Exploring Teaching Styles and Cognitive Styles: Evidence from School Teachers in Canada
Evans, Carol, Harkins, Mary Jane, Young, Jeffrey D., North American Journal of Psychology
In order to move from a "pedagogy of poverty" to a "pedagogy of plenty" (Tomlinson, 2005) and to cater to the increasing diversity of student learning needs, effective teachers need to be aware of and use a variety of teaching styles (Kulinna & Cothran, 2003). Researchers have attempted to isolate variables that determine teachers' preferred teaching style, but to date "little is known about teachers' use and perception of various teaching styles" (Kulinna & Cothran, 2003, p. 1), or the stability of such teaching styles (Evans, 2004). Teaching styles focus on teachers and their distinct approach to teaching. As Brookfield (1990) stressed, teaching style can be the expression of how teachers gain a better understanding of how best to implement their vision of teaching while responding to the contextual aspects of teaching. Through an awareness of their preferred teaching style, teachers may gain a better understanding of themselves and how their teaching style can be changed, modified, or supported to improve their interactions with students (Kulinna, Cothran, & Zhu, 2000; Lacey et al., 1998). Differences in teaching styles may also impact on areas such as classroom arrangements, the organization and assessment of activities, teacher interactions with students and pedagogical approaches, such as the use of questioning (Evans, 2004). However, there is limited research on Canadian teachers' teaching styles. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to explore the teaching styles of Canadian public school teachers and then to examine the relationship, if any, between their teaching styles and their cognitive styles. Initially the literature on teaching styles is reviewed.
Teachers play a critical role in the teaching/learning process. Teachers' classroom behaviors impact on many different areas of this process, such as teacher preparation, classroom presentation, learning activities and approaches to the assessment of learning (Lacey et al., 1998; Masse & Popovich, 2006). The term "teaching style" refers to "a teacher's personal behaviors and media used to transmit data to or receive it from the learner" (Kaplan & Kies, 1995, p. 29), and involves the implementation of the teacher's philosophy about teaching (Conti, 2004). Heimlich (1990) indicated that the underpinnings of teachers' teaching philosophies may be their values, beliefs, attitudes, aspirations, personal biographies, social identities, cultural background and teaching experiences.
Researchers have also identified other areas that influence teachers' teaching style, such as the nature of the subject area (Evans, 2004; Genc & Ogan-Bekiroglu, 2004; Lawrence, 1997); the impact of government curriculum initiatives (Hargreaves, 2003; Richards, 1998); preservice teacher preparation and schooling socialization (Britzman, 2003; Evans, 2004; Harkins, 1997); job satisfaction (Opdenakker & Van Damme, 2006); as well as socio-cultural backgrounds and attitudes (Finn, 1999; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Other researchers have also examined the relationship between teaching style and student achievement of learning outcomes (Adey, Fairbrother, William, Johnson & Jones, 1999; Aitkin & Zuzovsky, 1994; Conti, 1985; Zinn, 2004). Within this area, research has painted a far from clear picture with recent studies suggesting that although students may prefer to be taught in their own favored style, they are open to teaching styles that are completely different from their own preferred learning styles (Zhang & Sternberg, 2004). Although some research indicates that teaching styles are important with respect to student outcomes, Opdenakker and Van Damme (2006) questioned the degree to which effective classroom practices are dependent on teaching characteristics and styles.
Researchers have identified different teaching behaviors, which have demonstrated that teachers do have a preferred or dominant teaching style (Conti, 1985; Cothran, Kulinna & Garrahy, 2003; Ladd, 1995). However, researchers who have investigated teaching styles have tended to work independently and to have developed their own set of indicators for identifying different teaching styles. This has led to a variety of definitions of teaching style and to the development of a number of different dimensions for measuring teaching styles (for example, Allen, 1988; Dunn & Dunn, 1979; Grasha, 2003; Henson & Borthwick, 1984).
The nature and scope of teaching styles have been characterized by identifiable descriptors such as proactive or reactive behavior (Lenz, 1982); highly content centered or highly people centered teaching (Robinson, 1979); teacher-centered to learner-centered (Conti, 1985; Opdenakker & Van Damme, 2006); or guided learning, exposition, or inquiry approaches (May Oi & Stimpson, 1994). Jarvis (1985) used three classifications to identify teaching styles: (a) a didactic style which was teacher-controlled through lectures and student note taking; (b) a Socratic style which was teacher directed through the use of questions to which the students responded; and (c) a facilitative style in which the teacher prepared the learning environment and the students were responsible for their own learning. More recently, studies have also focused on teacher beliefs as either facilitative, a belief that all students can learn, or pathognomonic, the learner is blamed for his 'illness', (Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 2007).
In the field of physical education, teachers' teaching styles have been explored using Mosston's Spectrum Teaching Styles (Cothran, et al., 2005; Doherty, 2003; Kulinna, Cothran & Zhu, 2000). The Spectrum provides a way to study the various approaches to teaching on a continuum of decision-making from a direct, teacher-led approach to a more open-ended and student-centered approach. Three aspects of teaching were examined: pre-impact (preparation stage), the impact (performance and delivery) and post-impact (evaluation and feedback). There were 11 different teaching styles that related to reproducing knowledge and the involvement of the students in the learning process. These styles included: (a) command, (b) practice, (c) reciprocal, (d) self check, (e) inclusion, (f) guided discovery, (g) convergent discovery, (h) divergent production, (i) learner's individual designed program, (j) learner initiated, and (k) self teaching (Kulinna, Cothran & Zhu, 2000). Styles A-E are identified by Kulinna & Cothran (2003) as reproducing styles and styles F-K as productive styles responsible for the generation of new knowledge, both of which have benefits in the classroom, although the benefits for particular types of children have been shown to be variable and in need of validation from larger studies (Byra, 2000; Kulinna & Cothran, 2003). More recently, Opdenakker and Van Damme (2006) have examined the impact of a student-centered/learner teaching style versus a content-centered and management teaching style on learner outcomes and found a learner-centered style was associated with higher opportunities to learn. To what extent such styles correlate with cognitive styles is an area of great interest and relevance, and contributes to the debate on what teacher characteristics/behaviors are most effective in the classroom.
Based on the work of researchers such as Messick (1976), Riding (1991, 2002), and Witkin (1976), Evans (2004) designed a Teaching Style Questionnaire (TSQ) to measure the Wholistic-Analytic teaching styles of teacher trainees enrolled in one-year Post Graduate Certificate in Education in the United Kingdom. In the TSQ, lower scores indicated a more Wholistic teaching style and higher scores indicated a more analytical style in teaching. Overall, teachers tended to be more Analytical than Wholistic in style. Wholistics were characterized as being more informal, flexible, interactive with students, spontaneous and attentive to individuals. They tended to be more concerned with the global aspects of learning, learning process, and working as team members. Analytics were more formal, controlling, directive, structured, sequential, and attentive to details than were Wholistics. They also preferred to work on their own and in their interactions with students they were more impersonal, inflexible and provided more detailed feedback than did Wholistics.
The review of literature has shown that the notion of teaching styles is problematic in that there are numerous indicators of style and a wide range of measures of teaching styles. This situation demonstrates the need for additional research in the area of teaching styles.
Teaching Styles and Cognitive Styles
Cognitive style refers to "a distinct and consistent way for an individual to encode, store, and perform" (Atkinson, 2004, p. 663). Two well-known measures of cognitive style are the Cognitive Style Index (CSI; Allinson & Hayes, 1996) and the Cognitive Style Analysis (CSA; Riding, 1991). In the CSA, cognitive style is a bi-polar measurement with the following two dimensions: (a) Wholist--analytic which relates to the processing of information as either a whole or in parts; and (b) Verbal-imagery which measures whether an individual tends to represent their thought verbally or visually (pictorially) (Riding, 1997; Riding & Cheema, 1991; Riding & Rayner, 1998).
Using the CSA, Evans (2004) studied the relationship between teaching styles and cognitive styles of pre-service teachers using the Cognitive Styles Analysis (Riding, 1991) and the Teaching Styles Questionnaire (developed in her study). Results indicated that those who had a cognitive style identified as a Verbaliser were more likely to use an Analytic teaching style than a Wholistic style. Those with a Wholist-imager cognitive style preferred an interactive approach with students whereas those with a Wholist-verbaliser cognitive style were content with a didactic approach. Analytical-imagers preferred a structured, detailed approach to teaching whereas no dominant preference was found for the Analytic-verbalisers. These findings give support to Riding and Rayner's (1998) study that Verbalisers learn best from verbal presentations, and Analytics like to have self-control of the learning process.
Allinson and Hayes (1996) developed the CSI based on an understanding of cognitive style as a single, unitarian dimension with an intuitive style at one end and an analytical style at the other end. Intuition is characteristic of individuals whose thinking is based more on feeling and the adoption of a global perspective while individuals characterized as analytical based their thinking more on reasoning and attention to details (p. 122). The CSI instrument has been used extensively with students studying in certain professional fields such as information management students (Casey, Murphy, & Young, 1996); dental students (Chaytor, Murphy, Boyd, & LaFleche, 1991); and business administration undergraduates (Doucette, Kelleher, Murphy, & Young, 1998). Researchers in other professions stress the value of cognitive styles in areas such as management of self development (Pedler, 1988); understanding co-workers (Cox & Beale, 1997); and team development (Cook, Hunsaker & Coffey, 1997). These are all areas that could help teachers to develop self-awareness, an important part of the foundation for further growth and development (Whetten & Cameron, 2005). Evans and Waring (in press) suggested that the use of CSI in teacher preparation programs may help pre-service teachers to develop a meta-cognitive awareness of their teaching behavior. However, there has been limited research that examines the relationship between the teaching styles and the cognitive styles of Canadian public school teachers. Thus this study explores relationships between teachers' teaching styles and their cognitive styles.
The authors of the present study contacted faculty who were teaching a variety of graduate courses in a faculty of eEducation at a university in eastern Canada. We requested permission to collect data from participants in their classes. Of the faculty contacted, six agreed to permit the authors to collect data and one of the authors or a designate visited each of the participants on-campus to administer and collect the surveys. Off-campus data were collected by the coordinator of each program and forwarded in a sealed, self-stamped envelope to the authors of the study. All participants were informed of the purpose of the research.
Participants in the study were 122 public school teachers who taught a variety of courses in elementary, junior high and senior high school programs in four provinces in Canada. They completed the Cognitive Style Index (CSI), the Teaching Styles Questionnaire (TSQ), and a Demographic Survey of Teacher Profiles. These surveys were completed by small groups of participants within approximately 40 minutes.
The TSQ is a newly developed instrument by one of the authors of this study (Evans, 2004) and is based on the work of Messick (1976), Riding (1991, 2002), and Witkin (1976). It is a self-report, Likert-scale questionnaire with items scored on a range of "1" to "5" for strongly agree to strongly disagree, respectively. The TSQ contains 34 items measuring wholist-analytic tendencies. It has proven to be a reliable instrument for identifying teaching styles with an internal consistency score of .88 (Evans, 2004). This self-report instrument encourages teachers to reflect on their teaching practices. The critically reflective approach adds to the teachers' self-awareness of their teaching, and self-awareness has been found to have a powerful influence on leadership abilities (Whetten & Cameron, 2005). The TSQ is designed to identify teaching styles and this study will serve to provide an additional empirical study of its use in identifying teachers' teaching styles.
The CSI is a 38-item, self-report instrument that can be completed in approximately 15 minutes. Each item has three choices, true, false, or uncertain and, depending on the response to each question, scores for each item are 0, 1, or 2. Total scores can range from zero to 76. The closer the respondent's score is to zero, the more intuitive is the respondent. The closer the respondent's score is to 76, the more analytical is the respondent. Internal consistency coefficients have ranged from .84 to .87 across a variety of samples (Doucette et al., 1998; Doucette et al., 1999; Doyle, Fisher, & Young, 2002). Coefficients of stability of .90 and .89 were reported by Allinson and Hayes (1996) and Murphy et al. (1998) respectively. The concurrent validity of the CSI scores has been supported by Allinson & Hayes (1996), Doucette et al. (1998), Doucette, Kelleher, MacGillivary, Murphy, Reid, and Young (1999), and Murphy et al. (1998). Support for the construct validity of the CSI scores was provided by Murphy, Doucette, Kelleher, Reid, and Young (2001) and Sadler-Smith, Allinson and Hayes (2000). The CSI continues to be a valid and reliable instrument to assess cognitive style (Hayes, Allinson, Hudson, & Keasey, 2003). Further, a recent review of 13 widely used models of learning style indicated that "... the CSI has the best evidence for reliability and validity of the 13 models" (Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestone, 2004, p.22). The Demographic Survey collected sufficient data to describe the sample.
Surveys were completed by 122 school teachers, although all respondents did not necessarily complete all parts of all the measures. Of these respondents, 13(11%) were men and 108(89%) were women. Respondents had an average age of 36.5 years (ranging from 24 to 57 years) and average full-time teaching experience of 10.7 years (ranging from one to 28 years). Consequently, respondents represented a broad cross section of teachers.
The 34 items that constituted teaching styles were subjected to a factor analysis using vari-max rotation. A four-factor solution using eigenvalues of at least one and weightings of at least 0.50 was deemed most interpretable. The four teaching style factors were labeled:
1--Structure (items 27, 29, 30, 31, and 33)--a style of teaching that focuses on thoroughness, planning, assessment and organization.
2--Sociability (items 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 17, 19, and 21)--a style of teaching that focuses on being outgoing, personal, individualistic and social.
3--Formality (items 1, 15, 16, 22, and 24)--a style of teaching that focuses on rules, procedure, discipline, and feedback.
4--Caution (items 2, 3, 4, and 11)--a style of teaching that focuses on rationality and reflectivity.
Table 1 presents the coefficients for the rotated factor pattern for the four-factor analysis of teaching style scores.
As reported by Harkins, Evans and Young (2007) the current sample had a mean score of 42.7 with a standard deviation of 13.1 on the CSI. Correlational analysis indicated four statistically significant relationships between teaching style and cognitive style, of which three were positive and one was negative. The Pearson correlation coefficients indicated that those who were more Analytical in cognitive style tended to have teaching styles that were based on Structure (.30, p<.002), Formality (0.41, p<.0002) and Caution (0.68, p<.0002). Those who were more Analytical in cognitive style tended to have a teaching style that was less Sociable (-0.25, p<.006). Consequently, the findings, although three are weak and one is moderate, suggest that teachers' teaching styles are related to their cognitive styles.
This study explored the various teaching styles of Canadian public school teachers and the relationship between teaching styles and teachers' cognitive styles. The TSQ proved to be a useful instrument for identifying various teaching styles among the participating teachers. Four factors were identified among the teaching styles of the participating elementary and secondary school teachers:
1--Structure--a style of teaching that focuses on thoroughness, planning, assessment and organization.
2--Sociability--a style of teaching that focuses on being outgoing, personal, individualistic and social.
3--Formality--a style of teaching that focuses on rules, procedure, discipline and feedback.
4--Caution--a style of teaching that focuses on rationality and reflectivity.
The styles found in this study are consistent to some extent with those teaching styles identified by Opdenakker & Van Damme (2006) who used a different questionnaire to identify teacher characteristics of Dutch-speaking teachers in Belgium. They identified a style of teaching labeled Innovative and Student Centered that is similar to the Sociability style identified in this study. This style focuses on being outgoing, personal, individualistic and social. They also identified two other styles: Content and Class Management which correlate closely with Structure that focuses on thoroughness, planning, assessment and organization and Formality that focuses on rules, procedure, discipline and feedback. However, they did not identify a style similar to the fourth style, Caution, as found in this study.
There were statistically significant positive correlations reported in the relationship between teaching styles and cognitive styles. This finding is consistent with previous research (Evans, 2004) and supports the works of Riding (2002), Riding and Read (1996), and Saracho (1991) that suggested teaching styles are related to teachers' cognitive styles. Teachers who were more analytical in their cognitive style tended to have a teaching style based on Structure, Formality and Caution and were less Sociable. This finding partly supports Evans' (2004) study that showed that teachers identified as Analytics in cognitive style were characterized as being formal, controlling, directive, structured, sequential, attentive to detail and preferring to work on their own. Wholistics were more sociable than the Analytics and were characterized by traits such as informality, flexibility, student interaction, spontaneity, and attentiveness to individuals.
The findings of this study have implications for undergraduate and graduate teacher-education programs as well as professional-development opportunities. Teachers play a key role in the teaching/learning process so they need to be aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it. The relationships between teachers' teaching style and cognitive styles have important implications for both research and pedagogical practices. Awareness and knowledge about teaching styles can help teachers to understand, explain, and define elements of the teaching-learning process (Nielson, 2007; Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 2007). It is important for teachers to examine their teaching styles and cognitive styles if they are to teach in a manner that respects the learners' diverse learning styles and different learning situations (Conti & Welborn, 1986). Over-dominance of one style compared to another could have important consequences within the classroom. For example, over emphasis on analytical thinking in UK classrooms at the expense of intuitive and divergent thinking (skills essential for the 21st century) has been commented on by Evans and Waring (2006). The nature of mentoring and peer learning respecting differing cognitive styles should also be an important consideration for initial teacher training and the continuing professional development of teachers.
Discussion of teachers' teaching styles may provide an important entry point from which to discuss pedagogy and to create a new language of learning that is mindful of individual learning needs. However, one does need to be careful of not being limited by reductionist models of teaching styles suggesting bi-polarity as it is indeed highly possible for a teacher to be both analytic and intuitive (Evans and Waring, 2006). Recent research has also identified that teachers may adopt different styles with different classes and when dealing with different subject matter (Opdenakker & Van Damme 2006; Seidel & Prenzel, 2006). The degree to which teaching style is stable or variable is worthy of further study. Importantly though, it has been demonstrated that cognitive styles do impact on how teachers plan and deliver material (Evans & Waring, 2007) and how they interact with children (Riding, 2002). At the same time some researchers have shown that cognitive and teaching styles can be adapted with appropriate training (Evans & Waring, 2006; 2007; Nielson, 2007; Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 2004; 2007).
Classroom teaching is a complex activity, as teachers work to meet the diverse needs of learners and to address issues of equity and social justice. Teachers who are aware of their preferred teaching style(s) could be encouraged to reflect on their teaching behaviors and to develop a range of teaching styles to best meet the different learning styles of the learners.
This study explored the teaching styles of public school teachers in a Canadian context. The results of the study demonstrate the importance of studying teachers' teaching styles as well as the need for additional research on the potential impact of different factors such as cognitive style. Research in this area could lead to insights and understandings that could assist teachers in gaining a better understanding of their own teaching behaviors as well as how and why they react the way they do in different teaching situations.
Considerable debate surrounds the stability of styles and consideration of which style constructs are most useful for us to study in an educational context. What is known is that students' involvement in the learning process has a direct, positive and significant effect on academic achievement (Betoret, 2006), and this is most likely achieved in an environment where teachers create a climate for learning by considering individual differences (Opdenakker & Van Damme, 2006). There is a growing wave of evidence to suggest that instructional programmes aimed at enhancing teachers' awareness of their own cognitive styles and the ways in which such styles may impact on classroom practices is having very good effects; specifically, it enables teachers to be more aware of their own learning and that of others (Evans & Waring, 2006; Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 2004); and in helping them to plan for differentiation more effectively (Evans & Waring, 2007). In addition, such studies have shown the effects of interventions to have lasting impacts on teachers' attitudes toward individual student needs and practice (Nielson, 2007; Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 2007).
Research in these areas also has implications for instructors in teacher education programs and for educators providing professional development opportunities for teachers, as it has the potential to help us gain a better understanding of the different needs of teachers with different preferred teaching styles. As Kulinna and Cothran (2003) also noted, continuing professional development programs could be designed to promote the more effective use of styles and to enable teachers to use a wider variety of styles and in such ways develop teachers' understanding of teacher pedagogical knowledge (p. 9). Also, in looking to the future, teachers and teacher education programs need to consider which teaching styles are best suited to the diverse needs of learners today and in the future.
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Institute of Education, London
Mary Jane Harkins
Jeffrey D. Young
Mount Saint Vincent University
Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Jeffrey D. Young, Department of Communications, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3M 2J6
TABLE 1 Structure Coefficients for the Rotated Four-factor Solution For Teaching Styles Teaching Style Questionnaire Items 1 2 3 4 1. My planning and organizational skills may appear inefficient & .31 .11 .52 .26 disorganized 2. I behave in an extravert manner -.13 .14 .13 .68 both in/out of class 3. I tend to act impulsively rather than cautiously or reflectively .16 .15 .22 .67 when tackling tasks 4. I find it difficult to conform .13 -.06 .49 .52 to rules and procedures 5. I am motivated by extrinsic .32 .10 -.28 .40 rewards 6. I seek & require a lot of .38 -.09 .05 -.16 support--dependent learner 7. I am not very creative in .36 -.37 -.12 -.02 lessons, plans, tasks, ideas & thinking 8. I'm good at seeing the 'bigger picture' in planning & teaching and -.08 .70 .07 -.06 I avoid a narrow focus in my lessons 9. I'm very active both in & -.21 .70 -.06 .05 outside of the classroom 10. I am highly sociable & -.03 .67 -.03 .40 gregarious 11. I'm a highly intuitive decision -.12 .41 .07 .57 maker vs. a rational 12. I've little concern of precise .08 .19 .48 .49 detail -plan & delivery 13. I'm very much an original, .19 .57 .27 .11 individualistic thinker 14. I find it easy to express my -.14 .60 -.05 .18 emotions 15. I do not place strong emphasis .18 .02 .73 .04 on class discipline 16. I favor informal approaches .19 .43 .55 .04 over formal 17. I see my role more as a facilitator and am happy to delegate -.03 .60 .00 .16 responsibility to my students 18. In lessons I mainly focus on whole class involvement rather than -.23 .15 .27 .16 individual work 19. I use personal /idiosyncratic .03 .56 .04 -.01 analogies a lot 20. I don't place high emphasis on subject knowledge seeing process as -.09 .07 .24 .16 more important than facts 21. In lessons I mix freely & -.25 .54 -.06 .10 closely with pupils 22. I am reluctant to give critical feedback to pupils & do not .05 -.16 .66 -.09 frequently correct the learner 23. I provide predominantly facts .31 -.20 .26 .02 rather than principle 24. There is little structure to my .48 -.04 .52 .00 lessons--I often go off on tangents 25. I do not ask a lot of questions .28 -.40 .38 .04 in lessons 26. Homework is individualized giving children choice rather than .17 .36 .27 -.44 one standard format 27. I'm not very pragmatic w/ .71 .01 .09 .07 plans/setting and marks 28. Written tests are not used a .16 .26 .23 -.22 lot in my lessons 29. My marking is not very thorough .72 -.06 .14 .24 30. I'm inconsistent in plans, .86 -.11 .09 .14 teaching and assessm'ts 31. My files/assignm'ts are not .83 .06 .08 .05 very well organized 32. I find it difficult to critique .39 -.11 .04 -.15 my performance 33. My teaching plans tend to .73 .06 .20 .01 lack structure 34. I highly value the use of -.27 .09 .00 .14 computer technology % variance 13.2 12.4 9.1 7.9…
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Publication information: Article title: Exploring Teaching Styles and Cognitive Styles: Evidence from School Teachers in Canada. Contributors: Evans, Carol - Author, Harkins, Mary Jane - Author, Young, Jeffrey D. - Author. Journal title: North American Journal of Psychology. Volume: 10. Issue: 3 Publication date: December 2008. Page number: 567. © 2009 North American Journal of Psychology. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.