Author(s):Sari Mullola (presenting), Markus Jokela, Sari Mullola, Mirka Hintsanen, Saija Alatupa

Conference:ECER 2011, Urban Education

Network:9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement


Session Information

09 SES 07 C, Assessing the Relations of Student and Teacher Variables in Mathematics Classrooms

Paper Session


Room:KL 24/122d,G, 49

Chair:Wen-Hui Lu


Teacher-perceived Temperament and School Grades: Do Gender and Teachers’ Age Matter?


1.      Purpose of the study

           The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of teacher and student gender and teacher age on the associations between teacher-perceived temperament, educational competence (EC; i.e., cognitive ability, motivation, and maturity) and school grades in Mother language (ML) and Mathematics (Math) in a population-based sample of Finnish Secondary School students taken from “The Finnish Study of Temperament and School Achievement” (FTSA).

2. Theoretical framework

          Student temperament has been found to be an influential factor in predicting school success and academic outcomes measured by both standardized achievement tests and teacher-rated school grades (Martin, 1989; Author et al., 2010a). In addition to direct effects, temperament has been shown to moderate learning in many situations by either facilitating or impeding certain learning strategies, learning processes and successful completion of tasks. Consequently, temperament extends its significant effects to student classroom behaviour (Orth & Martin, 1994), student-teacher interaction (Rudasill & Rimm-Kaufman, 2009), teachers’ attitudes and expectations toward students (Martin, 1989) and even teachers’ instructional strategies and other educational decisions (Keogh, 1989). However, what is still unclear is the interactive effect of student and teacher gender and teacher age in the association between student teacher-perceived temperament and school grades. In the present study we focused on this question.

          Although there are currently several competing theories and definitions of temperament (see Goldsmith, Buss, Plomin, Rothbart, Thomas, Chess, Hinde & McCall, 1987), a consensus exists that temperament refers to a biologically based, innate behavioural style, which becomes evident in early childhood and is rather stable over different situations and times (Goldsmith et al., 1987). Temperament is seen as raw material that forms an emotional basis and core for the later development of personality.

          Teachers’ perceptions of student temperament consist of three factors related to a teachable and ideal model student (Keogh, 1989). The first, “task orientation”, is composed of activity, persistence and distractibility. The second factor, “personal-social flexibility”, refers to approach, positive mood and adaptability. The third factor, “reactivity”, consists of negative mood, intensity of response and high reactivity. The previous research has shown that students with low temperamental task orientation, low EC, low personal-social flexibility, and high reactivity have been perceived as less capable and less teachable by their teachers and as receiving lower school grades (Author et al., 2010a).

          The subject and its specific task demands also influence how student temperament affects in learning. Temperament has been found to be slightly more related to ML than Math (Martin, 1989) although contrary findings also exist (Maziade, Cote, Boutin, Boudreault & Thivierge, 1986). Because of these inconsistent findings, investigating the possible differential influence between ML and Math is relevant and worthwhile.






The participants comprised 1063 ninth grade adolescents (529 girls and 534 boys) aged 14-17 (M = 15.1 years) in addition to their 43 Math teachers (26 females and 17 males) and 29 ML teachers (all females). The teacher-rated temperament was assessed using four scales from the Temperament Assessment Battery for Children – Revised (TABC-R; Martin & Bridger, 1999) and two scales from the Revised Dimensions of Temperament Survey (DOTS-R; Windle & Lerner, 1986. The teacher-rated EC was assessed with three scales covering Cognitive ability, Motivation and Maturity. The respective grades were taken from the students’ latest school reports for ML and Math (range = 4-10; 4 means fail, 5-6 poor, 7-8 good and 9-10 excellent). The same teacher assigned the grades and assessed the temperament and EC ratings. Since the data reflected a multilevel structure, we used multilevel modeling analyzing data by the Linear Mixed Models procedure.

Expected Outcomes

In summary, (a) high temperamental activity, inhibition, negative emotionality, and distractibility in particular predicted significantly lower ML and Math grades, with stronger associations observed for Math than ML; (b) high temperamental mood and persistence in particular, and high EC (including of cognitive ability, motivation and maturity) predicted higher school grades, again the associations being stronger for Math than for ML; and (c) boys had lower ML grades but higher Math grades than girls, independently of teacher-perceived temperament and EC, the gender differences being stronger for ML than for Math.
In addition to main effects, there were interaction effects between student and teacher characteristics indicating that (a) positive mood predicted ML grades more strongly in boys than in girls; (b) teacher’s age was more strongly associated with lower ML grades in boys compared to girls, independently of teacher-perceived EC, motivation and maturity; (c) inhibition and maturity were stronger predictors of boys’ (but not girls’) ML grades among older teachers compared to younger teachers (inhibition increased and maturity decreased ML grades more markedly in boys than in girls); and (d) negative emotionality, EC, and motivation was more strongly related to student ML grades among younger teachers than among older teachers.


Author et al. (2010a). [details removed for peer review].

DiLalla, L. F., Marcus, J. L., & Wright-Phillips, M. V. (2004). Longitudinal effects of preschool behavioral styles on early adolescent school performance. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 385-401.

Goldsmith, H. H., Buss, A. H., Plomin, R., Rothbart, M. K., Thomas, A., Chess, S., & Hinde, R. A., & McCall, R. B. (1987). Roundtable: What is temperament? Four approaches. Child Development, 58, 505-529.

Keogh, B. K. (1989). Applying temperament research to school. In G. A. Kohnstamm, J. E. Bates, & M. K.Rothbart (Eds.), Temperament in childhood. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Martin, R. P. (1989). Activity level, distractibility, and persistence: Critical characteristics in early schooling. In G. A. Kohnstamm, J. E. Bates, & M. K. Rothbart (Eds.), Temperament in childhood (pp. 451-462). Chichester, England. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Martin, R. P., & Bridger, R. C. (1999). The Temperament Assessment Battery for Children –Revised: A tool for the assessment of temperamental traits and types of young children. Unpublished manual.

Maziade, M., Cote, R., Boutin, P., Boudreault, M., & Thivierge. J. (1986). The effect of temperament on longitudinal academic achievement in primary school. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25, 692-696.

Orth, L. C., & Martin, R. P. (1994). Interactive Effects of Student Temperament and Instruction Method on Classroom Behavior and Achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 32 82), 149-166.

Rudasill, K. M., & Rimm-Kaufman, S. E. (2009). Teacher-child relationship quality: The roles of child temperament and teacher-child interactions. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 107-120.

Windle, M., & Lerner, R. M. (1986). Reassessing the dimensions of temperamental individuality across the life span: the Revised Dimensions of Temperament Survey (DOTS-R). Journal of Adolescent Research, 1, 213-230.

This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Sari Mullola (presenting)
University of Helsinki
Markus Jokela
University of Helsinki
Sari Mullola
University of Helsinki
Department of Teacher Education
Helsinki, Finland
Mirka Hintsanen
University of Helsinki
Saija Alatupa
University of Helsinki