A Situative Analysis of the Relationship between Faculty Beliefs and Teaching Practice: Implications for Instructional Improvement at the Postsecondary Level

WCER Working Paper No. 2012-10

Matthew T. Hora

October 2012, 35 pp.

ABSTRACT: This exploratory study investigates the relationship between faculty beliefs and teaching with a focus on the role of cognitive and organizational factors in mediating this dynamic. Interviews and observations with 56 science and math faculty are analyzed using thematic and cluster analysis techniques. Results indicate faculty have 15 beliefs that have an underlying dimensionality regarding whether teachers or students are responsible for constructing meaning, with the belief that students best learn through practice and persistence underlying both perspectives. Case studies reveal that beliefs, goals, prior knowledge, and perceived affordances interact during decision-making. These findings suggest that faculty do not have a single belief “type,” and that beliefs alone do not determine practice. Thus, instructional improvement efforts should adopt a comprehensive view of professional growth and not focus solely on changing beliefs.

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keywords: Post Secondary Teaching, Pedagogical Beliefs, Teacher Cognition, STEM Education