Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Using and Validating a Triadic Survey Instrument

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Using and Validating a Triadic Survey Instrument

Article excerpt


This project implemented/validated a triadic survey instrument previously used to survey pre-service teacher educator preferences. The instrument, basically a three way slider, was validated using a simple preference study based on a comparison to an identical survey using a radio button selector. The triadic instrument demonstrated a greater sensitivity of expressing preference.

Introduction and Conceptual Framework

Most research on teacher conceptions about mathematics teaching and learning is interpretive and uses qualitative measures such as interviews and stimulated recall interviews, classroom observations or Likert-scale questionnaires (Thompson 1992). Houston & Williamson (1993) listed areas of concern for pre-service teachers in teacher preparation programs: classroom management, teaching computers, instructional planning, curriculum development, evaluation of student learning, and the selection and use of instructional materials.

The original project used on-line surveys to assess education community members' viewpoints of teacher preparation programs using a new type of survey instrument, the triadic slider with two directional degrees of freedom (Goldsby, Allen, & Kelly, 2005.) Although studies have targeted some of these perceptions before (Houston & Williamson 1993; Rodd 1997; Whetstone & Carr-Chellman 2001), the triadic instrument was a new approach to determine this information. In the study, pre-service teachers indicated classroom management, technology skills, use of concrete models in teaching, course management, assessing student understanding and meeting state standards as issues of prime importance. The literature is void of the assessment of pre-service preferences toward various aspects of their teaching mission with respect to the tripod of pedagogy, content knowledge and course management, and other triples of applicable teaching elements.

In this work, a solution to measure a teacher's views toward such a triple is offered by way of a three-way slider embedded in an equilateral triangle. The triple of features to be compared is placed at the vertices of the triangle (See appendix). The participants move a dot to the position in the triangle where their preference is the right and proper balance. The triads provide the respondent with the opportunity to indicate comparisons between 3 components in a way Likert scales or one-dimensional movable slider bars cannot. This gives considerably more opportunity for the researcher to facilitate complex comparisons in a single measure not available in two-way sliders or Likert scales. Moreover, even using multiple questions via the Likert scale still compares only two positions at a time. Visually this is akin to relying on two dimensional elevation drawings to picture a three dimensional world. The triads clearly needed further investigation as a statistical sampling tool. Additional work in this area was conducted--using questions and triads to address the same issues to determine reliability of the triad mechanism. This study focused on: What procedures should be applied to validate the triadic survey instrument?

Surveys asking participants to make decisions between just two alternatives are overly simplistic. The use of three alternatives is indicated to have greater efficacy rather than a higher or lower number of options (Paul 1997). As the language in surveys places restrictions on respondents' thinking (Thorkildsen 2005) the interactive triads possibly offer a method to identify perceptions which is not totally dependent on linguistic understandings, but on a sense of geometric position.

The term "triad" is not new in education and psychology literature. In most cases, a triad is a set of ranked responses between three items, determined by asking for a ranking between successive pairs of the items. An example may be the ranking preferences between the three colors, red, blue, and green. …

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