Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Effects of Student-Centered Teaching on Student Evaluations in Calculus

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Effects of Student-Centered Teaching on Student Evaluations in Calculus

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine how the student ratings of the instructors and course were influenced by the two different instructional methods: traditional, lecture-based teaching and student-centered instruction. Students (N=458) in twenty sections of a first semester calculus course used a departmental evaluation form to evaluate their instructors on twelve attributes of instruction and administration. Ten sections constituted the project group which incorporated a range of student-centered techniques in the method of instruction. The other ten sections formed the comparison group which primarily used traditional methods of instruction. An instruction index made up of eight of the twelve attributes informed the instruction rating index which was significantly higher for the project group over the comparison group (p < 0.0001). The four remaining attributes formed an administration rating index which was not significantly different across groups (p < 0.5). The results of this large-scale study support findings from previous smaller scale studies that students in first-semester engineering calculus prefer learning in a technology-intensive student-centered environment than a more traditional lecture-discussion format.

In order to improve and broaden knowledge about instructional quality and format, teaching is being evaluated and reviewed at all levels of instruction. At the collegiate level, student ratings are used frequently to give instructors and tenure committees input about student satisfaction with various aspects of an instructor's classroom. Often, the most generally accepted criterion for teaching effectiveness is significant positive achievement by students on an objective test, together with favorable student evaluations (Yunker, 1983). In the pursuit of higher student outcomes and the effort to improve students' learning of mathematics, instructors of collegiate mathematics have adopted various instructional methods and formats including the incorporation of group learning and the use of technology in the classroom. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of student-centered instruction in a firstsemester engineering calculus course on student ratings. The remainder of this section will present past research of instructional effects on student ratings, issues of reliability, and potential factors which have a direct relationship to this study.

Emergent research examines the effects of student-centered classrooms on student ratings. Two small-scale studies (Miller, Wilkes, & Cheetham, 1993; Wilkerson & Wim, 1996) have reported that students rate student-centered classrooms higher than lecture-based classrooms. A student's learning style affects his/her preference for a learning environment and may affect the ratings for the course. In Mcleod and Adams ( 1979), students rated a course the same, independent of the match between competitive students in groups and collaborative students in individual instruction. However, Nyquist, Abbott, and Wulff (1989) found that students, categorized as collaborative, rated peer-centered environments higher while competitive students were more satisfied with the comparison lecture-based course. Proponents of student-centered classrooms argue that a better fit between all students and instruction can be achieved in an active classroom versus a traditional lecture-based class.

In a large-scale study, differences in learning styles and student preferences should result in little or no influence on student ratings as a whole.

Past research has indicated methods to enhance the interpretability of student ratings. When rating several attributes, a higher generalizable index of teaching effectiveness can be formed by averaging the rating attributes (Sungsook, 1992). Aleamoni (1987) found a high positive correlation between current student ratings and ratings from previous students for a course and the instructor which suggests past students' ratings may be useful in providing baseline information for interpretation. …

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