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Teacher-student interpersonal behavior and its associations with cultural and gender differences, student attitudes and achievements

Rekha B Koul and Darrell L Fisher
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology
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The study reports on the results of a large-scale study aiming to determine associations between science students' perceptions of their interactions with their teachers, the cultural background and the gender of the students and their attitudinal and cognitive achievement scores, in Jammu/India. A sample of 1,021 students from 31 year nine and ten science classes in seven schools completed an already existing and widely used instrument the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI), an attitude scale and question relating to the cultural background of students. The statistical analysis confirmed the reliability and validity of QTI for secondary science students in India. Generally, the dimensions of the QTI were found to be significantly associated with student attitude scores. As for cognitive achievement there were positive associations with cooperation behaviour and negative associations with oppositional behaviours. Females perceived their teachers more positively than did males. Students coming from Kashmiri cultural backgrounds perceived their teachers most positively.


Ninety percent of eligible students in India do not have access to higher education. The Government spends a minuscule of 0.5 percent of GNP on this area. The Indian National Science Academy requested the government to take a fresh look at the country's science and technology system (INSA, 2001). In this grim situation a positive teacher student relationship is very important.

Students and teachers spend a considerable amount of time in a formal school setting. The teacher's behaviour, when interacting with students, has been found to have a considerable impact on the nature of learning environment that is created (Wubbels, Brekelmans, & Hermans, 1987). Getzel & Thelen (1960) suggested that teacher-student interaction is a powerful force that can play a major role in influencing cognitive and affective development of students. Wubbels & Levy (1993) reaffirmed the role and significance of teacher behaviour in classroom environment and in particular how this can influence students' motivation leading to achievement

Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI)

International studies in the last three decades have firmly established classroom environment research as a thriving field of study (Fraser, 1998a; Wallberg, 1991). Recent classroom environment research has focused on cross-national studies of science classroom environments (Fisher, Rickards, Goh, & Wong, 1997), constructivist classroom environments (Taylor, Fraser, & Fisher, 1997), science laboratory classroom environments (McRobbie & Fraser, 1993), and computer assisted instruction classrooms (Fisher & Stolarchuk, 1997; Teh & Fraser, 1995).

In The Netherlands, Wubbels, Creton, & Holvast (1988) investigated teacher behaviour in classrooms from a systems perspective, adapting a theory on communication processes developed by Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson (1967). Within the systems perspective on communication, it is assumed that the behaviours of participants influence each other mutually. The behaviour of the teacher is influenced by the behaviour of the student and in turn influences student behaviour. Circular communication processes develop which not only consist of behaviour, but determine behaviour as well.

Table 1: Description and example of items for each scale in the QTI

Extent to which teacher provides leadership to class and holds student attention.This teacher explains things clearly.
Helping/ friendly
Extent to which the teacher is friendly and helpful towards students.This teacher is friendly.
Extent to which teacher shows understanding and care to students.If we don't agree with this teacher, we can talk about it.
Student responsibility/
freedom [SC]
Extent to which the students are given opportunities to assume responsibilities for their own activities.We can influence this teacher.
Extent to which teacher exhibits her/his uncertainty.This teacher seems uncertain.
Extent to which teacher shows unhappiness/dissatisfaction with the students.This teacher thinks that we don't know anything.
Extent to which the teacher shows anger/temper and is impatient in class.This teacher gets angry.
Extent to which the teacher is strict with demands of the students.We are afraid of this teacher.

With the systems perspective in mind, Wubbels, Creton, & Hooymayers (1985) developed a model to map interpersonal teacher behaviour extrapolated from the work of Leary (1957). This model has been used in The Netherlands in the development of an instrument, the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI), to gather students' and teachers' perceptions of teacher-student interactions (Wubbels, Brekelmans, & Hooymayers, 1991; Wubbels & Levy, 1993). This model maps interactions with the aid of an influence dimensions (Dominance-Submission) and a Proximity dimension (Cooperation-Opposition). The QTI was developed to assess student perceptions of eight behaviour aspects. The behaviour aspects measured by QTI are Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding, Student Responsibility/Freedom, Uncertain, Dissatisfied, Admonishing and Strict. Each item has a five-point response scale ranging from Never(1) to Always(5).

The original version of the QTI in Dutch language consisted of 77 items and it was designed to measure secondary students' and teachers' perceptions of teacher-student interactions. After extensive analysis, the 77-item Dutch version was reduced to a 64-item version. This version was translated and administered in the USA (Wubbels & Levy, 1991). La ter an Australian version of the QTI containing 48 items was developed (Fisher, Henderson, & Fraser, 1995). Table 1 clarifies further the nature of the QTI by providing a scale description and a sample item for each of the eight scales.

Previous uses of the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI)

The QTI has been used in The Netherlands, USA, Australia, Singapore and a few other Asian countries and has been cross-validated in different contexts and cultures (Fisher & Rickards, 1998; Fisher et al., 1997; Kim, Fisher, & Fraser, 2000). All the studies confirm that data obtained from the questionnaire provide valid, reliable and useful information for the teacher regarding their learning environment in general and more specifically about their teacher-student interactions.

Fisher & Rickards (1999) analysed a large database of 2,960 student responses to the QTI and found associations between students' perceptions of teacher-student interactions and students' attitudinal and cognitive achievement outcomes. Seven out of eight scales of the QTI were significantly correlated to attitudes to the class and achievement scores when using simple and multiple correlation. It was found that the scales Leadership, Helping/ Friendly, and Understanding were positively and significantly correlated with the attitude to class and the achievement scores. The other QTI scales Uncertain, Dissatisfied, Admonishing and Strict were negatively correlated to the attitude to class and the achievement scores. Kim et al. (2000) in their study in Korea reported the same correlations.

Fisher et al (1997) carried out a similar study involving 720 students in Singapore and 705 students in Australia. In this study the results were the same except that Student Responsibility/ Freedom was also positively associated with students' attitudes towards their science classes in both countries. Rawnsley & Fisher (1998) reported the same results in a study involving 490 students in 23, Year 9 classes in Adelaide.

Khine & Fisher (2001) administered the QTI to 1,188 students from 54 science classes in Brunei. This study provided further validation data on QTI and indicated that this tool is a valid and reliable instrument to be used in this context. This study showed that students enjoyed the science lessons more when their teachers displayed greater leadership, understanding and are helping and friendly. On the other hand, teachers' uncertain, admonishing and dissatisfied behaviours were negatively associated with the enjoyment of science lessons. This study was carried out in Jammu (India) to investigate whether this situation also would apply in science classes there too.


The objectives of this study reported in this paper were: The total sample comprised of 1,021 students from 31 science classes from years 9 and 10 in seven different private co-educational schools in Jammu (India). Each student responded to the student version of the QTI and the attitude scale. Two students from each class (62 students in total) were interviewed after completion of the questionnaire and 10 classes were observed for a period of three lessons each. This was done to get an insight in existing teacher interpersonal behaviour in India.


Students perception about their teachers

Table 2: Mean and standard deviation scales of the QTI

ScaleMeanStd dev
Student responsibility/ freedom2.320.48

As indicated in Table 2, the students perceive their teachers as demonstrating leadership and understanding behaviours quite often. The teachers helping/friendly, giving students responsibility and freedom and strict behaviours are less noticeable. The teachers seldom are uncertain, dissatisfied or admonishing. The students perceived for the Leadership behaviour most with a score of 3.15 and the Uncertain least with a score of 1.82. The standard deviation for all the scales is ranged from 0.48 to 0.64, suggesting that there was not a large diversity in the students' perceptions.

Validation of QTI

To determine the degree to which items in the same scale measure the same aspects of students' perception of teacher behaviour, a measure of internal consistency, the Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient (Cronbach, 1951) was computed to provide reliability data for the QTI. The results are presented in Table 3.

Table 3: Scale internal consistency (Cronbach Alpha Reliability) and
ability to differentiate between classrooms (ANOVA results) for QTI

ScaleAlpha reliabilityANOVA (eta2)
Student responsibility/ freedom.50.13*
*p<0.001   n = 1,021 in 31 class

As indicated in Table 3, the highest alpha reliability was obtained for the scales of Understanding and Dissatisfied and the lowest reliability for Student Responsibility/ Freedom. The reliability results for scales of QTI were consistently above 0.50. This suggests that QTI can be considered a reliable tool (De Vellis, 1991) with Indian students. However, the results for Student Responsibility/ Freedom should be interpreted with caution as the low alpha coefficient for this scale may be attributed to the cultural practices of the place. The students may be reluctant to provide a frank opinion about these behaviours of their teachers.

The ability of a teacher-student interaction instrument to differentiate between classes is important. The instrument's ability to differentiate in this way was measured using one way analysis of variance (ANOVA). The eta2 statistic was calculated to provide an estimate of the strength of association between class membership and the dependent variable. Table 3 shows the eta2 statistic for the QTI, and indicates that the amount of variance in scores accounted for by class membership ranged f rom 0.13 to 0.25 and was statistically significant for all scales. It appears that the instrument is able to differentiate clearly between the perceptions of students in different classrooms.

Further analyses were also completed to explore the inter-scale correlation in the QTI. The scales of the QTI are arranged to form a circular pattern or circumplex model and are expected to be correlated. As shown in the Table 4 the results of the inter-scale correlations from the study generally reflect the circumplex nature of the QTI and further confirm the validity of the instrument. The Leary model predicts that correlations between two adjacent scales are expected to be highest, but the correlation gradually decreases as the scales move further apart until opposite scales are negatively correlated. The pattern is clearly reflected in Table 4 where the results of the inter-scale correlations from the study reflect the circumplex nature of the QTI. For example, the scale Leadership is correlated closely and positively with Helping/Friendly (0.58) and Understanding (0.63). This correlation decreases with other scales highest negative correlation of -0.28 occurring with the Admonishing scale. The results from these analyses confirmed the circumplex nature of the QTI and taken with reliability and ability to differentiate between classes suggest that QTI can be used as a valid instrument in India.

Table 4: Inter-scale Correlation for the QTI

Leadership DC
Helping/ friendly CD

Understanding CS

Student resp/ freedom SC

Uncertain SO

Dissatisfied OS

Admonishing OD

Strict DO

N=1021 students in 32 classes

Associations between students' perception of teacher- student interactions and attitudinal measures

The other aim of the study was to investigate whether the nature of teacher-student interactions affects students' attitudes towards science classes. Associations between the perceptions of teacher-student interactions and students' attitudes were explored using simple and multiple correlation analyses. The results of the analyses are shown in Table 5. Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding and Student Responsibility/ Freedom have statistically positive significance while as Uncertain, Dissatisfied and Admonishing behaviours are statistically negatively significant.

The multiple correlation (R) was 0.39 between the set of QTI scales and attitudes to science classes. The R2 value which indicates the proportion of variance in attitudes to science classes, can be attributed to students' perception of teacher-student interactions was 15%. To determine which interaction scales contributed most to this association, the standardised regression coefficient (beta) was examined for each scale. It was found that the only scales Leadership and Helping/friendly were positively and significantly associated with attitudes with science classes.

Table 5: Associations between QTI scales and attitude to science classes in terms of
simple correlations (r), multiple correlations and standardised regression coefficient (beta)

ScaleAttitude to science classes
Helping/ friendly.31**.16*
Student responsibility/ freedom.07*.02
Multiple correlations: R = 0.3, R2 = 0.15
*p<0.05, **p<0.001

Teacher-student interactions and gender differences

The associations between the students' perceptions of teacher interpersonal behaviour and the gender of the students were analysed. The gender differences in students' perceptions of classroom learning environment were examined by splitting the total number into male (440) and female (581) students involved in the study.

To examine the gender differences in students' perceptions of teacher interpersonal behaviour in science classes, the within-class gender subgroup mean was chosen as the unit of analysis which aims to eliminate the effect of class differences due to males and females being unevenly distributed in the sample. In the data analysis, male and female students' mean scores for each class were computed, and the significance of gender differences in students' perceptions of teacher interpersonal behaviour and science classroom were analysed using an independent t-test. Table 6 shows the scale item means, male and female differences, standard deviations, and t-values. The purpose of this analysis was to establish whether there are significant differences in perceptions of students according to their gender.

As can be seen in the Table 6, out of eight scales of the QTI, the gender differences in the perceptions of males and females were found to be statistically significantly different on seven scales. According to the results, female students perceived more positively the leadership displayed by their teachers and the helping friendly and understanding behaviours of their teachers. On the other hand, male students perceived that their teachers displayed more uncertain, admonishing and dissatisfied behaviours and were giving more student responsibility. The graphical representation of these results can be seen in Figure 1. The gender differences found in this study are similar to the results reported by Fisher & Rickards, (1998) and Khine & Fisher (2001). Fisher and Rickards (1998) reported on Australian students, and found that seven scales of the QTI had significant differences in the perceptions of students of different genders. Khine & Fisher (2001), in a study in Brunei found that six scales of the QTI had significant differences.

Table 6: Item mean and standard deviation for gender differences in students' per ceptions
of teacher-student interaction measured by the QTI Scales

Leadership Males
Helping/ friendly Males
Understanding Males
Student responsibility Males
Uncertain Males
Dissatisfied Males
Admonishing Males
Strict Males
*p<0.05, **p<0.001    males (n = 440); females (n = 581)

Figure 1

Figure 1: Means for gender differences in students' perception of
teacher-student interactions measured by the QTI scales.

Associations between teacher-student interaction and cultural group of the student

Associations between teacher-student interactions and students, on the basis of the cultural group they come from, were examined. The cultural group of the students was determined by the question 'language spoken at home'. Jammu city is understood to be a melting pot of various cultures, because of the migration from neighbouring provinces into the city due to the various political reasons of the past five to six decades. It was amazing to know that students covered in this study, who underwent the same core curriculum at school, came from 13 different cultural subgroups. The languages spoken at home, a clear indication of their cultural backgrounds, are Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogri, Punjabi, Balti, Pahari, English, Badarwahi, Muzfarabadi, Punchy, Telgu, Urdu and Kistwari. However, only four of these groups contain sufficient numbers for the analyses. These are Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogri and Punjabi, which constituted 98% of the sample.

To examine the cultural differences in students' perception of the teacher-student interaction in the science classes, the within-class cultural subgroup mean was chosen as the unit of analysis which aims to eliminate the effect of class differences due to the strength of various groups being unevenly distributed in the sample.

In the data analysis, mean scores for each of the four cultural groups were computed. Table 7 shows the scale item means and F values of the scales of the QTI with the perceptions of students from the four main cultural groups. The purpose of this analysis is to establish whether there are significant differences in the perceptions of students according to their cultural backgrounds

Table 7: Item mean for cultural differences (language spoken at home) in students'
perceptions of teacher-student interactions measured by the QTI scales.

ScaleLanguage spoken at home
n = 522
n = 221
n =175
n = 82
F value
Helping/ friendly 3.783.863.643.713.48**
Student responsibility
Uncertain 2.412.342.642.366.11**
Dissatisfied 2.462.262.612.515.93**
Admonishing 2.592.452.712.603.94**
Strict 3.603.413.503.504.27**
**p< 0.001

As can be seen in Table 7 the differences in the perceptions of students about their science teachers on six of the eight QTI scales are statistically significant. The scales in which there were significant differences were Helping/Friendly, Understanding, Uncertain, Dissatisfied, Admonishing and Strict. Tukey's post hoc test (p<0.05) revealed that for the Helping/Friendly scale the Kashmiri group of students was dominant and had statistically significant higher means while the Dogri group of students had the lowest mean for the scales of Understanding and higher means for the scales of Admonishing, Dissatisfied and Strict. Graphical representation of these results can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Means for cultural differences in students' perception of
teacher-student interactions measured by the QTI scales.

Associations between student-teacher interactions and the cognitive achievement of the student

Table 8 reports the simple correlation (r) and the standardised regression weight (beta) between cognitive achievement and each individual QTI scale when all other QTI dimensions are controlled. Statistically significant associations were found with cognitive achievement and scales of the QTI. However it may be noted that associations between attitudes and QTI scales were consistently higher than those values for the cognitive achievement as shown in Table 8.

The simple correlation (r) figures in the Table 8 indicate that there were only four significant relationships (p<0.05, p<0.01), out of eight scales of the QTI. These associations were only significantly positive for the scale of Understanding for student cognitive achievement. The scales of Uncertain, Dissatisfied and Admonishing displayed significantly negative associations. In summary cognitive achievement was higher where the teachers demonstrated more understanding behaviours and less uncertain, dissatisfied and admonishing behaviours.

An examination of beta weights reveals that three of the eight scales retained their significance. The Understanding and Student Responsibility/Freedom scales were positively associated, whereas the Dissatisfied scale was negatively associated with the cognitive achievement of the students. The R2 figure in Table 8 suggests that 5% of the variance in student cognitive achievement can be attributed to teacher-student interpersonal behaviour.

Table 8: Associations between QTI scales and students cognitive achievement in
terms of simple correlations ( r ) and standardised regression coefficients (beta)

Helping/ friendly0.040.03
Student resp/ freedom-0.030.08*
Multiple correlation R = 0.21**, R2 = 0.05
p<0.05, **p<0.01

Implications of this study

This study contributed to the validation process for the QTI and attitude scale for use with Indian sample and studies follow will have the large Indian set with which to make comparisons. Analyses of the data collected in the study demonstrate that in a small place like Jammu has students coming from a range of different cultural backgrounds and this influences how students perceive their teacher interpersonal behaviour. Statistically significant differences were also found in the perceptions of male and female students. School authorities namely principal of the school, policy makers and above all teachers should take these factors into account and not consider students in a classroom as a homogenous group.

The findings of this study suggest that achievements of the students can be improved if improved if teacher demonstrated more of Understanding and less of Uncertain, Dissatisfied and Admonishing behaviours. Students perceive for more of Leadership, Helping/Friendly, Understanding and Student Responsibility and less of Uncertain, Dissatisfied and Admonishing behaviour of teacher. The incorporation of ideas about teacher interpersonal behaviour into teacher training could improve the over all learning environment (Fisher, Fraser, & Wubbels, 1993).

Summary and concluding remarks

The results from this study can provide guidelines for teachers in India who wish to develop more positive and productive interpersonal relationship with their students. Ultimately, it is the Indians who must decide the type of learning environment they want to have and implement accordingly. The same findings can be used in a broader perspective applied to learning environments in areas other than science.


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Authors: Rekha B Koul and Darrell L Fisher
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology
Perth, Western Australia
Email: R.Koul@curtin.edu.au

Please cite as: Koul, R. B. and Fisher, D. L. (2004). Teacher-student interpersonal behavior and its associations with cultu ral and gender differences, student attitudes and achievements. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2004. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2004/koul.html

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