Pryor, C.R. & Pryor, B.W. (2005, March 01). Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs About Democratic Classroom Practice: Influences on Intentions for Pedagogical Integration
Current Issues in Education [On-line], 8(6). Available:
Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs About Democratic Classroom Practice: Influences on Intentions for Pedagogical Integration
Caroline R. Pryor
Brandt W. Pryor
Texas A&M University
This study investigated preservice teachers’ intentions to integrate democratic practice into their teaching and the influence of attitudes and beliefs on intentions. Participants were 76 undergraduates from 3 social studies methods classes. A theory of reasoned action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) guided instrument development. Intention was determined solely by attitude, and attitude by two beliefs about outcomes of democratic practice. Pretest to posttest changes on knowledge of how to integrate democratic practice corresponded to levels of course implementation. Program implications are found in mpeg video integrated into text (Olivero, John, & Sutherland, 2004) and in “Talking Tables” 1.
Table of Contents
Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs About Democratic Classroom Practice: Influences on Intentions for Pedagogical Integration
This study investigated preservice teachers’ intentions to integrate democratic practice into their teaching and the influence of attitudes and beliefs on intentions. As the components of a multi-component target behavior can be logically seen as predictors of the target behavior, the study also investigated changes in knowledge of three components of how to implement democratic practice following a social studies methods course.
One goal of teacher preparation programs has been the development of teachers who can prepare the students in their classrooms to become effective citizens in a democratic society (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Parker, 1996b; Soder, 1996). In addition to a wide range of coursework, including content methods courses such as social studies or mathematics methods, these programs traditionally include various configurations of site-based experiences in schools. One such field experience model is the preservice teachers’ observations of their mentor teachers’ instruction of students in classrooms. This type of observation has traditionally included beginning teachers’ classroom practices (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). Additionally, preservice programs also include elements of student reflection on their own teaching, which appears to promote a constructivist or self- developed and evaluative component to the students’ preservice experience (Rainer & Guyton, 1999).
In the case of preservice teachers learning to teach in a democratic manner, a perspective of teaching fostering fairness and justice (Soder, 1996), it appears that a student’s classroom mentor teacher can influence approaches to teaching (Rainer & Guyton, 1999; Parker, 1996b, Wactler, 1990). Since methods courses are often taught parallel to the field experience, it might be important for students to have an opportunity to reflect on the practice of their mentor teacher with their university professor (Wactler, 1990). Opportunity for student reflection has been highly regarded; program reports by Guyton, Rainer, and Wright (1997) and Soder (1996) indicate that observing and participating in classrooms where democratic practice is modeled by the mentor teacher can enhance a preservice teacher’s ability to reflect on and implement such practice.
There are two barriers to achieving the goal of developing democratic classroom teachers. First, preservice teachers need to develop attitudes and beliefs that democratic practice is important (Davis, 2003; Kincheloe, 2004; Parker, 1996b; Pryor, 2000), but we do not know when or how this development occurs (Soder, 1996). Second, there is no consensus as to the ideal program for preparing democratic teachers (Goodlad, 1996). Numerous approaches to democratic teacher preparation have centered on programmatic emphases, such as field reflection (Rainer & Guyton, 1999) or school reform (Goodlad, 1996). There are, however, no reports of programs designed to scientifically foster the development of favorable intentions to implement democratic practice. Rainer and Guyton (1999) suggest a model of mentoring preservice teachers to implement democratic practice, but the efficacy of this model has not been supported empirically.
The theory of reasoned action (e.g., Fishbein, 1967; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) has been tested for over thirty years, and found to successfully predict and explain intentions about behavior in numerous behavioral domains. It has been applied to the study of adults’ decision-making about participation in education (Pryor, 1990), and of teachers’ and school principals’ decision-making about participation in professional development (Pryor, 1994). The theory holds that the performance of any given behavior is determined by an intention to perform the behavior. Behavioral intention is determined by an attitude toward performing the behavior and a subjective perception of normative influence concerning the behavior. Beliefs about the outcomes of performing the behavior and an evaluation of each outcome determine attitude. Beliefs that certain “important others” do or do not want the person to perform the behavior and the degree of the person’s motivation to comply with each of these referents determine subjective norm.
Outcomes of Teachers as Democratic Practitioners
Belief in the importance of a democratic society remains strong in the United States (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Goodman, 1992; Ravitch, 1983). Support of this importance is based on positive attitudes towards three dimensions of democratic principles: (a) the opportunity for full social participation (Goodlad, 1996), (b) equal opportunity in a diverse society (Spring, 1999), and (c) a moral norm of justice and fairness (Gutmann, 1987). There is some evidence of the positive effect of schooling in preparing democratic citizens. Students in democratic classrooms develop a “fund of democratic knowledge”; that is, they learn and work in classrooms where the situated use of democratic practices is evident (Parker, 1996b, p.195). This “fund” might be derived from two aspects of the practice of teaching: teacher content knowledge and pedagogical strategies. Teachers who know how to use democratic strategies are deliberative in developing a democratic class environment (Soder, 1996; Pryor, 2004b). Teachers whose social studies methods courses include integrating civic knowledge into curricular content areas (history, political science, economics, geography and anthropology) are more skilled in teaching civics (citizenship in a democracy) (Parker, 2001).
A recent report regarding the preparation of future secondary teachers for citizenship educator roles suggests that the responsibility for developing a disposition to teach with tolerance and [understanding of] difference lies first with the university itself (Kobow, 1999). For preservice teachers in a social studies methods course, reflecting on teaching practice while participating in schools might foster intentions to integrate democratic practices (Darling-Hammond, 1996; O’Hair, McLaughlin, & Reizug, 2000; Parker, 2001; Pryor, 2000).
Historical Precepts that Define Democratic Classroom Practice
Liberty and Freedom
The notion of democratic precepts as a philosophical basis for public education has a large number of supporters. John Dewey (1910, 1933) is often cited for his landmark work in linking the potential outcomes of individualism and exploration with democracy in education (Gutmann, 1987; Soder, 1996). Additional historical contributions to democratic conceptual understandings both precede and follow Dewey’s vision. For example, John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Civil Government(1946) argues for a governmental construct of freedom whereupon policy of acts requires the consent of the governed. This argument promotes a less frequently discussed outcome of a democratic state, civility in the state of nature (Ravitch, 1983). Locke maintained that if man is born free, civility is the set of truths by which a society continues freedom (Wactler, 1999).
Justice and Fairness and Equality and Equal Opportunity
Attenuation of freedom might be dependent on a system of justice in governmental construct. For example, in Thomas Paine’s 1794 opinion of free man, he suggests that an individual’s ability to reason impacts social norms so that the possibility of “moral mischief” and “mental lying” in society can be avoided (Zuchert, 1991). This last attribute, justice evidenced in equality as a human right, was of particular interest to Alexis de Tocqueville. While de Tocqueville recognized limitations on egalitarianism due to the potential exercise of power by the majority, he nonetheless expected a governmental resolution of social division (Zuchert, 1991). In drawing support for effecting social equality, de Tocqueville noted the Jeffersonian mandate of the American purpose of public education, the education of citizens in preparation for their civic duty.
Constituent Elements of Democratic Practice
Public schools are often organized around a theme of production, such as the factory model of the industrial revolution (Feinberg & Soltis, 1998; Fenstermacher & Soltis, 1998) or the enculturation model which proposed to eradicate society’s ills, particularly the ills of ignorance (Ravitch, 1983; Smith, 1984; Wactler, 1999). Given dissimilar educational goals, school reform would be well informed by an operational definition of constituent elements for educational adoption. Such definition is composed, then, of civic education (Bohan, 2001; Henderson, 1999; Makler, 1999; Soder, 1996) and pedagogy (Pryor, 2003; 2004a; Rainer & Guyton, 1999).
For the purposes of this paper, civic education is defined to mean education for and about the values of democratic principles in a social/political construct (Soder, 1996). Butts (1993) explains civic knowledge (and directs this knowledge to preservice teacher education) as “…the virtues, sentiments, knowledge, and skills of good citizenship….a reasoned commitment to the fundamental principles and values of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and an understanding of the issues and controversies confronting us today” (p.332). A further discussion of civic education in both public schools and teacher education appears in substantial form in the work of Cochran-Smith and Fries (2001), Cunat (1996), Goodlad (1996), Goodman (1992), Parker (1996a), Soder (1996), and others.
School reform is often accompanied by calls for reform in pedagogical approaches (Darling-Hammond, Lieberman, Wood, & Falk, 1994; Goodman, 1992). Rainer and Guyton (1999) propose integration of pedagogical knowledge of democratic practices as reform within preservice programs. The literature describes the following practices as contributing to such realignment: (a) classroom management (Levin, 1994), (b) cooperative learning environments (Lieberman, 1996; Rainer & Guyton, 1999), (c) inquiry, discourse, and high student engagement, (Soder, 1996), and (d) student centered curriculum (Henderson, 1999; Lieberman, 2000; Parker, 1996b).
Situated Learning in Teacher Education
Learning about concepts (such as democracy) could be partly explained by theories of adult learning processes, such as the social problem-solving and academic inquiry model of Massialas and Cox (1966) and Glasser(1969), concept attainment and processing (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1967), or Ausubel’s (1963) advanced organizer model (Joyce, 1978). Less attention has been paid to linking theories of the learning process to a problem-solving environment. Importantly, theorists suggest that adults learn best in circumstances that scaffold prior learning, such as concept learning (Cross, 1983), and seek environmental engagement of the learner (Knowles, 1980).
One problem regarding prior learning is the difficulty of quantifying content knowledge attained by undergraduates before entrance into a teacher education program and determining if this knowledge is under university control. In order to understand the content learned in the dual environments of a methods course and field experience, some understanding of adult cognition and context is illuminating. Cognitive learning is described by Cobb and Bowers (1999) as “a version of constructivism that sees considerable merit in situated accounts of learning” (p.4). Such constructivism, they conclude, is described by two reports regarding aspects of cognition that contribute to learning. First, Cobb and Bowers (1999) reported the 1996 and 1997 studies by Anderson, Rader, and Simon suggesting that cognition occurs as a result of stimulus, mediation and response that formulate internal information processing mechanisms. Next, Cobb and Bowers suggested the importance of DeCorate, Greer, and Vershaffel’s 1996 work indicating that cognition as situated learning is a reaction to affect, context, culture, and history. Young (1993) further explains the process of cognitive learning based on the work of Gibson (1977-1986), which emphasized the psychological perspective of perception, and the work of Shaw, Turvery, and Macv (1982) which argued that cognition is derived from environmental affordances [phenomena]. One conclusion from such postulates is the necessity of re-thinking how scaffolding of cognition might occur in a particular environment (Young, 1993).
The particularity of context appears central to the discussion of “what works” in linking cognitive structures with constructivism in a field-based preservice program. Context for a learner must be developed by identifying: (a) the abilities of the problem solver and (b) all the “relevant attributes of the environment perceived by the problem solver” (Young, 1993, p. 44). Young pressed the point of contextualization of learning by emphasizing Grenno’s (in press) point that multiple situations are needed for the acquisition of both general and abstract knowledge. In the case of preservice teachers learning about concepts of democracy and conceptualization of the practice of democratic principles in teaching, context and contextual modeling are imperative (Darling-Hammond, 1996; Parker, 1996b). As Young (1993) asserts, the theoretical emphasis on the interaction of cognition and context depends on the anchor points of context itself: “transfer of targeted concepts or procedures that provide meaning for learning as well as accommodating anchored (a real world or concrete example) instruction” (pp. 48-49). It is this last point, anchored instruction that holds potential for integrating democratic practice into teacher education programs. One purpose of an integrated preservice program is the hope that as preservice teachers develop pedagogical expertise (Young, 1993), values of democracy such as liberty, freedom, justice, and equality ( Washington, 1996) fit with anchored classroom experience. The suggestions for program improvement in the next section rest on notions of contextualization of teacher preparation found in preservice programs.
What is Lacking in Teacher Education?
Content in Social Studies Methods Courses
Teaching subject matter content
It appears clear that context makes an important contribution to knowledge gain (Cobb & Bowers, 1999; McLellan, 1994; Young, 1993). If we expect preservice teachers’ subject matter content knowledge to increase, we must situate content within the methods courses themselves. For example, if we conclude that preservice teachers need to know more about democracy and its role in civics and methods of civic education, then separating this content from its application (the field experience) does not make sense (Tripp, 1993). To prepare future teachers to involve their own students in democratic participation, a clear agenda of civic knowledge and pedagogy should be integrated into social studies methods courses (Butts, 1993; Davis, 2003; Pryor, 2003; Torney-Purta, 1983). Butts (1993) reviewed various proposals of teaching standards (Holmes Group, 1990; Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, 1993; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards 1989, 1990) and found little to recommend civic knowledge as a teaching standard; however, his report explicitly charged the profession to do so:
I noticed no mention of the need for beginning teachers to know about the fundamental principles and values of constitutional democracy which teachers and their students should acquire to carry out the basic mission that public education in America is designed to achieve: education for democratic citizenship. (p.327)
Teach civics content
Beyer (1996) discusses one preservice teacher education program centered on integration of reflective teaching and “schooling for democracy.” Dominating this program was a high concentration in the coursework of “…readings, discussion, and field work…that sought to develop an understanding of the social, economic, political and ideological contexts of educational institutions …”(p.2). Examples of topics of civic education include: knowledge of voting and active citizen participation, paying taxes, being patriotic, and obeying the law (Romanish, 1998); values and disposition necessary to become effective self-governing citizens in a democratic society (Butts, 1993; Girarelli, 1983; Ross, 2001; Stanley, 1983; & Torney-Purta, 1983); scholarly analysis and perspectives of history, political science, law, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, religion, and comparative and international studies (Butts, 1993; Stanley, 1983); and critical thinking about civic virtue such as connectedness to others, or direct involvement in civic life (Ross & Yeager, 1999; Kincheloe, 2004).
Reflect on civic values
This last attribute of civics education, critical thinking and reflection exemplifies effective programs in democratic teacher education (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990; Wactler, 1990). Not long after the reports of Zeichner (1989), Goodman (1992); Darling-Hammond (1993b); Goodlad (1996) and others, programmatic shifts began toward preservice teacher reflection on teaching during the field experience (Armaline & Hoover, 1989; Elbaz, 1988; Garman, 1986; Guyton & McIntyre, 1990; Hursl, 1988). These reports described the efficacy of context (the field experience) that served many teacher education programs well: preservice teachers engaged in pedagogical discourse with mentor teachers (O’Laughlin & Campbell, 1988) and reflection on teaching while observing in the classroom (Selke, 1997).
Context in Social Studies Methods Courses
To enhance scaffolding of reflection, that is, to reflect with purpose, teacher education programs and methods courses in particular, should develop specific topics to guide student reflection (Houston & Warner, 2000; Pryor, 1998; Schon, 1987; Wedman, 1985). Reflection topics should include the following: (a) self as learner (Houston & Warner, 2000; Wactler, 1990), (b) content dialogue particularly in cohort grouping (Fernandez-Balboa & Marshall,1994), (c) observations of school events (Rainer & Guyton, 1999), (d) service learning experience as civic responsibility (Pottholff, Dinsmore, Stiritz, Walsh, Ziebarth, & Eifler, 2000), (e) understanding of one’s philosophy of education (Pryor, 2004b; Ross & Yeager, 1999), and (d) curriculum integration promoting awareness of social conscience (Kincheloe, 2004; Vavrus, Walton, Kido, Diffendal, & King, 1999).
Research on Integration of Democratic Practice into Preservice Education
Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge and Disposition Toward Democratic Practice
Empirical studies of preservice teachers’ implementation of democratic practice have begun to appear in the literature. In a study of the effects of service learning field experience on preservice teachers’ beliefs and attitudinal growth, Potthoff et al, (2000), administered a 53-item self-report scale measuring growth in areas related to the program goals--education of preservice teachers to address the common good. Outcomes of this field experience, the study reported, were two attitudinal qualities of education for a civic society “warmth and caring” and “willingness to serve others.” DeMoulin and Kolstad (1999), reported results of a longitudinal study based on the administration of a Democratic Maturity Test, a self-rating personal attributes scale with items such as “self-esteem”, “coping skills”, “assertiveness”, “conformity”, and “caring”. Scores indicated a relationship between democratic maturity and three variables: (a) age, (b) gender, and (c) progression through college. One implication of the DeMoulin and Kolstead study is that “...gains for democratic maturity are more associated with the college instructional program than from simply growing older” (p.418).
Ross and Yeager (1999) investigated preservice teachers’ comprehension of the concept of democracy in an effort to draw attention to “how children learn democracy in school” (p. 257). Of the 29 papers written by students in a graduate course in curriculum development, Ross and Yeager found that only three papers were highly rated with knowledge or understanding of democratic processes and principles, eight were moderately rated, and 18 were rated low. Davis (2003) urged those responsible for teacher education programs to prepare teachers to reintroduce the language of democracy into educational discourse. However, in a review of 18 teacher education programs in which democratic principles were central, none were found to report the attitudes or beliefs their participants held about the importance of becoming a democratic practitioner (Pryor, 2003). These results suggest the need for additional research of program contexts in which preservice teachers develop knowledge of democratic practice.
Organization of University Programs
Vavrus et al.(1999) describe the difficulties university programs face when wishing to “weave democratic…perspectives throughout their programs” (p.119). One dilemma stems from field experience constructs derived from assumptions that preservice teachers primarily want and need a “sharpening” of technical teaching skills (Vavrus et al., 1999). Cunant (1996) challenges the design of field-based programs to match form with content (p.130). Some university programs have begun various levels of integration of democratic practice into: (a) all methods courses, with a particular focus in social studies, (b) pedagogical courses, such as classroom management, and (c) field experiences such as community learning, school based tutoring, or school-based observation/participation.
Activities supporting experience in democratic practices include: (a) service learning (Levesque & Posser, 1996; Michelli, 1999; Vadaboncoeur, Rahm, Aguilera, & LeCompte, 1996), (b) reflective journals (Levesque & Prosser, 1996; Rainer & Guyton, 2000), (c) cohort groups or observations (Rainer & Guyton, 2000), (d) inquiry and peer teaching (Kroll & LaBoskey, 1996; Lieberman, 1996), and (e) interdisciplinary course collaboration (Baloche, Hynes, & Beryer, 1996). Of these activities, the present study used the last four elements in its program design, with implementation levels varying by instructor.
Participants were 76 undergraduate elementary preservice teachers who were first semester seniors at a large southwest research university. Demographic data were not collected because preservice teachers in the program were overwhelmingly white (93%), female (95%), and of traditional college age (above 95%). They were residents of the university and assigned to local public schools for their field experience. Participants were drawn from three social studies methods classes in the program described below.
The undergraduate elementary program is an “integrated methods school-based” (IMS) preservice program in which methods courses (n = 180) are aligned with a two day a week school field experience component. Methods courses were taught on-site at nearby elementary schools, with approximately 25 students and 4 instructors composing each cohort team. One course in classroom management and seminars on topics such as special education, lesson planning and curriculum development were also taught during this semester. All methods courses had common textbook adoptions; the social studies cognate text adoptions were Parker (2001) and Pryor (2000).
The teaching faculty was composed of classroom teachers, administrators, and university faculty. Two of the instructors in this present study hold doctorates in education (classes 1 and 3); the instructor of class 2 holds a master’s degree. All three instructors hold elementary teaching credentials and have taught in public schools. The instructor of class 1 is a full-time tenure track faculty member, the author of one of the course texts, and the coordinator of the university elementary/middle school social studies program. The instructor of class 2 is a retired elementary classroom teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience. The instructor of class 3 is a full time assistant superintendent of an elementary school district, while teaching two sections of social studies, one elementary, one middle school level for the program. Instructors participated in two workshops on teaching democratic principles (content) and observation and reflection strategies (analysis of context) and were given a sample syllabus coordinating the Parker and Pryor texts. Nevertheless, course design and implementation level of content and analysis were at the discretion of each instructor.
Levels of Implementation
Based on interviews with the instructors and examination of their syllabi, the authors determined that the three classes had quite different levels of implementation of democratic practice. Although all instructors described their use of traditional course activities such use of trade books that portray historical heroes or websites that regard state history, the implementation of course strategies to foster reflection on democratic thought varied by instructor. These differences are portrayed in Table 1 below. All instructors were required to use the Pryor (2000) observation forms, which are composed of analytical questions designed to focus on the discourse of constituent elements of democratic practice, liberty and freedom, justice and fairness, and equality and equal opportunity.
In the pilot study, multi-item forms of the questionnaire scales obtained high alpha reliability coefficients ranging from .90 to .97. These multi-item scales correlated highly with the instrument’s single-item measures (ranging from .92 to .97), suggesting the reliability of the scores on the final instrument. The instrument consisted of 15, 7-point, bipolar evaluative and probability scales. Scales were presented on a one-page scantron form to facilitate data entry. These scales measured the variables of the theory of reasoned action, as well as four aspects of knowledge of implementing democratic practice. To measure behavioral intentions, the scale included items such as “I intend to implement democratic practice into my teaching in the year 2001” (item 1). Attitudinal items used the stem question “My attitude toward (feeling about) implementing democratic practice …” (item 2), and normative items used the stem of “The teachers at my school think it is important…. (item 12). Operational knowledge was measured with items such as “I know how to integrate democratic practice into my teaching” (item 4), and knowledge of constituent elements of democratic practice were measured with scale items such as “I know how to integrate liberty and freedom into my teaching” (item 5).
Data Collection and Analysis
The instrument was administered by each instructor during class, at the beginning and at the end of the semester. Preservice teachers were given 20 minutes to complete the instrument. Data were analyzed by multiple regression of criterion variables (i.e., intention) on the theoretical predictors (e.g., attitude, norm, outcome beliefs), by correlation, and t tests.
Mpeg video: “Talking Tables”
Olivero, John, and Sutherland (2004) suggest that researchers and teachers express themselves in different discourses —that is a divide exists between how researchers and participants portray ways of thinking, explaining and interacting. To provide further illumination of quantitative data, a genre using synchronization of media is provided in two contexts (a) mpeg formatted video embedded within quantitative tables, and (b) mpeg formatted video within narrative text. The first author terms this synchronization “Talking Tables” in which media serves as an affordance to bridge the gap of singularly of voice. To view this synchronization, click onto the URL provided in the text and in each “Talking Table” in the results section.
Results and Discussion
This section reports the five most important findings: (a) the influence of attitude and subjective norm on intention to implement democratic practice, (b) the influence of three beliefs about potential outcomes of implementing democratic practice on attitude toward that behavior, (c) the influence of three normative beliefs on subjective norm, (d) the influence of three beliefs about knowledge of how to implement three dimensions of democratic practice on knowledge of how to implement democratic practice as a whole, and (e) changes in knowledge of how to implement democratic practice following course completion.
Influence of Attitude and Norm on Intention
The theory of reasoned action (e.g., Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) posits that behavioral intention is determined by attitudes toward performing the behavior and by subjective norm, a perception about the behavioral preferences of those who are important to the person. An empirical test of the predictive value of these latter two variables, along with a measure of their relative weights in the prediction, is provided by regression of intention scores on scores of attitude and subjective norm.
In the multiple regression of intention on attitude toward the behavior and subjective norm, only attitude carried a statistically significant beta weight. This multiple correlation rose noticeably after treatment. The regression of pretest scores produced a multiple correlation of .714, accounting for just under 50% of the adjusted variance (F = 35.352; df = 2, 68; p = .000). The regression of posttest scores produced a multiple correlation of .844, accounting for just over 70% of the adjusted variance (F = 90.200, df = 2, 73, p = .000). There were no statistically significant pretest-to-posttest changes in attitude or norm for any of the three classes, and intention scores rose significantly only in class 2. But in each of the three classes, the intention and attitude scores moved noticeably closer together after the treatment. These scores rose in classes 2 and 3, but fell slightly in class 1.
The relative contributions of attitude and norm to intention also changed noticeably after treatment. In the regression of pretest scores, attitude carried a beta weight of .752 (p = 000), and norm carried a non-significant beta weight of .056 (p = .639). In the regression of posttest scores, attitude carried a slightly lower beta weight of .719 (p = 000), and norm carried a non-significant, but noticeably higher, beta weight of .166 (p = .063).
As suggested in other reports (Berson & Breault, 2000; Houston & Warner, 2000), preservice teachers’ attitudes and beliefs are “field tested” during their site-based experience in classrooms. In the present study, preservice teachers had experience in both observing classroom teaching and in beginning delivery of instruction. They also had practice in the discourse of teaching with their mentor teachers providing context for the field test of attitude toward the behavior and beliefs that form these attitudes. Lastly, the course construct provided reflection on teaching using Pryor (2000) observation forms and discussion within methods courses.
Given that instructor 1 was the author of one of the required texts, it might be that students began their semester with unusually high self-ratings of their attitude toward democratic practice. Their high ratings might be due to a strong desire to please their professor. However, after a semester in the schools, the slight decrease in the scores of students placed with instructor 1 might be related to score correction rather than decrease in ratings of attitude toward democratic practice. The slight increase in posttest beta weight of norm might be the result of mentor teacher influence on preservice teacher perspective (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990; Zeichner, 1989).
Influence of Outcome Beliefs on Attitude
The literature suggests three outcomes that might follow from the implementation of democratic practice in classroom instruction: enhanced student learning (Parker, 1996a; Ravitch, 1983), enhanced student cooperative behavior (Darling-Hammond, et al, 1994; Rainer & Guyton, 1999) and enhancement of students treating each other equally (Butts, 1993; Heller & Hawkins, 1994; Stanley, 1983). According to the theory of reasoned action, outcome beliefs determine attitude toward a behavior (Fishbein, 1967). To determine the extent to which these three beliefs about potential outcomes of implementing democratic practice would predict attitude toward implementing democratic practice, the measure of attitude toward the behavior was regressed on measures of the three outcome beliefs.
The regression of pretest scores produced a multiple correlation of .737, accounting for just over 52% of the adjusted variance (F = 26.119; df = 3, 66; p = .000). The regression of posttest scores produced a somewhat larger multiple correlation of .780, accounting for just under 60% of the adjusted variance (F = 37.231; df = 3, 72; p = .000).
In the regression of pretest scores, only enhanced student learning carried a statistically significant beta weight (beta = .706, p = .000). In the regression of posttest scores, however, two outcome beliefs carried statistically significant beta weights. Enhanced student learning carried a smaller beta weight than in the pretest regression of .452 (p = .003), and enhanced student cooperative behavior carried a larger beta weight of .559 (p = .002) as reported in Table 2.
Click on each image to open windows media player to run each video
Preservice teachers begin their field experience with two main concerns: (a) content domain area (what shall I teach?) and (b) pedagogical process (what strategies should I use?) (Enz, Cook, & Weber, 1992). Teaching exemplars such as designing and implementing lessons are important to interns (Gould, 2000; Willard-Holt & Bottomley, 2000). During the field experience, preservice teacher focus of concern shifts from organizing teaching to enhancing students’ cooperation (Sanders & Meloth, 1997).
All IMS students were required to observe and participate in schools, beginning instructional leadership (teaching a lesson, using multiple methods of instruction) by the fifth week of the semester. Comments on student observation forms included the following statements: “I liked cooperative learning because students get along with each other” (student-2), and students are “interested in the topic when they work together” (student-3). One instructor (i nstructor-2) reported that preservice teachers were “comfortable” when the students worked cooperatively because it showed they could “get along” without intervention from the authority, in this case, the preservice teacher. Double click this mpeg video for additional student comments:
Influence of Normative Beliefs on Subjective Norm
The theory of reasoned action (e.g., Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) posits that subjective norm is determined by a set of beliefs that “important others” desire the performance of a behavior. The literature suggests that at least three “important others” are likely to be the basis for perceived social pressure for teachers: other teachers at the school (Berson & Breault, 2000; Schwille, Nagel, & Debolt, 2000), parents in the community, and the district administration (Pryor, 1994). The direct measure of subjective norm was regressed on measures of belief in the likelihood that these three referents wanted the participants to implement democratic practice.
The regression of pretest scores produced a multiple correlation of .354, accounting only for just over 8% of the adjusted variance (F = 3.110; df = 3, 65; p = .032). The regression of posttest scores produced a multiple correlation of .558, accounting for just over 28% of the adjusted variance (F = 10.833; df = 3, 72; p = .000) as reported in Table 3.
In the pretest regression, none of the three beliefs carried a statistically significant beta weight. In the posttest regression, however, the belief that other teachers wanted the interns to implement democratic practice carried a statistically significant beta weight (beta = .652, p = .000).
In the role of supervisor, mentor, evaluator, and model, “other teacher” is interpreted to mean the mentor teacher in whose classroom the preservice teacher observes and begins to implement strategies of instruction (Enz, et al., 1992). Given the multiple roles of mentors, the preservice teacher has an opportunity to learn about the mentor’s philosophy and approaches to teaching (Pryor, 2004b; Wactler, 1990) and develop a novice’s interpretation of the role of the teacher (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, & Enz, 2000). A strong influence of the mentor on the practice of a preservice teacher was found by Guyton and McIntyre (1990). Sustained time in field experience (5 days a week during the student teaching semester instead of 2 days during the IMS semester) and a higher expectation of instructional implementation during the student teaching semester might result in additional mentor teacher influence on preservice intention.
Influence of Three Beliefs on Knowledge of How to Implement Democratic Practice
The knowledge of how to perform the various constitutive parts of a multi-component behavior, such as implementing democratic practice, could be seen as predictors of the capability of participants to perform the target behavior. To test this notion, scores on knowledge of how to implement democratic practice were regressed on three aspects of democratic practice, knowledge of how to implement in teaching (a) liberty and freedom, (b) justice and fairness, and (c) equality/equal opportunity.
The regression of pretest scores produced a multiple correlation of .653, accounting for 40% of the adjusted variance (F = 16.587; df = 3, 67; p = .000). The regression of posttest scores produced a multiple correlation of .845, accounting for 70% of the adjusted variance (F = 60.846; df = 3, 72; p = .000).
In the pretest regression, knowledge of how to implement liberty and freedom was the only predicator that came close to statistical significance, and carried a beta weight of .579( p = .000). In the posttest regression, knowledge of how to implement liberty and freedom was again the only statistically significant predictor, carrying a somewhat lower beta weight of .532 (p = .000), but knowledge of how to implement equality and equal opportunity came much closer to statistical significance than previously, carrying a beta weight of .226 (p =.065).
Little has been written about preservice interns’ knowledge of the constituent parts of democratic practice. Some studies indicate that their knowledge level might be related to disposition toward valuing the knowledge domain. For example, Butts (1993) wrote that acquiring civic knowledge (and values) leads to teachers who might be better able to educate with these values. Beyer (1996) suggested that reflecting [on knowledge] of democratic vision and values creates a familiarity that promotes a “socially concerned, thoughtful,” individual who can “connect ideas, issues and forms of interdisciplinary knowledge” (p. 91).
Changes in Knowledge of How to Implement Democratic Practice
In the present study, preservice teachers were involved in a field-based use of observation forms with which they could interpret the practice of their mentor teacher by analyzing observed teaching behaviors. One possible reason for the increased posttest scores on the variable of “knowledge of liberty and freedom” might be the perception that liberty and freedom is observable –one can observe a student independently completing work. Knowledge of how to implement justice and fairness and equality and equal opportunity are variables requiring extensive observational experience particularly in analysis and synthesis (Pryor, 2000).
There were differences among the three classes in the amount of learning on four variables concerning knowledge of how to implement democratic practice in general, and knowledge of how to implement three specific components of democratic practice, (a) liberty and freedom, (b) justice and fairness, and (c) equality and equal opportunity. Gains after the course implementation were highest in class 1 (all four gains were statistically significant), next highest in class 2 (three of four gains were significant), and lowest in class 3 (no gains were statistically significant). Several reports support the finding that higher levels of class time spent on targeted course content as well as contextualization of the content influence on a student’s rating of the importance of the knowledge (Darling-Hammond, et al, 1994; Lieberman, 2000; and others).
Table 4 reports each instructor’s class gains by knowledge component type, with the overall measure of knowledge/democratic practice most significantly changed in the classes of instructors 1 and 2, and constituent components of knowledge of democratic practice somewhat changed only in instructors 1 and 2.
High Implementation Level-class 1
Two types of implementation were used: (a) focused observation forms and (b) reflection on knowledge of how to implement constituent components of democratic practice. Students’ written narratives on their forms indicated skill in analysis of instruction. For example, an analysis of liberty and freedom as a democratic practice in the classroom is found in the writing of one student:
Learners need a variety of worksheet types so that liberty and freedom will be reflected. In my [mentor’s] class, there is very little variation of worksheet type, all students do the same work at the same time, even if they have different abilities. I’d like to see students select what they need for practice [student #3].
Medium Implementation Level-class 2
Use of forms was instructor directed and graded. This instructor used instructional modeling (narrative story) as a form of integration of democratic practice. Students met with a fourth-grade teacher who taught about democracy by developing classroom social studies units. The instructor of the course remarked about the effect of linking student field experience to narrative story about democratic practice:
Once an intern related a playground story about name-calling and race. This led to a few minutes of rich discussion and also triggered memories of others to relate their stories. These incidents were an opportunity to highlight the point that democratic practice is part of school everyday not just during social studies. Will it quite naturally follow that they will themselves engage in DP [democratic practice]? I think, yes they will.
Double click this mpeg video for professor comments:
Low Implementation Level-class 3
Forms were used as independent assessment of observations in the schools, but not as a discussion point for analysis of democratic practice. The focus of instruction in this class was district-wide testing and assessment. Students were given the district tests in history for grades 8 and 10 as a means to create an awareness of testing content for their future teaching. This treatment level aligns well with infusing more content into a social studies methods course, however purposeful integration of content with behavioral goals was not evident in course implementation. The instructor of this course remarked about broad effects of field observations on preservice teachers; instructor emphasis of a knowledge-based outcome was evidenced in the instructor’s comments:
Teachers don’t know the extent of social studies in the entire school system. They do not see where it fits, especially concepts connecting history, economics, geography, and government. They do not see where they [the domain areas] are connected. It is important to concentrate on teaching these domain areas.
This study found that the preservice teachers had strong intentions to implement democratic practice into their teaching, and that these intentions were controlled by attitude toward this behavior. Higher levels of democratic practice integrated in the social studies methods course were associated with higher levels of student knowledge of how to implement democratic practice.
As students progress through their teacher education program, importance should be placed on restructuring the social studies methods course to increase two aspects of democratic practice: (a) civic knowledge and (b) pedagogical approach. Specific strategies within the methods course should include the following: (a) allocation of course time for professors and students to discuss definitions and implications of democratic principles in a school setting, (b) resources for students to develop skills in reflection and analysis of the field experience, and (c) course grades highly weighting evaluation of students’ skills in analyzing and implementing democratic classroom practice. To strengthen the use of these strategies, scaffolding the field experience with opportunity for methods course reflection is of particular importance.
Social studies faculty should engage mentor teachers in the interpretation of democratic principles and strategies for integration of democratic practice into their teaching. While the influence of mentor teachers on preservice teachers is well documented (Enz et al., 1992; Guyton & McIntyre, 1990), interpretations of this influence require additional research. For example, in this study, the increased influence of subjective norm on intention on posttest scores suggests the need for study of mentor teachers’ knowledge and beliefs concerning democratic practice. Longitudinal studies should be conducted to investigate students’ intentions during the second semester of the field experience—student teaching, and into inservice teaching. School administrators’ attitudes and beliefs should be investigated. University and department mission statements should support the importance of teachers as leaders of students prepared to participate in a democratic society. Finally, civic education and pedagogical integration of democratic practices into methods course should gain particular attention in preservice program design, an outcome of less probable success if democratic practices are not aligned with the field experience.
Caroline R. Pryor
Caroline R. Pryor is Assistant Professor and Regents Fellow in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, Texas A&M University, College Station and 2003 Wye Fellow of the Aspen Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology, a Masters Degree in Higher and Adult Education and a Doctorate in Secondary Education. Dr. Pryor is author of six books, and numerous chapters and articles regarding philosophy, curriculum and democratic practice. Pryor received the 1997 Best Paper Award from the Arizona Educational Research Organization for her work: European/American Influences on Democratic Practice: A Case of a Professional Development School. In a career that spans 25 years of teaching, Dr. Pryor has worked extensively in field based preservice programs building alliances for school reform.
Brandt W. Pryor
Brandt W. Pryor is Director of the Evaluation Group at Texas A&M University. He specializes in studies that apply the theory of reasoned action. He earned his PhD at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has served as senior research associate at Arizona State University and as Associate Professor at Lamar University. He was the program chair of the American Educational Research Association SIG: Research on Evaluation. The Pryors are the authors of The School Leader’s Guide to Understanding Attitude and Influencing Behavior: Working with Teachers, Parents, Students, and Community, recently published by Corwin Press.
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1 “Talking Tables” is a term developed by the first author as an application of the Olivero, John, and Sutherland (2004) rationale which posits the benefits of using multi-media in various research formats. “Talking Tables” was developed as a strategy in this article to illuminate the voice of a diversity of users in the interpretation of data, and encourage the applications of these interpretations in school practice.