Teaching style preference as a function of learner intellective and interpersonal dispositions



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The concern for social perception theory as it relates to teacher-learner activities was documented in recent studies of teacher evaluation. Also, it was concluded that the major lines of inquiry in teacher effectiveness research have not fully considered learner perceptions of the teaching process. Moreover, consideration of the teacher-learner process as one of social interaction heightened the role of perception as a possible determinant in a successful learning situation. Accordingly, social perception theory, the concepts of cognitive consistency, and the elements of group dynamics theory were examined, establishing their pertinence for learners characterizing classroom learning. The importance of focussing on the learners' perception was underscored due to the assymetry of the teacher learner interaction; the teacher being the central figure in even the most open school environment. Additionally, it was argued, through the tenets of social perception theory, that perceptions were a function of the needs and preferences of the perceivers. Such a focus led to several questions that were given attention in the course of this study. Initially, what were the parameters learners typically attend to in characterizing effective teachers? Also, when delineating one's teacher capable of maximizing learning, did learners exhibit varying patterns, i.e., differential emphasis across the above established set of parameters, of teaching style preferences congruent with theoretical models of teaching? And, finally, to what degree were distinctions in teaching style preferences attributable to certain cognitive and affective attributes of learners, notably their intellective and interpersonal styles? Answers to the above questions were sought with a sample of 161 undergraduate students enrolled in teacher education courses at the University of Houston, during the Spring semester, 1976. Factor analysis of the instrument measuring learner perception of effective teachers was conducted. The arising parameters characterizing effective teachers, named Academic Rigor, Personal Warmth, and Intellectual Skill, were presented to the respondents for their subsequent indications of the relative importance of each in characterizing the teacher most capable of maximizing individual learning. Grouping of the respondents' in terms of homogeneous patterns of emphasis over the three parameters yielded six, mutually exclusive categories, each indicative of a particular teaching style preference. It was noted that learners simultaneously attend to multiple aspects of the teaching process, rather than treating these aspects discreetly. Eleven measures describing respondents' intellective style, and five measures describing interpersonal styles were obtained using factor analytic techniques. Discriminant analysis was conducted to distinguish the six groups of respondents with regard to the 16 intellective and interpersonal style variables. Sixty-two percent of the variance of the 16 independent variables contributed to the identification of three significant discriminant functions to which group distinctions were attributable. The importance of the role of learner perception in the teacher-learner process was clarified in this study. When teachers consider increasing or accomodating student learning, the function of such perceptions cannot be ignored, either in how learners characterize their teachers, or the degree to which individual differences influence these perceptions. Additionally, the implicative role of perceptions in teacher effectiveness research and in research concerning student evaluation of teachers must be considered.