22 SES 03 D, Learning and Sustainability
Research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
The aim of on-going research is to examine teaching approaches in a Palestinian higher education institution and provide information for designing a pedagogical development programme for this university located in Gaza. The Finnish and Palestinian academics are working in collaboration in this transnational development programme. The research questions are 1) What kinds of approaches to teaching can be identified among Palestinian academics? 2) Are there disciplinary (hard vs. soft) or career-stage differences in their approaches to teaching? The overall aim of three-year-project is to explore potential change in the approaches and beliefs of academics of the institution during transnational educational programme. There are only a few studies which have examined pedagogical developmental processes in transnational education (Bovill, Jordan & Watters 2015) although transnational education and related research is rapidly growing both in Europe and worldwide (Caruana & Montgomery 2015).
Kember (1997) initially identified teacher-centered and student-centered orientations of teaching. The Approaches to Teaching Inventory (ATI) developed by Trigwell and Prosser (1996, 1999, 2004) relied on the results of a phenomenographical study which identified five qualitatively different approaches to teaching. ATI instrument focuses particularly on two extreme categories, namely a) teacher-focused strategy with the intention of transmitting information to students and b) student-focused strategy which aims to support students to change their conceptions. The studies exploring the relations between students' learning and the teaching strategies of their teachers (Trigwell et al. 1999; Prosser & Trigwell 2014) show that students are more likely to adopt deep approach to learning when their teachers apply conceptual-change and student-focused approach to their teaching.
ATI instrument was first trialled using a small sample of university physics and chemistry teachers (Trigwell & Prosser 1996) but has been later applied in different disciplines (e.g. Lindblom-Ylänne et al. 2006). There is a growing number of studies examining academics’ teaching approaches in European, North-American and Asian settings (e.g. Goh, Wong & Hamzah 2014; Hanbury, Prosser, Rickinson 2008; Kemp 2013; Light et al. 2009). Yet to our knowledge there are no studies exploring these themes in the Middle-East or in Arabic-speaking countries. The study aims to fill in this gap and thus enhance our understanding of higher education outside established research environments.
Lindblom-Ylänne et al. (2006) and Lueddeke (2003) explored the disciplinary differences in teachers’ approaches to teaching. Their results showed that higher education teachers working in ‘hard’ disciplines were more likely to report teacher-focused approach while the teachers in ‘soft’ disciplines had a more student-centred approach in their teaching.
Methodology All the academic staff working at the institution investigated were invited to participate in the study via email. Participation was voluntary and confidentiality was assured. Among 399 academics, 221 participated in the study yielding a response rate of 55%. Political unrest in Palestine in December 2017 may have negatively affected data gathering. Data screening reduced the usable responses to 119, of which 104 were male (87%) and 15 were female (13%) representing the gender division of academics in the institution. Therefore, the final response rate of the sample is 30%. The participants were 46 years old on average (SD = 10.399) and reported an average of 15 years (SD = 8.352) of teaching experience in higher education. The sample was distributed according to Biglan's (1973) classification into two academic disciplinary categories, soft (55%, n = 66) and hard (45%, n = 53). In terms of the academic position, 23 % (n = 27) were full professors, 18 % (n = 22) associate professors, 35 % (n = 42) assistant professors,13 % (n = 15) lecturers, and 11 % (n = 13) were teacher assistants. Data were collected by means of online self-reported questionnaire. The questionnaire was translated to Arabic language by a team of native Arabic speakers. The questionnaire was piloted on a sample of 24 participants and revised before being published. Staff's approaches to teaching were measured using 16 items adapted from ATI (Trigwell and Prosser 2004). The inventory consisted of two subscales: student-centred approach (8 items) and teacher-centred approach (8 items). The Likert scale was used, ranging from 1 (rarely) to 5 (always). In addition to ATI, also other instruments were included in the survey. Only results related to ATI measurement are reported in this presentation. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS 22.0 statistical package. The analysis included calculating mean and standard deviation, two-independent samples t-test and one-way ANOVA. Factor analysis using Principal Axis Factoring with Promax rotation method was conducted to examine the factor structure of ATI in the Middle-East context. Factor loadings of the selected items were all above a cut-off point of .33.
Expected outcomes/results The factor analysis confirmed two factors solution of ATI, but only with four items per factor. The rest of items were removed due to the low communality and the cross-loading on other factors. Cronbach’s α for the student-centred factor and the teacher-centred factor revealed very modest values of .57 and .68 respectively. The reasons for the lower reliability of ATI scales and the necessity of tighten those into 4-item-scales in this case may lay in different thinking and responding patterns of the target group. The teaching staff reported both teaching approaches with teacher-centred approach (M = 3.84, SD = .675) being slightly more dominant than the student-centred approach (M = 3.52, SD = .593). In contrast to previous findings, the results of two-independent samples t-test showed no significant differences in teaching approaches between academic staff working in 'hard' and 'soft' disciplines. As showed by one-way ANOVA test, no significant differences were identified in relation to career-stage of academics either. The preliminary results of the factor analysis suggest that ATI instrument may need adaptation in Palestinian higher education settings. The failure to replicate the previous findings (Lindblom-Ylänne et al. 2006; Lueddeke 2003) could be also due to the limited number of participants in the current study. Future research should target larger samples to confirm or refute these assumptions. In this case, it is also worth to consider the utilisation of ATI measurement in diverse contexts. Prosser and Trigwell (2006) have discussed that ATI has been developed from a rather relational perspective. This is meaning that approaches to teaching are seen as being highly contextual and relational, not as static entities. The quantitative data will be supplemented by qualitative interviews which will be analysed later in Spring 2018.
Biglan, A. (1973). The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), 195–203. Bovill, C., Jordan, L. & Watters, N. (2015). Transnational approaches to teaching and learning in higher education: challenges and possible guiding principles, Teaching in Higher Education, 20, 12-23. Caruana, V. & Montgomery, C. (2015) Understanding the transnational higher education landscape: shifting positionality and the complexities of partnership, Learning and Teaching 8 (1), 5-29. Gibbs, G. & Coffey, M. (2004). The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education 5, 87-100. Goh, P., Wong, K. & Hamzah, M. (2014). The approaches to teaching inventory: a preliminary validation of the Malaysian translation, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39 (1), 1-12. Hanbury, A., Prosser, M. & Rickinson, M. (2008). The differential impact of UK accredited teaching development programmes on academics’ approaches to teaching, Studies in Higher Education 33 (4), 469-483. Kember, D. (1997). A reconceptualization of the research into university academics’ conceptions of teaching. Learning and Instruction, 7 (3), 255-275. Kemp, S. (2013). Exploring the use of learner-focused teaching approaches in different academic disciplines, Journal of further and higher education 37 (6), 804-818. Lindblom-Ylänne, S., Trigwell K., Nevgi A. & Ashwin P. (2006). How approaches to teaching are affected by discipline and teaching context. Studies in Higher Education 31 (3), 285-298. Light G., Calkins S., Luna M., Drane D. (2009). Assessing the impact of a year-long faculty development program on faculty approaches to teaching, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 20 (2), 168-181. Lueddeke, G. R. (2003). Professionalising Teaching Practice in Higher Education: A study of disciplinary variation and 'teaching-scholarship', Studies in Higher Education, 28 (2), 213-228. Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (2014). Qualitative variation in approaches to university teaching and learning in large first-year classes. Higher Education 67, 783-795. Trigwell, K. & Prosser M. (2004). Development and use of approaches to teaching inventory. Educational Psychology Review 16 (4), 409-424. Trigwell, K. & Prosser, M. (1996). Changing approaches to teaching: a relational perspective. Studies in Higher Education 21 (3), 275-84. Trigwell, K., Prosser, M. & Waterhouse F. (1999). Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. Higher education 37 (1), 57-70.
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