The direct and indirect effects of student temperament on school achievement

Judith Ellen Kleinberg, Fordham University


This study evaluated a causal model that included temperament characteristics and teacher-student interaction variables to determine their direct and indirect effects on measures of achievement. The exogenous variables were the temperament factors of task orientation, flexibility, and reactivity. Teacher expectation and student perception of teacher treatment were included in the model as intervening variables between the exogenous variables and the endogenous variable, achievement. In addition, the relationship between temperament and specific aspects of student perception were investigated. The subjects were 240 fourth and fifth grade students attending two elementary schools in Brooklyn, New York. The sample was evenly divided between black and Hispanic children from a low income population. Children's temperament characteristics were measured by the Short Form of the Teacher Temperament Questionnaire. Teacher expectation was determined by a ranking procedure. The revised Teacher Treatment Inventory was administered to students who recorded their perceptions of teacher treatment. Achievement was measured by scores on the mathematics subtest of the Metropolitan Achievement Test and on the Degrees of Reading Power test. Path analysis was employed to determine the direct and indirect effects of the antecedent variables on mathematics and reading achievement. The results of the path analysis utilizing mathematics achievement as the endogenous measure confirmed the direct effects of teacher expectation and student perception of teacher treatment on mathematics achievement. The direct effects of the temperament characteristics on mathematics achievement were not significant. The largest indirect effect was by task orientation via teacher expectation. Path analyses using reading achievement as the endogenous variable yielded similar results. The results indicate that students who are most likely to succeed in school are those who evoke high teacher expectations and perceive their classroom experiences in a positive light. Of the temperament characteristics, task orientation demonstrated the strongest relationship to teacher expectation both in its direct and indirect effects. More task-oriented students excel, in part, because they elicit positive teacher judgments. A correlational analysis showed that children with difficult temperament patterns perceive more negative teacher feedback and less opportunity. Recommendations were made for teacher training and affective education programs.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Kleinberg, Judith Ellen, "The direct and indirect effects of student temperament on school achievement" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918448.