Teaching teachers: An investigation of beliefs in teacher education students

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<ul><li><p>Teaching teachers: An investigation of beliefs in teachereducation students</p><p>Karee E. Dunn Glenda C. Rakes</p><p>Received: 15 October 2008 / Accepted: 20 March 2009 / Published online: 21 April 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011</p><p>Abstract Influenced by work on learner-centred education, teacher efficacy and teachersconcerns, we conducted an investigation of the influence of 185 preservice teachers</p><p>teacher efficacy and concerns on their learner-centred beliefs. Learner-centred beliefs were</p><p>selected for the purposes of this study as the best indicator of future teaching actions</p><p>because these preservice teachers had not yet entered the classroom or engaged in teaching</p><p>practices. Preservice teacher efficacy and concerns, individually and collectively, signifi-</p><p>cantly influenced learner-centred beliefs. These findings indicate that teacher education can</p><p>facilitate the development of learner-centred beliefs by addressing these trainable char-</p><p>acteristics and demonstrate the need to further explore both teacher efficacy and concerns</p><p>as they relate to learner-centred education within teacher education programs.</p><p>Keywords Learner-centred Teacher concerns Teacher education Teacher efficacy</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Currently, students in the USA have fallen and continue to fall behind their international</p><p>counterparts (Darling-Hammond 2001). As a result, a number of national teaching agencies</p><p>have called for learner-centred reform in USA schools for more than 10 years (e.g. Dar-</p><p>ling-Hammond 2001; INTASC 1992; McCombs and Whisler 1997; Weimer 2002).</p><p>Learner-centred education is based on the American Psychological Associations 14</p><p>learner-centred principles (see Table 1). Furthermore, learner-centred educational practices</p><p>K. E. Dunn (&amp;)Educational Statistics and Research Methods, 248 Graduate Education Building,The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USAe-mail: kedunn@uark.edu</p><p>G. C. RakesEducational Studies, 205F Gooch Hall, The University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN 38238,USAe-mail: grakes@utm.edu</p><p>123</p><p>Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958DOI 10.1007/s10984-011-9083-1</p></li><li><p>Table 1 American Psychological Associations (1997) learner-centred principles</p><p>Cognitive and metacognitive factors</p><p>Principle 1: Nature of the learning process</p><p>The learning of complex subject matter is most effective when it is an intentional process of constructingmeaning from information and experience.</p><p>Principle 2: Goals of the learning process</p><p>The successful learner, over time and with support and instructional guidance, can create meaningful,coherent representations of knowledge.</p><p>Principle 3: Construction of knowledge</p><p>The successful learner can link new information with existing knowledge in meaningful ways.</p><p>Principle 4: Strategic thinking</p><p>The successful learner can create and use a repertoire of thinking and reasoning strategies to achievecomplex learning goals.</p><p>Principle 5: Thinking about thinking</p><p>Higher-order strategies for selecting and monitoring mental operations facilitate creative and criticalthinking.</p><p>Principle 6: Context of learning</p><p>Learning is influenced by environmental factors, including culture, technology and instructional practices.</p><p>Motivational and affective factors</p><p>Principle 7: Motivational and emotional influences on learning</p><p>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.</p><p>Principle 8: Intrinsic motivation to learn</p><p>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.</p><p>Principle 9: Effects of motivation on effort</p><p>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.</p><p>Developmental and social factors</p><p>Principle 10: Developmental influence on learning</p><p>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.</p><p>Principle 11: Social influences on learning</p><p>Learning is influenced by social interactions, interpersonal relations and communication with others.</p><p>Individual differences factors</p><p>Principle 12: Individual differences in learning</p><p>Learners have different strategies, approaches and capabilities for learning that are a function of priorexperience and heredity.</p><p>Principle 13: Learning and diversity</p><p>Learning is most effective when differences in learners linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds aretaken into account.</p><p>Principle 14: Standards and assessment</p><p>Setting appropriately high and challenging standards and assessing the learner and learning progressincluding diagnostic, process and outcome assessmentare integral parts of the learning process.</p><p>40 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>have been recommended because of the positive impact that these practices have been</p><p>found to have on student motivation and achievement (McCombs and Quiat 1999).</p><p>Although the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)</p><p>and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) both</p><p>advocate that teacher education programs produce more learner-centred teachers (INTASC</p><p>1992; NCATE Unit Standards 2006), little learner-centred change has been seen over the</p><p>course of the last 10 years in USA classrooms (Cuban 2007). The question then becomes:</p><p>Why are USA classrooms not becoming more learner-centred?</p><p>Barr (1998) suggests that the lack of substantial learner-centred change in classrooms is</p><p>in part because of the resistance of preservice teachers to learner-centred pedagogy. This</p><p>resistance is partially a result of their beliefs based on past teacher-centred educational</p><p>experiences. For example, many preservice teachers hold the view that teaching is a</p><p>process of transmitting knowledge and of dispensing information (Pajares 1992), which is</p><p>in direct contradiction with learner-centred pedagogy. Because many teacher education</p><p>students enter higher education classrooms with a unique set of beliefs about teaching and</p><p>learning based on prior experience in more teacher-oriented classrooms, it can be a</p><p>daunting task to convince preservice teachers of the value of learner-centred practices</p><p>(Vogler 2006).</p><p>Voglers (2006) suggestion highlights the importance of investigating and addressing</p><p>preservice teachers beliefs. If preservice teachers leave their teacher education classrooms</p><p>and become inservice teachers without any change in these beliefs, little learner-centred</p><p>change will continue to be seen in the future. The importance of preservice teachers</p><p>beliefs is further rooted in both social cognitive theory and conceptual change theory,</p><p>which form the theoretical framework for this research.</p><p>In social cognitive theory, both cognitive and affective variables influence an individ-</p><p>uals likelihood of engaging in target behaviours (Bandura 1986, 1997). Accordingly, what</p><p>one believes and feels about learner-centred education affects the likelihood of engaging in</p><p>learner-centred action. Research supports that beliefs are the best predictor of future action</p><p>(Ajzen 1996, 2002). Thus, a better understanding of beliefs related to learner-centred</p><p>education can help to predict learner-centred action and inform the framework of teacher</p><p>education.</p><p>Conceptual change theory is also a valuable resource in answering the question of why</p><p>there are so few learner-centred classrooms. Conceptual change theory emphasises that</p><p>learning involves more than cold absorption of facts and more than only addressing hot</p><p>cognition driven by personal interests (Pintrich et al. 1993). Instead, a warming trend must</p><p>be applied to training that addresses both cold facts and hot emotions (Sinatra 2005).</p><p>Proponents of this theory assert that what one believes can either interfere with or facilitate</p><p>learning and must be addressed to lead to change. This theory also highlights the impor-</p><p>tance of investigating the influence of various teacher beliefs on learner-centredness that</p><p>must be addressed during teacher education programs to lead to more learner-centred</p><p>change.</p><p>In order to better understand preservice teachers learner-centredness, learner-centred</p><p>beliefs were examined. Because preservice teachers have not entered the classroom and</p><p>because beliefs are the best indicator of future action (Ajzen 2002; Bandura 1986), learner-</p><p>centred beliefs were examined as a proxy for preservice teachers learner-centredness. The</p><p>influence of preservice teacher efficacy and concerns on these learner-centred beliefs was</p><p>examined. By better understanding both cognitive and affective preservice teacher vari-</p><p>ables and their influence on preservice teachers learner-centredness, teacher educators can</p><p>be better equipped to move preservice teachers towards more learner-centred beliefs.</p><p>Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958 41</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>According to both social cognitive theory and conceptual change theory, addressing these</p><p>cognitive and affective influences, as well as beliefs in teacher education, can lead to more</p><p>learner-centred teachers in the classroom. Therefore, this research focused on the following</p><p>research questions: What is the concerns profile for this sample? Are teacher education</p><p>undergraduate preservice concerns regarding learner-centred practices and teacher efficacy</p><p>predictors of preservice teachers learner-centred beliefs?</p><p>Learner-centred beliefs</p><p>Learner-centred beliefs reflect a learner-centred or non-learner-centred orientation on a</p><p>spectrum of related beliefs about teaching and learning. Learner-centred education is based</p><p>on the American Psychological Associations (1997) 14 learner-centred principles and</p><p>reflects a paradigm shift from more traditional content or teacher-centric classrooms. In</p><p>learner-centred classrooms, teachers are responsive to and respectful of the diverse needs</p><p>that students present in the classroom. From this perspective, teaching and learning must</p><p>incorporate strategies that support success for all learners, time for critical reflection, and</p><p>student-shared responsibility for the selection of learning activities (Darling-Hammond</p><p>1996; McCombs and Whisler 1997).</p><p>Preservice teachers pedagogical beliefs play an integral role in the selection of future</p><p>instructional practices (e.g. Cummins 1998; Lehman et al. 1990; Maxson 1995; Richardson</p><p>et al. 1991). An inservice teacher who believes that teacher-centred practices (e.g. direct</p><p>lecture, rote memorisation) are most effective is unlikely to implement learner-centred</p><p>practices (e.g. jigsaw groups, constructivist approaches) suggested by reform advocates</p><p>(Anderson et al. 1991).</p><p>McCombs (1997, 1999, 2002a, b, 2003) research about teacher beliefs and practices</p><p>has confirmed that, by better understanding teacher beliefs, instructional practices can</p><p>improve and move towards more learner-centred practices. For example, McCombs and</p><p>Lauer (1997) found that teachers who believe that they engage in learner-centred practices</p><p>held more learner-centred beliefs than those who held more non-learner centred beliefs.</p><p>This finding reflects the relationship between learner-centred beliefs and learner-centred</p><p>action.</p><p>Research supports the idea that learner-centred beliefs are important predictors of</p><p>inservice teachers use of learner-centred instruction (McCombs 1999, 2003). However,</p><p>little research has investigated these beliefs among preservice teachers. Because teacher</p><p>education provides a readily available forum for addressing these beliefs, it is important for</p><p>researchers and teacher educators to take into account preservice teachers learner-centred</p><p>beliefs as well as the variables that influence learner-centred beliefs, such as efficacy and</p><p>concerns.</p><p>Teacher efficacy</p><p>Teachers sense of efficacy is a little idea with big impact (Tschannen-Moran and Hoy</p><p>2002, p. 7) that has become a cornerstone in the investigation of teacher beliefs and behaviour</p><p>(Fives 2003). For the purposes of this study, teacher efficacy was defined as the self-reflective</p><p>judgement of ones ability to influence or bring about valued student outcomes, engagement</p><p>and learning, regardless of student or environmental attributes (Pajares 1996; Tschannen-</p><p>Moran and Hoy 2001). Teacher efficacy is important to the understanding of teacher moti-</p><p>vation and behaviour because it leads individuals from knowledge to action (Fives 2003), or,</p><p>as Bandura (1986) asserts, efficacy is the primary mediator of effort.</p><p>42 Learning Environ Res (2011) 14:3958</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>Undoubtedly, pedagogical decision-making is influenced by teacher efficacy (e.g.</p><p>Cousins and Walker 2000; Woolfolk et al. 1990). Teacher efficacy informs these choices in</p><p>a variety of ways. For example, people tend to engage in behaviours that they believe will</p><p>lead to success, avoiding activities in which they lack confidence (Pajares and Schunk</p><p>2002). Individuals also engage in activities that they find interesting and tend to be</p><p>interested in activities in which they believe they will succeed (Schraw et al. 2001).</p><p>Additionally, the greater ones self-efficacy, the more likely one is to persist in the face</p><p>of adversity (Pajares and Schunk 2002; Zimmerman 2000). Teachers with more positive</p><p>teacher efficacy might be more likely to implement learner-centred practices and persist</p><p>when faced with students initial resistance to learner-centred practices. However, there</p><p>has been little research into the relationship between teacher efficacy and learner-centred</p><p>beliefs among preservice teachers. By better understanding this relationship, teacher</p><p>educators effectively can equip future teachers to implement learner-centred pedagogy.</p><p>Because efficacy is a trainable characteristic (Burton et al. 2005) that plays a central role in</p><p>behavioural choices, it is important to further explore the role that teacher efficacy plays in</p><p>changing teacher behaviour, such as encouraging engagement in learner-centred practices.</p><p>Teacher concerns</p><p>Preservice teacher concerns related to learner-centred innovations are another possible</p><p>predictor of learner-centred beliefs (Lotter 2004; Zielinski and Preston 1992). Concern-</p><p>based theory originated from the work of Frances Fuller and her research with preservice</p><p>teachers in the late 1960s. She proposed that ones feelings towards any type of change or</p><p>innovation could be addressed as concerns (Fuller 1969). She further asserted that concerns</p><p>follow a developmental, predictable pattern in individuals faced with all types of change</p><p>and innovation (Conway and Clark 2003; Fuller and Brown 1975; Hall and Hord 2001).</p><p>Preservice teachers concerns are important in teacher education programs and in</p><p>persuading pr...</p></li></ul>