In this study we investigated the relation of rigorous instructional practices and teachers' efforts to create a respectful, collaborative learning environment to students' positive behavior toward one another and to the rate and quality of students' participation in classroom discussions. Full class period (i.e., 50-minute) observations of English language arts and mathematics lessons were conducted in 34 sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms in five high-poverty, urban, public middle schools (N = 608 students, 64 observations). Raters coded each lesson for the affective qualities of the classroom environment, the rigor of curricular tasks including guidelines for student work, and the quality of teacher-student verbal exchanges. We applied multiple regression techniques to explain predictive relations between classroom climate, instructional quality, and student behavior. Results indicated that the degree of respect that teachers showed students significantly predicted students' behavior toward one another. The presence of explicit rules in the classroom for respectful, prosocial behavior also significantly predicted the number of students who participated in discussions. Further, the quality of students' participation in class discussions-that is, the degree to which they built on other students' contributions and explained and supported their responses-was predicted by teachers pressing students to explain their thinking in discussions and by the rigor of the questions posed to students in the discussion.
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