The Role of Context in Preschool Learning: a Multilevel Examination of the Contribution of Context-Specific Problem Behaviors and Classroom Process Quality to Low-Income Children’s Approaches to Learning


Domínguez, X., Vitiello, V. E., Fuccillo, J. M., Greenfield, D. B., & Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J. (2011). The role of context in preschool learning: A multilevel examination of the contribution of context-specific problem behaviors and classroom process quality to low-income children’s approaches to learning. Journal of school psychology, 49(2), 175-195.


Research suggests that promoting adaptive approaches to learning early in childhood may help close the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. Recent research has identified specific child-level and classroom-level variables that are significantly associated with preschoolers’ approaches to learning. However, further research is needed to understand the interactive effects of these variables and determine whether classroom-level variables buffer the detrimental effects of child-level risk variables. Using a largely urban and minority sample (N= 275) of preschool children, the present study examined the additive and interactive effects of children’s context-specific problem behaviors and classroom process quality dimensions on children’s approaches to learning. Teachers rated children’s problem behavior and approaches to learning and independent assessors conducted classroom observations to assess process quality. Problem behaviors in structured learning situations and in peer and teacher interactions were found to negatively predict variance in approaches to learning. Classroom process quality domains did not independently predict variance in approaches to learning. Nonetheless, classroom process quality played an important role in these associations; high emotional support buffered the detrimental effects of problem behavior, whereas high instructional support exacerbated them. The findings of this study have important implications for classroom practices aimed at helping children who exhibit problem behaviors. © 2010 Society for the Study of School Psychology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Approaches to learning, Problem behavior, Classroom process quality

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