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An analysis of temperament and goodness of fit in an elementary school classroom

1 January 1996


In the relationship between the educational environment and a student's success in school, a critical mediating variable appears to be the fit between that environment and the student's temperament type. H the environment and its expectations and demands are in accordance with the student's own capacities, characteristics, and style of behaving then there is what researchers Thomas and Chess would term "goodness of . . fit" and "optimal development in a progressive direction is possible" (Thomas & Chess, 1977, p. 11). If there are discrepancies between the student's capacities and characteristics and the environmental demands and expectations then there is "poorness of fit" and "distorted development and maladaptive functioning occurs" (Thomas & Chess, 1977, pg. 11).

In the following study the mediating variable of "fit" between the classroom environment and a student's temperament was examined. A qualitative case study was conducted to determine how a student with a difficult temperament style responded and behaved in the classroom environment and how his temperament type affected his academic achievement and development in school. Discrepancies between the student's difficult temperament type and the classroom environment in which he was functioning were found. As a result there was a poorness of fit for this student.

The findings suggest that teachers should be aware that a student's school functioning can be influenced by his temperament and that, despite efforts to change the student and shape his characteristics, a highly active child cannot sit quietly, nor can a distractible child concentrate for long periods of time no matter how many punitive actions are taken against him. Teachers must recognize children's differing temperaments and try, as best they can, to accommodate them.


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