Historical Change in the Cognitive and Affective Language of Teaching

Article excerpt

This study explores historical change in the symbolic system inhabited by teachers. Every discipline has its own unique system of shared vocabulary and as the discipline changes so does that vocabulary. This study examined changes in the psychological process vocabulary used in the titles of 3.145 teaching books published from 1830 to 1999. Content analysis revealed an increase in the percentage of affective and cognitive terms. It is argued that this increase reflects the increasing integration of psychological insights into teaching.


The purpose of this study is to examine if changes have occurred in the psychological process vocabulary used in the rifles of books on teaching in the period from 1830 to 1999.

In their history of teaching, Exemplars of Teaching Method, Broudy and Palmer I 1970) argued that changes in teaching methods are closely related to the larger trends of cultural change. They further identified several dimensions for understanding the changing goals of teaching. One of these dimensions is the cognitive, which they define as "linguistic and other symbolic skills needed (a) for communication and (b) for retrieving knowledge stored in the symbolic systems" (p. 41).

This study explores historical change in the symbolic system inhabited by teachers. Human culture can be thought of as a shared system of symbols that shapes both behavior and cognition (Sapir, 1949/1962). Every discipline has its own culture and its own vocabulary, Cremin (1977) has written of "an authentic American vernacular in education" (p. 83) that arose during the 19th century. Content analysis is a method for analyzing symbolic culture by making inferences from texts. In recent years, computerized content analysis has emerged as a valid technique for making such inferences. In computerized content analysis, words from a text are classified into thematic categories and the relative counts are assumed to indicate the underlying emphasis of the text. This technique has been widely used in the behavioral sciences to make inferences about both individual psychological states and about the symbolic context of human action.

This study makes use of the titles of books on teaching to make inferences about changes in cognitive language used in the teaching profession.

The Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) is an organization that links the collections of Ohio's college and university libraries. Many of these institutions began as normal schools and many continue to have teacher training programs. Thus, the books on teaching in the OhioLINK system should provide a reasonable historic record of the types of books teachers have read. While it is not feasible to subject the entire text of these books to content analysis, the titles are available in the OhioLINK catalog. The content analysis of titles is an acceptable sampling technique in content analysis because titles are a kind of metatext that represents the major themes subsumed under the title (James, 1990).


Data Source and Preparation

Computer files containing the catalog entry of all books on teaching were obtained from the OhioLINK system. All information other than titles was deleted from the files and the titles were organized into ASCII text files based on decades. Non-English language titles were deleted as were titles after 1999. In the end, there were 17 files covering the period from 1830 to 1999 containing a total of 3,145 titles.

Data Analysis

A computer content analysis program LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, Pennebaker, Francis, & Booth, 2001) was used to analyze words in the teaching titles. LIWC classifies words into 74 categories based on a content analysis dictionary. For this analysis two psychological process dimensions were of interest: affective or emotional processes and cognitive processes. A linear time series approach was used to see if changes in these dimensions represented secular trends. …