This literature review examines critical factors that contribute to educators becoming agents of change and will focus on teacher attitudes and beliefs, student achievement, and educating diverse populations. The review will be divided into the following sections: the learning culture, the future of higher education, self-directed learning, social learning, and best practices.
In order for educators to become agents of change, they must reflect on instructional practices. Reflection includes envisioning a desirable classroom setting, gaining adequate insight from data collection, studying appropriate literature to further assist with data analysis, gaining new understand of proposed changes that are required, and collaborating with other educators to share findings (Dana & Yendol-Silva, 2003).
The Learning Culture
Faculty during the late 19th century placed great emphasis on organizational structure. This led to smaller class sizes where instructors could teach age-appropriate content and evaluate student performance more effectively (Spring, 2005). This practice is evident today in differentiated instruction practices and essentially caused the development of Bloom’s Taxonomy during the 20th century.
Research shows that teacher effectiveness and teacher preparation have a positive influence on student engagement and is, in fact, the primary influence. Commitment to teaching weighed most heavily on the scaled results of teacher efficacy, according to a study published by Ware and Kitsantas (2007). Student engagement has a greater impact on student achievement than class size, funding, and student background combined (Sanders, 2000). According to Ware and Kitsantas (2007), “A growing body of research in educational psychology suggests that a teacher’s quality of performance and commitment to work is related to his or her level of motivation to influence student learning” (p. 303). Similarly, Smith, Lee & Newmann (2001), found that teacher effectiveness had a positive impact on student achievement in Chicago undergraduate programs. Faculty in these Chicago schools used interactive teaching, review, and didactic teaching practices to improve student engagement (Smith, Lee, & Newmann, 2001). Nonetheless, efficacious teachers design the curriculum around the specific strengths and weaknesses of a particular class or student. In 1998, the learners’ perceptions of effective teaching included characteristics of learner-centered activities, one-on-one instruction, accessible relation, student needs assessment, and the maintenance of flexibility (Ross-Gordon, 2003). The CCFSSE will question the faculty regarding encouragement, support, coping, and the integration of technology in addition to these factors’ relations to the faculty members’ extracurricular roles in the referral of supplementary educational, social, and professional support systems in the area.
Teacher efficacy is defined as a teacher’s abilities to affect student engagement. Efficacy can be measured by setting goals, and persistently striving to attain those goals. It is important to note that student achievement is oriented according to personal goals. There are four orientations to learning: certificate-oriented, vocation-oriented, personal interest-oriented, and ambivalent. Students inevitably connect educational outcomes to their perceptions of career viability and to the levels of their motivation and engagement (Lunenberg & Korthagen, 2005). Teacher attitude toward students and teacher instruction methods are often linked to teacher efficacy (Bender & Vail, 1995). In the light of recent education reform, great emphasis is placed on raising students’ achievement levels, especially those of minority groups like African Americans. Related research found a direct correlation between increased student performance and teacher sense of efficacy. If a teacher has a high level of efficacy, then the teacher has a higher expectation that the student can learn. That same teacher accepts a greater responsibility for the student’s achievements and engagement (Bender & Vail, 1995). Teacher expectation can affect student performance and behavior. It is therefore important to understand the impact that such expectations could have on actual student performance.
Many faculty fail to recognize that reluctance in student achievement is often directly linked to ineffective teaching methods that involve a variety of instructional strategies. Research conducted by Malm & Lofgren (2006) addressed factors such as teacher behavior, attitude, personality, motivation, content knowledge, and pedagogies to better understand dynamics in teacher/student dyads. Armstrong (2006) states that researchers believe faculty have a great influence on classroom dynamics. In order to practice effective classroom management skills, faculty members need to teach students from varying backgrounds equally in order to ensure increased student engagement.
Faculty roles also include that of manager, executive, mediator, and leader (Sergiovanni, 2001). The management role of the teacher is to create highly structured learning environments. The executive role of the teacher is to be adequately informed on current research practices in order to make important decisions in regards to instruction, assignments, and subject matter. The mediator role of the teacher requires that faculty devise interactive teaching methods which will give students an opportunity to link prior course material to new concepts. The leader role of the teacher requires that the teacher present all course material in an enthusiastic manner to effectively communicate the importance and reason for the specific content (Sergiovanni, 2001). Heimlich and Norland assert that education balances teaching practices and a personal pedagogy which studies the teacher, the learner, the group, the content, and the environment (Ross-Gordon, 2002). Parpala et al. (2010) present evidence that student strategies for learning even differ greatly from one discipline to another. Thus, if the intangible differences of subject matter and approach seem to merit different approaches, then a student’s adjustments for faculty preferences is of no small import. Kane (2010) opens his discussions of “student learning in a culture of distraction” by illustrating the formalization and distance which academic environments often enforce- even through seemingly simple distinctions between the written use of “I think” or “I feel” (p. 375). However, as he points out, this discouraged emphasis upon thinking and feeling is just a linguistic encouragement of student dissociation.