Proposal Information of Contribution 857
ID: 857
09. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement

Format of Presentation: Paper
Alternative EERA Network: 28. Sociologies of Education
Topics: NW 09: Methodology and Instrumentation of Assessments, Evaluations, Tests and Measurements
Keywords: Popular, lonely, class-room, interaction, student networks

Comparison Between Popular and Lonely Pupils’ Attitudes - Consequences for Class Level Interaction During Work and Break.

Mary-Anne Holfve-Sabel

University of Borås, Sweden

Presenting Author: Holfve-Sabel, Mary-Anne

The classroom climate represents four dimensions; the physical context, individual and group characteristics, beliefs and values in classroom culture, and all relationships between individuals and groups (Tagiuri, 1968). The classroom climate includes all interpersonal relationships (Fraser, 1999). Specific individuals with the highest or lowest status positions are revealing essential information about relationships in their classrooms. The beliefs of individuals and school classes are known from results of a 40 item questionnaire (Holfve-Sabel, 2006).

Most essential in middle childhood is the desire to be included in peer-group activities (Lease, Musgrove, & Axelrod, 2002). Children with low acceptance by their peers have more limited opportunities to adapt socially, and this might also undermine their academic progress (Parker, & Asher, 1987). During adolescence the peer networks become more complex. The general social adjustment still gains from good quality relationships. By reflecting upon the relationship with their teachers, students’ knowledge in contacts with their peers develops further (Howes, Matheson & Hamilton, 1994).

The familiar and traditional 5 sociometric types are popular, rejected, neglected, controversial and average children (Coie, Dodge & Coppotelli, 1982). Almost all children have some friends who will nominate them with exception of highly rejected or neglected children. The typical characteristic in the neglected status group is low scores of social impact but with positive academic profiles (Wentzel & Asher, 1995).  Also a rejected status group of children represents low scores in social domains. The latter were less preferred due to disruptiveness and/or aggression. In this paper a group called “lonely” is investigated, i.e. students without friends. This group may encompass both neglected and rejected children. Loneliness is a complex state where individuals can be victims of aggression and bullying from other children (Gasteiger Klicpera & Klicpera, 2003). In a preliminary report of the attitudes of lonely pupils they were shown to be heterogeneous as a group, representing a spectrum from very low attitudes to school, teacher and peers up to generally very high scorings compared to their classmates (Holfve-Sabel, 2010).

Teachers and children may have separate indicators in mind when they think about popularity. Behind popular nominations personal traits such as leadership, status, dominance and influence are found. Popular children are often appreciated by their teachers and still some of these popular students express more criticism of their teachers.  Instead of being generally academically excellent these students are more competitive in their profiles (Babad, 2001).  Thus, also popular students seem to have complex origins.

Both popular and rejected children have been shown stable over several years. The explanation is that peer interaction conserves and exaggerates the initial label (Zettergren (2007). Therefore long term effects may occur and effect future life.

The objective of the study was to investigate and compare the extreme categories popular and lonely students within separated classrooms and reflect upon consequences for classroom interaction.

Three aims are clarifying the purpose:

1)      Investigate the profiles of attitudes among popular and lonely.

2)      Demonstrate similarities and differences between these student categories.

3)      Discuss the networks’ impact on classroom level.


Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
Self-reports on attitudes from 1531 students in 77 classes in grade 6 in Göteborg were sampled. Their responses to 40 questions with five alternatives were used in confirmatory factor analysis on individual (within-class level) and between classes (Holfve-Sabel, 2006). On within-class level seven attitude factors were found; Interest in School (IS), View of Teacher (VT), and Work Atmosphere (WA). These factors were labelled “school factors” while Relations with Classmates (RC), View of Peers (VP), Lack of Anxiety (LA) and View of Fuss (VF) were labelled “relational factors”.  Each student was also asked to write the name of 3 peers he/she preferred to work with, and 3 peers preferable to play with during breaks in the order 1-3. A Matlab program (Holfve-Sabel & Bengtsson, 2009) was used for calculation. Lonely students not chosen by any class member neither for school work nor for breaks was identified by semi-symmetrised matrices identifying reciprocal choices only. Popular students were identified by symmetrised matrices. Each lonely and popular student was compared to their classmates using one-sample t-test for each of the 7 attitude factors (SPSS 17.0). Attitude profiles of popular and lonely students were compared. Statistical significance was set at p < .05.

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
Popular students were 175/ 1531 (11.4%), and lonely 129 (8.4%).
The attitude variability between classes (eta²) was considerable in all seven factors.  Both popular and lonely varied and therefore each of them was compared with the rest of their class. The categories did not differ in attitudes in the typical school factors IS and VT. Popular scored significantly higher in the remaining 5 factors. The lonely group was more afraid and considered fuss more common. However individuals within the same class could represent wide variations of attitudes for both categories.
The personal index for popular during breaks were higher i.e. they got more votes from peers. The network groups were smaller during breaks, however with tighter coherence, i.e. their members were closer connected. Thus lonely students became exposed as outcasts and at risk for harassment especially during breaks.
The number of popular students and consequently the number of networks decreased when the peers had known each other longer and also if the teacher had longer familiarity with the class. In classes where the number of popular individuals was fewer teachers confirmed more stable peer groups and better interaction among students. More information related to gender and categories will be given.  

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