teaching teachers: an investigation of beliefs in teacher education students

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  • Teaching teachers: An investigation of beliefs in teachereducation students

    Karee E. Dunn Glenda C. Rakes

    Received: 15 October 2008 / Accepted: 20 March 2009 / Published online: 21 April 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

    Abstract Influenced by work on learner-centred education, teacher efficacy and teachersconcerns, we conducted an investigation of the influence of 185 preservice teachers

    teacher efficacy and concerns on their learner-centred beliefs. Learner-centred beliefs were

    selected for the purposes of this study as the best indicator of future teaching actions

    because these preservice teachers had not yet entered the classroom or engaged in teaching

    practices. Preservice teacher efficacy and concerns, individually and collectively, signifi-

    cantly influenced learner-centred beliefs. These findings indicate that teacher education can

    facilitate the development of learner-centred beliefs by addressing these trainable char-

    acteristics and demonstrate the need to further explore both teacher efficacy and concerns

    as they relate to learner-centred education within teacher education programs.

    Keywords Learner-centred Teacher concerns Teacher education Teacher efficacy


    Currently, students in the USA have fallen and continue to fall behind their international

    counterparts (Darling-Hammond 2001). As a result, a number of national teaching agencies

    have called for learner-centred reform in USA schools for more than 10 years (e.g. Dar-

    ling-Hammond 2001; INTASC 1992; McCombs and Whisler 1997; Weimer 2002).

    Learner-centred education is based on the American Psychological Associations 14

    learner-centred principles (see Table 1). Furthermore, learner-centred educational practices

    K. E. Dunn (&)Educational Statistics and Research Methods, 248 Graduate Education Building,The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USAe-mail: kedunn@uark.edu

    G. C. RakesEducational Studies, 205F Gooch Hall, The University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN 38238,USAe-mail: grakes@utm.edu


    Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958DOI 10.1007/s10984-011-9083-1

  • Table 1 American Psychological Associations (1997) learner-centred principles

    Cognitive and metacognitive factors

    Principle 1: Nature of the learning process

    The learning of complex subject matter is most effective when it is an intentional process of constructingmeaning from information and experience.

    Principle 2: Goals of the learning process

    The successful learner, over time and with support and instructional guidance, can create meaningful,coherent representations of knowledge.

    Principle 3: Construction of knowledge

    The successful learner can link new information with existing knowledge in meaningful ways.

    Principle 4: Strategic thinking

    The successful learner can create and use a repertoire of thinking and reasoning strategies to achievecomplex learning goals.

    Principle 5: Thinking about thinking

    Higher-order strategies for selecting and monitoring mental operations facilitate creative and criticalthinking.

    Principle 6: Context of learning

    Learning is influenced by environmental factors, including culture, technology and instructional practices.

    Motivational and affective factors

    Principle 7: Motivational and emotional influences on learning

    What and how much is learned is influenced by the learners motivation. Motivation to learn, in turn, isinfluenced by the individuals emotional states, beliefs, interests and goals, and habits of thinking.

    Principle 8: Intrinsic motivation to learn

    The learners creativity, higher order thinking, and natural curiosity all contribute to motivation to learn.Intrinsic motivation is stimulated by tasks of optimal novelty and difficulty, relevant to personalinterests, and providing for personal choice and control.

    Principle 9: Effects of motivation on effort

    Acquisition of complex knowledge and skills requires extended learner effort and guided practice.Without learners motivation to learn, the willingness to exert this effort is unlikely without coercion.

    Developmental and social factors

    Principle 10: Developmental influence on learning

    As individuals develop, they encounter different opportunities and experience different constraints forlearning. Learning is most effective when differential development within and across physical,intellectual, emotional and social domains is taken into account.

    Principle 11: Social influences on learning

    Learning is influenced by social interactions, interpersonal relations and communication with others.

    Individual differences factors

    Principle 12: Individual differences in learning

    Learners have different strategies, approaches and capabilities for learning that are a function of priorexperience and heredity.

    Principle 13: Learning and diversity

    Learning is most effective when differences in learners linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds aretaken into account.

    Principle 14: Standards and assessment

    Setting appropriately high and challenging standards and assessing the learner and learning progressincluding diagnostic, process and outcome assessmentare integral parts of the learning process.

    40 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958


  • have been recommended because of the positive impact that these practices have been

    found to have on student motivation and achievement (McCombs and Quiat 1999).

    Although the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

    and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) both

    advocate that teacher education programs produce more learner-centred teachers (INTASC

    1992; NCATE Unit Standards 2006), little learner-centred change has been seen over the

    course of the last 10 years in USA classrooms (Cuban 2007). The question then becomes:

    Why are USA classrooms not becoming more learner-centred?

    Barr (1998) suggests that the lack of substantial learner-centred change in classrooms is

    in part because of the resistance of preservice teachers to learner-centred pedagogy. This

    resistance is partially a result of their beliefs based on past teacher-centred educational

    experiences. For example, many preservice teachers hold the view that teaching is a

    process of transmitting knowledge and of dispensing information (Pajares 1992), which is

    in direct contradiction with learner-centred pedagogy. Because many teacher education

    students enter higher education classrooms with a unique set of beliefs about teaching and

    learning based on prior experience in more teacher-oriented classrooms, it can be a

    daunting task to convince preservice teachers of the value of learner-centred practices

    (Vogler 2006).

    Voglers (2006) suggestion highlights the importance of investigating and addressing

    preservice teachers beliefs. If preservice teachers leave their teacher education classrooms

    and become inservice teachers without any change in these beliefs, little learner-centred

    change will continue to be seen in the future. The importance of preservice teachers

    beliefs is further rooted in both social cognitive theory and conceptual change theory,

    which form the theoretical framework for this research.

    In social cognitive theory, both cognitive and affective variables influence an individ-

    uals likelihood of engaging in target behaviours (Bandura 1986, 1997). Accordingly, what

    one believes and feels about learner-centred education affects the likelihood of engaging in

    learner-centred action. Research supports that beliefs are the best predictor of future action

    (Ajzen 1996, 2002). Thus, a better understanding of beliefs related to learner-centred

    education can help to predict learner-centred action and inform the framework of teacher


    Conceptual change theory is also a valuable resource in answering the question of why

    there are so few learner-centred classrooms. Conceptual change theory emphasises that

    learning involves more than cold absorption of facts and more than only addressing hot

    cognition driven by personal interests (Pintrich et al. 1993). Instead, a warming trend must

    be applied to training that addresses both cold facts and hot emotions (Sinatra 2005).

    Proponents of this theory assert that what one believes can either interfere with or facilitate

    learning and must be addressed to lead to change. This theory also highlights the impor-

    tance of investigating the influence of various teacher beliefs on learner-centredness that

    must be addressed during teacher education programs to lead to more learner-centred


    In order to better understand preservice teachers learner-centredness, learner-centred

    beliefs were examined. Because preservice teachers have not entered the classroom and

    because beliefs are the best indicator of future action (Ajzen 2002; Bandura 1986), learner-

    centred beliefs were examined as a proxy for preservice teachers learner-centredness. The

    influence of preservice teacher efficacy and concerns on these learner-centred beliefs was

    examined. By better understanding both cognitive and affective preservice teacher vari-

    ables and their influence on preservice teachers learner-centredness, teacher educators can

    be better equipped to move preservice teachers towards more learner-centred beliefs.

    Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958 41


  • According to both social cognitive theory and conceptual change th


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