This study examines the relationships between observed classroom practices and reported dispositions towards student-centered learning. Participants were engineering faculty taking part in an NSF-funded professional development program. The professional development program, which began in 2016, involves the promotion of active learning strategies through a series of discipline-based workshops, as well as facilitated communities-of-practice sessions.
To assess faculty dispositions towards, and use of, specific active learning strategies, the Value, Expectancy, and Cost of Testing Educational Reforms Survey (VECTERS) was utilized. VECTERS surveys dispositions towards, as well as current and planned use of, three particular active learning strategies: formative feedback, student-to-student discussions, and real-world applications, all of which were specifically emphasized within the professional development program. VECTERS prompts respondents to consider each strategy and consider the degree to which they (a) expect the strategy to be successful, (b) find it valuable, and (c) believe it is costly (e.g., time, resources). VECTERS was administered three times throughout the program to collect faculty attitudes before, during, and after participating in the workshops, across the fall and spring semesters. Since self-reported practices can be biased, classroom observations were also conducted. Classroom observation data were collected via the 25-item Reformed Teaching Observational Protocol (RTOP). The RTOP instrument, designed specifically for STEM classrooms, allows trained observers to quantify the extent to which instructors employ student-centered learning strategies.
Data from VECTERS and RTOP were initially analyzed individually to assess changes over the course of one academic year, in which participants (n = 20) were enrolled in the professional development program. Analysis of pre- to post-VECTERS indicated significant changes (p < .05) in expectancy and value of real-world applications and of formative feedback. Respondents also indicated significant changes in current (12%) and planned (15%) use of real-world applications in their classroom practices. From early fall to late spring, mean RTOP scores of participants increased by 22% (p < .05).
This study focused on comparing beliefs about student-centered instruction (as measured by VECTERS) and observed practices (as measured by RTOP). Formative feedback expectancy was positively and significantly correlated to mean RTOP scores (p < .05), while perception of the cost of integrating formative feedback in the classroom was negatively correlated with mean RTOP scores (p < .05). This negative relationship indicates faculty who were observed to be integrating high levels of student-centered strategies were more inclined to report the integration of formative feedback as having a low cost of implementation.
Additionally, participants reported use of student-to-student discussions was highly, and positively correlated with RTOP scores during the fall semester (p < .05), which indicates a connection between perceived beliefs/use and actual implementation. Finally, to further explore the relationships, we examined individual items on RTOP that corresponded with the specific strategies from VECTERS; as expected some of these items were significantly correlated with observed practices in RTOP. A full discussion of results will be presented in the final paper.
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