Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)
Patrick J. Wolf
Second Committee Member
Jay P. Greene
Third Committee Member
Scholars of education policy are increasingly aware of the independent role that noncognitive skills (e.g., self-regulation, social skills, and other personality or character traits) play in long- and short-run student well-being. However, little is known about how these skills are effectively developed. One theory is that noncognitive skills are developed through role modeling by teachers. A student, by virtue of observing and sharing a social connection with his or her schoolteachers, begins to emulate noncognitive skills that they exhibit. In this dissertation, I test this theory. I focus specifically on noncognitive skills related to conscientiousness and measure them using new behavioral proxies based upon survey effort. In chapter 2, I use panel data and techniques to show that students experience declines in conscientiousness in years when they are taught by teachers who exhibit less conscientiousness. Assuming that students are not systematically sorted to teachers with varying degrees of conscientiousness based upon time-varying student characteristics, the relationship between student and teacher conscientiousness can be interpreted as causal. In chapter 3, I corroborate these findings in an analysis that possesses greater internal validity. Using data in which teachers were randomly assigned to classrooms, I find that students become more conscientious when they are taught by more conscientious teachers. If teacher noncognitive skills are transmitted to students, particularly by role modeling, it may be desirable for school leaders to ensure that their school communities exhibit coherence over a values system that they desire students to embrace. In chapter 4, I discuss a policy proposal for this end. Specifically, I test whether school leaders who possess more flexibility in hiring and dismissing teachers are more adept at building a staff that embodies a core set of values. I provide descriptive evidence suggesting that schools exhibit more values coherence when principals have more autonomy over personnel decisions. In conclusion, education policy has only recently given increasing attention to noncognitive skills. More effort must be devoted to studying this topic as carries normative implications not only for the means and aims of existing educational institutions but also for the labor of reforming and improving them.
Cheng, Albert, "Teachers and the Development of Student Noncognitive Skills" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 1657.