Multiple Methods of Examining Child and Staff Perceptions of Interactions Between Staff and Children in After-School Programs

Open Access
Schulte, Jill Ann
Graduate Program:
Agricultural and Extension Education
Master of Education
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 25, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Daniel Francis Perkins, Thesis Advisor
  • after-school programs
  • staff perceptions
  • child perceptions
ABSTRACT Using multiple methods, such as self-report measures and direct observations, not only provides more methodological rigor but also elucidates inconsistencies within the data (Olson, 1977; Hudley, 2006). Comparing observation reports to the perceptions of those directly involved in the environment can provide helpful insights into understanding staff-child interactions and program climate in after-school programs. However, organizations and practitioners may not have the capacity to conduct multiple assessments and often times can only select one measurement tool, if any at all. Although independent observations are powerful tools, they can be very costly as well as time consuming. Self-report measures may represent a workable solution to assessment for organizations faced with limited resources. Research has demonstrated the value of using evaluation tools such as child and staff self-report measures to assess the quality of staff-child interactions with in after-school programs (Hall & Dilworth, 2005; Rosenthal & Vandell, 1996), but it has not been determined if one is a better indicator or more important than the other in depicting the after-school program setting. In this current investigation, both children’s and staffs’ perceptions of after-school staff-child interactions were compared to the direct observations completed by independent observers to examine alignment with observational ratings. The perceptions of staff and children on staff-child interactions were compared to each other to determine if a correlation exists between their perceptions of the interactions between staff and children in after-school programs. A moderate negative correlation between staff and child perceptions was found (r = - .527, p < .020). Thus, staff perception was found to be opposite that of children’s perception. Even after controlling for effect of treatment vs. “business as usual” sites, the correlation between staff and child items was still moderately and negatively correlated (r= -.557, p < .016). A moderate negative correlation was also found between the perceptions of staff and the independent observers (r = -.562, p < .01), however the results indicate that staff and the independent observers rated staff-child interactions in opposite directions of one another even after controlling for treatment vs. “business as usual” sites (r= - .537, p < .05). There was not a significant correlation found between the perceptions of children and the independent observers (r =.237, p > .05), however after controlling for the effects of treatment vs. “business as usual,” a low correlation was found between the perceptions of children and the independent observers (r= - .463, p < .05). Therefore, in this current investigation the children were the better indicators of staff-child interactions in after-school programs when compared to the independent observers.