ERG SES C 09, Assessment and Education
To provide optimal learning opportunities for all students within a classroom it is acknowledged that teachers should adapt their teaching in response to relevant differences between students within a class. Adaptive teaching is seen as an important way to address differences between students (Parsons et al., 2017). However, empirical studies have shown that adaptations can lead to different opportunities to learn that might benefit some students more than others, potentially hampering equal learning opportunities. It has been argued that such adverse practices stem from inadequate decision-processes underlying teacher behaviour (Peterson, Rubie-Davies, Osborne, & Sibley, 2016). The research design that is proposed in this paper aims for a better understanding of the foundations upon which teachers build their adaptive practices. With the results of this study teachers can be supported in addressing diversity in their classrooms and making instructional decisions that lead to high quality adaptive education for all students.
Adaptive teaching involves a judgement of what is the most appropriate teaching for a particular student or small group of students (Vogt & Rogalla, 2009). In educational studies this judgment is frequently presented as a rational and seemingly straightforward and deliberate decision-making process wherein teachers adjust their instructional practice based on the knowledge they have of each student’s characteristics (cf. Parsons et al., 2017; Denessen & Douglas, 2015). Adaptive teachers have and use their knowledge about students’ characteristics, subject matter and pedagogy/didactics to adapt their teaching (Banks et al., 2005; Parsons et al., 2017). However, how teachers’ knowledge of their students is incorporated in such judgements and decisions remains largely unknown.
Teacher knowledge is seen as an umbrella term; incorporating a large variety of teacher cognitions, knowledge, beliefs and thoughts that are inextricably intertwined in the mind of the teacher and guide their actions (Verloop, van Driel, & Meijer, 2001). Exploring how teachers’ knowledge of students related to their classroom practices, Savage and Desforges (1995) found that the knowledge the teachers expressed about their students before their lesson did not explain their adaptive behaviours during that. Judgements teachers make about what a student needs can be unconscious and influenced by knowledge about students that is implicit (Good & Brophy, 1974; Peterson et al., 2016; Savage & Desforges, 1995). To understand how teachers judge what their students need and how they adapt their teaching accordingly, it seems imperative to go beyond what teachers themselves explicate and to incorporate implicit processes that influence their adaptive instructional decisions.
Adaptive teaching requires a judgement about what a student needs. Several studies implicate that such judgements are, apart from the explicit knowledge teachers have of their students, influenced by teachers' attitudes towards and attributions regarding their students (Peterson et al., 2016). For example the Model of Stereotype Content predicts that warmth and competence judgements influence subsequent helping behaviours (Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). In educational settings it has been found that teachers who attributed student failure to factors perceived as controllable by the student (e.g. effort) were more likely to respond with anger and to give up helping the student (Georgiou, Christou, Stavrinides, & Panaoura, 2002). However, how these processes interact with teachers’ explicit knowledge of their students is scarcely explored. In this study we will examine (a) the effect of teachers’ explicit knowledge of their students on their adaptive decisions, (b) the effect of teachers’ attributions and warmth and competence judgements on their adaptive decisions and (c) the relation between teachers’ knowledge and judgements and the combined influence thereof on teachers’ adaptive decisions.
We aim to study the knowledge, judgments and adaptive decisions of 100 secondary school teachers, teaching in various educational levels and schools. In the period December-May 2018 (after ERC2018) participating teachers will be asked to fill in a questionnaires about all the students of two classes they teach. Whenever the teachers answers questions about a student the photograph of that student is shown as a prompt, however no other background information is given so teachers will tap into their own knowledge. Teachers’ explicit knowledge will be measured by an open question wherein teachers have to describe the knowledge they have of the student. Teachers’ warmth and competence judgements are measured by an adapted version of the questionnaire developed by Fiske et al., (2002). These adaptations made the questionnaire more suitable for the educational context and they directed the questions towards individual students, for example: As experienced by you, how competent is this student? Teacher attributions are measured by the questionnaire developed by Jager & Denessen (2015). This questionnaire consist of eight causes of which teachers rate the extent to which it affects a student’s achievements. Teachers’ adaptive decisions are measured by a questionnaire developed for this study. Teachers are asked to indicate the extent they adapt their instruction for a student on several possibilities (e.g. difficulty, structure, interests, tempo, grouping). These decisions are based on the literature on adaptive and differentiated teaching (cf. Tomlinson et al., 2003; Roy, Guay, & Valois, 2013). To improve feasibility, the questionnaire is administered in three session that each will take about 30 minutes (90 seconds per student). Teachers are asked to finish the three sessions within three weeks. Teachers’ warmth and competence judgement as well as teacher decisions are measured in all three sessions. In the first session and third session teacher explicit knowledge is measured (about half of the students each), in the second session teachers’ attributions are measured. By distributing questions and students over multiple session we aimed at decreasing social desirability. Since the design of this study is multi-level wherein students are nested in teachers that are nested within schools, we will perform multi-level regression analysis to explore teachers’ explicit knowledge, attributions and judgements and their relations. Teachers’ qualitative descriptions of their students, their explicit knowledge, are quantified using the coding scheme develop in an earlier study (Blinded, subm).
In this study we approach teachers’ adaptive behaviour as affected by explicit and implicit decision-processes. Since data collection will start after the conference (November 2018) the expected outcomes of this study are based on the literature. The session during the ERC however will not be aimed at these expected outcomes, but at presenting and discussing the design of the proposed study. Based on the literature, it can be expected that we find teachers’ adaptive decisions to be related to their explicit knowledge, and to their implicit judgements and attributions. Such results would indicate that both decisions processes should be taken into account to study and improve teacher’s adaptive behaviours. However, professional development programs and teacher training are often only aimed at teachers’ explicit knowledge and focus on deliberate decision making (cf. Vogt & Rogalla, 2009). Insight in the relationships between teachers explicit and implicit cognitions regarding their students and studying their adaptive practices is helpful for a full understanding of mechanisms that underlie adaptive teaching and that should be addressed in development programs. Moreover research studying the relation between teacher knowledge about their students and their teaching is predominantly done among primary school teachers. Primary school teachers often teach one class of pupils for more hours a week, whereas secondary school teachers teach a multitude of students and see their students less frequently. Such settings wherein there is less opportunity to build knowledge of all students upon which thoughtful decisions can be made have shown to influence the relation between decision-making processes and the knowledge that is used in these processes. This research might provide new insights considering teachers’ adaptive teaching decisions within the secondary school context.
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