Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology


Educational Psychology and Methodology

Content Description

1 online resource (xvi, 199 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kevin Quinn

Committee Members

Frank Vellutino, Melinda Tanzman


Case study, Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), Early childhood mental health, Head start teachers, Reflective function, Teacher-child relationships, Head Start programs, Teacher effectiveness, Teacher-student relationships

Subject Categories

Early Childhood Education | Educational Psychology | Psychiatric and Mental Health


The primary purpose of this study was to identify reflective function in Head Start teachers. Reflective function (RF) is a measure of a cognitive-emotional capacity that has been measured through interviews with parents and is linked to the parent's ability to create physical and psychological safety for his/her child (Slade, 2005). This study is the first to apply this measure to teacher interviews. Secondly, this study investigated whether a teacher's RF was related to their interactions with children as measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS, Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008). This qualitative multiple case study investigated archival data collected as part of professional development at a small Head Start. All lead teachers were observed using the CLASS and interviewed using the Teacher Relationship Interview (TRI, Pianta, 1999). Reflective function was coded from the TRI for 8 Head Start teachers and the 2 highest and 2 lowest RF scores were used to select 4 cases for use in a replication design. Reflective function varied substantially among teachers. However, there was little variability among teachers found on the CLASS, hence no relationships between teacher RF and their CLASS scores were established in this study. Alternate explanations that were explored found that age was related to teacher RF as were level of education and teacher certification. Findings were related back to the parent-child attachment literature and the teacher-child relationship model (Pianta, Hamre, & Stuhlman, 2003). The identification of RF in teachers can inform mental health consultation efforts to help teachers build coherent and complete mental representations of particularly challenging children. A larger, quantitative study, which includes measures of teacher interactions with target children, and includes child measures such as language and regulatory abilities, would help to determine relationships between teacher RF and teacher child interactions that support children's learning and well being.