Asee peer logo

“Conceptual Change” as a Guiding Principle for the Professional Development of Teaching Staff

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Development as Faculty and Researcher: ERM Roundtable

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1782.1 - 26.1782.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Claudia M Walter DiZ - Center for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

visit author page

Claudia M. Walter has a Masters degree in Education from the University of Regensburg, Germany. Since 2005, she has been planning and directing faculty development workshops at the Center for Teaching and Learning of the Bavarian Universities of Applied Science (DiZ). In 2009, Walter became the deputy director of the Center. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Education on a topic related to faculty development.

visit author page


Christian H Kautz Hamburg University of Technology

visit author page

Christian H. Kautz has a Diplom degree in Physics from University of Hamburg and a Ph.D. in Physics (for work in Physics Education Research) from the University of Washington. Currently, he leads the Engineering Education Research Group at Hamburg University of Technology.

visit author page

Download Paper |


“Conceptual Change” as a guiding principle for the professional development of teaching staffConceptual change has served as a helpful methodological framework in the teaching ofSTEM disciplines. Research has shown that in these fields, students may hold incorrect ideasabout basic concepts [1]. Teaching approaches that take into account these alternativeconceptions and allow students to reflect on their thinking have been shown to be moreeffective in changing students’ ideas. In particular, this conceptual change in student thinkingmay be brought about by inducing a cognitive conflict between an individual’s ideas andcontrasting evidence [2].Motivated by these findings, this presentation describes an attempt to use a conceptual changeapproach for the professional development of tertiary-level teaching staff. Similarly toincoming students holding alternative ideas of technical concepts, many novice instructorshold beliefs about teaching that are in contradiction to the framework they are expected toaccept. Specifically, instructors often have an instructor-centered view of teaching and,consequently, use traditional teaching formats such as lectures or problem-solvingdemonstrations. In contrast, professional development programs (PDPs) are most often basedon a constructivist framework that favors student-centered learning scenarios. Assummarized by Kember [3] in 1997, a number of studies have described the development ofinstructors’ beliefs about teaching in terms of conceptual change. Ho [4] has implemented anapproach to faculty professional development based on the conceptual change framework.The present paper describes a preliminary study that documents instructors’ changes in theperception of their own teaching in the context of a PDP based on conceptual change. Thestudy aimed to answer the following research questions: 1. What are the initial conceptions about teaching held by novice instructors? 2. How are these conceptions influenced by participation in a PDP that has been developed with a focus on conceptual change? 3. How does subsequent teaching experience over the course of several months further affect these conceptions?A 16-item questionnaire developed by Trigwell and Prosser [5] was used to measure initialconceptions about teaching before participation in a PDP consisting of a four-day seminar.The seminar is based on the conceptual change approach specified by Ho [4]. It aims to shiftthe participants’ conceptions of teaching away from a teacher-centered and towards a student-centered paradigm. An identical questionnaire was administered a second time after theseminar and again three months later.Analysis of the responses of a total of N = 280 participants has yielded the following results: • Instructors’initial conceptions differ significantly between STEM and non-STEM disciplines on certain student-focused intention and strategy items • Instructors’initial conceptions show little difference across disciplines on instructor- focused items. • During PDP, most substantial changes in instructor conceptions occur on items that focus on student discussions. • After participation in PDP, most student-focused items show small but not significant decay in subsequent months. • Instructors’self image as being able to answer all questions decreases significantly in most cases.1 Champagne, A. B., Gunstone, R. F., & Klopfer, L. E. (1985). Effecting changes in cognitivestructures among physics students. Jn L. H. T. West, & A. L. Pines (Eds.), Cognitive structureand conceptual change. New York: Academic Press.2 McDermott, L. C. (2001): Oersted Medal Lecture 2001: ‘‘Physics Education Research—The Key to Student Learning’’, Am. J. Phys. 69. 1127–1137.3 Kember, D., (1997). A Reconceptualisation of the research into university academics’conceptions of teaching, Learning and Instruction, 7, 255–275.4 Ho, A., Watkins, D., Kelly, M. (2001). The conceptual change approach to improvingteaching and learning: An evaluation of a Hong Kong staff development programme, HigherEducation 42: 143–169, 2001.5 Trigwell, K. & Prosser, M. (2004). Development and use of the Approaches to TeachingInventory, Educational Psychology Review, 16, 409–424.

Walter, C. M., & Kautz, C. H. (2015, June), “Conceptual Change” as a Guiding Principle for the Professional Development of Teaching Staff Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23346

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015