This is an evidence-based paper based on research that has shown that faculty beliefs influence their classroom practices and that reformed teaching methods like engagement teaching improve student performance and retention in STEM fields. To better understand the relationships between faculty beliefs and practice and student outcomes like performance and attitudes, this research implemented three tools. The first tool is a 24 question guided interview to gauge general beliefs towards teaching; the second is the Approaches to Teaching Inventory (ATI) that measures faculty beliefs towards instructor-centered knowledge transmission and instructor-centered strategies versus student-centered conceptual change intention and strategies. The third is the Reformed Teaching Observational Protocol (RTOP) which is a protocol that quantitatively measures degree of student-centered classroom behaviors. By combining ATI and RTOP scores with emergent theme (ET) analysis on relevant interview questions, faculty characteristics influencing student outcomes can be determined. This work addressees the research questions, “What is the relationship between faculty beliefs and practice?” and “What is the relationship between faculty practice and student outcomes?”
30 faculty members that teach freshman or sophomore level engineering courses at a large, southwestern university were interviewed about their teaching beliefs, were surveyed using the ATI, and were observed using the RTOP. Interview questions were analyzed using emergent theme analysis and related to their ATI responses and RTOP scores. The interview question responses were coded numerically as either teacher-centered (-1), student centered (+1), or mixed/neither (0) using the dimensions of the ATI as a basis. The total RTOP scores, the ATI dimension scores, and the sum of the interview ET analyses for every faculty member were then ranked in ascending order. Using Spearman’s rank correlation, the relationships between the ATI, RTOP, and ET analysis were found. We found that 2 of the 4 dimensions of the ATI were correlated to the ET analysis at the 90% confidence level and that teacher practice was related to ATI. Finally, we examined the grade distributions for the classes that we observed, correlated them to teacher practice, and found that the ratio of the grades ABC to DEW and ABC to DE was higher for the instructors with higher RTOP scores than for instructors with lower RTOP scores. The findings of this study indicate that faculty beliefs and practices are related and that they relate to student performance. It follows that by shifting the beliefs of faculty members towards student-centeredness, there would likely be a positive change in student outcomes.
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