET dataset incorporated random assignment in the placement of teachers to classrooms of students and collected multiple measures of teacher quality. This investigation contributed to the existing body of research on teacher quality by examining the associations between teacher interactional quality in fourth and fifth grade classrooms and achievement outcomes. In addition, the distribution of teacher interactional quality across classrooms with different percentages of free or reduced lunch receipt was examined. Findings indicated that teacher interactional quality and free or reduced lunch percentage were associated with English/language art classroom achievement outcomes when teachers went about their everyday practices in the classroom and when teachers were randomized to classrooms of students. Teacher interactional quality was associated with math classroom achievement outcomes only during the business-as-usual year when teachers went about their usual teaching practices in the classroom. Furthermore, teacher interactional quality impact on English/language art classroom achievement outcomes changed based on the proportion of free or reduced lunch in the classroom during the business-as-usual year but not during the year when teachers were randomly assigned to classrooms of students. Recommendations are derived for conducting longitudinal follow-ups with students who have been exposed to certain levels of interactional quality, examining the experiences of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities, and pursuing the distinction between classrooms with and without typical random assignment of teachers. Teacher preparation programs have the ability to identify desirable teacher dispositions and positive interactional styles early on in the program through multiple observations and reflective opportunities. If preparation programs are able to better identify teacher qualities that have an impact on student learning, this information can be used to attract, prepare, support, and retain teachers who are skilled in their interactions and emotionally attuned to the needs of students. This information can be used as a foundation for states and districts as they develop mentoring, coaching, professional development, and teacher evaluation systems for strengthening the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers.

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