New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Educational Research and Methods
This Work in Progress paper describes early results from a new research study on differences in attitudes and actions between students and instructors, and their impact on academic outcomes. In anthropology, a ‘borderland’ is a physical or metaphorical region in which two cultures, ideas, or sets of values meet and interact, with a new borderland culture (related to, but distinct from, either of the two original cultures) emerging as a result. This research seeks to characterize the pedagogical borderland of a higher education engineering classroom, into which students and faculty bring a set of attitudes, beliefs, history and so forth that drive their behaviors and choices in the learning environment—and of course influence student academic outcomes as well. For students who consented to participate in this study (ns = 317), we delivered the 44-item Felder-Soloman Index of Learning Styles (ILS), the 10-item Big Five personality inventory, the 8-item grit survey, the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) 13-item subscale on study skills and test anxiety, and we also obtained their academic transcript and admissions data. For faculty who consented (nf = 33), we delivered the 44-item ILS, the 16-item Approaches to Teaching Inventory, and a 19-item pedagogical inventory that asks faculty to indicate their level of awareness and use of specific pedagogical tools (active learning approaches, lecturing, think-pair-share, etc.) in their teaching. For a particular sophomore-level course, we matched ILS scores of students with that of their instructor in the course, and calculated an ILS mismatch score between the students and their instructor across all four ILS sub-scales. Our hypothesis was that misalignment between faculty and student ILS scores would result in worse academic outcomes for students, even when controlling for prior performance in an important prerequisite course. This hypothesis captures a kind of classroom borderland phenomenon in which students and instructors bring a wide set of beliefs and attitudes about teaching and learning, and attempt to resolve them. Our preliminary results suggest this hypothesis to be true, although only weakly so. The entire picture of student performance is much more complicated, and this paper explores other student and instructor factors (including differences between instructor learning preferences [ILS] and teaching beliefs [ATI]) that help explain an individual student’s course grade.
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