Teacher Preferences for Mastery-Oriented Students

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Nipissing University]On: 08 October 2014, At: 15:11Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Journal of Educational ResearchPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjer20

    Teacher Preferences for Mastery-Oriented StudentsGregory Schraw a & Billy Aplin aa The University of Nebraska-LincolnPublished online: 02 Apr 2010.

    To cite this article: Gregory Schraw & Billy Aplin (1998) Teacher Preferences for Mastery-Oriented Students, The Journal ofEducational Research, 91:4, 215-221, DOI: 10.1080/00220679809597546

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  • Teacher Preferences for Mastery =Oriented Students GREGORY SCHRAW BILLY APLIN The University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    ABSTRACT The relationship between college students goal Orientations and teachers subjective ratings of students was examined. Mastery (concern with improving competence) and performance (concern with proving competence to others) goals were distinguished according to Dweck and Leggetts (1988) theory. The authors predicted that the teachers would give more favorable ratings to hi&-mastery students than to low-mastery students on 12 separate dimensions, including likelihood of being a successful teacher. The relationship among goals, critical thinking skills, and final course grades was also examined. The results showed a strong relationship between mastery goals and teacher ratings, but no relationship among goals, grades, and an objective measure of critical thinking. Implications for future research are discussed.

    eachers and students form dynamic relationships that T affect classroom activities and academic achievement. These relationships are based in part on the beliefs that teachers have about their students (Kagan, 1992). Our pur- pose in the present research was to examine the relationship between student goal orientations and teacher perceptions of students.

    The present research was guided by the distinction between mastery and performance goal orientations (Ames, 1992; Ames & Archer, 1988; Blumenfeld, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Mastery goals are those held by individuals who seek to improve their competence. Those students are characterized by a desire to increase their knowledge and understand a topic better regardless of performance outcomes. Performance goals are those held by individuals who seek to prove their competence. Those students are characterized by a desire to do better than others and to publicly demonstrate their competence but may have little desire to improve their understanding of a topic otherwise.

    According to previous research, student goal orientations are related to classroom behavior and long-term academic achievement in both children (Ames &Archer, 1988; Elliott & Dweck, 1988; Schunk, 1996) and adults (Schraw, Horn, Thorndike-Christ, & Bruning, 1995). High-mastery individ- uals view challenge favorably (Ames & Archer), report a great sense of self-regulatory control (Roedel, Schraw, &

    Plake, 1994), are likely to use deeper processing strategies while learning (Greene & Miller, 1996), and are persistent (Miller, Behrens, Greene, & Newman, 1993). In general, individuals characterized by a strong mastery orientation are likely to engage in adaptive learning behaviors, which include strategy shifting, increased effort, reanalyzing a problem, and a decision to persist in the face of difficulty (Meece & Holt, 1993; Pintrich & DeGroot, 1990). In con- trast, individuals characterized by a strong performance ori- entation are likely to engage in maladaptive learning behav- iors, which include low task engagement, low persistence, and the occasional adoption of a helpless response. Also, high-performance students more frequently use shallow strategies than high-mastery students do (Greene & Miller; Schraw et al.).

    Recent research also indicates that academic goal orien- tations are independent of one another (Meece & Holt, 1993; Miller et al., 1993; Roedel et al., 1994): A student may be high on both dimensions, low on both, or high on one and low on the other. Surprisingly, where a student lies on either dimension appears to be independent of measured ability (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Schraw et al., 1995).

    In the present study, we examined the relationship be- tween student goal orientations and teachers subjective rat- ings of students. We know of no study that has examined how others (i.e., fellow students and teachers) view students as a function of goal orientations. One would expect teach- ers to prefer high-mastery students because they are more flexible and adaptive. We assume that teacher preferences for high-mastery students affect their perceptions of stu- dents cognitive skills, personal characteristics, and future prospects as teachers. Teacher preferences may also affect grades (Kagan, 1992).

    Our main research question was whether teachers give more favorable ratings to high-mastery students. Teachers may prefer high-mastery students because they are more likely to persist in challenging situations and may be more likely to engage in cooperative classroom activities that assist other students. Specifically, Dweck and Leggetts

    Address correspondence to Gregory Schraw, Department of Educational Psychology, 1313 Seaton Hall, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, N E 68588.

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  • The Journal of Educational Research

    (1988) theory predicts that high-mastery students will be more adaptive, cooperative, and optimistic in the classroom and more likely to attribute their success to teachers (Ames & Archer, 1988).

    We tested this hypothesis by asking 9 college instructors to rate teacher-education students who were enrolled in a dis- cussion-based course on human development (see the Method section for further details). The students were grouped into one of four mutually exclusive categories: high- masteryihigh-performance, high-masteryflow-performance, low-masteryihigh-performance, and low-masteryflow-per- formance. We made three predictions based on these cate- gories. First, we predicted that none of the four groups would differ on an objective test of cognitive thinking skills or on teacher ratings of those skills. This prediction implies that teachers do not perceive a relationship between students goal orientations and thinking skills. Second, we predicted that teachers would rate high-mastery students more favor- ably on 12 separate classroom dimensions. The dimensions included adaptive behaviors such as effort, persistence, posi- tive response to negative feedback, and social effectiveness in a classroom setting. Third, we predicted that the high-mas- tery students would receive better grades than the low-mas- tery students would. We based this prediction on the assump- tion that high-mastery students use more strategies and work harder than low-mastery students do.

    We also asked the teachers to provide written descrip- tions of the characteristics they liked and disliked about each student. We expected that the high-mastery students would receive more favorable responses and the high-per- formance students would receive more unfavorable responses. We sorted written responses into five general cat- egories (see Scoring section for further details). We used these categories to provide a descriptive account of which characteristics teachers preferred in their students.

    Method

    Participants

    Nine doctoral students (5 women, 4 men) enrolled in an educational psychology program at a large midwestern uni- versity participated as instructors. Four were completing dissertations in human development, 4 were completing dissertations in school psychology, and 1 was completing a dissertation in human factors. None had previous teaching experience in public or private schools. Each instructor taught one section of an undergraduate human development class at a large midwestern university. Each instructor had taught the same class at least two times before their current teaching assignment. Classes ranged in size from 8 to 12 undergraduate students (M = 9.63, SD = 2.47). Each class met once a week for 2 hr over 13 weeks and focused on small-group discussions of course readings. Readings were identical across all sections.

    The student participants included 65 undergraduates (4 1

    women, 24 men) enrolled in a required educational psy- chology course. Twenty-three eligible students elected not to participate. Participation was in partial fulfillment of a course requirement. All participants were currently enrolled in the teacher certification program. Approximately 80% of the students were juniors, 15% were sophomores, and 5% were seniors.

    Materials and Procedures

    The teachers completed the 25-item goals inventory developed by Roedel et al. (1994) during the 2nd week of the semester. This inventory consists of 13 mastery items (e.g., I preferkhallenging tasks even if I dont do as well at them) and 12 performance items (e.g., I feel angry when I dont do as well as others; see Appendix A). The partici- pants indicated how true each statement was about them on a 5-point scale ranging from always false to always true. The teachers completed the goals inventory in their offices and returned them via campus mail.

    The students were tested outside of their regular classes during the 2nd week of classes in a 1 -hr testing session that included the goals inventory and three subsections of the Watsonalaser Critical Thinking test ( I 980). The Wat- sonalaser test is administered to high school and college students to evaluate higher order thinking skills. Each stu- dent completed the recognition of assumptions, deductive reasoning, and interpretation of ideas subsections. Each of these tests included 16 items on which individuals indicated whether assumptions were met or unmet. The participants were allowed as much time as needed to complete the tests.

    The teachers and students met for I I weeks after the ini- tial testing session without any further contact from the researcher. At the end of this period, the teachers were asked to complete a 12-item questionnaire for each partici- pating student (see Appendix B). These questions addressed whether the students enjoyed being challenged in class (i.e., a prototypic characteristic of the mastery orientation), understood issues at a deeper level, and contributed to class discussions. The teachers also judged whether the students would be effective teachers in the future. Last, the teachers provided a grade for each student on a 9-point scale ranging from A+ to C- and a written description of the student char- acteristics they liked and disliked most.

    Scoring

    The goals inventory, Watson-Glasser subtests, and teacher ratings were scored objectively. We used inductive content analysis procedures described by Straws and Corbin (1990) and Weber (1985) to categorize written re- sponses in an iterative manner. An initial inspection of teacher comments regarding favorable student characteris- tics revealed 62 unique attributes that were grouped into five broader categories. We selected these categories based on common broad themes among the 62 attributes. For

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  • MarcWApril 1998 [Vol. 91(No. 4)] 217

    example, the engagement category included attributes such as does good work, is involved in discussions, is persistent, is prepared for class, actively seeks help, and participates in class activities. These five categories were labeled social/ communication skills, cognitive skills, engagement, adap- tiveness, and personality variables.

    We operationalized these categories as follows: Social/ communication skills included attributes related to the stu- dents ability to understand and communicate with others, such as being empathetic, a good listener, an initiator of communication, and cooperative. Cognitive skills included attributes related to the students knowledge, problem-solv- ing skills, or general aptitude, such as being thoughtful, reflective, an active learner, a clear thinker, creative, and insightful. Engagement included attributes related to the students participation and motivation, such as works hard, is persistent, likes challenges, values learning, displays drive, and participates in class. Adaptiveness included attributes related to the students flexibility and ability to present and understand multiple perspectives, such as enter- tains multiple perspectives, responds well to feedback, compensates for weaknesses, seeks help, and copes well with failure. Personality included attributes related to per- sonality traits or characteristic behaviors, such as humor, punctuality, independence, and pleasantness.

    We scored each written protocol together in order to bet- ter evaluate the category membership of each teacher description. We believed that assigning statements to cate- gories would be more reliable if we discussed the sorting process as it occurred. Each teacher description was assigned to one of the five categories described above. All disputes were settled through discussion, such that there was complete agreement between the two scorers. An inspecti...

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