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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
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Vol.13 No.3
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VOLUME 13 NUMBER 3 October 2015

Table of Contents
Mentorship in the Professional Practicum: Partners Perspectives .................................................................................. 1
Jane P. Preston, Keith D. Walker and Edwin G. Ralph

Experiencing Schooling In Another Nation: Advancing Global Awareness of Teacher Candidates ....................... 17
Bobbi Hansen, Ed.D.

Generalist Designers, Specialist Projects: Forming Multidisciplinary Teams That Work ........................................... 26
Katja Fleischmann

Comprehension Skill Differences between Proficient and Less Proficient Reader in Word-to-Text Integration
Processes: Implications for Interventions for Students with Reading Problem............................................................ 41
Stephen Ntim

Learning, Unlearning and Relearning with Cutting Edge Technologies ..................................................................... 62

Minakshi Lahiri and James L. Moseley

Students Perception of the Role of Counsellors in the Choice of a Career: a study of the Mfantseman
Municipality in Ghana ......................................................................................................................................................... 79
Moses Awinsong, Omar Dawson and Belinda Enyonam Gidiglo

Teachers Knowledge of Students about Geometry ...................................................................................................... 100

Habila Elisha Zuya and Simon Kevin Kwalat

Evaluation of Role Play as a Teaching Strategy in a Systems Analysis and Design Course ..................................... 150
Emre Erturk

Designing PBL Case Studies for Patient-Centered Care ............................................................................................... 160

Robyn Schell and David Kaufman

A Case Study Approach to Secondary Reanalysis of a Quantitative Research Synthesis of Adult Learning
Practices Studies ................................................................................................................................................................. 181
Carl J. Dunst and Deborah W. Hamby
An Exploration of Student-Teachers Views about the Practice of Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching: English
Major Prospective Teachers in Bahir Dar and Haromaya Universities, Ethiopia ..................................................... 192
Demis Gebretsadik, Haileslasie Beyene and Dawit Tesfaye

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 1-16, October 2015

Mentorship in the Professional Practicum:

Partners Perspectives

Jane P. Preston
University of Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Keith D. Walker and Edwin G. Ralph

University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Abstract. The goal of this project was to examine the perspectives of

teacher-education mentors and their protgs, regarding the
effectiveness of the mentoring program within their extended-practicum
placements. The participants were mentor/protg pairs who worked
together in a field-based practicum that took place in several schools in
an Eastern Canadian province. Semi-structured interviews were
conducted with each participant with respect to their thoughts related to
the strengths and weaknesses of the mentorship process. The authors
examined these views in the light of findings reported in previous
related research. They also drew implications from that analysis with a
goal of enhancing the mentorship process not only for pre-service
teachers, but also for practicum participants in other professional
disciplines. The resulting data substantiated findings reported in
previous literature with respect both to the positive and negative aspects
of mentorship practice. For instance, a key strength was that both
protgs and mentors benefitted from the mentorship process when it
was deemed effective, while a troubling aspect was the persistent
challenge of how to reduce/eliminate the negative elements that seem to
re-emerge within the mentorship process, not only in this study but
across several disciplines. A major implication of this study is that
mentorship planners and practicum educators from all professional
fields should make concerted efforts not only to share promising ways
to minimize these weaknesses, but to take deliberate measures to ensure
that the processes/procedures deemed effective are maintained as well.

Keywords: Mentoring; Mentorship; Professional Development;

Coaching; Practicum

1.1 Introduction
Although the mentorship process traces its beginnings to ancient Greek times
(Hansman, 2002), its universal popularity across the professional-education

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landscape has increased substantiality over the past three decades (Caldwell &
Carter, 2005). At its core, mentorship is a teaching/learning, developmental
relationship (Kram, 1985), whereby mentors who have accumulated more expertise,
experience, and knowledge in a particular field, assist protgs, who possess
relatively less knowledge and skills in the discipline, to develop their related
professional competence and confidence (Hennissen, Crasborn, Brouwer,
Korthagen, & Bergen, 2011; Ralph & Walker, 2014b; Rose Ragins & Kram, 2007).
The purpose of this present project was to examine the perspectives of teacher-
education mentors and their protgs, regarding the effectiveness of the mentoring
program within their extended-practicum placements. We identified two research
questions for the mentors and protgs, namely, what was effective in the
mentorship process and what was ineffective in it? We analyzed the data generated
from the interviews in the light of previous pertinent research, and we raise
implications of these findings for improving the mentorship process for practicum
pre-service education in all professional disciplines.

1.2 Background
The literature across the occupational spectrum has repeatedly identified a number
of benefits of effective mentorship for all participants (Clutterbuck, 1987; Philpott,
2015). At the same time, however, some research has also indicated the existence of
perplexing mentorship problems that seem to re-appear across professions and
cultures (Allen & Eby, 2007; Long, 1997; Ralph, Walker, & Wimmer, 2008; Yaman,
2013). For instance, relationship difficulties such as the emergence of partner
insincerity/dishonesty, the operation of power differentials between mentors and
protgs, and the miscommunication or misinterpretation of partners actions may
lead to increased mentorship conflicts (Hamlin & Sage, 2011; Ralph, Walker, &
Wimmer, 2007, 2009a; Scandura, 1998). Often, too, these deficiencies are
prematurely ignored, inaccurately diagnosed, or inappropriately dismissed with
expressions like we simply have a personality clash or my protg (or mentor) is
just intransigent (or stubborn or lazy) (Ralph, 1998), rather as being accepted as
opportunities for growth that need to be engaged (Tillema, Smith, & Leshem, 2011).
In another vein, some researchers and practitioners believe that such mentoring
issues are normal characteristics of the human condition that inevitably appear
whenever two or more individuals interact (Eby, 2007; Scandura, 1998). However,
our own previous research has suggested that some of these mentoring limitations
can be traced directly to the mentors mismatching of his/her mentoring response
or style with the existing developmental level of the protg to perform a specific
task or skill set (Ralph, 2005; Ralph & Walker, 2013). For instance we found that: (a)
when a mentor/protg pair has a clear conceptualization of the holistic
mentorship process; (b) when partners understand each others role/responsibility
in that process; and (c) when a mentor appropriately adapts his/her mentorship to
meet the protgs changing learning needs, then many of the seemingly
unavoidable difficulties can be appreciably reduced (Ralph, 1998; Ralph & Walker,
2014a, 2014c).
The importance of mentorship has been documented in nearly all professional
disciplines (Neville, Sherman, & Cohen, 2005), such as in professional pre-service
preparation (Feiman-Nemser, 1996; Kleiger & Oster-Levinz, 2015), professional in-

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service education (O'Brien, Rodriguez, & McCarthy, 2006; Richter, Kunter, Ludtke,
Klusmann, Anders, & Baumert, 2013), occupational training (Wilding, Marais-
Strydom, & Teo, 2003), and apprenticeship programs (Tilley & Callison, 2007).

1.3 Mentorship across the Professions

Cross-disciplinary research conducted during the past three decades (Kelly, 2007;
Petrila, Fireman, Scholl Fitzpatrick, Wertheimer Hodas, & Taussig, 2015) has
confirmed the advantages of effective mentoring for protgs, mentors, clients, and
the institutions hosting these mentorship programs. On the other hand, earlier
research (Lortie, 1975) also identified the lingering presence of a certain difficulties
that persistently emerge within the mentoring relationship (Daloz, 1999; Roycraft,
2014). Some of these deficiencies that spanned professional fields in several
countries were an unclear understanding among mentoring participants of the
entire mentoring process; an over-dependence on a one-size-fits-all mentoring
approach; a lack of mentor incentives for assuming the mentoring role; an
insufficient orientation/preparation/training of mentoring participants; and
inadequate institutional support for the mentorship program (Bukari & Kuyini,
2015; Ralph & Walker, 2011).

1.4 Mentorship in the Teacher Education Practicum

Almost all professional preparation programs in higher education, including pre-
service teacher education, offer a field-based, hands-on practicum within which
prospective graduates practice and develop their practical skills and competence to
prepare for entrance into their respective fields Ralph & Walker, 2011).
Professionals in these disciplines typically rank their practicum/clinical placement
as the most influential feature of their professional-preparation experience
(Eastman, 1998; Ontario Teachers Federation, 2013; Rajuan, Beijaard, &Verloop,
2008), largely because it provides them with an opportunity to apply knowledge
and theory within an authentic, reality-focused setting. As novice teachers venture
out into classroom in an effort to hone their instructional skills, the mentorship and
support provided by practicum mentors and advisors play an influential role in the
teacher candidates overall preparation (Ralph & Walker, 2010).
The practicum mentorship role is commonly associated with field-based
observations and debriefing sessions between the protg and his/her mentor(s).
The classroom teacher and the university-based mentor/supervisor help the
teacher candidate integrate practice with theory and provide them with formative
feedback regarding their teaching performance. Further, the practicum mentors
provide their protgs with academic, social, and personal support. Yet, the
research reports that difficulties typically emerge in mentorship practice (Hansford,
Ehrich, & Tennent, 2004; Parks Daloz, 2005). In the present qualitative research
study, we identified effective and ineffective facets of the mentorship process, as
perceived by a cohort of teacher candidates and their mentors within one Bachelor
of Education program in an Eastern Canadian university.

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2.1 Research Methodology

2.2 Design
In this study, we sought to gain an understanding of the diverse realities of
practicum participants in ways that examined their unique professional
experiences, viewpoints, and situations. In line with this statement, we
grounded our project in a constructivist research paradigm by endorsing
participant individuality, subjectivity, and voice, therein capturing the
situational and experiential portrayals of participants (Denzin & Lincoln,
2011; Mertens, 2010). We documented the personal experiences and
perceptions of teaching mentors and their protgs with regard to the
mentorship process in which they participated during the teaching practicum.
Because the concepts undergirding phenomenology are inextricably linked
with the constructivist research paradigm (Savin-Badin & Howell Major,
2013), we applied a phenomenological research design to this study. Because
phenomenology is a research approach that attempts to reveal what
participants who experience a similar phenomenon have in common
(Creswell, 2013), our study was a composite description of the essence of that
lived experience.

2.2 Participants
Typically, phenomenological studies involve a small number of individuals,
who are interviewed by the researchers in an effort to collect pertinent data
regarding the interviewees views of a phenomenon or process being studied
(Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2014; Merriam, 2009). Our study involved nine
teacher candidates (protgs) and five practicum advisors (mentors who were
university faculty members or sessional staff).

2.3 Procedure
The 14 participants were individually interviewed using a semi-structured
interview format (Merriam, 2009), in which each interviewee described his/her
respective experiences within the teaching practicum in a Bachelor of Education
program in an Atlantic Canadian university. Their teaching practicums were
located within elementary and high schools across the province, and were
representative of all subject levels.
Each interview was audio-recorded and transcribed. We initially read the
transcripts to provide familiarity of content or openness to all detail (Wertz,
2011, p. 131). Thereafter, we reread each participants interview in a more
systematic manner. We identified significant statements deemed relevant to the
phenomenon at hand, and we created a preliminary list of key ideas,
commonalities, differences, patterns, and/or categories embedded within the
transcripts. We then analyzed these significant statements for broad patterns,
which converged into broader themes in response to the research purpose
(Christensen et al., 20014). At that point, we reread all interviews ensuring that
the data represented each theme and that we addressed each research question.
We attested that each unit of data fit a composite theme of the process of
mentorship as experienced by the partners.

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Although the study was largely qualitative in nature, we supplemented our

analysis with basic quantitative tabulations. We presented these numerical data
to help summarize the qualitative comments by reporting numbers of
participants making specific statements related to the themes shown in Tables 1
and 2.

3.1 Findings
In Table 1, we summarize protgs views of what they perceived as effective
and ineffective aspects of the mentorship process experienced during their
practicum period. For each of Table 1s sub-categories that emerged from the
interview data, we include excerpts of specific interviewee statements that
illustrate these themes. The protgs offered slightly more negative observations
(68 of 130 discrete units) than they did for the effective category (62 of 130 units).

3.2 Protgs Viewpoints on Positive Elements

Two typical comments illustrating the largest category (i.e., positive
communication among partners) were I had great discussions with my co-op
who gave me practical advice about our obligation of dealing with hallway
behavior; and My co-op was always there after every class to debrief with me.
He always made time for that.
Illustrative protg contributions regarding the establishment of strong
relationships with mentors were [My practicum advisor] was so good at
creating friendships, so I felt very comfortable around her; and He was really
friendly, personable, and willing to listen to you and any concerns you had.
Statements exemplifying the third largest sub-theme (mentors providing
productive feedback) were He was very blunt and bold, but it was effective for
me. He just tells you straight up what to work on and what youre good at; and
He would go over everything he wrote, but he wouldnt dwell on it or rub your
nose in it, just point it out so you could improve next time.
Typical points regarding the fourth sub-theme on support were I liked my
university advisor because I could go to him, not just my co-op, so I had
somebody from faculty to go to; and My mentors gave me support and were
there to ask questions of. They were people I knew ineffective aspects of the
mentorship process experienced during their practicum period. For each of
Table 1s sub-categories that emerged from the interview data, we include
excerpts of specific interviewee statements that illustrate these themes. The
protgs offered slightly more negative observations (68 of 130 discrete units)
than they did for the effective category (62 of 130 units).

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Table 1: Summary of teacher candidates views regarding effective and ineffective

mentorship practices experienced in their education practicum (N =9)

Category Percentage
Effective aspects (n =62)

1. Positive communication with mentors 20

2. Strong relationship with mentors 9
3. Mentors provided helpful feedback 8
4. Mentors were supportive 5
5. Mentors had professional credibility 3
6. Appreciated working with fellow protgs 2
Ineffective aspects (n = 68)

1. Mentors gave insufficient feedback 5

2. Program inconsistencies/Unhelpful seminars 9
3. Inconsistencies among advisors 8
4. Apparent mismatches of mentors with protgs 7
5. Inadequate/Inappropriate personal-reflection activities 7
6. Non-authentic showcase performance for practicum advisor 5
7. Protgs question their career choice 2
Note.In separate interviews the 9 teacher candidates articulated a total of 130 specific
points: 48% of which described their perceptions of effective elements and 53% that
described ineffective aspects. Percentages indicate portions of the 130 total points.
Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

3.2 Protgs Viewpoints on Positive Elements

Two typical comments illustrating the largest category (i.e., positive
communication among partners) were I had great discussions with my co-op
who gave me practical advice about our obligation of dealing with hallway
behavior; and My co-op was always there after every class to debrief with me.
He always made time for that.
Illustrative protg contributions regarding the establishment of strong
relationships with mentors were [My practicum advisor] was so good at
creating friendships, so I felt very comfortable around her; and He was really
friendly, personable, and willing to listen to you and any concerns you had.
Statements exemplifying the third largest sub-theme (mentors providing
productive feedback) were He was very blunt and bold, but it was effective for
me. He just tells you straight up what to work on and what youre good at; and
He would go over everything he wrote, but he wouldnt dwell on it or rub your
nose in it, just point it out so you could improve next time.
Typical points regarding the fourth sub-theme on support were I liked my
university advisor because I could go to him, not just my co-op, so I had
somebody from faculty to go to; and My mentors gave me support and were
there to ask questions of. They were people I knew you could trust if you had
problems with your practicum.

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Illustrative positive remarks for the sub-category of mentor accessibility were

He told us we were his priority for the term, and made us feel like he really,
really cared; and I liked how you could call him any time at home. He was
approachable and you had no problem talking to him at all.
The sixth sub-theme regarding mentors having credibility was illustrated by
such remarks as: He had been a teacher for his whole career, so he was
knowledgeable and had tons of experience; and He had huge credibility and
had a story for everything wed experience.
Sample statements showing protgs gratitude for being able to collaborate
with fellow interns were The two of us were together for the whole term. It was
comfortable for us both to meet with the university advisor together, because the
things that were said to her were also beneficial to me and vice versa; and We
drove together every day so we knew there was always somebody there for each
other, plus we could debrief as we built up our peer relationship with one

3.3 Protgs Viewpoints on Ineffective Facets

To describe the seven negative aspects of their mentorship experiences
summarized in the lower portion of Table 1, we provide examples of remarks
contributed by the interviewees. Two comments regarding the most frequent
problem (i.e., mentors providing insufficient feedback) were I wish he would
have come more often and have given me more critical feedback; and She
thought everything went well with no negative feedback, which is something I
would appreciatesome constructive criticism. This is something I definitely
Interviewee comments illustrating the second largest sub-theme (i.e., program
inconsistencies and unproductive seminars) were Some of the seminars were
simply not pertinent, and were a waste of time. Individual meetings with one or
two of us to discuss our issues would be better; and Instead of using 3 hours
with all 10 of us, couldnt we have half an hour with the advisor one-on-one
with 5 of us during one week and 5 of us the next week?
Typical comments illustrating the problem of inconsistencies among mentors
were When we compared co-ops we found that some were belittling and made
the intern their servant. How do they get to be a co-operating teacher? and My
co-op was not paying attention. She went out to photocopy and I had to chase
after her and ask if we could talk. All she said was it went well, but I knew she
wasnt listening at all.
With respect to mismatching of mentors with protgs typical statements were:
I just didnt really click well with her; it was really stressful; The co-op really
didnt tell me right from wrong and didnt advise me on how to do things; and
The vibe I got was he was using an intern in order to make his life easier. I
dont know if he knew anything about me at all.
A fifth deficiency that interns identified in the mentorship process was
unhelpful assigned personal-reflection activities. For instance, one interviewee
reported, We had a lot of good discussion, but to require us to do a formal
written reflection seems like busy work: it doesnt seem productive in any way.
Another stated, Id say that 95% of our group was sick of doing reflections.

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A sixth limitation was interviewees perception of the non-authenticity of

performing for the faculty advisor. One intern said, My co-op would even
say to prepare a really good lesson with all the bells and whistles for him in
order to make sure it looks good; and another individual stated, It was not
natural teaching most of the time; it was kind of like a highlight package.
Two percent of the protgs comments related to the fact that they soon realized
that they were incompatible with teaching. One protg stated: I wanted to
drop out of the program, while another said, I told my coordinator later, but I
knew had to get through this practicum regardless, of not intending to teach
In Table 2, we summarize the comments made by the five university practicum-
advisors with respect to their perspectives on the effective and ineffective
aspects of the mentorship

Table 2: Summary of mentors views regarding effective and ineffective mentorship

practices experienced in the education practicum (N =5)

Category Percentage

Effective aspects (n =90)

1. Mentors provided protgs with support 20

2. Mentors forged strong relationship with protgs 12
3. Mentors provided helpful feedback 11
4. Program handbook provided guidance 11
5. Co-operating teachers were recognized as essential agents 8
6. Mentors were good communicators and listeners 8
7. All participants benefitted from the mentorship process 6

Ineffective aspects (n = 30)

1. Mentors had inadequate mentorship training 12

2. Not all faculty participated 6
3. Some faculty advisors lacked field experience 5
4. Uncertainty in dealing with interns experiencing difficulties 2


Note. In separate interviews the 5 university advisors presented a total of 120 specific
points, 75% of which described their perceptions of effective elements and 25% that
identified ineffective aspects. Percentages indicate portions of the 120 total points.
Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

process that occurred during the practicum. Compared to the protg cohort (9
individuals raising 130 specific points), the mentors generated a comparatively
larger number of statements overall in proportion to the number offered by the
protgs (5 people identifying 120 discrete elements).

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3.4 Mentors Viewpoints on Positive Elements

The advisors offered three times as many items regarding positive features than
they did for ineffective components. One fifth of these points focused on the
support that mentors gave to their protgs. Typical mentor comments in this
sub-category were Theyll often trust me more than the co-operating teacher,
especially if they have a tough class they want to talk to me about; and My
goal is to build the confidence of those beginning teachers in their ability to
Two examples of comments describing the sub-category of building
relationships were My big thing was trying to build a community within the
group and I always made sure we had food; and We attempt to build a mutual
respect between me and them and a trust we have in each other.
Statements illustrating the third sub-theme (i.e., providing the protgs with
feedback) were I make a whole page of notes, a good side and a bad side, but
you try to be unbelievably positive particularly the first couple of times you
observed; and I was very encouraging but I was also very honest. Celebrate
their strengths and help them strengthen the weak areas.
A fourth effective aspect that the mentors identified was the program handbook,
as exemplified by the following remarks: The practicum handbook describes
the roles/responsibilities very well so there is no misunderstanding; and It is
clear on expectations for all parties so that everyone is on the same page.
Comments that illustrated the importance of the co-operating teachers in the
mentorship process were: We have to show the co-ops that we really appreciate
the extra time and effort they spend for the student teachers; We used to
recognize them with receptions and present them with something, but now the
moneys just not there plus we are all very busy; and We have great
commitment by our volunteer co-operating teachers and they do take their task
very seriously.
Examples of mentors comments demonstrating the sixth sub-category (i.e.,
mentors being effective listeners and communicators) were We contact them all
via phone or email even if we dont have the time to meet in face-to-face
conversations; and I always ask the teacher candidates to call me at any time
to chat about how things are going or how they plan to introduce something.
Six percent of the contributions emphasized the benefit of the mentorship
process for all participants, as illustrated by such statements as I also find the
program to be a professional development opportunity for myself; and I see it
as a chance for the pre-service teachers, the co-operating teachers, and the
faculty advisors to help each other.

3.5 Mentors Perspectives on Ineffective Facets

The greatest limitation indicated by advisors was the lack of mentorship training
they received. Sample comments were Theres no official training that I know
of, but we do lean on our experience; There is an assumption that anyone can
be a practicum advisor but some of our colleagues cant because it is just not
their strength; and Nobody has ever told me how to supervise; we were all
assumed to understand, but actually we dont really know each teacher-
candidates particular situation at all.

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Illustrative statements related to the issue of lack of participation by all faculty

members were: The number one problem is the lack of commitment by some
colleagues to supervise, naively believing that online contact produces the same
results as personal classroom visits; Some faculty just pay lip service to
advising in the practicum but they need to actually nurture personal
relationships with teacher candidates; and Because of budget issues and
increased numbers of practicum students per supervisor, I totally understand
why fewer and fewer colleagues dont want to supervise at all.
The third ineffective aspect (i.e., advisors lack of field experience) was
illustrated by statements like: I feel full-time advisors should have extensive
experience both in teaching in schools and in teacher supervision; and If
advisors have little experience they will tend to focus on unimportant things
rather than paying attention to the TCs (teacher candidates) actual delivery,
Two percent of the mentors statements identified the challenge of knowing
how best to assist protgs experiencing serious difficulties. Examples here
were In rare cases there is no change in their performance; they are not doing
well and dont seem to want to improve; and A big issue is when they have
problems and I try to ride the fine line of supporting everyone but being fair
in providing advice to make a decision when necessary.

4. Limitations
Although the number of interviewees was relatively small, we were not
seeking generalizability in the quantitative-research sense, but rather we were
searching for transferability of findings, in that perspectives of the participants
in this study might help inform the mentoring practices of mentorship
stakeholders in practicum programs across the disciplines. Also, we began
our semi-structured interviews with only two key questions, but because of
the nature of this investigative method, participants early responses logically
led the interviewer to pose additional questions and/or to extend prompts
inviting interviewees to expand, elaborate, or explain their initial
comments. This probing process produced an enriched data field.

5. Discussion
We analyzed the interview data according to the two original research
questions for each cohort, and synthesized the findings in Tables 1 and 2. We
then made five general observations based on this data-analysis. Our first
observation was that both cohorts identified a similar grouping of positive
qualities that they witnessed in the mentorship program (e.g., supportive
mentors, positive mentor/protg relationships, helpful feedback, and clear
communication). However, the relative order of these strengths differed for
each group depending on their respective positions in the mentoring process
For example the protgs included unique data that acknowledged their
mentors professional credibility and their appreciation of being able to work
closely with fellow protgs. The mentors, on the other hand, recognized the
input of co-operating teachers in the mentoring process and they valued the
practicum manual provided by the university in clarifying expectations for all

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A second observation was that each sub-group identified relatively similar

groupings of ineffective characteristics; however, the protgs identified over
twice as many aspects as their counterparts did. Both cohorts identified what
they perceived as gaps in mentoring practice and anomalies in the program.
Moreover, because of their more extensive professional background, the
mentors related these ineffective elements to broader issues not yet fully
recognized by the teacher candidates (e.g., insufficient mentorship training or
lack of field experience).
Third, we noted some apparent discrepancies in the data. For instance, 8
percent of the protgs statements commended their mentors for providing
useful feedback, while 15 percent of their comments referred to receiving
insufficient feedback. However, further qualitative investigation of the
interview data helped uncover possible explanations for the differences,
which in turn would assist observers to sidestep the seeming false dichotomy
of who is right or wrong. Deeper analysis confirmed the reality that both
aspects were indeed present among the practicum triads, and that such
differences can actually lead to the creation of new mutual understandings
and growth, provided that the involved stakeholders would engage in open
dialogue about the issues (Tillema, Smith, & Leshem, 2011). For instance, in
our study, one plausible explanation for the differences was to recognize that
mentoring effectiveness is influenced by a combination of factors, especially
during the initial phases of the practicum. Key factors here were the previous
experiences, existing beliefs, and current practices of the university advisors
and the classroom co-operating teachers, who typically take the leadership
role in guiding the mentorship process, because they work daily with the
protgs (Kemmis, Heikkinen, Fransson, Aspfors, & Edwards-Groves, 2014).
Our interview data suggested that the divergent results were probably due to
such elements as insufficient mentorship training/experience, incomplete
faculty buy-in and/or participation in the practicum, institutional budgetary
limitations, and increased supervisory workload for the mentors.
A fourth observation was that the findings in the present study were similar
to, but not identical with, results reported in previous practicum-mentorship
research both in teacher education (Izadinia, 2015; Ulvik & Smith, 2011) and
also in other professional fields such as: business (Ehrich, Hansford, &
Tennent, 2004), engineering (Ralph, Walker, & Wimmer, 2009c), industrial
training (Hamlin & Sage, 2011), medicine (Frei, Stamm, & Buddeberg-Fischer,
2010; Sanfey, Hollands, & Gantt, 2013), nursing (Ralph Walker, & Wimmer,
2009b), and social work (Petrila, Fireman, Scholl Fitzpatrick, Wertheimer
Hodas, & Taussig, 2015).
We also noted that the present study contributed a new finding that we had
not observed before, either in our own prior research or in the related research
literature. That element was the specific recognition by the university advisors
of the valuable input of the school-based co-operating teachers with respect to
the success of the mentorship program. We found this gesture to honor the
mentoring work of their field-based partners to be a refreshing finding, and
we are hopeful that this example of mutual respect is a sign that genuine
collaboration among all mentoring stakeholders is not only possible but that it

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


may flourish in the future.

6. Conclusion
The results of this study taken together confirmed that: (a) although
mentorship practices differ across professions and cultures, the overall
mentoring process is characterized by similar sets of positive features (that
practicum organizers should strive to maintain) and negative elements (that
they should work at eliminating); (b) specific mentorship training and
ongoing mentor support were needed in order to enhance mentoring
effectiveness; (c) protg input should not be discounted or ignored, because
it can contribute valuable insights for improving mentorship; (d) mentorship
deficiencies can be reduced when practicum organizers and mentorship
participants collaborate to deal specifically with those limitations; and (e) one
mentorship model called Adaptive Mentorship, which the authors have
developed and researched during the past two decades (), has been shown to
help participants who implement it to improve the mentorship process in
their respective disciplines, such as nursing (Fauvel-Benot, Kerr, Ponzoni, &
Arnaert, 2014), second language instruction (Khoii, 2011), and teacher
education (Salm & Mulholland, 2015).
In conclusion, we believe that the findings from this present study, viewed in
the light of previous related research, combine to amplify the call to all
interested mentorship practitioners across the professional-education
landsscape to make concerted efforts in sharing their unique mentoring
experiences and insights with one another (Noe, Greenberger, & Wang, 2002;
Ralph & Walker, 2014a). Although each professions educational philosophies
and practices are idiosyncratic, there are enough commonalities within the
mentorship process for all interested stakeholders to relinquish conventional
turf protection tendencies and come together in joint conferences, seminars,
or colloquia to inform each other of strategies they have found effective in
enhancing the mentorship of prospective practitioners in their respective
professions. We are convinced that such cooperation will serve to improve
practicum programs.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 17-25, October 2015

Experiencing Schooling In Another Nation:

Advancing Global Awareness of Teacher

Bobbi Hansen, Ed.D.

University of San Diego
San Diego, California, United States of America

Abstract. In this paper, the author argues for including international

experiencesparticularly the visiting of schools abroadin teacher
education programs in order to expand teacher candidates personal
growth, expanded worldviews, and increased understanding of
schooling in other countries. The paper begins by sharing a students
reflection as an example of a transformative experience that can take
place when one is immersed in the educational culture of another
country. The remainder of the paper, then, showcases one innovative US
school of educations international experience where teacher candidates
participated in extended visits in schools in another nation. Finally, the
author asserts that it is imperative that teacher candidates be provided
with opportunities and challenges to move beyond their own cultural
experiences and be able to understand both the peoples and educational
systems in other nations so that they may bring those understandings to
bear on the education of their future students.

Keywords: Teacher Education; Prospective Teachers; International

Experiences; Global Awareness

Upon returning home, I have a gained a more global perspective as well. I have noticed
that I listen more keenly when I hear situations on the news about other countries, i.e.
the attack on Israel, and simple things even my selection in movies. I am beginning to see
the bigger picture in politics, education, and even at home. I guess you can say that I am
beginning to think outside the box. Teacher candidate

This deeply felt reflection was written by a teacher candidate who participated
in a transformative international experience with a professor and 23 peers from
an urban university in southern California. The goal of the experience was to
positively impact the preparation of preservice teachers by developing their
dispositions regarding global awareness. The project was part of a larger

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


initiative that seeks to influence prospective teachers personal worldviews and

appreciation for the perspective of the other. by internationalizing the teacher
education curriculum. This paper sets out the context, aims, content and scope of
students shared experiences related to visitations to primary and secondary
schools in the UK.

Literature Review
Educational researchers have long documented the need for teacher education
programs to create a teacher force that understands and can accommodate
student diversity (Horsley, & Bauer, 2010; Miller, Bennett, Carter, Hylton-Fraser,
Castle, & Potter, 2015; Ryan, A. M., Heineke & Steindam, 2014). The National
Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), has created
standards for the education of teachers that includes addressing the need for
understanding the many aspects of diversity. For example, NCATEs Standard 4:
Diversity requires teacher education programs to ensure Experiences provided for
candidates include working with diverse populations, including higher education and P
12 school faculty, candidates, and students in P12 schools. (NCATE, 2008, p.12).

Visiting schools within another nation provides teacher candidates with first-
hand experiences of schooling in a culture other than their own and expands
their teacher preparation course work in the area of global studies. It has been
documented in the literature that these international experiences result in
teacher candidates dispositional growth and expanded worldviews (Williams,
2005; Sachau, Brasher & Fee, 2010; Mahan & Stachowski, 1987). Moreover, this
global dimension is considered an essential element in teacher education
programs (Willard-Holt, 2001) and one that positively impacts teacher
candidates professional and personal development (Brindley, Quinn, & Morton,
2009; Pence & Macgillivray, 2008) and cultural awareness (Osler, 1998;
Stachowski, Richardson, & Henderson, 2003).

Those who have been charged with the education of new teachers keenly
appreciate their responsibility to increase both the global understandings and
multicultural pedagogical skills of teacher candidates (Paige & Goode, 2009;
McCalman, 2014). The literature strongly suggests that visitations to schools in
another nation augments teacher candidates cultural learning through direct
interaction with students and teachers (Mahon & Cushner, 2007; Matthews, &
Lawley, 2011; Stachowski, Richardson, and Henderson, 2003).

The Education Department at one urban university in Southern California
adopted, as one of its four strategic goals, the development of highly effective,
socially responsible, and marketable students through International Programs. This
goal was influenced by the framework of Gilliom (1993) who proposed two
critical tenants for teacher education programs, (1) preservice education
programs should be designed to cultivate a global perspective in students
preparing to teach, and (2) teacher educators, themselves, must be committed to
global education if they are to prepare globally oriented teachers effectively (p.
40). In support of this goal, the current project became dedicated to creating

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


international school learning experiences for teacher candidates for their

discovery of new points of entry in their own global interpretations and an
accompanying passion to share these with their future students. An integral
factor in this project was the promotion of transformative learning, a
developmental theory whereby learning is understood as the process of using a
prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of
ones experience in order to guide future action (Mezirow, 1996, p. 162).

Transformative Experience
Transformative learning is concerned with how learners construe, validate,
and reformulate the meaning of their experience (Cranton, 1994, p. 22). Central
to transformative learning theory is a change that leads to the development of a
new meaning structure (Moseley, Reeder, & Armstrong, 2008). Mezirow (1997)
views transformative learning as the essential component of adult education,
because it helps the individual become a more autonomous thinker by learning
to negotiate his or her own values, meanings, and purpose rather than
uncritically acting on those of others (p. 11). This was the goal of the projectto
lead the teacher candidates to a newly enhanced worldview so that they, then,
may assist in the education of globally competent students.

Description of Program
A partnership was established between our institution and a university program
in the UK to investigate how international experiences impact the beliefs and
dispositions of future teachers and also may lead to a transformative experience
in their lives. The program is termed short-term as opposed to an entire
semester or year. These short term experiences usually extend for one to two
weeks and are intended to provide an overview of the culture and the schooling
in that nation. Sometimes short-term programs are criticized for being so short
that it is almost like a travel tour. However, experts agree that if the class has
had significant pre-class assignments and readings and post-class debriefings,
then, the experience, while short, may still serve to be transformative (Cwick &
Benton, 2005). If properly structured, the pre-trip course sessions have the
potential of engaging students at the outset for a transformative experience.
Following is an excerpt from a students reflective journal that showcases what
can be accomplished in a pre-trip class:

It was a long day, no one wanted to be at (the university) so late after student teaching,
but we were there. It was the only time we could meet. There was pizza, which took the
edge off, and catching up with friends and professors we had not seen in awhile. All of
us were curious about what we would learn in England but did not know what to expect.
Questions were answered about traveling logistics and housing, last minute details were
hammered out and we all got t-shirts. Then the class started and we began to study
international education and systems of learning in other nations. This was when the fun
began. Despite the fact that we had to be at university late, I found this particular pre-
overseas evening to be one of the most interesting aspects of the course. We compared
and contrasted the way that the different nations had chosen to approach education as
well as the history of education in those nations. I found it very interesting to learn that
although Korea, Singapore, and Finland all ranked high on the international PISA test,

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


they had extremely different ways of approaching education. Knowing that makes it
clear that one way is not right for every nation, so what is right for America?

We also discussed US education in the context of a larger world, how global education
would benefit our students. There were heated debates about the positives that we saw in
the education systems of other nations and why similar systems either would or would
not work here in the States. This topic and discussion was the real heart of this course,
to make sense of why global education is important for our future students and to see
how the American system can evolve to meet 21st century demands.

This class will impact my future professional aspirations because it has taught me that
having these types of conversations about global education are important. They are
important to for me to reflect on as an educator and they are important for my students
who will be the ultimate benefactors of any new ideas I can generate while learning about
education in other nations. It is vital to study the educational systems of nations because
we can see what works in other nations and possibly work towards improving our own
system. Teacher candidate

Documenting Students Transformative Experiences

It would be difficult to catalog the myriad of experiences and learnings from the
entire group of teacher candidates. However, examination of the final student
reflections revealed that they did, indeed, have a number of transformative
experiences. First, however, in an effort to provide the reader with a foundation
with which to better understand, these comments have been grouped into two
categories, (1) insights regarding academic comparisons between schooling in
our country and the host country, and, (2) perceptions that encompassed social-
emotional phenomena observed in the school visits. In addressing the
transformative experiences regarding academic issues, the school visits were
replete with comparative ah-has from the students. In fact it was difficult for
the teacher candidates not to compare and not to judge the comparisons as either
better than or less than their own culture. Following are a few typical
Student 1: One thing that I saw done very effectively in the classroom in Oxford was
differentiation. The schools had a very organized and effective system for differentiation
that I have not seen in US schools as it changed based on the student or on the difficulty
of the lesson being taught. I felt like this impacted me because we have been taught so
much about differentiation in the classroom, but I have rarely seen it effectively
implemented. This aspect of teaching always seems to be the hardest so observing a
teacher who was effectively implementing it throughout her lessons was inspiring.

Student 2: The teachers in England focus on both skills and strategies. In the United
States we have been learning how to implement similar competencies with the new
Common Core Standards. However, I believe that in the US there is a more solid theory
attached to these new conceptually driven standards. Therefore, I will be able to take the
teaching strategies I observed in my second school visit back to my third grade classroom
and implement them in order to help my students develop critical thinking skills while
using 21st century skills!

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Student 3: An aspect that had an impact on my experience was the hands-on inquiry
based learning I saw taking place at the schools I visited. I have learned about inquiry
teaching in my classes in the US but have never seen it implemented. Touching back to
the outdoor education I saw taking place in the fifth grade class, the students were
conducting a science experiment where they were designing a parachute. This had a
positive impact on me because it demonstrates how learning can be fun and exciting for
the students as well as having them engage with sound inquiry-based teaching
strategies. As a future educator, I want to incorporate inquiry-learning projects where
the students are in charge and have a sense of responsibility for their own learning.

Social and emotional learning

According to Cairesa, Almeidaa, & Vieirab (2012), social and emotional
intelligence have become much more central in the education of teachers. They
cite countless empirical studies that underscore social and emotional factors to
the well-being and success of teacher candidates (Gardner 1983; Sternberg 2003,
Goleman, 1995, Mayer 2000). When becoming a teacher, these variables can
acquire special importance considering the needs of the student teachers to
adapt to new situations, innovate and solve problems, lead groups, and assist
students, (Cairesa, S., Almeidaa, L., & Vieirab, D., 2012, p.165). Cadet teachers
transformative experiences in this area were clearly observed by the course
instructors. Moreover, student reflections revealed that they encountered many
more social/emotional impressions than academic ones.

Student 4: This entire course has shown me how to incorporate activities where students
learn about other nations viewpoints and their significance. In my class, I want my
students to develop an acknowledgement of others and the realization that they will work
with people who might be completely different from them.

Student 5: In the last school visit I was impressed with the entire school and one teacher
in particular. The students in the class were comprised of many different ethnic
backgrounds. I asked some of the students whether or not they liked their school. Many
students said that they do. In my teacher mind, I decided that I wanted to incorporate
activities so that my future students could learn about other cultures viewpoints
concerning major global events. Why would teaching about other cultures be important
to American students? For me, it because learning about something different means
accepting change.

Student 6: While visiting primary schools in England, I was profoundly moved by the
administrations concern with the holistic development and enrichment of their
individual students. It seemed that headmasters and teachers had close and intimate
relationships with their students and designed their curriculum and school policies for
the greater good of the entire student body. At one of the schools I visited, the headmaster
explained how the school focuses on core values and doesnt just have students memorize
these terms and concepts but encourages students to live them.

Student 7: This school visit also reinforced the importance of building trusting
relationships with families and how important it is for at risk students. This school had
its own caf on campus. It is meant to be a neutral place where teachers can meet with
families in a casual non-threatening or non-intimidating environment. The headmaster

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said the most difficult children to reach were those of white, working class families who
have lost trust in the school system. The caf is a place where they can begin to build
relationships and promote trust.

Implications For Teacher Education

If we consider again the tenants of transformative learning, we must take into
account that not all individuals will be able to engage in a transformative
experience (Taylor, 1998). However, if transformative learning is the goal of
these international experiences, then, how may it best be fostered? As Taylor
(1998) states, the teachers role in establishing an environment that builds trust
and care and facilitates the development of sensitive relationships among
learners is a fundamental principle of fostering transformative learning (p.2).
From the very beginning of the international course the two instructors
attempted to establish a trusting environment and one that might alter
preconceived perceptions of the superiority of the US educational system. The
pre-trip course session allowed for participants to express fears and concerns in
a nonthreatening environment, as well as to get to know the faculty prior to
departure. The faculty instructors also corresponded with participants who had
concerns and questions about traveling to a foreign country. In addition, the
instructors traveled with the participants, assisting them with accommodations,
public transportation, and school visitations. The project also included several
cultural excursions with the faculty team into the country, allowing students
with faculty supportto begin to experience the culture, people, and land that
were new to them. This adventure also allowed for intensive, informal
conversations among the students and faculty in close quarters. In these
discussions, the participants shared what they had learned, expressed their
concerns and fears, asked questions and solicited advice from the faculty. In
addition, these sessions became excellent opportunities for the faculty to share
what this cross-cultural experience meant to them and what they were also

The literature has made it clear that teacher candidates need to be able to instill
in their future students understandings regarding different peoples and cultures
from around the world. To accomplish this goal teacher education programs
must craft opportunities for students to learn about others from a less
ethnocentric mind set. Moreover, preservice teachers need experiences that
cause them to develop their dispositions regarding global awareness and the
complexities of the world around them. Visiting schools in international settings
allows them to seek and to have direct experiences regarding different
philosophies of education as revealed in schooling and teaching practices in
other nations educational systems.

This paper has set forth an argument for including global experiences in teacher
education programs. The overall goal was for teacher candidates in an
international course to fully understand educational practices in another nation
as well as to rethink their own biases, which hopefully led them to assimilate
transformative perspectives grounded in a more fully developed frame of

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


reference, one that is more inclusive, differentiating, permeable, critically

reflective, and integrative of experience (Mezirow, 1996, p. 13). If we, in teacher
education, commit to having teacher candidates learn, firsthand, about other
cultures and their educational systems it will most likely lead to improved
classroom practices and flexibility. This commitment supports Mezirows belief
that transformative learning must not only consist of the experience itself, but
also opportunities for critical reflection and rational discourse with others. As
Moseley, Reeder, & Armstrong (2008) assert, The changing world as reflected in
the diversity of students arriving daily in our classrooms constitutes an
increasingly significant aspect of the teaching and learning environment in
American public schools. (p. 69.) Therefore, it is imperative that teacher
candidates be provided with opportunities and challenges to move beyond their
own cultural experiences. This last reflection attests to the cultural and life
lessons that can be learned by students and the connections they can make in
order for the experiences to come alive and be long remembered.

Finally, the whole experience left me with a hunger for more. I think it would be
amazing to be able to collaborate with teachers all over the world. In addition to
providing my students with 21st Century skills, I am going to find different ways to
reach out across the world to provide meaningful content on global awareness in my
classroom. It is going to be fun! Teacher Candidate


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 26-40, October 2015

Generalist Designers, Specialist Projects:

Forming Multidisciplinary Teams That Work

Katja Fleischmann
James Cook University
Townsville, Australia

Abstract. Designing interactive media is a highly dynamic activity with

many projects involving extensive use of technology and collaborating
with information technology experts. Digital media design students
therefore need to be prepared for a volatile technological future and
need to learn to work with others. However, few educators provide a
rationale for managing multidisciplinary teams in undergraduate design
education in terms of size, team building processes or, determination of
skills, abilities and knowledge of students. Multidisciplinary teamwork
can be messy when undergraduate students are thrown into the deep
end of teamwork. It is suggested that collaborations between students
from different disciplines need to be managed not only during the
collaborative design process but also during the formation of teams.
Being satisfied with the placement in a multidisciplinary team would
allow students to focus on the acquisition of new and specialised skills
and apply those skills as part of a functional team to a project. This
research therefore explores what team building strategies will build
effective multidisciplinary teams in undergraduate design education.
Two team building strategies (structured educator-led and semi
structured Speed Dating) were developed and trialled in two digital
media design subjects over a period of three years. Design students have
provided feedback via an online survey. Quantitative and qualitative
data were analysed to explore the degree to which students were
satisfied with team placement and the effectiveness of activities that
were developed to support the team forming process.

Keywords: undergraduate design education; T-shaped graduate;

multidisciplinary collaboration; teamwork, team building

Designing interactive media is a highly dynamic activity with the majority of
digital media design projects involving extensive use of technology and information
technology (IT) expertise. Designers must confront an increasingly complex
technological environment. Emerging technologies create a variety of new
opportunities for designers, but often require designers to collaborate with other

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discipline experts to fully explore their potential. Digital media design students
therefore need to be prepared for a volatile technological future and need to
learn to work with others. Some institutions deal with this situation by teaching
design students computer programming or offering double degrees that cover
design and IT. The authors institution facilitates flexible multidisciplinary
collaboration for undergraduate digital media design students whilst promoting
the simultaneous acquisition of discipline-specific skills (Fleischmann, 2010).
That means students have more time and can specialise in design and build an
understanding of other disciplines (e.g. IT) to be able to communicate and
collaborate effectively. This approach has evolved in a context that increasingly
requires design graduates to be both solidly specialised and flexibly
generalised (Hunt, 2011, p. 87) (Longbottom et al., 2007; Friedman, 2012).
Graduates need to be prepared to approach the increasing complexity of digital
media design projects and the changing technological future as part of
multidisciplinary teams.

The Future Digital Design Graduate: Generalists Collaborating on

Specialist Projects?
Design educators, organisations and employers have articulated the demand for
T-shaped design graduates who possess specialist knowledge in one or two
areas, a broad understanding of other areas and who have the ability to
collaborate with others from diverse disciplines (Fleischmann, 2014). The stem of
the T represents specialist knowledge of one or two areas and the horizontal
bar stands for a broad understanding and curiosity about other areas and an
ability to collaborate across the disciplines (Design Council, 2006; Harris, 2009;
Hansen, 2010). Some see the T-shaped graduate as having the capacity to
respond to changing conditions, anticipate future technologies and re-define
their practice (Triggs & John, 2004, p. 427) and in particular when working in
multidisciplinary teams (Bennett, 2009; Ligon & Fong, 2009; Davis, 2011; Hunt,

How is Multidisciplinary Teamwork Managed in Design Education?

Multidisciplinary collaboration occurs when people from different professions
or disciplines with varied skills and experiences complement each other when
working toward achieving a common objective. Within the context of design
education, a multidisciplinary design project can give students a new way of
thinking and the opportunity to create innovative outcomes. For instance, the
collaboration between design and IT provides a very diverse environment that
forces students to explore the nature of their own practice and that of other
disciplines, and to understand their own role and value in collaborative projects
(Fleischmann & Daniel, 2013). Such collaborations are often complex, and
management of multidisciplinary teamwork in practical terms, particularly in
undergraduate education, leads educators in to the unknown.

Few educators provide a rationale for managing teams in terms of size, team
building processes or, determination of skills, abilities and knowledge of
students who are collaborating. The method of grouping students in teams is
frequently unclear. In some cases student selection for participation in a project

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


appears to be done at random with only the different expertise or geographical

locations (mixing students from schools in different locations in case of online
collaboration) driving the process (DiPaola, Dorosh & Brandt, 2004; Brown, Lee
& Alejar, 2009; Nicole & Kreidler, 2013). In some cases, students had
considerable responsibility and autonomy for building and managing their
teams on the multidisciplinary collaboration journey (Abu-Mulaweh, Oloomi &
Voland, 2004). Students often experience a certain messiness when thrown into
the deep end of multidisciplinary teamwork in this way (Rothstein, 2002). At
times educators downplay this outcome as being similar to real life experience.

Some educators engage students in team exercises for the purpose of team
bonding and communication. This allows team members to share values,
thought processes and motivations. For example, Nicole and Kreidler (2013)
note that the students found the session entertaining and a great boost to their
team morale. Such high levels of motivation made it easy for the educators to
manage the teams. Other educators report unequal contributions by some team
members (Dong & Spiliotoupoulou, 2010) or the devaluation of a particular
disciplines tasks and input within the team (Brown, Lee & Alejandre, 2009).
This suggests that students lacked understanding of the importance of each
disciplinary contribution in the collaborative process.

Overall there is no clear strategy for educators to follow when facing the task to
form multidisciplinary teams in undergraduate design education. Getting
multidisciplinary teams to work effectively and building an understanding of
other disciplines in students can be a challenging. This is in particular the case
when students from disciplines with different subject cultures work together.
They have a diverse community of practice (Wenger, 2006) that lacks a
common language. For example Design and IT have different work methods,
different learning approaches and different ways of completing projects. Specific
team forming processes and team activities might help building such
understanding and placing students satisfactorily in multidisciplinary teams.
This research therefore explores what team building strategies can help building
effective multidisciplinary teams in undergraduate design education.

Building and Managing Multidisciplinary Teams: An Australian Case

The Bachelor of New Media Arts is a three-year programme for students
majoring in Digital Visual Arts, Digital Sound, Digital Imaging or Digital Media
Design. Students also select a minor from these areas to support the education of
a T-shaped graduate. A study year consists of two 13-week semesters with four
subjects studied in each semester. Each subject consists of 13 hours of lectures, 26
hours of tutorial or practical work in the computer lab, and requires students to
engage in self-directed learning outside class.

Digital media design students are educated for employment in the highly
dynamic, interactive media design industry. The degree program aims to
prepare students for the changing environment they will encounter in the
workplace. In order to foster students as confident, self-directed learners who

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are able to stay abreast of new technological and industry developments, it is

necessary to equip students with skills that will allow them to connect and work
with others, in particular, with people from disciplines with a different subject
culture (e.g. information technology). This will enable digital media design
students to initiate, direct or be part of the development of interactive media
projects regardless of the expertise required to produce them in the future.

During the three years of study, students progress from introductory subjects
such as graphic design and information design to advanced subjects such as web
design and interactive media design. The latter subjects have more complex
production needs requiring depth in more than one discipline, hence are
particularly suited to the introduction of multidisciplinary collaboration. This
paper describes team forming strategies and supporting team activities in two
subjects which are Introduction to Web Design and Interactive Media Design.
Students study the subjects in semesters three and five of the degree.

Factors Influencing the Development of Team Building Strategies

Both subjects, Introduction to Web Design (refereed to as Web Design) and
Interactive Media Design (referred to as Interactive Design), require students in
the media design major to acquire new knowledge and skills in an area in which
they have no prior experience (e.g. learn how to design and develop a website)
and simultaneously apply this knowledge within a multidisciplinary team
situation. This is demanding for students. Leaving at the same time the forming
of teams in the hands of students (hence throwing them in the deep end of
multidisciplinary teamwork) is most likely to create additional stress and team
problems. It is argued that in such situations a structured approach to team
building is essential for studentsand educators.

Additional factors influencing the selection of a specific team building strategy

are class size, number of participating disciplines, degree of prior
multidisciplinary teamwork experience and how well student know their
collaborators. For example, challenging can be the number of students
participating in these subjects in regards to discipline variations and managing
large student numbers. Variations in enrolment numbers, with either insufficient
or excess student numbers in a particular discipline, might cause difficulties in
building balanced and authentic teams. Introduction to Web Design (Web Design)
saw 134 students participating in one of the trials with students being from the
disciplines design, multimedia journalism and IT. Interactive Media Design
(Interactive Design) had around 50 students during the trials with students from
only two disciplines participatingdesign and IT (see Appendix A for student
numbers). It is suggested that subjects with large student numbers and several
disciplines involved require the application of a more structured approach to
team building to help avoid chaos.

The degree of experience students have with multidisciplinary collaboration

when participating in these subjects is another important factor that can
influence which team building strategy to use. The sequential order of the
subjects provides digital media design students with the opportunity to build up

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and build on multidisciplinary teamwork experience. It is suggested that

students with prior multidisciplinary teamwork experience and who have
experienced their peers in team situations can build their team based on such
experience. Students from other disciplines (e.g. Bachelor of Information
Technology) may have no prior multidisciplinary teamwork experience or have
not worked with these particular students before and may be less confident in
team selection and interactions. In such case a more structured hence educator-
led approach to team building is suggested.

Team Building Strategies: Forming Multidisciplinary Teams

The aim is to create team dynamics that work. A chaotic approach to teamwork
is often promoted as a valuable learning experience, reflecting real world
experiences. Nevertheless, the strategy to throw students into the deep end of
multidisciplinary teamwork might not always be effective for either students or
educators, particularly when students need to acquire new knowledge first and
have no or limited multidisciplinary teamwork experience. For students, being
part of a dysfunctional team can be a frustrating experience and applying new
knowledge and skills can be difficult with projects might not be completed in
some cases. For educators, resolving conflicts in teams can be time consuming
leaving less time to advise teams on discipline-specific questions.

Considering factors that can influence team building, it becomes apparent that a
one-size fits all approach cannot be applied for the two subjects under
investigation. In the following two different team building strategies are
described which take these influencing factors into account.

Introduction to Web Design (Web Design, 3rd semester) has large student numbers
collaborating (above 120 in two trials) involving at least three disciplines
collaborating (digital media design, multimedia journalism, IT). Students
entering the subject have no prior multidisciplinary teamwork experience. The
subject area (learning how to design and develop websites) is new to all students
regardless of their disciplinary background. While the subject is a mandatory
subject for digital media design students, it can be taken as an elective subject
university wide creating additional challenges. Considering these factors, it was
decided to develop and use an educator-led, highly structured approach to team

Team Building Strategy 1: Highly Structured - Educator Selected Teams.

Disciplines involved: digital media design, multimedia journalism, IT
Applied in subject: Introduction to Web Design (Web Design, Trial 1-3)

Team-building process. Educators selected team members according to the

following criteria:
study area
motivation to develop expertise in an area (e.g. more design, concept or
technology driven)
existing expertise (e.g. software)
work style and availability.

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Students of all disciplines submitted answers to a set of questions a week before

the teamwork started to help creating teams that have suitable team members
(see Appendix B for question catalogue). Each team should have strength in
design, IT and organisation/management.

Web Design consisted of the following teams for the three-year study: 12 teams
in Trial 1, 20 teams in Trial 2, and 26 teams in Trial 3. Each team typically
included two design students, one multimedia journalism student and two or
three IT students.

Interactive Media Design (Interactive Design, 5th semester) has a smaller cohort of
around 50 students from two disciplines (digital media design, IT) participating
in each trial. The subject is mandatory for both student groups. Digital media
design students have participated in Web Design a year earlier and therefore
have prior multidisciplinary teamwork experience and know their design peers.
Some of the IT students have also participated in Web Design a year earlier but
the majority of students have not. Hence the majority of IT students do not have
experience in collaborating with students from a creative discipline. Considering
these factors, it was decided to develop and use an educator-facilitated, semi
structured approach to team building.

Team Building Strategy 2: Semi Structured Self-Selected Design Group and

Speed Dating.
Disciplines involved: digital media design, IT
Applied in subject: Interactive Media Design (Interactive Design, Trial 1-3)

Team-building process. Digital media design students took partial

responsibility and control for the team selection. They were encouraged to form
their own group within their discipline based on the understanding they had
developed in Web Design about how to create a good team dynamic. The IT
educator placed IT students in IT groups because most students did not have
multidisciplinary teamwork experience. Design groups and IT groups then
engaged in a Speed Dating process to explore ideas on work ethics, motivation
and personalities. Each group had 2 minutes to ask questions they had
developed beforehand. Examples of questions included Are you a morning,
afternoon or night-time worker?, Are you happy to collaborate online?, and
What do you want to get out of this project? (see Appendix C for topics to
explore during Speed Dating and further sample questions). Based on the
answers, each group nominated three groups from the other disciplines that
they would prefer to work with and one group that they would not like to work
with. The educators (Design and IT) facilitated the final matching of design and
IT groups trying to meet all preference requirements.

Interactive Design consisted of the following teams for the three-year study: 8
teams in Trail 1, 8 teams in Trial 2, and 9 teams in Trial 3. Each team typically
included two to three design students and two to three IT students depending
on enrollment numbers each year.

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Activities to Support Effective Team Building and Management of Teams

In both subjects, activities that support the team building and help to build an
understanding for the collaborating disciplines were conducted. These included
the following:
1. Students attended a lecture on teamwork essentials, which focused on
understanding each members role, discipline, the importance of frequent
communication, and steps to resolve team dysfunction. In the advanced
subject: Students attended a lecture on advanced teamwork ethics, which
included reflection on common factors for success or failure of
multidisciplinary teams, focusing in particular on problems that had occur
the previous year (in Web Design) and problems that can occur due to
different discipline cultures.
2. The students engaged in an icebreaker exercise to get to know their team
members. This included the game, tell three things about yourself, one of
which one is a lie. Team members guess which statement is the lie, and learn
something about their peers. In the advanced subject the icebreaker exercise
asked teams to quickly design a fictional interactive media application (e.g.
Weather Forecast App) with each disciplinary group explaining the steps
required for its design, and the kind of interactions between the disciplines
required to successfully develop the application.
3. A guided session that required teams to discuss and agree on methods of
communication (e.g. email, mobile phone), exchange contact details,
procedures to deal with low motivated team members, and time and place for
weekly meetings (Team Agreement Form).
4. Throughout the project, educators met weekly with project teams to advise
on project development, monitor team dynamics and intervene when
problems emerged.

Research Methods
This study set out to explore the management of multidisciplinary teamwork in
undergraduate digital media design education and, in particular, it asked to
what extent the developed team building strategies support the building of
effective teams. Multidisciplinary team building strategies were trialled in two
sequentially advancing subjects over three years. An online survey was
conducted after the team building and supporting activities had finished in each
trial. The questions in the survey were designed to produce quantitative data for
a general evaluation and overview (e.g., Did you like selecting your own team
members? Yes/No). Open-ended questions explored the rationales for the
previous answer (e.g., Why?), providing deeper understanding of the students
motivation and learning experience. The data analysis was conducted as follows:
For quantitative data obtained using online questionnaires, the survey
platform (Survey Monkey) automatically provided basic statistical data, such
as the tally of response totals, percentages and response counts.
For qualitative data, the software programme NVivo 10 was used to code and
theme the responses from open-ended questions. A reflexive qualitative
thematic analysis combined codes where applicable. An independent
researcher coded the data.

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The focus of this study is on digital media design students (DMDesign). See
Appendix A for participant numbers from each discipline per trial, and response

Effectiveness of Multidisciplinary Team Building Strategies and
Supporting Activities
The effectiveness of learning activities often depends on students
understanding of their purpose and relevance to their future careers. Therefore,
students were questioned about their attitude towards multidisciplinary
collaboration at the beginning of each subject. Table 1 shows student views on
the advantage of multidisciplinary teamwork as a 3-year average because
percentage values were similar in each trial for both subjects.

Table 1. Student perception on multidisciplinary collaboration.

Do you think it is an advantage to work in a multidisciplinary team for the
project? (3-year average, Trial 1-3)
Subject Trial Student type Yes No Total
Web Design 1-3 avg DMDesign 98% (n=140) 2% (n=3) n=143
Interactive Design 1-3 avg DMDesign 98% (n=56) 2% (n=1) n=57

Table 1 shows the students have a highly positive attitude for completing
interactive media design projects as a multidisciplinary team. Importantly,
students with no prior multidisciplinary teamwork experience (Web Design)
also report a positive attitude towards the concept.

Feedback from students on their first impressions of their team or team building
strategy allowed evaluating the effectiveness of the team building strategies and
supporting activities. Feedback from each subject is as follows:

Web Design Highly structured team building strategy. After the teams were
formed and members had completed the supporting activities (e.g. icebreaker)
students were asked to provide feedback on their first impressions of their team.
Table 2 summarises the feedback.

Table 2. Student satisfaction with outcome of highly structured

team building process.
Are you satisfied with your team makeup?
Subject Trial Student type Yes No Total
Web Design 1 DMDesign 93% (n=27) 7% (n=2) n=29
Web Design 2 DMDesign 100% (n=49) 0% (n=0) n=49
Web Design 3 DMDesign 98% (n=64) 2% (n=1) n=65

The majority of digital media design students who participated in the highly
structured approach to team building were satisfied with their team makeup at
this early stage of the project. The qualitative feedback revealed that the majority
of the responses were positive in regards to team building and conducted

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supporting activities. Students mentioning positive social, knowledge, skills and

motivation benefits. The social theme related to positive group or individual
interactions, including words such as friendly or good people. A typical
comment was, My team members seem motivated, committed and friendly
(DMDesign Student 9, Trial 1). Students also commented positively on
communication and early team interaction: "We seem to be able to discuss things
freely and reach agreements (DMDesign Student 2, Trial 2) and another student
stated: The team constellation is good; we are different but we are ready for
compromise (DMDesign Student 29, Trial 3).

Interactive Design Semi structured team building strategy (Speed Dating).

Table 3 summarises the feedback from students on first impressions of their
team after the Speed Dating and supporting activities were concluded (e.g.

Table 3. Student satisfaction with outcome of semi structured

team building process.
Are you satisfied with your team makeup?
Subject Trial Student type Yes No Total
Interactive Design 1 DMDesign 83% (n=15) 17% (n=3) n=18
Interactive Design 2 DMDesign 63% (n=12) 37% (n=7) n=19
Interactive Design 3 DMDesign 100% (n=20) 0% (n=0) n=20

Although the majority of the students who participated in the semi structured
team building process were satisfied with their teams at this early stage (47 out
57 students), the feedback across the three trials ranges from only 63% of
students being satisfied with their team makeup in Trial 2 to 100% of students
being satisfied in Trial 3. A possible rationale may be that students would have
preferred to be placed in a team by the educators as they had experienced the
previous year. This notion was explored and an overview of results is presented
in Table 4.

Table 4. Student satisfaction with selecting team members within

their own discipline.
Did you like choosing your own group within your discipline?
Subject Trial Student type Yes No Total
Interactive Design 1 DMDesign 89% (n=16) 11% (n=2) n=18
Interactive Design 2 DMDesign 90% (n=17) 10% (n=2) n=19
Interactive Design 3 DMDesign 90% (n=17) 10% (n=2) n=19

Table 4 shows that the majority of students liked to select their own team
members within their discipline. Only two students per trial did not like
selecting their own group members. When asked to reflect on the Speed Dating
experience, the qualitative feedback revealed that the majority of responses
across the three trials were positive: most students enjoyed the Speed Dating
process. They felt it was a good way of learning about other students. A student
stated, Originally I wasn't overly impressed with the speed dating idea,
however after completing the activity I found it to be quite helpful in gaining an

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understanding of the expectations and abilities of the other students

(DMDesign Student 7, Trial 1).

Some negative issues with the Speed Dating included not enough time, overly
complicated, pointless and social problems. While several students described it
as good fun, others noted that they found it weird, awkward, uncomfortable
(DMDesign Student 2, Trial 1). A student commented, I was nervous at first,
but it was a good idea because it forced us to meet everyone and see what
everyone is like (DMDesign Student 11, Trial 2). In Trial 1 and Trial 2 a few
students (belonging to the same team) referred to the Speed Dating as pointless
or stated that it was semi-pointless as we didn't end up with the teams we
initially picked (DMDesign Student 3, Trial 2).

The feedback from digital media design students on the applied team building
strategies shows a good outcome for the two strategies and also on supporting
activities. Positive reflections from students in Web Design on first interaction
with team members, and good communication and exchange within the team at
the start of the process, suggest that engaging teams in icebreaker exercises and
discussions around the Team Agreement Form works well. The design of both
exercises encouraged students to get to know each other, feel comfortable with
one another and discuss concepts of compromise.

The majority of students in Interactive Media also provided positive feedback,

however, one group in Trial 1 and 2 were not matched according to their three
preferences leading to negative comments. Although the educators tried to
match all groups with one of their Speed Dating preferences, groups that came
across as motivated and skilled in the Speed Dating process were nominated
more frequently making it difficult to satisfy every team.

Enhancing Team Building Strategies

Enhancements suggested by students to the team selection process in Web
Design (highly structured team building strategy) included having smaller
groups and better group selection. Reducing the team from five students (three
design and two IT students) to three students (two design students and one IT
student) is a recommendation educators would have liked to introduce. Ideally,
educators would build teams consisting of two digital media design and two IT
students. However, team sizes are to some extent influenced by university
realities such as student enrolment numbers and the numbers of students to be
taught within a practical class. After the first trial in Web Design, the educators
considered introducing teams of three students (two design students working
and one IT student). However, due to the subject being also offered as an
elective subject there is a risk of students dropping out after the team building
has concluded, with the possibility that a team would be left with no IT
expertise. Thus, this solution was unworkable.

The following comments from Web Design students suggest grouping higher
motivated students in a team would improve group selection. When compiling
teams use members who have a history of attending all the lectures or know will

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be committed (DMDesign Student 10, Web Design, Trial 3). Another student
commented: The team selection could be improved by being aware of students
abilities past the survey results (DMDesign Student 17, Web Design, Trial 2).

It is understandable that high achieving students would prefer to work with

like-minded students in a team. However, it is difficult to implement in practice
since all students need to have an equal opportunity to learn and develop in a

For the semi structured team building strategy applied in Interactive Design,
students who participated in Trial 2 suggested a mix of culture and language as
the following comment illustrates: In our case we had two [international
students] who couldn't speak good English and couldnt understand the project
or their tasks. Each student should have been paired with someone else who is
more adept at speaking English to balance it out and not make it unfair for the
team (DMDesign Student 4, Interactive Design, Trial 2).

Educators implemented this advice in Trial 3. IT students were placed in groups

in which national and international students were equally distributed across IT

This study set out to explore the effectiveness of team building strategies in
managing multidisciplinary teams in undergraduate digital media design
education. In the context of educating a T-shaped design graduate, the goal was
to enable students to approach the increasing complexity of interactive media
projects and the changing technological future in collaboration with others as
part of multidisciplinary teams. The team building strategies were developed to
help students concentrate on acquiring specialised knowledge and skills in new
areas and simultaneously apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills within
a multidisciplinary team context to a project. Teams need to be functional right
from the start and hence team building strategies can help placing students in
teams that work. The two developed and trialled team building strategies, which
included also supporting activities, were sensitive to the different stages and
characteristics of learners.

Although some students experienced challenges, the team building strategies

and supporting activities were generally successful in facilitating the makeup of
functional multidisciplinary teams. From the educators perspective, a
considerable time investment is required to prepare and implement these team
building strategies and supporting activities in order to manage
multidisciplinary teamwork effectively. However, time was saved in other ways,
for example, the chaos and confusion, which often accompanies
multidisciplinary teamwork in undergraduate education, was missing in all
trials, and only a few students needed particular assistance in sorting out
situations of perceived disadvantage or unfair treatment within the team.

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Although this case study describes strategies and activities developed according
to the particular characteristics of student cohorts at an Australian university,
there is certainly the opportunity to select one strategy or to mix and match
strategies and supporting activities for application in other educational
institutions. The characteristics of undergraduate students are common to many
design disciplines, therefore team building strategies and supporting activities
can be applied in other design areas.

Future research needs to explore perspectives of the other participating

disciplines in depth. Furthermore, in context of the growing trend to offer design
education online, it will certainly be necessary to explore the management of
multidisciplinary collaboration and the incorporation of team building strategies
in the online learning environment.

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(Eds.), ICOGRADA Design Education Manifesto (pp. 86-89). Tapei: International
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Appendix A
Student enrolment numbers, survey participant numbers and response rates from the
three-year trial.
Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3
Students Students Students
Other Discipline

Other Discipline

Other Discipline
Response Rate

Response Rate

Response Rate




Web Design
33 22 55 N/A 68 59 127 N/A 83 51 134 N/A
29 - - 88% 49 - - 72% 65 - - 78%
Interactive Design
35 18 53 N/A 20 32 52 N/A 25 23 48 N/A
18 - - 51% 19 - - 95% 20 - - 80%

Appendix B
Web Design: Question catalogue to establish suitability of a student to be placed in a
team that had strength in design, IT and organisation/management.

Teams need to work together during practical time. Which practical time can you
Either would work for me
As a member of a web project team, I would like my role to be in:
Web design IT

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Web design
Management and production of web projects
I am competent in
I am really keen to learn more about
Photoshop/Illustrator/Dreamweaver for web design
CSS/HTML/Dreamweaver for web development
PHP/MySQL for dynamic websites
Writing/researching/marketing and conceptual development of web projects
What is your work style?
I prefer working on assignments right from the beginning in order to avoid the
last minute stress when the assignment is due.
I need the pressure to build up. I often work on assignments during the last
couple of days/nights before they are due.

Appendix C
Areas to explore during Speed Dating and question examples from students.
Work style
Are you a morning, afternoon or night time worker?
Do you work continuously or in a last minute rush?
Are you a follower or an organiser?
Communication style
How quickly do you usually reply to emails?
Are you happy to collaborate online?
How often are you online?
What do you want to get out of this project?
Are you motivated and prepared put in 100%?
The designers want a particular function that you don't know how to code.
Would you give up or research the problem to come up with an answer?
What are you skills and with which software programs have you worked
Do you know how to use [software], or are you willing to learn its use?
What coding languages do you know?
How long have you been learning [programming language]?
What is your uni workload like?
Are you able to attend group meetings on Mondays 5 - 7pm?
Do you have a job outside uni?
Which weekdays are you currently available?
When suits you best for group work/meetings?
Are you available to work weekends?
Multidisciplinary teamwork experience
Have you worked with anyone in your IT group before?
How would you describe yourself as a team member?
Others such as personality, wit/humour
What do you think of the term "HTML is poetry"?
What do you eat for breakfast

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 41-61, October 2015

Comprehension Skill Differences between Proficient

and Less Proficient Reader in Word-to-Text Integration
Processes: Implications for Interventions for Students
with Reading Problem

Stephen Ntim (PhD; M.Phil. M.A; B.Ed.)

Faculty of Education
Catholic University of Ghana
P.O. BOX 363
Sunyani, Fiapre

Abstract. The findings of this paper suggest that successful reading of a

text especially word-to-text integration is not always contingent upon
word identification skills per se, but that skilled reading comprehension
is much more complex, requiring both the coordination and the
integration of other components of cognitive skills over and above single
word identification. Skilled reading as indicated from the findings of
this paper in the case of proficient readers compared to less proficient
readers is a highly complex capability in which various cognitive and
metacognitive processes are likely to be going on simultaneously in
parallel during reading which less proficient readers lack. In this
respect, to help facilitate learning situations that would optimally
enhance students reading skills at the basic level of education, teachers
understanding of the underlying cognitive processes in text
comprehension would be helpful. Consequently, the purpose of this
study is to highlight on the cognitive and metacognitive processes that
distinguish proficient readers from less proficient readers in word-to-
text integration in order to suggest educational intervention for teachers
to respond to students with reading problem.

Keywords: comprehension; text integration; proficient readers; less

proficient readers.


Reading deficiency is one of the major setbacks in Sub-Sahara Africa. Achieving

measurable outcome in literacy especially reading and numeracy has become
essential for contemporary economy that is gradually becoming knowledge-
based. This notwithstanding, monitoring report across the globe, especially
those of UNESCO indicates that access and the right to education have
overshadowed the attention to quality. It is in this respect that The Dakar
Framework for Action in 2000 emphasized quality as basic determinant of

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Education for All (EFA) thus committing nations to ensure primary education is
of good quality in respect of better cognitive and non- cognitive outcomes
(Ghartey, 2010).

Assessment of learning achievement report also show that nations south of the
Sahara are among those with less than half of children with minimum literacy
achievement. These findings have been corroborated by the 2015 UNESCO
Report that none of the countries in the region achieved all the goals set at the
beginning of the millennium. In Ghana, for example, as far back as 1994, the
Criterion-Referenced Testing (CRT) repeatedly showed that grade 6 pupils
performance in literacy skills was poor. Several studies in Ghana confirm that
this failure of Ghanaian pupils to learn English may be attributed to poor quality
of pedagogical methods (Kraft, 2003). Dzameshie (1997) sees teaching of English
in Ghanaian schools as more analytical and grammar-based.

Statement of Problem
As of July 2011, attempts have been made globally in fifty countries (50) to
implement Early Grade Reading Assessment and twenty-three (23) of them
are in Africa. The findings show general reading deficits in many primary
schools in Africa (Adea, 2012 Report). The 2013 National Education
Assessment report in Ghana show that in both English and Ghanaian
language, at least 50% or more performed
kel.php?ID=300691). The 2006 Chief Examiners Report for the West Africa
School Certificate Examination indicated that for English language, out of a
total of one hundred and twenty thousand, four hundred and eighty six
(120, 486) who sat for the external examination, only eight thousand, seven
hundred and thirty eight (8,738) constituting some 7.25% passed English
language. Thus, basic literacy skills are yet to reach the levels needed to
enhance these literacy skills. Other recent studies report that many children
in Ghanaian public basic schools have learning difficulties especially
dyslexia in the Greater Accra region of Ghana: seventy-five percent (75%) of
teachers and 80 % of head teachers who took part in a survey admitted
respectively of their pupils having problems with reading (Special attention
Project, December 2011).

Research Objectives
Two fundamental objectives precipitated this study. They are:
1) To investigate how text integration as higher cognitive process produces
cognitive structures that are the end desired result of reading.
2) To find out what constitutes the core cognitive/mental difference between
proficient and less proficient readers of expository text among Ghanaian

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Research Questions
Based on the above-named objectives, the following two research questions
guided this study:

1) How does text integration produce cognitive structures that are the desired
end of reading?
2) What constitutes the core cognitive difference between proficient and less
proficient readers of expository text among Ghanaian children?

Significance of the Study

The development of any nation is largely influenced by the number of citizens
who can read and write. It is estimated that in the UK for example, about 99%
can read and write. The same cannot be said of many countries in Africa. With
consistent reading deficit among many Ghanaian children especially in the less
endowed public basic schools compared to the private as backdrop, the findings
of this research paper will throw more light on the psychological dynamics of
reading comprehension and for that matter be of significance to basic school
teachers, as well as the Ghana Education Service. This paper would also be
beneficial to all education researchers and contribute to the existing literature in
childrens reading and comprehension.

Literature Review/Theoretical Framework

Word identification and comprehension processes
Research in reading comprehension suggests that successful reading of a text is
more complex. It begins from bottom-up processes and connected to top-down
processes. This implies that basic bottom-up process at the lexical level such as
word identification is assumed to be understood in conjunction with text
representation as: a) an output in the lexical system and b) as an input to the
comprehension processes. This link between word recognition and integrating
its meaning into a mental model of the text suggest two hypotheses in the
literature: 1) skilled readers do this better than less skilled readers (Huang, Y.T.,
Hopfinger, J., & Gordon, P.C 2014; Perfetti, Yang & Schmalhofer, 2008; Yang,
Perfetti & Schmalhofer, 2005, 2007) and 2) the learning of words is contingent on
ones information regarding the forms as well as the meanings one has acquired
in word-learning. Again in this respect, good readers are better able to do this
than less proficient readers (Bolger et al.,2008; Van Daalen-Kapteijns & Elshout-
Mohr, 1981).

Perfetti and Stafura (2013) in their proposed Reading Systems Framework place
lexical processes especially word identification as key. They postulate three
lexical processes that link outcome with comprehension on-line: a) word by
word reading, b) eye tracking, and c) event-related potential. All this implies
that the skill to comprehend text include the ability to comprehend words (Adlof

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& Perfetti, 2011). The role of lexical quality in skilled visual word recognition
with respect to individual differences has also been found to be typical with
meaning-making in reading with individuals who have such skills (Andrews,
2012). Investigating whether or not individual differences in written language
proficiency with university students has any prediction with early stages of
lexical retrieval, the findings of Andrews and Lo (2012) corroborated that of the
lexical quality hypothesis that suggests that variability among skilled readers is
contingent upon the level of specified orthographic representations.

Using the boundary paradigm approach for computational models of eye

tracking in reading to assess how individual differences implicate the extraction
of lexical information from the parafovea in the reading of sentence, the findings
of Veldre and Andrews (2015) suggested that those readers with accurate lexical
representations were better able to extract lexical information from any given
word prior to its being fixated- and this was more typical with proficient
readers. So, lexical quality is in fact related to the processes of bottom-up and
top-down, which contributes to both sentence processing, as well as discourse
comprehension (Hersch &Andrew, 2012). This inextricable link between text
comprehension and words comprehension implicates the need for word-to-text

Word-to-text integration
Van Dijk and Kintch (1983) postulate that wordto-text integration in motivated
readers involves mental representation of text situation. Readers ability to
identify textual situations and their interactions with the text promote
comprehension. Another key assumption regarding word-to-text integration is
that comprehension of texts proceeds along more than one input units. What this
in effect means is that humans have mental dictionaries or lexicons acquired
during language comprehension from the declarative knowledge (propositional
knowledge). Lexical access is in fact the result of decoding ones store of
declarative knowledge from multiple sources.

Thus the ability to recall information from more entries or inputs aids word-to-
text integration. This is because when one is able to relate a word to the phrase
of syntax, meaning of the reference is made to the syntax in the text. This is
facilitated more when one can recall many more meanings. Thus single
processing of words promotes text integration from multiple inputs necessary to
comprehend the situation described in a text. So text comprehension means that
readers are able to relate meaning of sentences on the basis of message that is
accumulated based on both previous text and previous knowledge in the Long
Term Memory (LTM). This memory-based position of comprehension
emphasizes the amalgamation of evaluated information from text. Indeed, all
the foundational theories of text comprehension from 1988-1999 such as the
construction integration model of Kintsch (1988), the landscape model (van den
Broek et al., , 1996) and the resonance model (Gerrig &McKoon, 1998)
consistently suggest that understanding of text is combination of text
information, individuals using prior knowledge in the Long Term Memeory

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(LTM) to make meaning relevant to their individual experiences and

situations(Verhoeven & Perffetti, 2008).

In a more recent research by Stafura et al (2015) in word-to-text integration, these

authors tested the influence of predictive and memory processes. Results
indicated the impact of memory processes across sentences. This suggests that
memory is crucial in word-to-text integration such that readers who have more
memory on what they are reading are more likely to make predictions and
meaning-making. Again this skill appears to be proficient with skilled readers
than it is with less skilled readers. In a related study by Karimi and Ferreira
(2015) in which they reviewed previous studies, they provided evidence for the
on-line cognitive equilibrium hypothesis as the basis for good representations
in linguistic processing. In other words, when good linguistic representation are
made, linguistic comprehension system continues to remain constant confirming
the hypothesis that good representation promotes word-to-text integration.

Less proficient readers and event related potential (ERP)

Consistent with the findings of most studies, the root cause of comprehension
difficulties can be attributed to three broad areas: a) from the lexical level of
identifying words, (Perfetti & Hart, 2001), b) the higher level of inference-
making (Long & Golding, 1993) as well as c) the processes of monitoring
comprehension (Baker, 1982; Garner, 1980). Within this general framework,
there is also the problem of semantic processing at the word level.

In a study by Yang et al (2005) on Event Related Potential (ERP), results showed

that text integration was aided by lexico-semantic variable and paraphrasing for
skilled readers. This was less so for less skilled readers. These results are in line
with the lexical quality hypothesis of Perfetti and Hart (2001) which makes the
submission that the key for understanding text has to do with the level of
readers background knowledge. This prior knowledge enhances the recalling of
relevant ideas as well as making relevant selection of word meanings. Whereas
proficient readers with sufficient quality of knowledge are able to use this event
related potential due to quality of knowledge, less proficient readers are likely to
show difficulties in integrating the meaning of words with subsequent context
(cf. Van Petten & Kutas, 1990; Federmeier & Kutas, 2001; cf, Yang et al 2005).
Other studies have also found the N400 to be related to and linked to integration
of text (van Berkum et al., , 2003; van Berkum et al., , , 2005). In addition to
contemporary computational studies that track the movement of the eye during
reading, suggesting that successful identification of words is contingent upon
saccade initiation, current research in neuroscience also postulates the
superiority of binocular relative to monocular presentation during word
identification. Thus, variations made in word fixations rather than monocular
presentation of word identification is more likely to facilitate ease of text
comprehension (Jainta et al., 2014). Besides, the results of other recent studies
using event related potential show that linguistic distinctions could be made
between lexical and discourse level processing and that each of this distinct
cognitive processes have distinct role to play in word-to- text integration

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(Huang et al 2014), concept generation and drawing logical conclusions in

language comprehension (Steinhauer et al. (2010).


The literature review above shows that text comprehension is a multiplicity of

various factors that includes the following: a) the ability of the reader to have
mental representation of text so that resources of the working memory,
especially attention could also be allocated for much higher mental processes, b)
comprehension proceeds along more than one input units such that the higher
the number of inputs units that one has in terms of knowledge of the subject, the
more likely one would be able to comprehend, c) referential meaning of word to
sematic representation: the more a reader is able to match meaning of each
sentence on the basis of prior knowledge, the more comprehension is facilitated.
All the above indicate that word-to-text integration is influenced by various
cognitive factors. These theoretical frameworks need to be tested empirically to
determine their instructional/pedagogical implications to help teachers to
enhance reading comprehension among less skilled readers and to promote the
reading skill of proficient readers.

Current study
This current study examined those cognitive factors such as lexical access in
which meanings of words are identified based on mental dictionaries or lexicons
which humans acquire during language comprehension from the declarative
(propositional knowledge). The major hypothesis that this paper investigated is
that comprehension in the sense of word-to-text understanding is a function of
ones declarative knowledge. This means that the quality of knowledge
possessed by a reader including prior knowledge is more likely to allow context-
appropriate retrieval as well as making relevant selection of words meanings.
Two main research questions guided this study: a) How does text integration
produce cognitive structures that are the desired end of reading? ; b) What
constitutes the core cognitive difference between skilled and less skilled reader
of expository text among Ghanaian children?

Research Methodology
This study used the experimental research design with a purposive sampling
size of two hundred and forty (240) Junior High School pupils between the ages
of 14-16 year olds from eight (8) selected Junior High Schools in four (4)
administrative districts in Ghana: Kumasi Metropolis, Offinso Municipality,
Sunyani Municipality and Brekum Municipality. Two (2) schools were randomly
selected from each Municipality. Thirty (30) students were chosen from each
school. Out of these thirty students purposively selected from each school to
participate in this study half (15) were assumed to be proficient readers and the

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other half (15) were considered less proficient readers. Four of the selected
schools were private while the other four were public basic schools. In a data not
tabled here an estimated 60% of the sample was male and the rest were females.
These students came from different socio-economic parental background:
children of professionals (doctors, lawyers), children from teachers, children
from traders as well as children from farmers.

Materials and Design

In all, three (3) experiments were tested in this study. The first experiment was a
pre-test of students on reading achievement specifically administered to test the
over-all reading ability between the two groups through a proficiency test. Later
an adapted version of Reading Mastery Test of Woodcock (WRMTR;
Woodcock, 1987), the Gray Oral Reading Test3 (GORT3; Wiederholt &
Bryant, 1992) also tested other high level comprehension other than word
identification. In Experiment 2 and 3, the researcher sought answers to the first
and second research questions, namely: how does text integration produce
cognitive structures that are the desired end of reading and what constitutes the
core cognitive difference between proficient and less proficient skilled readers in
text comprehension among Ghanaian children?

Experiment 1
This first experiment was pretesting phase to test the ability of these two groups
specifically on how proficient they were on reading comprehension. The
purpose was to find out whether or not those sampled as proficient readers and
less proficient readers from each of these districts in fact have any statistical
difference between them in terms of reading comprehension.



Two hundred and forty (240) voluntary third year Junior High School from four
selected administrative districts (96 girls and 144 boys) were selected. One
hundred and twenty (120) were perceived to be proficient readers and the
other 120 considered less proficient readers) were purposively selected from
eight (8) Junior High Schools (JHS) in Ghana. All participants were between the
ages of 11 and 15 and the sample consisted of eighty (80) children from working
parents, sixty (60) from professional parents and one hundred children (100)
from farming parents.

Two tests on reading achievement were administered to test to the over-all
reading ability of the two groups- proficient and less proficient readers using
Proficiency Test and the subtest of Woodcock Reading mastery Tests-
Revised(WRMTR; Woodcock,1987), the comprehension component of the Gray
Oral Reading Test3 (GORT3; Wiederholt & Bryant, 1992). The language

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proficiency test comprised some one hundred (100) multiple choice items
covering many grammatical points.


Table 1: t-test on readers proficiency test in Experiment 1 on reaction time

Readers Mean Standard t-value p-value
(N=240) deviation

Score for proficient Less Proficient 51.60 6.364 -21.271 0.000

and less proficient Readers
readers on
Proficiency Test Proficient 86.02 9.410

Table 1 shows that proficient readers performed better on the proficiency test
than the non-proficient. From the table, the proficient readers had a mean score
of 86.02 with standard deviation of 9.410, while the less proficient readers had a
mean score of 51.60 with standard deviation of 6.364. Their standard deviations
however indicate that the scores of the skilled readers were more dispersed than
that of the non-skilled readers. To find out if their mean scores were statistically
significant, an independent samples t-test was run at an alpha level of 0.05 and
the results as in table one show that they were significantly different [t=-21.271,

The results of this pre-test on proficiency and reaction time, suggest significant
differences in performance between the two groups of readers: less proficient
M=51.60 (SD=6.364) and proficient 86.02 (SD=9.410). The source of the
differences was that proficient readers were found to be more than two times
faster at lower order processes than less proficient readers supporting the
hypothesis that word decoding, accurate and fast retrieval of lower order
processes of phonology is critical in reading comprehension. Lower mental
process within the readers mental representation which may include
orthography, phonology appears to implicate readers processing speed. The
faster they are processed, the quicker readers pay attention to higher processes
of meaning-making in text comprehension (Stanovich, 2000). Thus, automaticity
at lower order level can either facilitate parallel processing or serial processing
helping readers to acquire new information either with ease or with some
difficulty (National Reading Panel, 2000; Perfetti, 1998; Samuels & Flor, 1997;
Spear-Swerling & Sternberg, 1994). As indicated in this pre-test data, proficient
readers unlike less proficient readers appear to have acquired highly
automatized skills in lower level processes and because of this automaticity,
these skilled readers had enough sufficient cognitive resources allocated for
higher mental processes such as inference-making and word-to-text integration
as indicated in tables 3, 4 and 5 below.

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This finding also suggests a probable link between those studies relating
working memory capacity and performance load (e.g., Engle & Kane, 2004) thus
corroborating Engle (2002) position that High Working Memory Capacity
(HWMC) and Low Working Memory Capacity (LWMC) persons do not differ in
the amount of attention resources (i.e., WMC) they have per se, but differ in
terms of how well they can efficiently allocate these resources, especially in
times of interference or when demands on WMC are high. This also supports
recent neuropsychological studies on the correlation between Working Memory
Capacity (WMC) and attention with specific reference to processing speed of
children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder. Children with this
disorder typically are slow in a variety of performance (Chhabildas et al, 2001;
Hinshaw, 2002; Rucklidge & Tannock, 2002; Willcutt et al , 2005; Wodka,
Mahone, et al., 2007; Jacobson et al (2011 ). Again, the data in this first
experiment give weight to the findings of Huang (2014) with respect to
binocular advantages in reading through parallel processing as opposed to serial
processing in reading.

Experiment 2
This second experiment sought to find out how word-to-text integration
produce cognitive structures that are the desired end of reading.


The same two hundred and forty (240) participants used in the first experiment
were also used for this second experiment.

Materials and procedure

Ninety multiple choice questions adapted from the Gates-MacGinitie reading
test (GMRT) grade level 7-9 was used as the instrument to test how word-to-text
integration, specifically the ability of readers to identify textual situations and
their interactions with the text to promote comprehension. Questions were
categorized along the following variables of different levels of difficulty:
verbatim, transform verbatim, paraphrase, transform paraphrase. Readers were
requested to weigh the degree of overlap between question and target answer
and the passage along these four tasks mentioned above. For example in
verbatim, these were questions directly found in the text; transformed verbatim:
these were questions similar to what is asked in the text except that different
words with the same meaning were used; paraphrase: questions in which
correct answers were not used but were paraphrased; transformed paraphrase:
these were questions that required making multiple sentence meanings to be
able to answer.

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Table 2: Different levels of item difficulty

Readers Mean Std. t-value p-value
Verbatim Less proficient 45.17 4.473
readers -32.812 0.000

Proficient readers 73.20 4.877

Transform Less proficient 35.53 5.540 -31.764 0.000
verbatim readers

Proficient readers
64.93 4.551
Paraphrase Less proficient 31.22 6.471 -31.131 0.000

Proficient readers 59.47 2.746

transform Less proficient 26.65 5.781 -39.028 0.000

paraphrase readers

Proficient readers 58.53 2.574

Readers scores on different levels of difficulty as means to measure word-to-text

integration were tested along five variables: verbatim, transform verbatim,
paraphrase and transform paraphrase. On all the four tested variables, proficient
readers outperformed the less proficient. Independent samples t-tests at 0.05
significant levels also indicated statistically significant differences in the mean
scores of the two groups on all the four variables. For example, on the variable
transformed paraphrase, the non-skilled readers had a mean score of 26.65 with
standard deviation of 5.781, while the skilled readers had a mean of 58.53 with
standard deviation of 2.574. The standard deviation of the two groups indicates
that the scores of proficient readers were more spread than that of the less
proficient readers. The comparison of these means with the t-test gave a t-value
of 39.028, p-value of 0.000 indicating a significant difference in these mean

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The scores of the two groups tested along the four variables suggest consistency
with other research findings: speed impairment. Proficient readers appear to
have a tendency to recall information on phonology much faster and with a
higher level of automaticity more than less proficient readers. This corroborates
the findings of other research studies such as Booth et al , (2000) as well as
Booth, et al. (1999). This implies that effective reading of word-to-text integration
is heavily contingent upon ones ability to decode and to make the needed
linguistic input on one hand and on the basis of this, accessing requisite
phonological information on the other. This finding suggests among other things
individual differences that both proficient readers and less proficient readers
bring to reading comprehension such as spillover, executive control as well as
phonological rehearsals. For example, the fact that difference between the two
groups tended to be wider, the more the level of difficulty, suggests the
influence of additional load during reading. Neurological differences such as the
brain may not be discounted in this respect. Lower capacity readers seem to
have tendency to recruit more cortical resources from right hemisphere areas of
the brain. This additional activation is an identified mechanism known to induce
additional cortical resources in lower capacity readers unlike skilled readers
who tend generally to automatize lower mental processes (Pratt & Just, 2008;
Augusto et al 2009). Besides these neurological differences, proficient readers
appear to have better higher cognitive comprehension processes because they
seem to be able to manipulate information abstractly more than the less
proficient readers as indicated in Table 2 corroborating the submission of
Hawelka et al (2015), Mason and Just (2006) and Kintsch (1998) that fast readers
unlike slow readers are better able to generate forward inferences, as opposed to
speed-impaired readers.

Experiment 3
This third experiment examined what constitutes the core cognitive difference
between proficient and less proficient readers in text comprehension.

The same sample used in the first and second experiments was also used for this
third experiment.
Materials and procedure
Ninety questions adapted from the Gates-MacGinitie reading test (GMRT) were
used as the instrument to test the following three comprehension variables: text
inference, text bridging and text integration.

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Table 3: t-test on readers scores on inference

Readers Mean Standard t-value p-

deviation value
Score for Less Proficient 34.00 8.030 43.119 0.000
proficient and Readers
less proficient
readers on
Inference 84.00 4.025

Table 4: t-test on readers scores on bridging

Readers Mean Standard t-value p-

deviation value
Score for Less Proficient 51.48 5.528 -26.119 0.000
proficient and Readers
less proficient
readers on
bridging Readers 80.92 6.756

Table 5: t-test on readers scores on text integration

Readers Mean Standard t-value p-

deviation value
Score for proficient Less 51.47 5.420 -18.137 0.000
and less proficient Proficient
readers on Text Readers
Readers 85.97 13.701

In all three variables tested in this third experiment in Tables 3, 4 and 5 results
show that proficient readers performed significantly better than the less
proficient readers. From Table 3 for example on inference-making, proficient
readers scored a mean of 84.00 with a standard deviation of 4.025, while less
proficient readers had a mean score of 34.00 and a standard deviation of 8.030.
These standard deviations indicate that the scores of the proficient readers were
more dispersed compared to the less proficient readers. To test the statistical
significance in the mean scores of the two groups, an independent samples t-
tests were run at an alpha level of 0.05 and as can be seen from the three tables (

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Table 3, 4, and 5) the results indicate significant difference [t= -43.119,p=0.00 t= -

26.119,p=0.00 and t= -18.137,p=0.00] respectively. These significant differences in
the mean score in all the variables were interpreted to mean that there must be
some core cognitive/mental differences between skilled and less skilled readers
which are both strategic and neurological.


The above results suggest that skilled comprehenders compared with less skilled
readers performed poorly on inference-making, bridging as well as word-to-text
integration. These difficulties appear to result from impairments in higher
cognitive skills. Indeed research work on comprehension from the point of view
of mental models framework such as Oakhill (1996, 1984), Cain & Oakhill (1999;
Cain et al, 2001), make the submission that most poor comprehenders of text
have the tendency to construct incomplete representation of text. Precisely
because of this, often they may be likely to be able to coordinate information
locally, but are unable to do so at coherent integrated level. This finding
corroborates this assertion. Less proficient readers on the inference test failed to
generate correct inferences because unlike proficient readers, they used different
criteria for textual cohesion and either did not pay attention to or were unaware
that inference was necessary. This inability to generate such inferences might
have resulted in the poor performance as indicated in Table 3 above.

Retrieval error was more typical with less proficient readers. They were four
times more to make wrong retrieval than it was with proficient readers. This
affected their inference-making ability both on coherent as well as elaborative
inference. For a reader to make constructive meaning of text on what is not
stated explicitly, he/she needs to combine textual information with background
and be able to generate inferences. In this respect, less proficient readers lacked
the skill to remember information and made incorrect inferences for most of the
time. This confirms the study by Baretta et al (2009) in respect of differential
processing of text types by the brain.

Regarding word-to-text integration, again the differences between the two

groups are statistically significant: the mean scores of 51.47 (SD=5.420) of less
proficient readers compared to 85.97 (SD=13.701) of the proficient indicate vast
individual differences between the two groups on this test measure. The high
ability performance of the skilled readers reflects their ability to retrieve the
meaning of words and interpret the meaning in relation to message context
sensitivity. This divergence and the dispersed results of skilled readers suggest
implication of individual differences on processes involved in retrieving as well
as integrating word meaning to text integration. This corroborates Perfetti and
Stafura (2013) and other research evidence that proficient readers more than less-
proficient readers tend to apply meaning of words to help them integrate text.

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General Discussion

This research identified two key questions in which comprehension difficulties

might arise for most Ghanaian basic school students/pupils, namely, how word-
to-text integration can lead to good comprehension and secondly, what
constitutes the core cognitive differences between proficient and less proficient
readers. Results of the three experiments are consistent with other research work
on comprehension especially from the interactive models of reading that provide
individual variation framework. In all the three variables tested on the two
groups on inference-making, bridging and word-to text integration, scores show
huge differences between proficient and less proficient readers in the following
three areas: a) differences in requisite general knowledge (without neurological
disorder), b) differences in memory recall, c) differences in linguistic ability.

a) Differences in requisite general knowledge

As seen from the results on inference-making in Table 3, with a mean score
of 84.00 (SD= 4.025) and 34.00 (SD=8.034), the cause of poor performance on
inference was not unrelated to poor readers inability to coordinate and
integrate information at both the local level (lexical access) as well as other
higher cognitive skills. This finding supports the idea that reading
comprehension is much more complex, requiring both the coordination and
the integration of other components of cognitive skills over and above single
word identification (Ntim (in press), Bruce, Shawn, Glynn, & Jeffrey, (1985).
These difficulties in poor inference-making in the case of less proficient
readers arise from impairments in higher cognitive skill corroborating the
work of Oakhill (1996, 1984), Cain & Oakhill (1999), who make the
submission that most poor comprehenders of text have the tendency to
construct incomplete representation of text.

b) Retrieval error
Retrieval error was more typical with less proficient readers. They made
more error in recall of information and this affected their performance in all
three variables giving support for the principle of cue-overload in which recall
fails to make distinctions between competition and in so doing give cause to
interference. This is consistent with Van Dyke and McElree (2006), Van Dyke
and Lewis (2003) and Gordon et al. (2004) that individual memory system
that subserves language comprehension operates in the same way as
memory in other domains. In short in language comprehension, human
memory structures tend to limit language comprehension processes
corroborating the findings of Ntim (in press) and Van Dyke and Johns (2012).

c) Vocabulary skills
Another major finding from this study has to do with the correlation
between adequate word reading and vocabulary skills groups. Proficient
readers unlike the less proficient demonstrated a high level of adequate
vocabulary skills which critically influenced automaticity for efficient

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reading. Skilled readers possessed more vocabulary in their mental lexicon

and therefore spent less time in lexical access unlike less skilled. This means
that attention and mind wandering controls continue to mediate Working
Memorys Capacitys (WMCs) relation to reading comprehension. It is
important to pay attention to attention-deficit and lexical access. Poor
readers due to poor vocabulary tend to spend more time on lexical access,
whereas good readers, because they possessed large amount of vocabulary
had little problem with automaticity and could concentrate on higher
cognitive strategies.

Implications for interventions

Becoming a successful reader is a process that is not fully understood even by
many teachers since reading comprehension involves many cognitive and
metacognitive psychological processes. Based on the above findings, the
following instructional strategies are suggested to improve reading

a) The use of incremental rehearsal technique

Individual differences with respect to students general knowledge are vital.
The findings of this paper corroborate other research work that the more
students have requisite knowledge on a subject, the more likely they are able
to comprehend what is being read. This means that, children with limited
knowledge of any given topic are more likely compared to those with
adequate subject matter knowledge to have difficulty. When less proficient
readers manifest difficulty understanding text, classroom intervention such
as direct instruction on comprehension needs to be given. Indeed, when
students are not comprehending the text they read, it is very likely they lack
meanings of words or the concept as well as inability of understanding
factual information and hence not able to make inferences and coherent
relationships of text message. In short, less proficient readers lack the ability
of intertextuality. This deficit can be redeemed through pedagogical
intervention such as the rehearsal technique (Tucker, 1988). In this technique,
students are made to practise the reading of words that are not familiar so
that background knowledge of words can be built. They are given enough
time to practice this process where they are presented with about 10%
unfamiliar words and 90% familiar words simultaneously. Errors are made
known to them.

b) Using Semantic Webs

Using semantic webs to enhance instruction for students with reading
difficulty is to explain a concept or a word to students. In a form of a web,
the key concept is put at the centre and the main characteristics as well as
definition placed around underlined words or concepts. Students are guided
by the teacher through the use of the main characteristics of words or

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concepts by asking provoking questions from students. These sematic webs

could serve the purpose of pre-instructional tool to introduce concepts and
words before and/or after the reading of text to assess whether or not
students have understood key concepts and words (Zutell, 1998).

c) Using Questioning and paraphrasing of text.

This technique has to do with the art of using questions after reading any
given text. The use of this pedagogical technique consistently show that
students are more likely to have better comprehension of text both on factual
as well as on inferential grounds (Beck et al. , 1996). Paraphrasing has to do
with helping students to acquire the skill of rephrasing or restating what
they have read. These two techniques are found to be effective useful
instructional tool to assist students with reading problems (Morrow, 1985;
Simmons et al., 1995).

d) Reducing Memory Load

Consistent with the findings of recent studies attention is largely implicated

by Working Memory (WM) in the sense that the former controls the time a
person needs to be able to keep information in WM. When attention is not
focused learning is most likely to be undermined. Similarly if student is not
focused and is distracted in attention, precisely because information is
interfered with, the requisite information needed to be recalled from the
Long Term Memory (LTM) is affected adversely. This means that the ability
that one has in controlling ones attention is directly correlated to ones
academic achievement especially the recall of relevant information from a
text. The implication is that precisely because the architecture of the human
cognitive system is limited, the teacher needs to reduce memory load
through the following strategies: i) breaking learning tasks into smaller units
as much as possible without detailed information at a time; ii) reducing the
amount of work students are made to complete, iii) keeping new input or
information as brief as possible and straight to the point and when needed
to frequently repeat in precise form to increase the easiness of depth
encoding, iv) to reduce amount of mental processing by giving more
learning guidance or clues and if need be writing key words on the board.
This would help the student from having to hold all of the information
concurrently in mind simultaneously, v) the need to provide more examples
and non-examples to increase students understanding of material.

Research in reading comprehension suggests that successful reading of a text is
not always contingent upon word identification skills. Indeed, it is not always
the case that individuals who are good readers are necessarily good passage
comprehenders. This supports the idea that reading comprehension is much
more complex. It requires the ability to coordinate lower lexical processes as
well as and the integration of other higher components of cognitive skills over

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and above single word identification. Skilled reading as indicated from the
findings of this paper is consistent with other studies that suggest that reading
especially word-to-text integration is considered a highly complex capability in
which various cognitive processes are likely to be going on in parallel during
reading. In this respect, to be able to enhance classroom learning environments
that can maximize students learning, especially students with reading problems,
teachers understanding of the underlying psychological/cognitive processes
that underlie text comprehension will be helpful. It is within this context that the
purpose of this study is to report on the cognitive and metacognitive processes
that distinguish proficient readers from less proficient readers and to suggest the
needed educational intervention to help students with reading difficulty.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 62-78, October 2015

Learning, Unlearning and Relearning with

Cutting Edge Technologies

Minakshi Lahiri and James L. Moseley

Wayne State University

Abstract. Tim Berners Lee (1998), the inventor of World Wide Web said,
The concept of the Web is of universal readership"... "The dream behind the
Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing
information. As consumers of the World Wide Web - an open, free, non-
proprietary product, we cannot ignore the immense value and impact of
the global system that Lee had created. Very few people in the world
today can imagine a life without accessing the web for information or
communication purposes. Several organizations heavily rely on the use
of the Web and the Internet for their existence. This professional
knowledge and skill discussion has changed contexts and circumstances
under which organizations and businesses function in the era of media
and web based technologies. It advocates innovation, creativity, and
collaboration as a community - as the mantra for a successful enterprise.
The discussion takes a closer look at some traditional media giants;
some new successful web based media that have emerged during the
past decade, by disrupting the foundations of the traditional media; and
lastly, some very new, recent and fresh innovations in the media world
for the Workforce Learning Professional (WLP). The discussion ends by
addressing the various ways in which the potential of the Web enabled
"Universal University" and the emerging social media can be used by
organizations to achieve a shared purpose and add value to the global

Keywords. Media, Technology, Organizational Performance, Training,

New Media

The Evolution of the World Wide Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.

We are living in a technology driven world. With the increasing use of the
World Wide Web, Web 2.0 and, recently, the Web 3.0 in the workplace,
organization work culture has undergone a major cultural shift during the last
two decades. Availability and access to affordable and fast broadband Internet
from workplace, home, or on the move (airports, on the flight, hospitals, malls,
etc.) have opened up new opportunities to work, interact, socialize, cooperate,
collaborate and communicate. Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 have changed the way in
which the users interact with the World Wide Web. Unlike Web 1.0, users now,

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are not only passive consumers or receivers of the information on the web, but
they also are active participants in the creation of media and content. Web 2.0
enables practice of sociocracy in organizations where employees and
participants participate in decision making by consent (Marks, 2010) and help
to accelerate business performance.

Innovation is another buzzword in our technology driven era. Koetzier and Alon
(2010) have encouraged organizations to embrace and internalize innovations
within their regular business processes. According to them, Organizations need
to regard innovation as a business disciplinemanage and execute it as an end
to end process moving from inside development to idea generation
tomarketplace launch. With increasing dominance of Web 2.0, Web 3.0 and
cloud computing, traditional businesses and organizations are compelled to
think about innovative ways to compete and survive. Cloud technology offers
attractive alternatives to data storage and retrieval for many organizations with
benefits such as cost savings and flexibility among many others (Lahiri &
Moseley, 2013). It is predicted that proactive organizations that are embracing
this paradigm shift, opening up to external global communities and
Crowdsourcing platforms to accelerate business and open innovation attempts,
will emerge successfully and outperform competitors who are still tied up with
developing digital assets via traditional procedures (Bonner, 2011).
Organizations need to encourage innovation, creative ideas, collaboration,
interest and continued learning and provide opportunities to their employees to
interact with technology and communicate with technology professionals in
order to keep up with the changing trends and operations. Innovations in
business processes help organizations gain competitive advantage, and
strengthen market positioning. In the current economic and dynamic
technological scenario, innovation in business is critical for success and survival
(Toker and Moseley, 2012).

Toker and Moseley (2012) also suggest tools like the Cultural Readiness Scale
(CuReS) and "Measuring Innovation and Adoption for Web 3.0" (Toker and
Moseley, 2013), that can provide helpful insight to decision makers in
organizations, assist in assessing the needs, monitoring and evaluating the
desired cultural characteristics, or cultural change of a workplace before
initiating or after implementing an organization wide Web 2.0 or Web 3.0
project. Hall and London (2012) have explained how the evolving Web based
technologies facilitate user driven learning and help in increasing productivity
for work teams and businesses by merging work and learning. Since more and
more workplace training and learning are shifting to a web based, anytime
anywhere model, and also with the evolution of the web based media and
functions, Hall and London (2012) predict a shift in organizational learning and
changing roles of HR professionals in any organization.

The Web and the Media Revolution

Technology and technological innovations have resulted in establishment and
fresh start ups of several media enterprises that can be used to enhance

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communication and interaction within the organization, create connections

between different stakeholders, encourage collaborative work, accelerate
business processes, increase productivity and provide effective platforms for
management of information. The existing media, which traditionally dominated
the world, had been struck deep at the heart by the emergence and increased
popularity of newer media enterprises during the last decade. Innovations like
Amazon, flickr, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and such, have, in just over
a decade, outperformed the popularity and consumer base of the then
prestigious and ruling traditional "transmission" media (we will call them "old"
or "traditional" media) like The New York Times, Readers Digest, Yellow Pages,
Kodak and Penguin Group publications to mention a few. The newer media that
emerged during the last decade have rapidly established themselves as the
worlds most important and valuable businesses in the world today, and the
mantra that evolves from each of their success stories: adapt, innovate and
deliver or disappear and die.

During the past few years, with the emergence of cloud computing technologies
and Web 3.0, and increased opportunities of innovation and creative thinking,
there has been a surge of new media on the Web; we will refer to these as the
new new media. In these, we will include creative and fresh start ups, like
Pinterest, Spottify, Hootsuite, Wattpad, Yammer to mention a few. Each of these
new media address the needs of the global consumer market and reflect the
present technological, collaborative and social context in which the
organizations have to perform and deliver in order to exist and be successful.

The graphic represented in Figure 1 depicts the different media categories as the
web has evolved.


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Old Media, New Media and New New Media

The Tables below provide a brief peek into the different categories of Web based
media enterprises that we have identified in the article. Table 1 lists the
traditional or the old media, Table 2 lists the New Media and Table 3 lists the
fresh startups or the new new media that were founded on fresh and creative
ideas. The websites of each of the media are listed to assist the interested reader
in further research.

Traditional or Old Media

During the last decade, the traditional media businesses have been hit hard.
Newspaper publishers, book publishers, music companies and television
networks are all struggling and trying to figure out a strategy to survive and
hold on to market-share. The traditional process of doing business is not as
guaranteed and these businesses have not been able to find new strategies that
would be profitable in our digital era of communication. Many traditional media
now have digital versions to which customers can subscribe. Experts hold the
view that the traditional media need to innovate ways to stay in business, and
incorporate strategies like engaging the audience and general readers in
conversation, delivering real time news accessible from mobile devices, forming
overseas alliances, permitting clients to customize their preferences, following
readers needs and delivering information that is relevant to the customer, and
as a necessity, forming collaborations and mergers by embracing the competing
company in order to survive as a species in the digital world (Smith, 2005;
Feldman, 2012).

Table 1. Traditional or Old Media

Name Brief description

The New York Times is a daily newspaper in the USA

that was founded and published in New York City
since 1851. The New York Times has a strong web
presence and can also be accessed from certain mobile
devices, like iPhones, iPods and iPads as well as
Android devices.

Henry Jarvis Raymond

George Jones
Website: www.nytimes.com

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Readers Digest is a general interest family magazine

that was founded in 1922. It has a large global
circulation base. It is also published in Braille, digital,
audio and a large print format.

Founder: DeWitt and Lila Bell Wallace

Website: www.rd.com

Yellow pages is a telephone directory of businesses,

organized by category. These were initially printed on
paper; now online directories of businesses are
referred to as Internet yellow pages. The first yellow
page was printed in 1886. Yellow pages are usually
published annually, and distributed free of charge to
all residences and businesses within a given area.

Kodak is an American multinational imaging and

photographic equipment, materials and services
company that was founded in 1889. It is best known
for photographic film products.

Founder: George Eastman

The Penguin Group is the one of the largest

publishing companies in the world. It was founded in
1935 (Penguin Books Ltd.) and is owned by Pearson
PLC, the global media company who also owns the
worlds largest educational publishing Pearson.

Founder George Palmer Putnam & John Wiley

Website www.penguin.com

New Media
The new media refers to the on- demand access to digital content anytime
anywhere with a two way communication channel, interactive user feedback,
and solid participation in building a community of participants. The new media,
most of which are cloud based web applications, provide flexibility and ease of

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access to the user, as well as giving the customers and users a platform to share
feedback and personalize their experiences. The customers and users of the new
media as participants have a sense of ownership towards the media and are
actively engaged in contributing to its growth and success. The new media also
affords its users opportunities for social networking and informal learning.

Table 2. New Media

Name Description

Amazon is an American multinational

e-commerce company headquartered in Seattle,
Washington. It is the world's largest online
retailer. Amazon also produces consumer
electronics and also is one of the major cloud
service provider. The company was founded in

Founder: Jeff Bezos

Website: Amazon.com

Flickr is an image and video hosting

application, and an online community that was
created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by
Yahoo in 2005. It is widely used by users to
share and embed personal photographs. Flickr
has apps for iOS, Android and Windows OS
and hence can be accessed from mobile devices.

Founder : Ludicorp (now owned by

Yahoo Inc.)

Website: flickr.com

Twitter is a social networking and

micro-blogging service which enables users to
send and receive e- messages that are called
tweets. It was launched in July 2006 and it is
based in San Francisco. Users can access
Twitter from mobile devices.

Founder: Jack Dorsey Noah Glass,

Evan Williams, Biz Stone

Website: Twitter.com

LinkedIn is a professional social

networking website. It was founded in
December 2002 and then launched in May 2003.
It is headquartered in Mountain View,

Founder: Reid Hoffman

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Website: www.linkedin.com

Facebook is a popular social

networking service that is operated by
Facebook Inc. It was launched in 2004.

Founder: Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo

Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris

Website: facebook.com

Google is an American multinational

corporation which provides Internet related
products and services including Internet
search, cloud computing, software, e-shopping,
etc. It was founded in 1996 and the company is
based in California.

Founder: Larry Page and Sergery Brin

Website: google.com

Skype is a VOIP (voice over Internet

Protocol) software application created in 2003
and now acquired by Microsoft in 2011. Users
Skype to communicate with peers via audio,
video, instant messaging over the Internet.
Skype can also be accessed from various mobile

Founder: Janus Friis and Niklas


Website: Skype.com

New new media

In the new new media we have included the very recent, fresh media start-up
innovations that encourage all consumers to become producers of content on the
web. The new new media have a global user base, and similar to the new media
are interactive, easy to use and learn and accessible anytime-anywhere. The new
new media also provide opportunities for informal learning. Users feel
empowered with the new new media which result in its rapidly increasing user
base and popularity.

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Table 3. New new media

Names Description

Pinterest is a pinboard style social

networking service. It is a platform of
inspiration and idea sharing. It was
launched in 2012. It can be accessed from
various mobile devices.

Founders: Paul Sciarra, Evan

Sharp and Ben Silbermann

Website: Pinterest.com

Spotify is a music streaming

service. The company was started in 2006,
at Stockholm, Sweden. Now the parent
company Spotify Ltd is in London.
Spotify services can be accessed from
various mobile devices.

Founder: Daniel Ek

Website: Spotify.com

HootSuite is a social media

management system to effectively
manage a multiple number of social
media networks. It was first launched in
2008, and is based at Vancouver, Canada.

Founder: Ryan Holmes, Dario

Meli and David Tedman

Website: hootsuite.com

Wattpad is a repository for user

uploaded electronic texts. Wattpad
content includes science fiction, poetry,
stories and other kinds of creative
writings by undiscovered and
unpublished writers from all over the
globe which they can share and connect
with readers from all over the world. It
originated in 2006, and can be accessed
from mobile devices.

Founder: Allen Lau

Website: wattpad.com

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Yammer is a freemium (a business

model in which a product or service in its
very basic form is provided free of charge
and a premium fee is charged for
additional or advanced functionality)
social network that is intended to enhance
enterprise collaboration. Yammer is used
for communication within organizations
and groups. The company was launched
in 2008 and was sold to Microsoft in 2012,
and is headquartered in California.

Founder: David Sacks, Adam


Website: yammer.com

Tumblr is a social network

application and allows microblogging.
Users can create blogs and follow blogs of
other users; users can also create private
blogs that are shared within a
community. Tumblr was acquired by
Yahoo! Inc. in 2013.

Founder: David Karp

Website: tumblr.com

Instagram is a popular social

media for photo and video sharing. Users
are able to take pictures and videos and
create collages, and share with their
community over other social media like
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Flickr.

Instagram was launched in 2010,

as a mobile application, and was bought
by Facebook in April 2012.

Founder: Kevin Systrom and Mike


Website: Instagram.com

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New Media, Web 3.0 and Social Organizations

According to experts, research data suggest that Web 3.0 and the emerging
technology are going to transform the way organizations work within the next
decade, and businesses and organizations should start restructuring their
business or service models to take advantage of the immense potential of Web
3.0. Web 3.0 offers businesses and organizations unprecedented capabilities to
connect and communicate with customers and users. The semantic web enables
complex and sophisticated searches, as well as a network of web connected
devices and artificial intelligence technology. As a result, customers and users
receive personalized browsing opportunities currently experienced in YouTube
and Amazon which business organizations can use for product development,
improving performance in sales and marketing, expanding customer base and
several other business operations. (Goodwin, 2011).

Recent research on corporate leadership has indicated that the organizational

leaders are realizing the potential of social media in businesses, and are
encouraging use of social technologies to engage with customers, suppliers, and
even with their own employees within the various departments to be more
adaptive and agile. Many organizations are providing a Facebook page for their
customers that enable them to praise, send feedback on products, and suggest
ideas, post complaints, and make requests for new products through a forum
that is open to the entire world. The social media is being used as a "Universal
University", a communication channel that allows everyone to learn from each
other through comments, feedback, and debates (Williams & Scott, 2012).

Edwards and Amos (2011) claim that well managed customer feedback
experience and recommendations on social media forums like Facebook, Twitter,
Yelp, etc. can be utilized to improve service quality and operational
performance, increase traffic and create a contented and happy customer base
which in turn might result in increasing the customer numbers by transforming
their friends into new customers. This has led to the emergence of a new
industry called Customer Experience Management or CEM which provides
customer feedback to the organizations through social CEM. Information is
gleaned from customer surveys conducted online and the respondents are
linked to the organization's social network through a link in the survey. Many
businesses are already gathering the responses from customers via online
surveys on social media by providing incentives like coupons or generous
discounts for next purchases. This process helps organizations expand customer
base, engage in a real time customer relationship process and also work through
a timely "customer rescue" process to help solve problems of a "not so satisfied"
customer and mend relationships and finally provide feedback on problems for
the organization's operations department to solve.

Bradley and McDonald (2011) emphasize that those organizations that wish to
be successful during the present era need to exploit the power of social
technology - which lies in its ability to build communities, foster new ways of
collaboration and utilize the collective efforts to add value to society and achieve
a purpose. The significant ways in which this social era has impacted businesses

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can be realized if we think about the current successful business models like the
freemium model ("freemium" combines two aspects within a model: free and
premium- the model makes a product or service available free of charge for basic
features and a premium fee is charged for customers subscribing to advanced
features and functionalities); and crowdsourcing model (a business model that
combines services, contributor to ideas or content from a large group of people,
where, not all are employees of a same company but from an online community
or pool of volunteers), online communities, social networks and so on.
Businesses and organizations today need to observe, listen to and react to the
community concerns, as well as adapt, deliver and support community values.
Shared vision and purpose make all stakeholders work collaboratively as a team
and co-create a successful "Social Organization". The new media can be
employed to build a social organization.

Recent research has indicated that social media technologies have the potential
to become one of the most powerful tools to improve performance and
effectiveness of high skill knowledge workers, who help drive innovation and
growth across the globe. Many organizations are already advertising and
creating their social sites and engaging customers and utilizing the data on
customer behavior to fine tune their products or services and improve
performance. Research by McKinsey Global Institute found that the social
technologies have more potential to create value when they are effectively
implemented to improve collaboration and communication across and within
the organization. (Manyika, Chui & Sarrazin, 2012). These authors predict that to
capture this "value", organizations need to do much more than simply acquiring
and investing in some enterprise social technology. They prescribe participation
of all employees and inclusion of social technology, by adapting social
technology in the daily workflow and by adjusting the current workflow design.
Secondly, they recommend that total employee participation on a social platform
can only be ensured if the organization and its leaders maintain an environment
of openness, information sharing, and trust. They advocate that the leaders of
the organizations have to drive the initiative in creating the congenial
environment and demonstrate how to use social media to drive value through
sharing similar success stories.

New Media, Web 3.0 and Social Learning Communities

Communication is one of the most basic activities of human beings that impact
education, human behavior, human performance and, broadly, the society. We
are living in an era of media information and communication revolution. What
are the impacts of this emerging media revolution on human behavior,
education, learning experiences, organizational performance and society in

As discussed earlier, the new media has empowered individuals to become

active producers of content, rather than being just passive recipients. This surge
in media innovations has resulted in a plethora of information that is easily
accessible and available on the web. Educational potential of social media and
micro blogging experiences (with Facebook and Twitter for example) are being

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researched in higher educational contexts by enthusiastic educators and

researchers. Many studies have found that social media has a positive impact on
nurturing a learning community and in supporting informal learning beyond
the classroom. (Bosch, 2009; Ebner, Lienhardt, Rohs & Meyer, 2010). Dunlap &
Lowenthal (2009) described the instructional benefits and guidelines for use of
Twitter in online courses, to encourage just-in-time social connections and
interactions. Challenges to the educational use of web based new media in
higher education such as ICT (Information and Communication Technologies)
literacy, uneven access, privacy risks were also identified in certain studies
(Bosch, 2009; Hew, 2011).

Boulos & Wheeler (2007) suggest careful thinking, testing, evaluation and
research in healthcare education and the emerging media, in order to establish
best practice models to boost teaching and learning productivity, foster
stronger communities of practice, and support continuing medical education. A
recent study by Fisher and Clayton (2012) found patients wanted providers to
use some kind of social media for appointment setting and reminders, and as a
forum/community for asking general questions.

In their article Connecting Informal and Formal Learning Experiences in the

Age of Participatory Media, Bull, et. al.(2008) suggest that the "World Wide
Web is generating multiple formats and channels of communication and
creativity" and " The rise of social media reflects new opportunities and outlets
for creativity". Klamma, et. al. (2007), in their article suggest social software
systems, available to any life-long learner for informal learning. According to
Klamma et. al. (2007), with the new social media several learners, outside
learning institutions have access to powerful social communities of experts and

The emerging media and the web are definitely impacting our lives, values,
education and society. Customers, users, and individuals have been empowered
by the new media; emerging new media have provided a platform for many
individuals to engage in lifelong learning and become active content creators.
The new media have presented opportunities for varied forms of
communication, collaborative problem solving, creativity and innovation. If
carefully incorporated within pedagogy, the new media also supports learning
as a social process in all educational contexts and helps in building effective
learning communities, where collective knowledge is created and advanced
while supporting the growth of individual knowledge (Bielaczyc & Collins,

Cutting Edge Emerging Technology in Human Performance

Improvement and Organizational Performance

Davenport, Thomas and Cantrell (2002) identify management and organization,

information technology and workplace design as the three factors that influence
work performance of employees and the organizations performance. They
encountered several studies in their research that confirmed that newer

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technologies help workers accomplish more complex tasks than they could have
done previously. Web and the new media promote organizational learning
which in turn helps to improve organizational performance. Social networks
form a tool for collaborative knowledge management (Jones, 2001) which
includes creation, exchange and transformation of knowledge; that are essentials
for any organizational learning. Mansour and Monavari (2008) in their research
found that using wikis iteratively in an organization as a shared platform for
knowledge creation led to generation of new ideas and improved innovation by
leveraging collective intelligence. Vieregge and Moseley (2012) from their survey
results mention technology as one of the important issues to consider for the
future of HPI (Human Performance Improvement). They call for leveraging
mobile devices for smart job aids, embracing virtual technology and focusing on
taking advantage of cutting edge technologies for delivering Performance
Improvement interventions. The emerging group of HPI participants in the
survey viewed Web 2.0 as one of the most important and potentially positive
tools to reenergize HPI professionals. Cutting edge technologies and media will
definitely influence the evolving HPI field, since it definitely impacts critical
business issues and how organizations function. The future of HPI will be
defined by incorporating emerging technologies, newer approaches, fresh ideas
and understanding as tools for human and organizational performance
improvement. Schwaner, Harter & Palla (2013) discussed technological
innovation as one of the factors that transformed the nature of workplace culture
with respect to inter-personal conduct and trust. Their research discusses the
growth of virtual groups or teams (enabled by the growth of World Wide Web
since 1990s in workplace) and the impact of virtual team culture on leadership
and productivity of organizations.

As we look ahead.

Quinn, (2009) states in his article, "What we need, going forward, is the ability to
take a continuous read on the environment and to adapt quickly. The nimble
organization will be the one that thrives." We are living in a most exciting,
dynamic, socially connected and technology driven era. Learning in this digital
technology era does not follow the traditional rules. It does not depend on
"individual knowledge acquisition, storage, and retrieval; rather, it relies on the
connected learning that occurs through interaction with various sources of
knowledge including the Internet and the learning management systems and
participation in communities of common interest, social networks and group
tasks."(Siemens, 2004). The evolution of the Internet, and the World Wide Web,
have disrupted the foundations on which organizations have traditionally
functioned, performed, and thrived. With the evolution of the Web, the growth
in the technology and the emerging media, organizations are being forced to
adapt, innovate and look for creative ideas in order to survive and flourish.
Today, successful organizations are more than ever engaging with their
consumers, tapping the potential of web based social media to create networks
and remain connected to all stakeholders, opening up business systems to the
Web, gleaning information from customer feedback on the web to improve
performance, adding value and fine tuning their products and services, and

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involving customers in all phases of the business process through social media,
building communities with shared goals and values collaborating and co-
According to Alvin Toffler (n.d.), "The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be
those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and
relearn". If we don't learn to unlearn and relearn, we do not survive long and
can be easily replaced by someone who can.
No one knows, what the future holds for the technologies noted here. By the
time this discussion is published new technologies will be known. We can only
build and improve on what we currently have.
We offer these guidelines as we prepare for cutting edge technologies:
1. Embrace change - In this technology driven era, we need to embrace change in a
positive way, to succeed and survive and make our presence worthwhile.
2. Remain flexible - Remaining flexible to changes and innovations around us can
help us accept and embrace change and use the change in our environment as
opportunities for success.
3. Become intellectually curious - Genuine curiosity, reflection and openness of
mind help in embracing change and in transforming change to a recipe for
4. Keep current - We are living in a dynamic period. The total environment
around our system is constantly being influenced and reshaped by changes in
other systems. It is important for us to remain current in factors and influences
that may affect us or our systems survival. We need to keep current as well as
adapt to our dynamic supra-system and our environment to be a vital player in
the whole system.
5. Maintain an open mind - We need to value expertise in others, learn from each
other, share information and knowledge, encourage others and ourselves to
think differently, pay attention to feedback from the system in which we work
and live - keeping an open mind and helping in implementing system wide best
6. Boost and build cultural agility - When organizational leaders operate with
limited cultural openness, the result is missed opportunities and poor
performance. Being culturally agile is a necessity in this technology driven
global economy, to engage a diversity of perspectives, foster strong collaboration
and learn and practice new strategies.
7. Collaborate and form partnerships - Collaboration and forming strategic alliances
and partnerships help organizations learn from each other and accomplish goals
that are not possible otherwise. Similarly, collaborative and transformative
leadership within an organization fosters shared vision and commitments, forms
relationships, helps to resolve conflicts, and encourages team approaches to
problem solving and building a collective knowledge bank for a successful
8. Believe in yourself and the magic will happen!

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 79-99, October 2015

Students Perception of the Role of Counsellors

in the Choice of a Career: a study of the
Mfantseman Municipality in Ghana

Moses Awinsong
Department of Arts and Social Sciences Education
University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Omar Dawson
Department of Religion
University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Belinda Enyonam Gidiglo

Ghana National College, Cape Coast, Ghana.

Abstract. This study investigated students perception of the role of

counsellors in the choice of career using two schools in the Mfantseman
Municipality in the Central Region. The study aimed at finding out the
available counselling services in schools, the frequency of access to
counselling in schools, and the perception students hold about the role
of counsellors in the choice of careers. The descriptive research design
was used in this study. Student respondents numbered 349 while 2
counsellors were involved in the study. Questionnaires and an interview
guide were used to gather the necessary data for the study.The study
revealed that counselling services are available in schools and include
educational, vocational, and person-social counselling. Secondly, the
study found that students had access to counselling but their frequency
of access was inhibited by counsellor characteristics and other factors.
Lastly, the study uncovered that students thought counsellors to be
central to the process of making career choices. The government, Ghana
Education Services, and school authorities should give much heed to
counselling especially career guidance by making resources available to
counsellors for work. Career guidance programmes should be
routinized in schools for greater benefits to students. Counsellors should
also endeavour to seek opportunities for skill upgrade and higher
training so that they can become more relevant to the needs of students.

Keywords: counsellors; perceive; career; decision-making.

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High school drop-out rates result in unemployment, poverty, low quality
of life, high dependency ratio and many other social problems which call for an
effective career guidance programme in schools. Ocansey (2001) observes that
making a correct or realistic career choice as well as planning for it is a difficult
or delicate task. It is therefore important that school guidance programmes keep
up with the latest trends, so that guidance services are provided in our schools
to equip students to make them well prepared to make better choices in life.
Whether students make use of school counsellors or not depends on how
students perceive these counsellors roles in the choice of a career (Mittendorff,
Beijaardb, den Brokb, & Koopman, 2012).
In the school system, the ultimate aim of both teaching, and guidance
and counselling is to prepare and guide students into a better future. Though
guidance and counseling may not be a time-tabled activity as teaching,
McLaughlin (1999) asserts that it carries an educational function. This means its
place in the school system is no less important. The failure to offer or effectively
provide guidance services has often led to wrong career path decisions that have
adversely affected the victims and the nation. Lack of enthusiasm in a chosen
field, low productivity at work, emotional depression, and lack of focus in life
are some of the consequences of bad career decisions made by students (Fox &
Butler, 2007). The need to maximize the benefits of school-based services like
guidance and counselling therefore becomes ever important. But getting
students to talk to counsellors remains unrealistic given the varying perceptions
students hold about counsellors which hinder the natural human conversation
process between both parties (Fox & Butler, 2007). Without such a conversation,
good career decisions, which are a product of the conversational process, will
not be possible. And since counsellors hold great secrets and information in
store, these treasures are lost forever to these students.

Statement of the Problem

It is expected that by the time a student leaves Senior High School, they
should have decided on the occupation or career they intend to pursue. In
contrast, it has been observed that most students complete second-cycle
schooling without having an idea as to the occupation to pursue (Kelechie &
Ihuoma, 2011). According to Kelechie, & Ihuoma (2011), students do not make
informed career choice because they are largely influenced by their peers and
parents preference for certain careers. School counsellors are not significant in
the decision making process because students may have some perception about
these counsellors which prevents them from seeking guidance and counselling
on career choices.
According to Oladele (2000), teachers and school administrators
hold different perception about the roles school counsellors play as regards to
adolescent reproductive life, academic life, relationship issues, and most of all,
career guidance. Examining the perception of people on the role of the
counsellor, earlier studies by Alexitch, Kobussen, and Stookey (2004) and Ojirah

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(2004) reported different views and ideas from teachers, administrators and
parents. The study concluded that the image of counsellors held by most
participants was that of an academic advisor. The teachers, for instance,
expected the counsellor to be abreast with school courses, curricula, and
educational matters as well as personal and social issues. Unfortunately, they
did not expect the counsellor to solely deal with career choice.
It is then imperative to know students perception of school counsellors
role in the choice of a career since some researchers (Oladele, 2000; Ocansey,
2001; Mittendorff, Beijaardb, den Brokb, & Koopman, 2012) have established that
even teachers, administrators and parents have different perceptions about the
role school counsellors play regarding career choice and other relevant issues. It
is this gaps in the research for knowledge and information in education studies
that has necessitated this study.

Research Questions
The following were questions that were used to guide the study:
1. what are the guidance and counselling services available in SHS in the
Mfantseman Municipality?
2. how often do SHS students access guidance and counselling services in
their schools?
3. what are Senior High School students perceptions of school counsellors
role in the choice of a career?

Review of Related Literature

This section presents a review of related literature that supports the current
research being undertaken.

Availability of Counselling Services

Counselling services in schools have been found to be lacking (Adejimola
& Tayo-Olajubu, 2009). This subsequently affects students access to information
about career choices at the high school level. Okeke and Okorie (2006) reported
from a study in south-east Nigeria that there was a lack of counselling centres in
schools. This, they noted, had affected the decision-making of students and
resulted in maladjusted behavior. One-on-one counselling interactions between
the counsellors and the students was found to be lacking and thus entrenched
the belief of counselling unavailability. Offor (2008) concurs that counselling
services in most Nigerian schools were non-exist though they are supposed to
be. It was realized that though policy makers design policies on counselling and
career guidance for schools, the lack of certain fundamentals like resources,
administrative commitment, and expertise mitigate the realization of the aims
envisaged in such policy documents.
Also, Fia (2011) undertook a study of guidance and counselling services
in schools in the Ho Municipality. He reported that educational, vocational, and
person-social counselling were lacking in schools in Ho even where some of

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them possessed clearly demarcated counselling centers to cater for the needs of
clients. The absence of group school counselling of students by any counsellor in
the school was noted to have created ignorance among students about
counselling. Nwokolo, Anyamene, Oraegbunam, Anyachebelu, Okoye, and
Obineli (2010) in a Nigerian study discovered that services for academic
guidance and counselling were not available in schools. Of five states that were
studied, two states-Ebonyi and Enugu- had no guidance and counselling centres
in most of their schools. This was attributed to the lack of deepened awareness
of the relevance of counselling. They report that group counselling, which can be
effective in large schools or school districts, was not carried out.
Fox and Butler (2007) explained, while not discarding the fact that
services may not be available in some school, that counselling services seem
unavailable in school due to low publicity. In their work, they found that no
career conferences were organized to educate and introduce students to career
options and professional paths. Kano (2012) also contend that guidance and
counselling services were unavailable in schools in Tanzania until the
government adopted guidelines for the implementation of these programs in
schools in 2007. The effect was that many students failed to gain academic,
personal, and vocational counselling support when they were in need. There is
therefore the preponderance of the view that counselling and guidance services
are unavailable in many schools and this affects students welfare in the making
of decisions about their career destinies.

Access to Counselling Services in Schools

Whether students know about the availability of guidance and
counselling services in the school or not is a major determinant of how well they
access or do not access them. Fox and Butler (2007) found that some
respondents problem with school guidance and counselling services was that it
was not widely known. About 29% of respondents in the study recommended
better promotion of the service so that it will be frequently accessed by students.
Publicity is therefore a major blockade to access to guidance and counselling
services and by extension, career guidance.
Chan and Quinn (2012) discovered that the worry that other people will
find out about ones reasons for seeking professional help was the fourth
important factor that inhibits access to guidance and counselling. The
respondents shied from counselling due the fear of being teased and bullied by
peers in the school. This highlights the fact that students did not seek guidance
because they might be stigmatized by others who find out or see them going for
such services. As much as possible therefore, students avoid the counsellor and
their office. This is in sync with Setiawans (2006) observation that the fear of
someone finding out limits the urge to seek career guidance. This attitude has
been perpetuated due to the rumour and gossip many hold through years of
observation in school that guidance and counselling is for those who are
academically weak or excessively truant.

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Ogunlade and Akeredolu (2012) discovered in a study that most

counselors in the school system are untrained and this can affect efficiency and
the ability to woo more clients. A majority of students in the study made career
choices without much information because professionally trained counsellors
with the requisite knowledge were either absent. This absence of professionally
trained counsellors discouraged students from seeking guidance and
counselling. Eliamani, Richard, and Peter, (2014) also found non-professional
counselling greatly affected access to counselling services. The lack of trained
counsellors in Tanzanian schools, they found, denied and discouraged many
students accessing professional services. Anagbogu (2008) reported that many
school counsellors do not have access to the requisite professional training that
empower them to be impactful in schools. Ogunlade and Akeredolu (2012)
advise that counsellors should be given more training to prepare them for work.
Thus, the greater the professional knowledge and expertise of the counsellor, the
more likely students are to seek counselling service help in periods of need.
Again, some students doubt the degree of confidentiality assured by
counselors and that serve as a hindrance to their seeking guidance or counseling
services (Le Surf & Lynch, 1999; Jenkins & Palmer, 2011; Mushaandja,
Haihambo, Vergnani, and Frank, 2013). Le Surf and Lynch (1999) gathered from
respondents in their study that the trust that a counselor would not tell anyone
about ones secrets no matter how awful can encourage one to seek counseling.
Setiawan (2006), who studied undergraduate university students in Indonesia,
discovered that most students do not access counseling services frequently due
to confidentiality issues among other pressing ones. Jenkins and Palmer (2011)
particularly note that fear that ones secrets will be exposed made clients dread
the counsellor. Even where referrals are made to the school counsellor by
teachers or administrators, the counselee will fail to be open about his or her life
difficulties. Mushaandja, Haihambo, Vergnani, and Frank (2013), in a qualitative
study, found counsellors complaining about the lack of trust learners had in
them. This, they attributed to cultural barriers and family influence. How can a
learner trust me if he or she knows I will not keep her information confidential?
one of the counsellors asked. Counselors therefore have a responsibility to win
students trust if they are to convince more students to take career guidance
Equally significant is the problematic nature of the dual role of teacher-
counselors which put restraints on the counsellors time and which can
discourage students from accessing counselling facilities (Walker, Alloway,
Dalley-Trim, & Patterson, 2006; Kuhn, 2004; Menon, 2010). This finding is
supported by Menon (2010) found that the dual responsibilities of teacher and
counselor adversely affected access to counseling programmes by most students.
Many counsellors in this study complained about the lack of a defined role for
the counsellor in the school which results in most counsellors becoming engaged
in non-counselling related work. A study by the US Department of Education
(2003) asserted that 49% of public schools reported that counselling and
guidance staff spent more than 20% of their time on registering students. June,
Curry, and Gear (1990) reported that Black students valued interaction with
school counsellors as helpful in informing the frequency of their access of
counsellors service. Thus, one can conclude that accessibility to the counsellor is

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key to most students view of counsellors and the guidance and counselling
process. Menon, (2010) and Walker et al (2006) reported that counselors who
devoted their time to counseling needs encouraged students decision to seek
constant professional support. Conversely, those who paid equal or more
attention to other responsibilities like teaching and administrative work were
graded very lowly by students. Kuhn (2004) emphasized that the use of
counsellors as principals, disciplinarians, and registration officers reduced
students value for their roles as counsellors so that they are not propelled to go
to them for professional guidance. The lesson is that the availability of the
counsellor in the school when truncated by other callings like teaching and
administrative work can affect the decisions of students to seek counseling

Students Perception of Counsellors Role

Students perception of counsellors impact in their decisions about the
future is covered considerably by the literature (Walker et al, 2006; Alloway,
Walker, Patterson, Dalley & Lenoy, 2004; Aspen, Cooper, Liu, Marowa, Rubio,
Waterhouse, & Sheridan, 2015). Aspen et al (2015) assert that counsellors play a
crucial role in students career decisions and can influence the decision making
process through the information they provide students. Contrastingly, Menon
(2010) reported that students did not consider counsellors as central in the
decisions made about careers. This means the influence of counselors in the
career decisions of students is one dictated by students view of how central
they, the counsellors, are to the decision making process.
Agi (2014) reported from a study that 71.8% of respondents held a
negative view of counselling due primarily to perceptions held about the
counsellor. Again, 72.5% of respondents held a hostile attitude towards
counselling. This was traceable to the lack of informed and well researched
counsellors. Ogunlade and Akeredolu (2012) learnt from their study that most
students made wrong career decisions because of they had no informed
counsellors to support them in their decision-making process. Many students
therefore held counsellors to be impactful in their career choice making if these
counsellors are well informed, intelligent, and well researched. Counsellors
armed with a wide repertoire of knowledge are deemed important and
impactful in students choice making (Eliamani, Richard, & Peter, 2014). Walker
et al (2006) equally discovered that prompt counsellor response to student
inquiries created positive perceptions about the counsellor in the mind of the
Egbo (2015) contend that respect for and recognition of the individual
differences of students is central to the guidance and counselling process. Thus,
students perceive counselors to be impactful in their choices in life if those
counsellors recognize the individual differences of each student and strive to
meet the needs shown by these differences as appropriately as possible. The
American Personnel and Guidance Association Statement of Policy on the
characteristics of a good counsellor buttress this by saying that a good counsellor
is one who belief in each individual. The counsellor believes in the personal
worth of each person, in his capacity for growth and change, and in his ability to

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cope with life situations. Patterson and Levy (2007) also further that counsellors
who took a genuine interest in people rather than just provide information made
a great impact on the decisions of students. Many respondents in Patterson and
Levy study acknowledged that the personal attention they received from
counsellors greatly made them feel better, stronger and informed. The
indispensability of counsellor interest in counsellees is appropriately
Kuhn (2011) tasked 223 student respondents to rate the counsellors work
based on their perception of who they think counsellors are. He discovered that
students rated counsellor/coordinator first. Other perceptions included leader,
advocate, collaborator, and data utilizer in order of importance. Thus, counsellor
professional availability was found to significantly affect students perception of
the counsellor. Their finding is in sync with McLaughlins (1999) assertion that
counselors who were inaccessible due to added teaching or administrative
responsibilities were bound to have limited or no impact at all on students
choice of career. When counsellors offer less and less professional services to
many students, it becomes difficult for them to influence the decisions students
make about their lives (Chan & Quinn, 2012).
Lastly, Badu (2011) realized from a study that counsellees favourably
perceived the input of counsellors in their decisions when there is a positive
counselling relationship between the counsellor and the counsellee. This
relationship can include how trustworthy the counsellor is, his paralinguistic
skills in making students comfortable, and the commitment shown in helping
counsellees. Rafeffebsperger (2010) confirmed this by reporting that a positive
counselling relationship was central to the success of the counselling process.
Confidentiality, service flexibility, and location of the counselling centres all fed
into establishing a positive relationship between the counsellor and the
counsellee. Alice, Alice, and Patrick (2013) reported a Unesco study in which
46% of responding students in rural Uganda perceived counsellors negatively
due primarily to persistent sexual harassments they had received from
counsellors. This means there is the need for human centredness and
professionalism in the counselling process. The more honest, humane, and
exemplary a counsellor is to students and their difficulties, the more influential
he will be in impacting students choices in life including career decisions.
From the literature, one notices that a voluminous amount of information
exist on career choice-making in schools. Though a lot has been done on school
counselling, the perception students hold about the role of counsellors in the
choice of career is yet to be more empirically known. The present study will
therefore add to the literature by investigating the availability of counselling
services in schools, the frequency of use of counselling services by students, and
the perceived roles counsellors play, according to students, in the choice of a

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Research Design
The descriptive survey research design was used for the study.
Sarantakos (1998) intimates that descriptive research is able to describe a
phenomenon and make generalizations concerning a larger group where a
sample was drawn. Amedahe (2003) also holds that in descriptive research,
accurate description of activities, objects, processes and persons is objective. This
research design will therefore aid the researchers determine the exact nature of
conditions that prevail in high schools on counselling and students view of the
school counsellor. Descriptive research design is also widely used in educational
research since data gathered by way of descriptive survey represents field
conditions (Seidu, 2006; Fraenkel and Wallen, 1990).

The target population for the study was senior high school students in
the Mfantseman Municipality. The accessible population for the study, however,
was all students in Mankessim Senior High School and Saltpond Methodist
Senior High School. Both are mixed gender schools with students from different
socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds in the Central Region of Ghana.
According to data gathered by the researchers, the total number of total students
and counsellors in the two schools for the 2014/2015 academic year is about 4000
(Records of the schools, 2014/2015 Academic Year).

Sample and Sampling Technique

A sample size of 351 students and counsellors were used for the study
based on the accessible population as described by Krejcie and Morgan (1970).
This method of determining the sample size is deemed effective because it gives
representative statistical sample in empirical research. Simple random sampling
technique was used to select two schools from the municipality. This was done
to ensure adequate representation of schools for the study. Also, the researchers
simple randomly sampled 176 students out of 2013 students and a counsellor
from Mankessim Senior High School, and 173 out of 1989 students and a
counsellor from Saltpond Senior High School each school making a total of 351
out of 4002 students. All the students in the two schools were willing to partake
but the researchers sampled only 349 students out of the total number. These 349
were those who eventually partook in the study. The allocation of these student
numbers to both schools was to ensure representativeness of the sample from
each participating school for the study. The school counsellors were purposively
selected because of their unique knowledge and experience as guidance and
counselling personnel.

Research Instrument
Questionnaires were developed and used for the data collection. In-
depth personal interviews were conducted with the counsellors. The
questionnaire used for the study contained Section A which had information on
the bio-data of respondents mainly age, gender, class, and school. Section B

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contained information eliciting responses on the availability of counselling

services in school with four items. Section C had items that questioned how
often SHS students accessed guidance and counselling services in their schools
and held eight items. The last part was Section D which enquired into students
perception of the role counsellors play in the choice of a career. This section
contained seven items. The statements were based on a Likert Scale format
ranging from strongly disagree, disagree, agree, and strongly agree. Students
were to tick as was applicable to their situation.

Data Collection Procedure

The researchers collected an introductory letter from the Department of
Arts and Social Sciences Education, University of Cape Coast to formally
introduce themselves to the headmasters in the schools selected for the study.
Permission was sought from the management of the schools and respondents
before the questionnaires were administered to the respondents. No one was
compelled to take part in this study. The researchers administered the
questionnaires themselves after explaining the purpose and significance of the
study to the respondents. The researchers encouraged the respondents to
provide honest responses to increase the girth of reliability of the study. The
terms in the questionnaire which were not understood by some respondents
were explained in the process of gathering the data. The questionnaires were
administered to students during the last week of the school term. The schools
scored a return rate of 84.7% and 86.2% for Manksessim SHS and Saltpond
Methodist SHS, respectively. Two counsellors were interviewed, the outcome
transcribed, and subsequently presented as part of the discussion of the studys

Data Analysis
Data gathered from the questionnaires administered were first
organized, coded and categorized. Following this, the data was analyzed using
the Statistical Package for Service Solutions (SPSS) software version sixteen.
Descriptive statistical method was also employed during the analysis of the
data, making extensive use of frequencies and percentages. The interview with
the counsellors was transcribed, and subsequently presented as part of the
discussion of the studys outcome.

Results and Discussions

This chapter discusses and interprets the results based on the data
gathered from 351 participants. In analyzing the data, we followed the three
research questions that guided the study. Tables showing the frequencies and
their corresponding percentages for each item were constructed. The
background information of participants, availability of counselling services in
schools, access to counselling services, and students perception of the counsellor
in the choice of a career were looked at in this chapter.

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Background Information of Respondents

Table 1: Gender of the Respondents

Gender Frequency Percentage

Male 187 62.3

Female 113 37.6

Total 300 100.0

Source: Field Data, 2015.

Table 1 represents the gender of respondents and shows a high

percentage for male respondents at 62.3% of the total in both schools. The
females number is no discouraging because their figure is almost about 40% of
the total of respondents who participated in the study. The disparity in access to
education between boys and girls in Ghana may account for this difference.
Table 2: Age of the Respondents

Age Frequency Percentage

13-15 65 21.7

16-18 176 58.6

19-21 50 16.7

Above 21 years 9 3.0

Source: Field Data, 2015.

In Table 2 above, we have the age distribution of the respondents. The

highest respondent age group is those between 16-18 years. Students who were
between 13-15 formed 21.7% and were the second highest age group of
respondents. This is unsurprising because many students enter high schools at
around 13 to 15. The lowest age groups were those between 19-21 and above 21
years who scored 16.7% and 3% respectively. This is logical given that many
people complete high school by the time they are twenty years old.
Table 3: Class of the Respondents

Form Frequency Percentage

SHS1 65 21.7

SHS2 166 55.3

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SSS3 69 23.0

Total 300 100.0

Source: Field Data, 2015.

Table 3 shows the class of the respondents in the study. Greater numbers of
second year students responded to the study than other classes. They formed
55.3% of the respondents. Both first and third year students formed 21.7% and
23.0% of respondents respectively. This was due to the scarcity of third year
students for the study since the data were collected during the examination
week when many third year students were writing intensive mock
examinations. Though all classes were difficult to access due to the
examinations, the first and second year classes were not as hard to access as the
final year class because of the added burden of preparing for the West Africa
Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The high numbers of second
and third year students gave the study a high degree of reliability because they
are those most fitted to inform on the counselling atmosphere due to duration of
their stay in the schools.
Table 4: Schools of the Respondents

Name of School Frequency Percentage

Mankessim Senior High Technical 146 48.7


Methodist Senior High School 154 51.3

Total 300 100.0

Source: Field Data, 2015

The information in Table 4 details the schools of the respondents who

participated in the study. The returned questionnaires indicated that Methodist
High School in Saltpond registered 51.3% of the total number of respondents for
the study. Mankessim Senior High Technical School followed up with 48.7% of
the respondents. The figures are very close. This stems from the almost equal
nature of the available population in both schools.

Analyses of the Study

Availability of Guidance and Counselling Services

The information in Table 5 below gives insight into the responses given
by students to the first research question which sought to determine the
availability of guidance and counselling services in schools in the Mfantsiman

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Table 5: Availability of Guidance and Counselling Services

Statement SD D A SA
N (%) N (%) N (%) N (%)
I have heard of counselling since I 31(10.3) 50(16.5) 132(44.2) 87(29.0)
reported to SHS

The guidance and counselling co- 42(14.0) 57(19.0) 135(45.0) 66(22.0)

ordinator or the tutors discusses
privately what I should do as a
student to achieve academic

The guidance and counselling co- 68(22.6) 132(44.0) 55(18.4) 45(15.0)

ordinator meets the student body
to provide useful career and life

The counsellor organizes career 114(38.0) 91(30.3) 68(22.6) 27(9.0)

conferences for the students
Source: Field Data, 2015

On the whole, more than half of respondents agreed that they have heard
of guidance and counselling during their stay in the high school. The figure
represented is 73.2% for those who agreed. There is therefore a great awareness
of the availability of counselling services in the schools of the respondents.
Nwokolo et al (2010), Fia (2011) and Fox and Butlers (2007) assertion that there
is low publicity of guidance and counselling services in schools seems not to be
the case in the Mfantseman Municipality. Students also agreed (67% of
respondents) that their counsellors have met them to discuss academic strategies
so as to help them achieve success in school. This shows that counsellors have
been able to attend to students academic needs. It contradicts Okeke and
Okoris finding that one-on-one interaction between counsellors and students is
unavailable in school. However, a majority of students disagreed (66.6%) that
the counsellor have ever met the student body to discuss career issues. This
concurs Nwokolo et al (2010) and Kano (2012) finding that group counselling is
unavailable in most schools.
Close on the heels of this staggering fact is the revelation that 205 (61.1%)
of students said school counsellor do not organize career conferences for
students. These discoveries show that though counsellors meet students singly
to discuss academic issues, they do not either meet the general student
population or organize formal career guidance events for the students in the
schools. It could also be that the school counsellor does well to meet students
individually once they report to school but fail to carry follow ups on them as
time pass by. The school counsellors work is therefore not routinized to assure
maximum benefit for those it is meant to help, namely students. Fox and Butlers
(2007) view that lack of career conferences created notions of career counselling
unavailability is very much confirmed here. There is no general meeting of the
school population with the counsellor from time to time.

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A school counsellor asserted that mostly career counselling and maybe

some minor, minor individual issues like how to study are the areas of
counselling offered by counsellors to students. This largely confirms the
response by students that guidance and counselling services are available in
their schools. A second counsellor furthered, when asked what kind of
counselling services are available in the school, said that counsellors usually
offer counselling with respect to poor academic performance. When a student is
seen to be performing poorly or abysmally continually, before the school decides
to repeat that child, they normally take the child to the counselling section for
them to speak to that child. He added that sometimes too if there are
behavioural attitudes that seem to be happening often in the school, they (the
school counsellors) fish people who are involved and then they talk to them to
know exactly what is motivating them to be involved in those acts. Thus
available counselling services are not limited to career guidance but include
educational and person-social counselling as well. Both counsellors also held
that whereas there are no career guidance programmes on a regular basis,
teachers do provide career information to students during normal teaching
periods and outside the classroom.
It is therefore clear that teachers play an important role in providing
career information which the school counsellor might not be able to do due to
frequency of teachers meeting with students compared to the counsellor.
Overall, there seem to be some form of counselling in schools but their
effectiveness in areas like group counselling and career guidance is questionable.
That validates Kanos (2012) claim of lack of effective counselling in schools.

Access to Counselling Service in Schools

The facts in Table 6 details the respondents view on their level of access to
counselling in school.

Table 6: Access to Counselling Service in Schools

Statement SD D A SA
N (%) N (%) N (%) N (%)
I have gone to the guidance and 97(32.3) 126(42.0) 50(16.6) 27(9.0)
counselling co-ordinator to discuss a
personal issue

My school has a counselling centre 45(15.0) 34(11.3) 154(51.3) 67(22.3)

I know where to find the counselling 45(15.0) 34(11.3) 154(51.3) 67(22.3)

office in the school

I go for counselling due to the 89(29.6) 111(37.0) 78(26.0) 22(7.3)

confidence I have in the counsellor
that s/he will not tell anyone

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I go for counselling because I think 85(29.3) 121(40.3) 43(14.3) 51(17.0)

the counsellor is well trained to help

The counsellor is available always to 71(23.6) 114(38.0) 85(29.3) 30(10.0)

address my personal issues

I go for counselling because I do not 83(27.5) 142(47.3) 40(13.3) 35(11.6)

shy someone will find out
Source: Field Data, 2015

Exactly 51.3% of students indicated that they knew that their schools had
a counselling centre and that they knew where to find the counselling office.
Thus, access to guidance and counselling services by students is not hampered
by a lack of awareness. This response is contradictory to Fox and Butlers (2007)
finding that publicity is a major hindrance to access to counselling. This is
confirmed by 77% of respondents who agreed that they have discussed a
personal issue with the counsellor. If they did not know about counselling
services or where to locate the office of the counsellor, then students will had
been unable to have personal issues discussed with the school counsellor. But
one of the counsellors disclosed that it is only when the issue is at the extreme
that students come for counselling.
An important response given by students was the fact that they do not
access counselling because of confidentiality problems. A total of 66.6%
disagreed that they access guidance and counselling because of their faith in the
counsellor that he or she will not tell anyone. This illuminates that students do
not have confidence in the secrecy of counsellors. Both Setiawan (2006) and
Jenkins and Palmer (2011) had also found confidentiality as inhibiting access to
counselling in their own studies. The statistics in this study confirm the studies
by Setiawan (2006), Le Surf and Lynch (1999), and Mushaandja, Haihambo,
Vergnani, Jenkins and Palmer (2011), and Frank (2013) that confidentiality can
be a hindrance to access to counselling.
Again, many students (69.6%) disagreed that counsellor had the requisite
skill and professional ability to guide them. This shows a lack of skilled
professional training visible in the counsellor as observed by students. The
totality of disagreement stands at 69.3% of all respondents on this rubric. The
figure is significant because it brings to the fore the necessity of professional
know-how of counsellors to the guidance and counselling process and how it
can positively impact the access level of students to professional guidance
support. The discovery of Ogunlade and Akeredolu (2012) that untrained
counsellors discourage students from accessing counselling has been aptly
buttressed in this study by the almost 70% of respondents who saw ill-trained
counsellor as inhibiting access to counselling. Eliamani, Richard, and Peter,
(2014) and Anagbogus (2008) contention that untrained counsellors negatively
impact students desire to access counselling is even more true given the
quantity of response on this statement.

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Also, shyness was shown to inhibit the decision to seek guidance and
counselling. A majority (74.8%) disagreed that they did not shy seeking
counselling. Thus, shyness is a hindrance to seeking counselling. School
counsellors also said that shyness was central in students access to counselling.
They disclosed that other students had to be depended on to fish out students
going through emotional, educational, and other life difficulties because these
students will normally not seek professional counsellors help in the school. The
location of the counsellors office is likely to inform this trend because if the
office is open to the public eye, then students might fear to access it for fear that
they might be stigmatized. The outcome of Anagbogu (2008) and Chan and
Quinn (2012) and study has been confirmed in this regard. A school counsellor
observed that students might not want to access the counsellors office if they
realize that there are other people like teachers in or around the office. So the
location of the office must be done such that those who have nothing to do with
the office or the service are kept at bay. Another counsellor said that students are
spoken to often so that they come to recognize that counselling is not for only
people who are in trouble. This will sensitize them to stop stigmatizing students
who seek counsellors aid.
Respondents also denied that counsellor were available to attend to their
needs always. One hundred and fourteen students representing 61.6% disagreed
that counsellors were always available to listen to their difficulties. This
unavailability of the counsellor inhibited the urge to demand or seek counselling
service. The reason can be traced to the duality of role the counsellor plays as a
counsellor and teacher in schools in most jurisdictions including Ghana. This
finding concurs Menon (2010) who found that counsellors who paid little
attention to counsellees did not encourage students to seek professional
counselling help in schools. McLaughlin (1999) and the US Department of
Education (2003) had also reported that students were discouraged to access
counsellors once they knew the counsellor will have little time for them. The
percentage of response (61.6%) confirms the reports of both McLaughlin and the
US Department of Education (2003). The dual role of teaching and counselling
was therefore found to inhibit access to counselling by students because
counsellors have little time to spend on their core duties of counselling.

Students Perception of Counsellors Role in Career Choice Instruction

Table 7 provides understanding into students perception of the role of a
counsellor in the choice of a school career. This table addressed six inquiries.
Table 7: Students Perception of Counsellors Role in Career Choice Instruction

Statement SD D A SA
N (%) N (%) N (%) N (%)
My school counsellor can 25(8.3) 62(20.6) 113(37.5) 100(33.3)
help me make informed
choice concerning my future

My school counsellor is 56(18.5) 121(40.3) 67(22.3) 56(18.6)

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helpful because s/he is

prompt in providing me
information when I request it

My school counsellor is 78(26.0) 86(28.5) 101(33.6) 35(11.6)

knowledgeable enough to
help me make good career

My school counsellor is trust- 67(22.3) 56(18.6) 100(33.3) 67(22.3)

worthy enough to discuss my
career decisions with

My school counsellor treats 45(15.0) 38(12.6) 126(42.0) 91(30.3)

me as a unique person
My school counsellor is 62(20.6) 58(19.3) 105(35.0) 75(25.0)
always available to counsel
me on career choices

My school counsellor is nice 51(17.0) 43(14.3) 128(42.6) 78(26.0)

to me when counselling me
Source: Field Data, 2015

From the facts captured in Table 7, less than 30% of respondents thought
counsellors could not help them make decisions concerning their future. There
were 70.8% of students who agreed that that was the case. This means that the
faith of students in the ability of their counsellors to help them make intelligent
life choice is widely spread among high school students in the study area. But
despite this apparent faith in the counsellor to be able to help, students do not
see counsellors as helpful when the counsellor is not prompt in responding to
their inquiries. There were 40.3% of respondents who disagreed that counsellors
were prompt responses to their inquiries when they make them and that
lowered the counsellors impact level in the students decision-making process.
Only 22.3% of students thought otherwise. This finding agrees with Walker et al
(2006) study that counsellors who provided prompt responses to inquiries were
perceived as having important roles in students career choice.
More than half of students, that is, 54.5% who disagreed, also held that
their counsellors were not knowledgeable enough to aid them. This concords
with the earlier view expressed by respondents that they do not think
counsellors are well trained to provide them the care they need. Agi (2014)
finding that lack of knowledgeable counsellors lower students perception of
guidance and counselling is true. Also, Ogunlade and Akeredolu (2012) and
Eliamani, Richard, and Peter, (2014) view that informed counsellors impact the
decisions of students is confirmed. It is therefore imperative that counsellors
improve their knowledge through reading and research after training so as to
stamp their experiences on the decisions students make about the future.

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Many students captured in the study will ideally like to discuss career
choice decisions with counsellors. They represent 55.6% of respondents. This
view portrays the important role counsellors can play in learners career choice if
they are perceived as trust worthy by student. Though respondents do not think
counsellors are knowledgeable enough to aid them, the decision to score them
high on involving them in career choice making may be due to the fact that
counsellors, aside parents, are the next important adult contacts who students
fall on to enquire into details of their career choices. The view by Fox and Butler
(2007) and Badu (2011) that good counselling relationship like trust worthiness
enhance the students decision to seek career advice has been confirmed.
Respect for the uniqueness of each individual by the counsellor was
taken seriously by students as informing whether they involved counsellors in
their career choice or not. There were 72.2% of the students who agreed that
counsellors took a unique view of students in the counselling process. The
students will therefore feel more comfortable in involving counsellors in their
career choice since they know they are important in the eye of the counsellor.
Egbos (2015) contention that respect for the unique individuality of counsellees
is a catalyst for improving counsellees perception of counsellors has been
validated strongly. Patterson and Levy (2007) study that effective counsellors
were those who took a genuine interest in students was further given a boost in
this study with 72.2% of students agreeing to this fact. Closely tied to this rubric
was the revelation that 68.6% of respondents agreed that counsellors were nice
to them during counselling. The involvement of counsellors in career choice
based on this human aspect of the counsellor is important for students and
guidance and counselling profession. School counsellors also realized this
characteristic. They asserted that they are nice or genuinely interested in
students in their everyday encounters with students so that even if a student
finds it psychologically difficult to approach them, they will be able to find a
friend who is more emotionally stable to help bring such a student to the
The respondents also disclosed that counsellors were available to
provide the necessary career guidance when they needed them. Those who
agreed formed 60% of total respondents. But the disagreements were substantial,
about 40% of the total number of respondents. This means that a significant
number of students think otherwise. For these students who responded in the
negative, the non-availability of the counsellor inhibits their willingness to
involve them in their career choice decision making. But these students who
disagreed might also had held availability to mean visibility as opined by Kuhn
(2011) and McLaughlin (1993). For students who thought the counsellor was
available, such counsellors were involved in students career decision-making.

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Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

This chapter summarizes information obtained from the study. It is also

used to draw conclusions on the study and proffers recommendations based on
the findings of the study.

The studys aims were to investigate guidance counselling and services
available in schools, students access of counselling services, and the perception
students hold about the role of counsellors in the choice of a school career in the
Mfantseman Municipality. Descriptive survey was the research design used for
the study. Questionnaires and in-depth interviews were used to collect data. A
sample of 351 respondents was employed in the study. Descriptive statistical
method was used in analyzing the data making extensive use of frequencies and
percentages. The studys summary held that:
1. Guidance and counselling services are available to students in
schools and that students have experienced these services. Most of
the contacts between the students and the counsellors were one on
one contact rather than group or conferential. The meetings between
the two players were however not routinized to enable a constant
relationship that offers a helping input into students overall
academic, social and career needs for high school students in the
Mfantseman Municipality.
2. The guidance and counselling services in schools were accessed by
students though not without some difficulties. Issues of
confidentiality, the training of the counsellor, the degree of shyness,
and the professional availability of the counsellor were said to be
inhibiting factors to the urge to frequently access counselling services
in schools though such services were readily available in schools in
the Mfantseman Municipality.
3. Counsellors are important in the process of making a career choice.
The consensus was that though the counsellor is important, their
personality and professional bearing determines whether they
eventually had a role to play in students career choice decision-
making. The counsellors knowledgeability, promptness in
responding to students inquiries, and the extent of uniqueness they
see in each student formed a bedrock that determined if students
came for counselling and whether they involved the counsellor in the
making of career decisions.

The study arrived at some conclusions. Firstly, it was realized that
guidance and counselling services are available in schools in the Mfantseman
Municipality. Students also accessed counselling though the frequency of access
was not encouraging. Thirdly, the study showed that students took a positive
view of the role counsellor in making career choice especially if the personality

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


and professional commitment of the counsellor were very attractive and


From the outcome of the study a number of recommendations were
1. Guidance and counselling services should not only be available in
schools but that counsellors must routinize their activities to benefit
students the more. Conferences on career opportunities as well as
group counselling should be encouraged.
2. Counsellors and school authorities should create the necessary
institutional and psychological foundations that enables students find
it easier to access professional counselling. The location of
counselling offices should be encouraging to students to want to seek
professional advice.
3. Counsellors must do well to improve their personality and
professional know-how to woo more students to the counselling
centres in schools. The more personal, professional, attentive, and
flexible counsellors are, the greater the students will involve them in
the making of decisions about the future.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 100-114, October 2015

Teachers Knowledge of Students about


Habila Elisha Zuya and Simon Kevin Kwalat

Department of Science and Technology Education
Faculty of Education
University of Jos, Nigeria
Email: elishazuya2@gmail.com; ehzuya@yahoo.com

Abstract. This study investigated the adequacy of mathematics teachers

in terms of the ability to identify students missing knowledge and
suggest strategies to address students difficulties. The participants were
37 secondary school mathematics teachers teaching in senior classes. The
teachers years of experience range from 3-10. The teachers were
requested to respond to 4 open-ended questions, and the items in the
questionnaire required them to identify what knowledge the student
lacked and what strategies could be used to help the student. The study
revealed that most of the teachers could not indicate the students
missing knowledge with respect to angles in parallel lines. The teachers
were also unable to help the student, as they could not suggest specific
ways that would help remove the students difficulties.

Keywords: Teachers knowledge; Students misconceptions; Angles in


Geometry as one of the branches of mathematics has an important role in the
study of mathematics. Geometry is thought-about as an important branch of
mathematics. According to Biber, Tuna and Korkmaz (2013), geometry is a
branch of mathematics concerned with point, straight line, plane figures, space,
spatial figures, and the relations between them(p. 1). The National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM](2000) stressed the prominence of geometry by
stating that geometry offers an aspect of mathematical thinking that is different
from, but connected to, the world of numbers (p.97). Clements and Battista
(1992) pointed out that geometry can be considered as a tool to facilitate the
interpretation and reflection on the physical environment. It means, through the
knowledge of geometry we are able to describe, analyze and understand the
world in which we live. In fact, Ozerem (2012) said, studying geometry is an
important component of learning mathematics because it allows students to
analyze and interpret the world they live in as well as equip them with tools
they can apply in other areas of mathematics (p. 23). This means the

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understanding of the environment we live in, and the ability to do well in other
areas of mathematics rest on our understanding of geometry. NCTM (1989, 2000)
asserted that geometry is of benefit to both teachers and students in other topics
in the mathematics curriculum and other disciplines. For instance, geometry is
closely related to measurement. NCTM (2000) maintained that there is
significant overlap between geometry and measurement. Problems that are
related to other branches of mathematics can be solved using the knowledge of
geometry, apart from its usage for solving daily life problems. Several
mathematics educators have maintained that geometry promotes students
knowledge relating to space and the relationship of objects within it, skills of
deductive reasoning, and the ability to solve real life problems in which
geometrical vocabulary and properties present themselves (e.g. French, 2004;
Presmeg, 2006; Marchis, 2012). Since the development of logical reasoning and
the ability to solve real-life problems are attributable to a sound knowledge of
geometry, it is necessary the teaching of geometry is done in such a manner that
students misconceptions are minimized. And this implies teachers of
mathematics should be able to identify and address such misconceptions when
they arise. Van Hieles (1999) pointed out that conceptual and procedural
knowledge in geometry can be accelerated through instruction, and maintained
that instruction is a greater determining factor of progress from one level to the
next one than age or maturity.

Students Misconceptions in Geometry

Several studies have indicated that students have problem in comprehending
geometric concepts, which is an important aspect of learning mathematics (e.g.
Mitchelmore, 1997; Prescott, Mitchelmore & White, 2002; Thirumurthy, 2003).
Mayberry (1983) said most students learn geometry based on rote-learning
approach. The student may hold the visualization and the verbal definition, but
prefer the visual prototype when classifying and identifying geometric figures
(Ozerem, 2012). This is indicative of rote learning. Fischbein and Nachlieli (1998)
found that students were able to define parallelogram correctly, but when
required to classify geometric figures according to shapes, majority of them
depended on the visual prototype instead of their definitions. Researchers have
given reasons for students misconceptions in geometry. The reasons given by
Ozerem (2012) include students reliance on the physical appearances of the
figures, inability to associate geometric properties with one another,
overgeneralization and rote learning. Also, Clement and Battista (1992)
enumerated some of the causes of students misconceptions in geometric
concepts, as (i) lack of understanding the subject sufficiently (ii)
overgeneralization of specific rules (iii) rote learning and (iv) inability to
comprehend geometric concepts exactly. The reasons given by Ozeren (2012)
and Clement and Battista (1992) are similar, as they are centered on lack of
conceptual knowledge due to rote learning approach.

Furthermore, Marchis (2012) pointed out that students have misconceptions in

geometry because of concept definition. Formal concept definition generates
personal concept image. Marchis (2012) asserted that this concept image may not
develop in some students, and in others, it may not be related to the formal

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definition. Archavsky and Goldenberg (2005) found that there has often been
conflict between mental images of geometric figures and verbal definitions.
There is the need to address these misconceptions when teaching so that it
would help the students reflect on where the confusion between the verbal
definition and their own mental image comes from (Marchis, 2012). Research has
shown that when classifying and identifying shapes preference is given to visual
prototype rather than a formal definition (e.g. Ozerem, 2012). These
misconceptions are not unconnected with the way and manner teachers handle
the subject.

The literature has identified some common misconceptions in geometry among

students. Mayberry (1983) and Clements and Battista (1992), said geometric
shapes presented in non-standard forms are hardly recognized by many
students, as they perceive a square as not a square if it is not on a horizontal
base. Many students have problems in perceiving class inclusions of shapes, for
example, they do not think that a square is a rectangle, or a square is a rhombus,
and a rectangle is a parallelogram (Mayberry, 1983; Feza & Webb, 2005; Marchis,
2008). Other common misconceptions include, using the bottom line as the base
of the triangle in calculating the area of a triangle; larger space means larger
angle; inability to understand the angles in parallel lines- alternate and
corresponding angles; inability to recognize and perceive the properties of
quadrilaterals; learning formulas and definitions inadequately. According to
Biber, Tuna and Korkmaz (2013) students lack knowledge of parallel lines and
they calculate angles based on the physical appearances of the figures. In this
study, the focus was on teachers knowledge of students about angles related to
parallel lines.

Though there are several studies on the investigation of students

misconceptions in geometry, the literature review indicates absence of studies on
investigating teachers knowledge of students misconceptions in geometry,
especially in Nigeria. The present study investigated the adequacy of
mathematics teachers in identifying and addressing students misconceptions in
geometry, in specific, angles in parallel lines. The need for the study therefore
cannot be overstressed considering the importance of geometry in school
mathematics curricula and its usage for solving real-life problems.

Teachers Knowledge of students

Educational research has identified three core components of teachers
knowledge. These are subject matter knowledge, pedagogical content
knowledge, and generic pedagogical knowledge (Baumert, Kunter, Blum,
Brunner, Voss, Jordan, Klusmann, Krauss, Neubrand & Tsai, 2010). The
effectiveness of any teacher depends on the possession of these components of
knowledge. The knowledge of concepts and procedures brought to the learning
of a topic by the students, and the misconceptions the students may have
developed are both aspects of the pedagogical content knowledge (Carpenter,
Fennema, Peterson & Carey, 1988). This knowledge also has to do with the
teachers knowledge of methods for evaluating students conceptual and

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procedural knowledge, and the adequacy of dealing with students


One of the key components of teacher competence is a sound knowledge of

teachers about students (Baumert et al, 2010). Teachers knowledge of students
includes ability to identify students sources of misconceptions and to predict
their thinking processes. Teachers knowledge of students enables a variety of
classroom strategies (Hill, Chin &Blazar, 2015), and ranks high among the
teacher capabilities identified as important to effective teaching (Cohen,
Raudenbush & Ball, 2003). Zhao (2012) pointed out that teachers knowledge
should be such that it enables students to learn skills and affect positively their
learning strategies. Hill, Chin & Blazar (2008) noted that there is a general
consensus among Mathematics educators that teachers who have uncommon
knowledge of students mathematical ideas and thinking are effective. And
teachers who have adequate knowledge of students mathematical ideas and
thinking processes are expected to be able to identify students difficulties in
mathematics, and also the sources of their errors and misconceptions.

However, the literature reveals that mathematics teachers have difficulties in

identifying students misconceptions, and predicting students thinking
processes (Asquith, Stephens, Knoth & Alibali, 2007; Zuya, 2014). This study
examined the adequacy of mathematics teachers knowledge in identifying and
dealing with students misconceptions in geometry; specifically angles in
parallel lines.

Statement of the Problem

Students meaningful learning of geometry could help them solve and
appreciate real-life problems. However, the literature reveals that students have
a lot of misconceptions in learning some geometric concepts. This study was
proposed to determine whether mathematics teachers are adequate in
identifying and dealing with students misconceptions associated with angles in
geometry. Teachers adequacy in this study refers to ability to identify and
suggest strategies in dealing with students misconceptions associated with
angles in parallel lines.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study was to investigate mathematics teachers
knowledge of students about geometry. Specifically, the study focused on the
adequacy of mathematics teachers in identifying students misconceptions in
calculating angles related to parallel lines and strategies in dealing with such

Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:
1. How adequate are mathematics teachers in identifying students
misconceptions associated with angles in parallel lines?
2. How adequate are mathematics teachers in suggesting strategies to
address students misconceptions associated with angles in parallel

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Research Design
The qualitative research approach was implemented in this study. This is
because qualitative method of analyzing data has emphasis on process rather
than product (Woods, 2006). The focus was on how mathematics teachers
explain their knowledge of students about geometry.

The participants were mathematics teachers randomly selected from public
secondary schools in Bauchi State, of Nigeria. The participants were 37 in
number, and of varying qualifications and years of experience. Their
qualifications were either Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) or First degree
in/with Education. Of the 37 participants, 12 were NCE holders and 18 degree
holders. Their years of experience range from 3-10, and were teaching
mathematics in the secondary schools.

Instrument for Data Collection

In this study, the instrument used for data collection was partly adapted from
Biber, Tuna and Korkmaz (2013) and partly designed by the researcher. The
misconceptions exhibited by the students in their study formed the basis for the
questionnaire designed for collecting data in this study. The students solutions
were displayed, and the teachers were asked to identify the causes of the
misconceptions and to suggest strategies for dealing with the misconceptions.
The instrument consisted of 4 open-ended questionnaires, and each
questionnaire indicates the given question and the students solution.
Questionnaires 1, 2 and 3 are shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3 respectively, and there
are two items under each questionnaire. The fourth questionnaire has three
items, and it is shown in Figure 4. The items designed by the researchers to
collect data from the participants were given out for validation. Two experts in
Mathematics Education read the items, and agreed that the items would elicit
the information required.

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A student was asked to calculate the angle in the figure below.

Given that DE//BA, find angle DCB.



B 0
Students solution: A

a) Identify what knowledge the student lacks.

b) How would you help this student?

Figure 1 Mathematics Teaching Questionnaire I

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In the figure below, ED//BA, find angle DCB.

155 B A
Students solution: E D

a) What does the student not know?

b) How would you help the student?

Figure 2 Mathematics Teaching Questionnaire II

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Find angle EBA in the figure below, given EF//CA.

F 115
Students solution: D 95

a) What knowledge does the student lack?

b) What strategies would you use to remove this misconception?

Figure 3 Mathematics Teaching Questionnaire III

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Given that DF//BA, calculate angle DEB in the figure below.

x 2x

E ? 120 C

y 2y
Students solution:

a) What is the students thinking?

b) Identify what knowledge the student lacks.
c) Suggest how the misconception can be avoided.

Figure 4: Mathematics Teaching Questionnaire IV

Results and Discussion

This study answered two research questions. The first research question is: How
adequate are mathematics teachers in identifying students misconceptions
associated with angles in parallel lines? To answer this question, teachers were
requested to respond to questions in which their answers are expected to
demonstrate their ability in identifying students misconceptions in angles. The

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questions required the teachers to identify students knowledge about

parallelism. Such knowledge as the sum of supplementary angles is 1800, the
sum of interior angles of a triangle is 1800, and the recognition of
corresponding/alternate angles as being equal. Four different problem
situations were given, and in each, teachers were requested to identify the
knowledge the student lacks with respect to the displayed students solution.

Teachers responses to item 1(a)

Variety of responses was obtained from the mathematics teachers. Of the 37
mathematics teachers who were the respondents to the study, 5(13%) of them
said The student lacks the knowledge of angles and intercepts on parallel
lines, while 5 (13%) others wrote: The student lacks the knowledge of
geometric theorems and how to apply them in solving problems. It can be said
that the 5 teachers who said the student lacks knowledge of angles and
intercepts on parallel lines were, to some extent, aware of the knowledge the
student needed for the solution. This is because the student must know what a
line which transverses two parallel lines means before he/she can make good
attempt. The other 5 teachers response was vague, as it did not identify a
particular knowledge relating to some specific geometric properties.
13 (35%) mathematics teachers response was that The student lacks the
knowledge of Pythagoras theorem. In fact, some among them said the student
should have used Pythagoras theorem in calculating the given angle. This
clearly indicates inadequacy of these teachers. These teachers do not themselves
have the knowledge they are expected to identify as lacking in the student. This
also revealed that these teachers were relying on the physical appearance of the
figure without thinking about its geometric properties.
4 (10.8%) of the teachers wrote, The student lacks the knowledge of dividing
angle C as to alternate with 400, 1 (2.7%) said The student lacks knowledge of
angle measurement, while 2 (5.4%) others said, The answer to the problem
should be 1700 and not 100. These responses revealed that these teachers are
themselves having difficulties understanding the problem situation. The
response that the answer should be 1700 and not 100 is irrelevant and an
indication of the avoidance of the question asked.
Of the 37 teachers, 7 (18.9%) did not respond to this item. No response could
mean different things. It could mean not understanding the problem situation or
not having the knowledge required to solve the given problem. Whichever is
applicable, there is evidence of inadequacy on the part of the teachers involved.

Teachers responses to item 2(a)

Of the 37 teachers, 6 (16.2%) said The student does not know that in solving or
proving any geometric problem, a theorem is required to prove each step. This
was in response to the question, What knowledge does the student lack? This
response does not identify the knowledge the student lacks. The given problem
situation is not on proof. The response, therefore, does not show adequacy on
the part of the teachers. 17 (45.9%) other teachers stated that the student lacks
the knowledge of Pythagoras theorem. This group of teachers either relied on
the physical appearance of the geometric figure, or lacked the knowledge
required to solve the problem. The knowledge required for solving the problem

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is the knowledge of the line that transverses two lines which are parallel, and
not knowledge of Pythagoras theorem. Still 5 (13.5%) others said the student
did not apply the rules, but did not specify which rules. And 3(8.1) of the
teachers said the student did not know that he is supposed to extend line AB to
cut CD. This again is not correct identification of the knowledge the student
lacks. Of the 37 teachers, 6 (16.2%) did not respond to this item. The responses of
the teachers clearly indicate that they were unable to identify the knowledge
required to solve the problem, as none of the responses could suggest the
students missing knowledge.

Teachers responses to item 3(a)

On this item the teachers were expected to use their knowledge about
parallelism, the sum of supplementary angles is 1800, the sum of interior
angles of a triangle is 1800, or the sum of interior angles of a quadrilateral is
3600. Of the 37 teachers, 13 (35.1%) said the student lacks the knowledge of
sum of angles in a parallelogram and alternate angles. These teachers saw the
quadrilateral as a parallelogram. 11 (29.7%) teachers responded by writing, the
student lacks the knowledge of geometric theorems. This response is too
general, as it does not point to any particular theorem and there are many
theorems in geometry. This is indicative of the fact that the teachers did not
know which knowledge is required to solve the given problem. And 13 (35.1%)
of the teachers did not respond at all to this item, which shows that the teachers
themselves lack the knowledge needed to solve the problem.

Teachers responses to item 4(a)

This item required the teachers to predict the students thinking process. 12
(32.4%) of the teachers said the student thinks that the figure ABCD is to be
divided into two parts and extend the line to be parallel to DE. This prediction
does not make sense as the line drawn by the student and the side DE touch
each other. The teachers did not consider other parts of the students solution,
such as the computation. The student solution shows that parallelism was
noticed, and the student wanted to apply the knowledge that alternate interior
angles are equal, but unable to bring other knowledge into play. Other 8 (21.6%)
teachers predicted that the student thinks extending BC to form interior angle
at C would be twice angle DEB. This prediction does not follow from the
students solution. It is not clear which angle is referred to as interior angle at C
after extending BC. This is again inability to predict the students thinking with
respect to the solution. 17 (45.9%) teachers did not respond at all to this item.
This indicates the teachers having difficulty themselves with the problem.
On item 4(b), teachers were requested to identify the knowledge the student
lacks. Of the 37 teachers, 12(32.4%) wrote: The student did not know that
adjacent sides are equal and diagonals intersect each other at right angles.
These responses are irrelevant. These teachers did not understand the problem
themselves, and so could not identify what knowledge is required for solving it.
The remaining 25(67.5%) teachers simply said The student lacks the knowledge
of geometry. This is vague.

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Research Question 2: How adequate are mathematics teachers in suggesting

strategies to address students misconceptions associated with angles in
parallel lines?
To answer this research question, teachers were requested to respond to
questions that their answers would demonstrate their understanding of the
subject matter and reveal their strategies in helping the students.
On problems 1 and 2, the question is: How would you help this student? Of the
37 participating teachers in this study, 18 (48.6%) responded by saying the
student should be taught geometric concepts. This response is too general, and it
indicates inadequacy on the part of the teachers. With respect to 1(b), one
teacher said, the student should divide angle C into two so that the angle below
will alternate with 400. This is a case of considering how the figure appears
physically, and ignoring its geometric properties.
And on problems 3 and 4, the question is: What strategies would you use to
remove or avoid this misconception? Of the 37 respondents, 32 (86.4%)
suggested that the student should be taught. One suggested solving many
similar problems as examples. In his/her words, I will solve many examples to
show how the concepts learnt could be used in solving other problems. It
should be noted here that all those who suggested teaching as the strategy to
help the student did not specify the aspect of knowledge that should be the
focus of the teaching considering the problem in question. This is indicative of
the inadequacy of the teachers in identifying the knowledge the student lacks.

On all the four problems, 19 (51.3%) of the teachers either attempted solving the
problems or did not suggest any strategy for addressing the students
predicament. For instance on problem 1, instead of explaining how the student
could be helped, a respondent tried using Pythagoras theorem and obtained
incorrect answer. This implies the teacher considered the physical appearance of
the geometric figure instead of the geometric properties. In response to How
would you help the student? with respect to problem 2, the teacher attempted
the question as The student should extend AB to cut CD, after extending AB,
y=180-100 Instead of suggesting what to do to help the student, the teacher
tried to solve the problem, and unfortunately could not solve it successfully.
Since the teachers were generally unable to identify the students
misconceptions or the knowledge the student lacked, they were also inadequate
in addressing the students difficulties. This has far reaching implications in the
teaching and learning of geometry in particular, and mathematics in general.
One important finding of the study was that teachers were generally inadequate
in identifying the knowledge students lack with regard to angles in parallel
lines. Questions 1 and 2 were very much alike; they required the student to use
almost the same knowledge for solving. Teachers were unable to identify the
missing knowledge because they focused on only the physical appearances of
the figures. Biber, Tuna and Korkmaz (2013) working with 8th grade students
found that the students were at the level of visualization-focusing only on
physical appearances of geometric figures. Unfortunately, this reliance on
physical appearance was true of most of the teachers in this study as their
responses were tailored towards physical appearances without considering the

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geometric properties of the figures. Majority of the teachers in this study lacked
the knowledge expected of them in the subject matter. This therefore means
these teachers would not be competent to teach this area of geometry. The
competence of any teacher is largely dependent on the possession of the subject
matter knowledge (Baumert et al, 2010). Unfortunately, these teachers did not
demonstrate that they have this aspect of the teachers knowledge from their

Another important finding was the inability of the teachers to adequately

suggest ways or strategies to address the students problems. In all the four
problem situations in this study, the questions were similar, requiring the
teachers knowledge of students and methods. Buamert et al (2010) pointed out
that teachers sound knowledge about students is a key component of teacher
competence. Similarly, Cohen, Raudenbush and Ball (2003) said teachers
knowledge of students is necessary for effective teaching. A competent teacher
must possess the necessary components of teachers knowledge, which include
subject matter knowledge, knowledge of methods and knowledge of students
cognition. None of this knowledge was demonstrated by the teachers in this
study. Teachers knowledge should help students learn skills and also enhance
the ways students learn (Zhao, 2012), but regrettably these teachers did not
possess such knowledge.

The knowledge of geometry can help appreciate the environment we live in.
However, the teaching and learning of this important branch of mathematics
seems to be in jeopardy, as the teachers who are expected to be knowledgeable
in the area are having difficulties themselves. The failure of most of the
mathematics teachers to identify the students missing knowledge in this study
calls for serious concern. As it is an indication that the teachers themselves do
not possess the knowledge required to solve the problems in question. Their
failure to identify the knowledge the student lacked in solving the problems in
this study was not unconnected with their inability to suggest ways of helping
the student. This is a case of you cannot give what you do not have. Since the
teachers did not have the required knowledge for solving the problems
themselves, they were not adequate in pointing out the knowledge the student
lacked, hence could not know what to do to help the student.
There is therefore the need to reflect on teacher education program provided by
institutions concerned with the production of teachers. This is with a view to
ensuring adequate preparation of teachers. Teachers knowledge of students,
which is one of the components of teachers knowledge, is necessary for
teachers effectiveness in addressing students difficulties.

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@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 150-159, October 2015

Evaluation of Role Play as a Teaching Strategy in

a Systems Analysis and Design Course

Emre Erturk
Eastern Institute of Technology
Napier, New Zealand

Abstract. The goal of learning design is to help create educational

settings and sessions that are learner and activity centred. Authentic
learning activities can better engage learners. Role playing is an
interesting example of an active learning and teaching strategy. It can
incorporate drama, simulations, games, and demonstrations of real life
cases related to any topic. This strategy has been applied recently (from
2013 through 2015) at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in New
Zealand tertiary, in the systems analysis and design course. It has
involved students in the computing and information technology
bachelors degree programme. Learning design plans were prepared
with the expectation that role play activities would contribute positively
to this course. First, this paper describes how the role play sessions were
carried out. Next, the paper discusses the effectiveness of this strategy.
This reflection is not only from a pedagogical perspective, but also in
terms of its benefits as a useful information technology (IT) analytical
practice. Furthermore, the paper presents the findings from this applied
and reflective research, along with practical suggestions for teachers
interested in practising this approach. An important recommendation is
to begin with short role plays and move gradually to longer activities,
while giving students advanced notice and time to prepare and become
familiar with their roles.

Keywords: teaching strategy; information technology education;

systems analysis; role play

The learning design process, as its name suggests, is about creating an
educational setting with sessions that are learner centred (rather than teacher
centred). The goal is to implement authentic activities that can engage learners
(Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). The content and the resources should not
be the organizing elements, as they would be for many traditional lectures.
Instead, their purpose is to support the learning activities and the students
independent learning. Through the learning design process, teachers can also
create a constructive alignment between learning activities, assessments, and
learning outcomes (Biggs & Tang, 2011). Good learning design also encourages

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important two way feedback between teachers and students through

experiential learning and active dialogue (Coffield, 2008). This is also true for
role play, which is an active learning and teaching strategy.
Role play typically involves adaptations from real life situations, related to
topics being studied. The students demonstrate particular behaviours or
performances that show their understanding and competence with a given case
and the relevant concepts.

Systems Analysis and Design is a core course for the Information Technology
(IT) Bachelors degree, and helps prepare students for jobs such as IT project
manager, business analyst, and systems analyst. Students learn to examine
information systems, collect requirements, and design solutions. The course also
teaches diagramming for development and documentation. Graduates will
collaborate and communicate with various stakeholders during a project within
a company, and are expected to bridge the gaps between different groups of
people. Role play can be a useful approach to help the students in developing
these important communication and collaboration skills.

Literature Review
During the learning design process and in preparation for the lessons, it is
important for teachers to consider the numerous factors on which successful
student learning depends: for example, needing/wanting, doing, digesting, and
feedback (Race, 2010). Therefore, teachers need to organize engaging activities,
instead of delivering pure lectures that keep the students in a passive state. Role
play, as an active teaching strategy, can incorporate these positive elements of
enjoying learning and digesting knowledge, when designed accordingly and
implemented successfully.

For teachers who are interested in this strategy, a relatively broad paper written
by McSharry and Jones (2000) explains various types of role play with
interesting examples from science education and suggestions to consider for all
teachers. According to McSharry and Jones (2000), although role play may not be
difficult for many learners, it is advisable to start with short role plays and move
gradually to longer role plays after both the teachers and the students gain some
initial experience and confidence.

The role play activity also should not come immediately before or right after an
exam because the exam can cause stress for the students and negatively
influence the effectiveness of this activity (Case & Cheek-ODonnell, 2015). In
this course, the activity was appropriately timed so that it did not conflict and
did not become affected by an exam or another critical event.

Furthermore, a small number of teachers have recently started using role play in
systems analysis and design courses, in particular. In a broader context, Green
and Blaszczynski (2012) suggested that role play is suited for teaching soft
(personal and social) skills to students and professionals.

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The systems analysis and design course itself offers many opportunities for role
play. The obvious scenarios include client interviews, proposal presentations,
and team meetings. However, this paper is about a more novel, original and
recent role play approach: using analytical IT diagrams as scenarios or scripts for
the role play sessions.

For example, in 2011, Costain and McKenna from the University of Auckland in
New Zealand reported on their implementation of a role play activity coupled
with Use Case Diagrams, which are part of the Unified Modeling Language
(UML). The use case diagram method is so far the most common one in the
literature, as opposed to other IT diagrams. This is due to the pictorial and often
simpler nature of this specific type of diagram. However, role play should not be
limited to use case diagrams.

Other examples of IT documentation and diagram artefacts that have been used
as a basis for role play by Borstler (2010) at Umea University in Sweden are
class-responsibility-collaboration cards and so-called role play diagrams
(derived from the UML Class and Object Diagrams).

Choosing which type of diagrams to use is an important and interesting

consideration for IT lecturers. Although UML diagrams may often be preferred
in industry and IT curricula, students also like Data Flow Diagrams (DFD),
which are also still taught in systems analysis and design courses (Millet, 2009).
In comparison, DFDs may also provide rich stories and have good role play
potential, as they are often less sequential, have a greater scope, and are more
open to interpretation. As a process oriented diagram, a similar UML
counterpart to the DFD is the UML Activity Diagram.

The role play activity described in this paper was conducted at the Eastern
Institute of Technology, New Zealand. Both DFDs and Activity Diagrams have
been used to stimulate role play activities among IT students in recent years
(from 2013 through 2015) during the systems analysis and design course. The
lessons plans were first written for DFDs (as can be seen in the next section); the
same instructions were used for role play activities based on Activity Diagrams.

Implementation in Courses
The two class sessions discussed in this paper were on Data Flow Diagrams
(DFD) and Activity Diagrams. The first session involved students in using the
software in the computer lab. The learning outcome was to demonstrate their
analysis of a case by drawing these diagrams. The second session had students
reviewing, digesting, and critiquing completed diagrams. Students did this
through a role play activity about the library systems and how they function.
The learning outcome included explaining the diagram (by acting it out) to
others, including non-technical people as well as technical IT staff. It is
unnecessary to reproduce all of the diagrams involved in these class activities.
One example (a UML Activity Diagram showing just one segment of the library
environment) is in Figure 1 below:

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Figure 1: A sample UML Activity Diagram related to a school library.

From a pedagogical perspective, as can be seen in the learning design plans

(Appendix 1), there were three specific teaching approaches that were
incorporated. The self-instructions were as follows:

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Catering for Learner Needs: It is emphasized (in the beginning of the first
session) that diagrams are used in business and systems analysis jobs. This
includes reminding students that DFDs and similar diagrams can also be found
in other subjects and classes. This increases their awareness of the wider context
for this learning topic. The second session is to begin with a picture of a small
computer game flowchart, telling the students how modeling and planning are
important for creating any kind of software, not just business related software
but also games. This helps relate the learning content to something they enjoy in
their free time. In summary, these are plausible ideas to try to create a
connection with the students learning needs and career goals. Throughout these
explanations, some references to their previous classes and sessions will also
help provide a continuum of learning.

Active Learning Approaches: The first session involves learning by doing where
each student has a computer to work hands on using software in the lab to draw
data flow diagrams individually as well as helping each other. They gradually
work in groups like a pyramid first in pairs exchanging ideas and assistance
with the person sitting next to him/her, and then in groups of four to come up
with a complete and ideal group diagram. In the second session, the students are
to discuss a sample DFD and role-play the case, with peer feedback from
observing students. The next step is to go around the class, and let the students
identify and explain possible areas on the diagram that may have IT impact.
Overall, both sessions feature different and interesting activities but they use the
same case; this helps to build knowledge by covering different aspects of the
same topic.

Feedback to Learners: In addition to the teachers feedback to learners, it is

important to explore ways that they can give feedback to one another. For
example, they discuss the case with each other in the first session as they draw
the diagrams. In the second session, there is more discussion with peer feedback,
between the role players and the observers (during and after the role play
activity). The teacher also collects the diagrams submitted by each group for the
purposes of feedback. During the sessions, the teacher regularly interacts with
the students in order to understand their level of learning. Each session has
formative assessment activities that help them review and measure their
knowledge of subject related terminology. The students are encouraged to do
the formative assessment seriously, and advised to study more depending on
the results.

As a note for IT lecturers, students use two computer applications for drawing
the diagrams: Microsoft Visio and Dia. Although not as commonly used as Visio,
Dia is free and open source, as opposed to proprietary and commercial software.
Free software makes an important contribution to education in general (Erturk,
2009). Therefore, teachers and students interested in diagram based role play do
not need to be limited by financial concerns. Another interesting aspect for this
type of activity is the how roles are distributed. Although the teacher is the
facilitator, students are given a choice (Tolipov & Tolipova, 2015).

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Evaluation of Teaching
After the conclusion of the above sessions, the teaching was reflected upon and
evaluated from the perspective of the three strategies that are part of the
learning design process. In addition, a peer evaluation was done by an
experienced colleague. The findings from these evaluations are as follows.

Catering for Learner Needs: Using a ball and throwing it between the students
energized the dialogue as they took turns. Everyone got a chance to say
something based on their interpretation during the second lesson. As a future
improvement, a pre-prepared white board or a projected slide with a session
outline can give the students a welcome and a compass for each session.
Although the introduction and agenda were done verbally this time, this can be
done at the beginning of every future session in writing without much effort.

Active Learning Approaches: Asking students to do pair discussions every now

and then was effective in keeping students active within the classroom and
associating with each other as learners. The crossword in the first session was
interesting and different for the learners, and served well as an assessment and
feedback resource while being puzzling and enjoyable at the same time. The
quiz/lottery in the second session (which was also for the purpose of assessment
and feedback) was also effective because it built anticipation and engagement
among the students. Next, the students also participated enthusiastically and
effectively in the role play activity. As the peer observer suggested, the role play
activities can be made even more effective. This requires, for example, preparing
the students ahead of time, spending more time getting people into their roles,
and slowing and fine tuning the learning process.

Feedback to Learners: During the sessions, a strong amount of positive feedback

and acknowledgement was given to students and their responses. This even
included a funny component by presenting an Academy Award to the role
players, and joking with the observers about Wellywood and Hollywood. The
teacher selected student diagrams to base the role play session on, for critiquing
and explaining the case. This was done after reviewing the diagrams they
created in the computer lab in the previous session, also for the purpose of
giving them individual feedback about their work with the software. According
to the peer observer, this was a very validating move (using students diagrams
instead of textbook diagrams) and helped build the students confidence. This
was fair feedback as the work was good enough; but the potential impact on
them as learners was also significant. One of the diagrams came from one of the
groups that had been catching up with the other groups and had been somewhat
withdrawn. Within two weeks after this, that particular group had become more
confident and productive.

Peer Evaluation: Some of the comments from the peer observer have been
mentioned earlier in this section. Furthermore, as noted by the observer, the
session was well supported by other resources that were shown on the projector
screen, such as slides, pictures, and references to the online learning materials.

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


During the observation, the students were enthusiastic and actively engaged.
The following statement by the observer summarizes both the initial intent and
the eventual outcome of this role play activity: Learners were well supported
by you with props and prompts. Clear links made between role play and
communication expectations with lay people.
The peer evaluation report with details can be found in Appendix 2.

Some ideas for future improvements have already been mentioned in this paper.
Furthermore, there are other specific actions that will be discussed in this section
of the paper. These are a result of the self-evaluation done by the teacher, while
reviewing the success of the learning design plans.
After reflecting on the question of catering for learner needs, it is possible to use
a computer game related case study next time for practice with the future cohort
(instead of the library). This might draw them closer toward the learning
activities. In turn, they can become even more enthusiastic about this type of
work, and will still do more serious Data Flow Diagrams or Activity Diagrams
for their course assignment anyway.
So far, the role play activities in this course have been concise and experimental.
The future direction of role play in the course is to implement more
sophisticated role play activities. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to
prepare the students more ahead of time, and to allow more time for students to
familiarize with their roles. Longer role play activities are likely to cause more
reflection, and students can learn even more from such an experience.
Next, it is important for teachers to improve their questioning skills, to help
stimulate the learners during role play and afterwards to help them reflect.
Although it is important to complete the lesson on time, it would be beneficial to
give learners more time to ponder and formulate answers. It will be useful to put
the questions in writing on the board or the screen. Alternatively, the questions
can be given to the students in advance of a session (if possible or appropriate).
Providing time for discussion and digestion is important for teaching practice in
general. This is true both for the LBKO (learning is building knowledge with
others) approach and for the LIS (learning is individual sense making) approach
(Watkins, 2011).The students self-directed learning time can also be used better
for digestion and application of knowledge and skills.
Therefore, it is interesting to consider the students learning styles, not just in the
classroom but also outside. In order to understand a specific group of learners
better, it is important to have deeper learning conversations with them about
how they are studying and making progress outside of the class meetings. This
would help the teachers get to know them better and provide more innovative
or authentic feedback and support. In turn, these would better prepare the
students for role play and other active learning strategies.
Role play as an active learning strategy can be used, not just in face-to-face
classes, but also in blended or distance learning. This type of learning activity
can be implemented more often in the context of business and computing
courses. Teachers, who have already used this strategy before, can continue to
experiment with role play by thinking of new scenarios for their courses.

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.



Biggs, J. & Tang C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university (4th ed.).
Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.
Brstler, J. (2010). Using role-play diagrams to improve scenario role-play. In G. Engels,
C. Lewerentz, W. Schfer, A. Schrr, & B. Westfechtel (Eds.), Graph
Transformations and Model-driven Engineering (pp. 309-394). Heidelberg: Springer
Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-17322-6_14
Case, G. & Cheek-O'Donnell , S. (2015). A better way for role play [Workshop notes].
Available at https://medicine.utah.edu/faculty-dev/programs/academy-med-
Coffield, F. (2008). Just suppose learning and teaching became the first priority. London,
England: Learning and skills network (LSN). Available at
Costain, G., & McKenna, B. (2011). Experiencing the elicitation of user requirements and
recording them in use case diagrams through role-play. Journal of Information
Systems Education, 22(4), 367-380.
Erturk, E. (2009). International technology transfer: the case of free computer software.
Paper presented at the International Academy of Business and Public
Administration Disciplines (IABPAD) Conference, Orlando, Florida. Available at
Green, D., & Blaszczynski, C. (2012). Effective strategies and activities for developing
soft skills. Journal of Applied Research for Business Instruction, 10(2).
McSharry, G., & Jones, S. (2000). Role-play in science teaching and learning. School
Science Review, 82, 73-82.
Millet, I. (2009). Student perceptions of data flow diagrams vs. use cases. In L. Tomei
(Ed.), Information Communication Technologies for Enhanced Education and Learning:
Advanced Applications and Developments (pp. 94-102). Hershey, PA: Information
Science Reference. doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-150-6.ch007
Race, P. (2010). Making learning happen: A guide for post-compulsory education (2nd ed.).
London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Reeves, T. C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2002). Authentic activities and online learning.
Paper presented at the Higher Education Research and Development Society of
Australasia (HERDSA) International Conference, Perth, Australia. Available at
Tolipov, U., & Tolipova, F. (2015). Didactic Games and their role in the continuous
educational process. The Advanced Science Journal, 3, 29-31.
Watkins, C. (2011). Learning: a sense makers guide. London, England: Association of
Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) - the education union. Available at

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Appendix 1: Lesson Plan

Appendix 2: Peer Observation

Topic: Data flow diagrams

Catering for learner needs:

Some of the positives:

Colour coding of library system diagram assists learners to bundle
different components of data flow
Role play provided a valuable experiential learning activity which
demanded translation of data flow diagram into real-life sequences
Conclusion provided information to students about next steps giving
them a sense of direction

For your consideration:

Work on allowing time and space for learners to respond to your
questions. There were a number of occasions where you moved on too
quickly, not allowing time for students to ponder the question before
offering a response.

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Learning activities:

This session was activity-rich and so provided some sound learner-

centred opportunities for building new understandings. Specific activities
Role-play activity case and library data-flow system slides shown in
advance to provide clear context for activity. Role play provided
opportunity for students to deconstruct a data flow diagram and perform
the described actions, in a context (i.e. library) familiar to learners. This
brought the data-flow to life. Learners were well supported by you with
props and prompts. Clear links made between role play and
communication expectations with lay people.
Pairs discussion re what areas might have an IT factor, saw enthusiastic
and focussed engagement
Points to ponder:
An awesome first-time role-play activity! I encourage you to explore the
value of spending a little more time getting people into their roles (non-
participants can help here too), slowing the process down and re-running
certain parts to develop the character further or build in observer
feedback, to enhance learning.

Feedback to learners:

Some of the ways I observed you offering feedback to or providing

feedback opportunities for learners were:
Selecting a student diagram for an in-class activity is very validating for
the learners and serves to build confidence
Your responses to learner questions are generally acknowledging of the
intention of the question, and provide clarification for the learner
Food for thought:
Dont forget that with some questions asked of you, you can throw them
back to the student cohort, instead of responding yourself this can also
provide useful feedback to learners about their understanding


Your learning design overview is incredibly thorough and your lesson

plan well organised and sequenced. You used a range of resources
effectively within the session slides, EIT online, reference to the text -
and provided diverse learning activities which saw the student cohort
actively engaged in their own learning. Thank you for the opportunity to
observe your teaching practice. Keep up the exciting development.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 160-180, October 2015

Designing PBL Case Studies for Patient-Centered Care

Robyn Schell
Teaching and Learning Centre, Simon Fraser University,
8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6

David Kaufman
Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University,
8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6

Abstract. Although patient-centered care is a medical practice ideal and

is known to be associated with better patient outcomes, patient-
centeredness declines as students progress through medical school.
There is a need to integrate components into medical education that
develop patient-centeredness through communications skills training,
practice-based learning, and reflective practice. PBL can offer a venue
for enhancing these types of skills. PBL cases based on stories can create
a more authentic learning environment by telling narratives from the
patients perspective while providing engaging, memorable contexts for
practicing patient-centered skills. Recounting thick narratives through
the medium of video and supporting PBL with multimedia resources
can provide a richer experience for learning and teaching. Implementing
design-based research in conjunction with quantitative and/or
qualitative research methodologies could provide new insights into PBL
in relation to patient-centered skills and values. Although design-based
research can be challenging, using it together with other research
methodologies offers the possibility of new contributions to situated,
constructivist theory within a PBL setting.

Keywords: patient-centered care; problem-based learning; hidden

curriculum; narrative; design-based research


Patient-centered skills and values are not as ubiquitous as we might expect.

Despite years of attempts to create curricula that build patient-centered skills
and values, there is evidence that as medical students progress through medical
school and clinical training, their patient-centeredness declines. The biomedical
approach is predominant in patient-physician encounters, and this perspective is
embedded in both the explicit curriculum and what is called the hidden

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curriculum, where students learn through the processes of enculturation and


Studies show that patients experience better outcomes when their care is
oriented to their needs and desires and when they are involved in their own
care. Medical education has an important role in developing new physicians
patient-centered skills. Widespread in medical education, problem-based
learning (PBL) focuses on the case study as a motivator and tool for teaching and
learning. As such, PBL and case study design may have the potential to support
the development of patient-centered skills and values. Currently, as education
transitions to the web, PBL is becoming a viable alternative to teaching patient-
centered skills, particularly in decentralized systems where medical students are
training in multiple regional centers. This article explores theoretical
foundations and practical considerations for integrating patient-centeredness
into PBL cases in order to support development of these values and skills in
medical education.

What is Patient-Centered Care?

An ideal that can mean many things to many people, patient-centered care lacks
a single clear definition (Mead & Bower, 2000, 2002). Nevertheless, there appears
to be some consensus that patient-centered care focuses on the needs, life
context, and perspective of the patient. It depends on developing a productive
two-way relationship between the patient and the physician.

Patient-centered care views the patient as a person with unique needs and life
history. It involves interactions in which the physician engages with the patient
and the patient can speak openly and ask questions (Stewart, 1984). Patient-
centered care requires that the patients concerns, preferences, experiences, and
emotions be considered as part of the doctor-patient relationship. In Epstein and
Streets (2011) description, patients are known as persons in context of their
own social worlds, listened to, informed, respected, and involved in their care
and their wishes are honored (but not mindlessly enacted) during their health
care journey (p. 100). Mead and Bower (2000) identified five dimensions
common to published descriptions of patient-centeredness, including a
biopsychosocial perspective, sensitivity to the patient-as-person and their
experience of illness, sharing of power and responsibility between patient and
doctor, a therapeutic alliance between them, and recognition of the importance
of the personal qualities and subjectivity of the doctor. More recently, a review
by Constand, MacDermid, Bello-Haas, and Law (2014) identified
communication, partnership, and health promotion activities as core strategies
of 25 frameworks found in the literature.

Patient-centered care is believed to be a factor in producing favorable patient

outcomes (Bertakis & Azari, 2011; Mead & Bower, 2002; Radwin, Cabral, &
Wilkes, 2009; Stewart et al., 2000). Recent research distinguishes between
outcomes desired by the patient, such as subjective feelings of satisfaction,
optimism, trust in doctors and nurses, and quality of life, and outcomes that

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reflect objectively improved health or treatment compliance (Epstein & Street,

2011; Radwin et al., 2009). These appear to be interconnected; it is thought that
patients who report more positive doctor-patient experiences are more likely to
follow treatment plans, achieve better health outcomes, and use the healthcare
system less often (Bertakis & Azari, 2011; Kuehn, 2012), although evidence is
mixed to date (Epstein & Street, 2011; Rathert, Wyrwich, & Boren, 2012).

The U.S. report Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st
Century (Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, 2001) identifies
patient-centered care as one of six indicators of medical care quality. The U.S.
federal government now measures and reports annually on ratings of patient-
centered care across the countrys health care system (e.g., see Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality, 2014) and is funding research on appropriate
measurement (Methodology Committee of PCORI, 2012). This has greatly
increased its prominence in the U.S. health care industry and among researchers.
Since 2010 there has been a marked increase in research measuring both patient
engagement and clinical outcomes in order to attempt to establish clearer
relationships (Covington, Veley, & ODonnell, 2014).

Most definitions of patient-centered care seem to agree that communication is

crucial and that patients and physicians should make shared medical decisions
about patient care that take into account patient values, attitudes, and
preferences. However, many barriers exist to its implementation, including
deficiencies in physicians knowledge about patient needs, and physician
attitudes that cling to an authoritarian, biomedical practice model (Luxford,
Safran, & Delbanco, 2011; Visser, Deliens, & Houttekier, 2014).

These knowledge and attitude gaps can be addressed through education.

Learning about patient-centeredness can be seen as a function of both formal
and informal curriculum, both of which may involve practices that deter the
development of patient-centeredness. Patient-centeredness is typically learned
from both doctors role modeling (Michalec, 2012) and from curriculum
implemented by medical educators. In this way, the interactions and attitudes
that form the doctor-patient relationship are learned not from the patients point
of view but from other physicians. Furthermore, medical educations culture
focuses on biomedical disease mechanisms, and on instilling respect for
physicians authority and autonomy, rather than on issues and subjects that are
central to the patient (Hafferty, 1998; Haidet & Stein, 2006; Michalec & Hafferty,

Despite efforts to integrate into the medical curriculum concepts and skills
related to patient-centered practice, studies show that the distance between
medical students and their patients increases as students progress through their
training. This trend strengthens in the clinical years of the medical program, as
students lose sensitivity to patients views and life contexts, and this
phenomenon is more pronounced for male students than for females (Haidet,
Kelly, & Chou, 2005; Tsimtsiou et al., 2007; Woloschuk, Harasym, & Temple,

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The Hidden Curriculum

The socialization process that shapes the medical students professional identity
is partially attributed to the effect of the hidden curriculum (Hafferty, 1998;
Hafferty & Franks, 1994). The hidden curriculum refers to what is being taught
through the informal exchanges and relationships that occur between students
and faculty. Many medical students begin their studies idealistically but lose
their optimism as experience shows the fallibility of medicine and reinforces
objectivity, and often cynicism, in the face of illness and death. Also, medical
students learn quickly that government policy, administration, and patient
advocates can challenge doctors traditional autonomy. Through the hidden
curriculum, students are ingrained into a paternalistic culture that contributes to
traditional behaviors such as a reluctance to openly acknowledge uncertainty
and ambiguity in clinical situations (Bleakley & Bligh, 2008; Michalec, 2012).
Studies of patient-centeredness in medical education have focused primarily on
medical students attitudes, rather than their behaviors (Haidet et al., 2001, 2002;
Woloschuk et al., 2004). These attitudes are often described in terms of ethics or
values, rather than as activity informed by theory (Bleakley & Bligh, 2008;
Krupat et al., 2009).

The literature is only beginning to consider how medical students might learn
about and from patients in ways that would shift learning away from the
prominence of physician-educators role modeling and embodied attitudes.
Studies describing medical students attitudes towards patients suggest that
undergraduate medical education has far to go in developing positive, patient-
centered views (Haidet et al., 2001; Lamiani, Leone, Meyer, & Moja, 2011),
although recent cases show promise (Christianson, McBride, Vari, Olson, &
Wilson, 2007; Haidet, Kroll, & Sharf, 2006; Lvesque, Hovey, & Bedos, 2013).

The Patients Perspective

Although recent studies (Alharbi, Carlstrm, Ekman, Jarneborn, & Olsson, 2014;
Rathert, Williams, McCaughey, & Ishqaidef, 2015) have explored patients
experiences of overall patient-centeredness, few have been concerned with the
patients specific perceptions of doctors in terms of patient-centered care. The
patients ability to influence the medical education curriculum has often been
unappreciated (Boudreau, Jagosh, Slee, Macdonald, & Steinert, 2008).

On the other hand, the 1990s Educating Future Physicians for Ontario project
(Maudsley et al., 2000) and the international conference Wheres the Patients
Voice in Health Professional Education? (Towle, 2006) both suggested that
patients should be consulted when designing curriculum. The McGill University
Faculty of Medicine also considered patients when redesigning their curriculum
in 2003, leading to a new component that focused on the concept of
physicianship (Boudreau et al., 2008).

As described by Boudreau et al., physicianship included developing professional

attributes that would improve the patients experience. In a survey of patients,

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terms commonly used in the curriculum were largely absent in the patients
vocabulary, for example, the word healing and healer. Although there was
an overlap in the facultys and patients expectations of a doctors ideal
behaviors, the words to describe these behaviors were quite different,
underlining the fact that the language of patients world and the medical world
are distinct. While patients spoke in active terms: is straightforward;
encourages me; faculty used passive terms such as insight or openness.
The patients viewed the word professionalism in a negative light and rarely
expressed their expectations of doctors in these terms.

In some studies, listening has been highlighted as a crucial characteristic of ideal

physician behavior (Weissmann, Branch, Gracey, Haidet, & Frankel, 2006).
Listening was found to be more visible than expertise, an unexpected discovery
for the researchers involved in the McGill study. Patients also deemed as
important a doctors ability to see and treat the patient as a unique individual.
In other words, patients appreciated behavior that demonstrated that a doctor
was interested in them as an individual, not just as a patient. Depersonalization
was an important theme of patient survey responses, and researchers concluded
that this was related to findings in other studies of a decline in later years of
training of medical students patient-centered attitudes (Boudreau et al., 2008).

In a study exploring patients ideas of patient-centeredness, Stewart et al. (2000)

surveyed 315 patients of 39 family doctors, asking patients to assess the patient-
centeredness of their visits. Patients rated their experience based on the doctors
communication skills, understanding of patient as a whole person, and finding
common ground with the patient in the interview. Communication skills
received a high score when the doctor asked about the patients feelings, ideas,
and expectations in addition to symptoms and function. Doctors who explored
issues such as life context, family, and personality received a high score on
understanding of the whole person. Finding common ground was rated highly if
the doctor clearly explained the problem and management plan, answered
questions, and reached explicit agreement with the patient on the plan. The
studys authors found that higher scores in patient-centered communications
were associated with fewer diagnostic tests and referrals and better recovery.
The importance of doctors (and other health professionals) communication
skills is confirmed by others including Alharbi et al., (2014), Epstein and Street,
2007; and Ferguson, Ward, Card, Sheppard, & McMurtry (2013).

The Doctors Perceptions

A doctors perception of patients also affects patients experience of patient-

centered care. Studying 29 doctors and 207 patients, Street, Gordon, & Haidet
(2007) found that doctors displayed more patient-centered communication when
a patients communication skills were well developed. When patients asked
questions, made requests, and expressed their opinions, concerns and fears,
doctors were often more informative, supportive, and accommodating. This
could mean that patients with less education, older patients, or those from some
ethnic groups could experience less patient-centered communication and fewer

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associated benefits than educated, young, Caucasian patients. If so, this could
have important implications for developing the kind of curriculum that builds
patient-centered skills. For example, training physicians in self-awareness and
reflective skills could help them build skills to better engage those who have
difficulties in communicating or who might not understand the consultation
process (Alharbi et al., 2014).

These suggestions imply that change must happen at the level of the
patient/doctor interview. The taking of case histories is a pivotal point of contact
in a doctor/patient encounter that results in an account of the patients sickness
and a basis for medical care. In most medical schools, students learn to write
case histories that describe the history of the present illness, which focuses on
the onset, symptoms, and course of disease, as gathered from the patients story
of their personal experience. Students learn to translate the patients story into
an impersonal, biomedically-oriented disease narrative (Donnelly, 1996). The
differences in the doctors and patients accounts can be considerable (Hunter,
1991). In the process of the interview and writing of the medical record, the sick
person as subject is changed into an object of professional inquiry.

In his paper on this phenomenon, Donnelly (1996) suggests that the patient be
attended to as a unique person, and recommends changing the problem-
oriented medical record to one with a more holistic picture of the patients life,
one that involves composing a medical case history as a story of human illness.
To do this, he proposes a patient-centered medical record that contains steps
such as introducing the patient as a person and using words such as chief
concern rather than chief complaint to change the orientation of the
interview. In the History of Present Illness section he suggests first collecting
information relating to the biomedical aspects of the disease, then collecting
information relating to the patients perspective. The latter includes items such

The patients understanding of the disease;

The impact of the disease on the patients life, work or relationships,
especially as they relate to the physical, mental and emotional
experiences of loss, pain, worry or fear;
The patients personal goals regarding health;
The patients expectations of medical care.

In a later discussion of patient medical records, Donnelly provides examples of

the kinds of questions a doctor can ask a patient that embodies the patient-
centered approach (Donnelly, 2005, p. 35). In his view, teaching communication
skills using patient-centered techniques addresses the patients illness as
competently as those that document a patients biomedical disease. Problem-
based learning could offer a learning environment for practicing these types of
communication skills and so bring about changes in students and physicians
patient/doctor orientation.

Integrating Patient-Centered Care into PBL Tutorials

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Case studies are ubiquitous as a tool for medical education, particularly in

problem-based learning (PBL) tutorials. PBL was conceived by Howard Barrows
at McMaster University in the 1960s and plays an important role in many
medical school education programs (Srinivasan, Wilkes, Stevenson, Nguyen, &
Slavin, 2007). PBL has the potential to create an authentic environment where
members of a professional community undertake realistic activities using tools
common to that community.

Usually PBL is carried out in small groups of students meeting together with a
tutor who provides guidance and feedback (Wilkerson & Feletti, 1989). PBL
generally takes place in face-to-face tutorials using paper-based cases, although
newer communications and delivery technologies are increasingly transforming
the PBL experience (Duffy, Dueber, & Hawley, 1998; Ellaway & Masters, 2008;
Jin & Bridges, 2014; Poulton, Conradi, Kavia, Round, & Hilton et al., 2009).
Traditionally, the facilitator discloses the case study in stages; students identify
and discuss the case issues, their relevant knowledge, and what they need to
find out in order to resolve the case. To move forward, students research the
learning issues that they identify during the tutorial and share their new
information with the group, repeating the steps if the case progresses in multiple
stages. In summary, the first step is being presented with the problem. Group
members than address the problem by applying clinical reasoning skills. By
interacting with their peers, learners work together to determine the gaps in
their knowledge and what they need to learn. Group members learn the
required material outside of the tutorial (class) and then apply it to solve the
problem and summarize what has been learned from the case (Barrows, 1985).

A PBL tutorial often concludes with the students evaluating the session and the
resources that supported the case. In general, case resources supplement and
illustrate the case study with items such as images, journal articles, x-rays, test
results, and photos.

PBL can be considered within the constructivist tradition (Savery & Duffy, 1995).
The focus is on the learners construction of their own knowledge in a context
similar to one where it will be used. Understanding emerges as a result of
interactions within an environment; learning is distributed and knowledge is
created through social negotiation. Collaboration is key for the testing and
formation of understanding.

PBL case studies are based on authentic situations with no obvious solution.
Information is often vague and conflicting. As information is delivered to
students, they define what is relevant, develop a hypothesis that might account
for the situation, then do research to confirm the hypothesis (Barrows, 1985). The
objective of this method is to develop competencies, critical reasoning, and
learning skills (Barrows, 1984), as well as the ability to appreciate other points of
view, work collaboratively, and to conduct self-assessments (Kamin, Deterding,
Wilson, Armacost, & Breedon, 1999).

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Savery and Duffy (1995) suggest that PBL is an approach related to cognitive
apprenticeship, incorporating the knowledge domain and the problem solving
methodology associated with a particular profession, for example, medical
education. In PBL, the case study drives learning and the construction of
knowledge, so the design, structure, and orientation of the case study influences
the students content acquisition and overall learning experience. For example,
case design could influence how medical students decide what is important in
problem-solving situations involving clinical reasoning. This in turn, might
influence how medical students perceive patients and themselves as members of
the medical community of practice.

Taylor and Miflin (2008) contend that the PBL we see today is a product of many
years of evolution in many diverse settings. Case resources can now include not
only physical artifacts, but a wide variety of multimedia and links to the
Internet. Cases themselves can be depicted in video stored remotely, rather than
distributed in person through paper cases. In other words, there are so many
variations in PBL that it is very challenging to compare results from one study to
another. This is not to say that PBL has not produced the positive outcomes
described in the literature, but it does help to explain why there are so many
diverging opinions on how useful PBL is for producing competent doctors.
There is good evidence to support claims of PBLs benefits (e.g., Kaufman &
Mann, 1998; 1999), but studies are based on differing views of desirable
outcomes. PBL applications vary greatly, often departing from Barrows original
conception. Research involving PBL must be carefully documented so that
readers can clearly understand the innovations and components that make up
the research environment and can interpret the results within the appropriate

Models of PBL in the Preclinical and Clinical years

PBL was originally intended to introduce clinical problems in the pre-clinical

years of medical training. Often PBL cases, while encouraging discussion in a
group setting, emphasize the biological mechanisms underlying a particular
disease, with the aim of developing clinical reasoning skills in response to
possible clues in the case (Taylor & Miflin, 2008).

Gradually PBL has been expanded into the clinical years (Taylor & Miflin, 2008),
and some claim that its limitations are more evident in these years (Mamede,
Schmidt, Rikers, Penaforte, & Coelho-Filho, 2007). As students begin to work in
clinical sites, integrating real patients into PBL becomes more desirable
(Dammers, Spencer, & Thomas, 2001) and can provide ample opportunity for
practicing and reflecting on patient-centered care (DiSalvo, 2015; Staun,
Bergstrm, & Wadensten, 2010). This approach could include some type of
hybrid PBL combining face-to-face and online sessions and providing access to
opportunities to practice with real people after seeing best practices modeled in
video or in person. This is offered as one possible scenario; there are many

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The design of effective PBL cases could be quite different for clinical and
preclinical students. Simpler cases in more structured tutorial settings may not
require the deeper analytical and non-analytical reasoning used by more
experienced physicians (Harris, Boyce, & Ajjawi, 2011). These simpler cases,
however, can undermine efforts to integrate the patients perspective, and a
patient-centered care mindset, into preclinical medical education. PBL case
studies can be viewed as having a significant influence on a medical students
perspective on patients and how they diagnose and treat illness. For instance,
cases told from the perspective of the physician may de-contextualize the patient
and enhance a tendency towards detachment (Kenny & Beagan, 2004).
MacLeods (2011) review of 67 cases at one medical school identified six themes
that dehumanize the patient and lead the student to consider the patient as
merely a collection of symptoms that must be diagnosed and treated by the
expert physician. Examples include a focus on playing detective to solve a
case; interchangeable disease symptoms that do not take gender into account;
humorous patient names (e.g. Jack Daniels for an alcoholic); case descriptions
that lack patients voices or details that could help students to visualize real
persons; and race, social class, gender, and other stereotypes.

PBL and Narrative-Based Case Studies

Problem-based learning cases describe an encounter between a patient and

doctor. Case studies structured around a story may help provide a richer context
for learning than simple PBL cases, especially when these stories are told from
the patients perspective. Creating PBL case studies as a story or narrative could
have a number of advantages for producing more robust situated learning
experiences that could shape both individuals and culture (Polkinghorne, 1988)
by framing our experience, helping us to remember it, and to cope with new
situations (Schank & Cleary, 1995). Stories can also help people to remember and
apply information within new situations and are thought to be central to the
way humans make sense of their world (Polkinghorne, 1988; Schank & Cleary,

PBL is rooted in authentic learning situations where the problem is the driving
force for learning about the professional world. In medical education, the
problem presents the patient and their illness as the venue for resolving medical
problems. It is generally assumed that cases strongly reflect, at some level, real
patients and situations that physicians would encounter in their medical
practice. Cases impart information and values about the profession (Kamin,
O'Sullivan, Deterding, & Younger, 2003) and play a role in the transmission of
not only medical information, but also the unspoken assumptions, attitudes, and
values of the health care professional culture (Kenny & Beagan, 2004).

Reframing case content to reflect both the doctors and patients points of view,
using language that can be understood by the patient, presenting a time line that
better reflects the patients experience, and developing a detailed picture of the
patient and those in his/her world may contribute to a more authentic case
study (Kenny & Beagan, 2004). Table 1 shows a summary of questions Kenny

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and Beagan asked in order to analyze the level of patient-oriented content in

PBL case studies. This approach creates an awareness of case perspective and
can contribute to the development of cases that represent multiple voices and so
diversify the PBL case study repertoire.

Table 1. Summary of Questions for Analyzing Patient-Centeredness in PBL Cases.

Narrative Questions
Language Is the case in the patients language or is it presented
in medical terminology?

Audience For whom is the case written?

Point of View Does the case narrative unfold from the patients or
the doctors point of view?

Time Frame What is the time frame of the case? What information
is there on the patients previous health? How much
information is there about the patients experience
with the symptoms?

Crisis Point Is there a resolution to the case? Are we told what

happens to the patient after the diagnosis? Is there a
sense of villain or hero in the story?

Dialogue Is there any dialogue in the case study? Is the patient

quoted? Is there any commentary on the patients
account of the illness?

Character To what extent are characters present other than the

Development doctor and patient, such as family and loved ones?
How much do we get to know the patient or others
important to their life? Do we get to know their

Source: Summarized from Kenny and Beagan (2004)

The development of case studies that are rich in narrative information, called
thick narrative, may provide a more robust context for learning than
traditional case studies because rich cases more accurately reflect the complex
reality of patient presentation and interaction. They also may help to lay the
foundation for the development of a more holistic and patient-centered
awareness during the training of health professionals. According to Bruners
(1986) definition, case study narratives, no matter how thin or rich, can influence
students sense of reality, appropriate behavior, and time.

Charon (2001) argues that narrative medicine models medical practice that is
both humane and effective, and narrative competence can enrich it with

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empathy, reflection, professionalism, and trustworthiness (p. 1987). In a pilot

test on the use of narrative, video-based PBL case studies, Bizzocchi and Schell
(2009) found that students were generally engaged by the thicker case study
narrative descriptions and reported that video deepened their experience. Most
participants responded positively and found that the more robust story and
video presentation within a media rich narrative seemed appropriate and
functional. The power of narrative, especially in a video format, may provide
learning opportunities and alternatives that supplement the current repertoire of
paper-based cases. Narrative constitutes a context in which audiences can
immerse themselves, acting as observers and participants, while media affords
the construction of narrative and a sense of immersion (Murray, 1998).

Learning evolves when collaborative groups and individuals interact, create

meaning, and construct knowledge as afforded by the structures where these
interactions take place (Jenkins, 2006). In a similar way, online narrative-based
PBL may help medical students to understand the structures shaping their
world and to develop a collective and individual patient-centered orientation.

Studying PBL through Design-Based Research

If narrative-based case studies can shape the professional development of a

medical student, influence their perceptions, and create a more authentic
learning environment, what stories should be told and how should they be told?
When patient-centered skills have been studied, patients tell us that being a
good listener is an important skill for doctors to learn, and patients value being
treated as individuals (Bleakley & Bligh, 2008; Constand et al., 2014; Ferguson et
al., 2013). Needed skills and awareness might be stimulated through the
components of the story and by telling the story of the medical encounter from
the patients viewpoint. However, the case study is only one element of the
complex PBL process, and there are many others that can influence learning and
teaching outcomes, such as facilitation, participant exchanges, case resources,
and technological enhancements. The PBL experience unfolds in a multi-faceted
environment, and research within this setting would entail studying the
phenomenon of learning and teaching as it takes place in this context.

Design-based research (DBR) is concerned with studying how design works

within the context of the learning environment, that is, the everyday world of
the classroom settings (whether online or off) and in the process has developed
theories with general application for learning and instruction. DBR is not simply
a process of trial and error to see what works. The results should have a wider
applicability: Design experiments ideally result in greater understanding of a
learning ecologya complex, interacting system involving multiple elements
and by anticipating how these elements function together to support learning
(Cobb, Confrey, di Sessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003, p. 9).

Designing environments that contribute to learning theory seems particularly

challenging. Usually education research is based on a theoretical framework, but
theoretical frameworks are rarely prescriptive. Problem-based learning, for

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example, is a pedagogy in medical education that applies a constructivist

approach where understanding is seen as a function of the content, context,
activity and goals of the learner (Savery & Duffy, 1995, p. 136). From a situated
constructivist theoretical perspective, PBL attempts to create a learning
experience where students work as a group using conceptual tools to resolve
authentic medical problems. PBL in its traditional form presents a rather limited
implementation of situated learning theory because it relies on linear paper cases
to develop learning. However, it is not obvious how the theory of situated
constructivist learning theory can determine the specifics of effective design.
DBR offers a possible solution to this difficulty, since it builds on a theoretical
framework and works in conjunction with qualitative or quantitative methods
(or both) to study and assess a phenomenon.

Designing Online PBL for Patient-Centered Teaching and Learning

Studies have shown that the deterioration in communications skills experienced

by medical students can be prevented or reduced through a greater emphasis on
the importance of communication and increased training in the curriculum
(Kaufman, Laidlaw, & Macleod, 2000). Since PBL tutorials can support the
professional development of medical students and since the case study is the
heart of the PBL process, the case study design is critical for the development of
these skills. As described earlier, cases impart information and values about the
profession (Kamin et al., 2003) and transmit assumptions and attitudes to
students about the culture of health care professionals (Kenny & Beagan, 2004).

Design-based research might offer a research methodology to investigate

domain specific learning processes such as the development of patient-centered
competencies and attitudes. As Cobb et al. (2003, p.9) suggest, A theory of this
type would specify successive patterns in students reasoning together with the
substantiated means by which the emergence of those successive patterns can be
supported. As DBR is concerned with the dynamic ecology of a learning
environment, the study of PBL would include factors such as the kind of
problems the students are asked to solve, the timing and content of the
unfolding elements of the case released during the course of the PBL tutorial,
learning processes of the students, tutorial facilitation, and the resources and
tools provided. When considered from a DBR perspective, these elements would
be seen as interacting components of a larger learning system rather than a list of
factors that independently influence learning.

Cobb et al.s description of how to prepare for DBR includes an arc of

conjectured starting points, elements of trajectory, and prospective endpoints
(Cobb et al., 2003, p.11) resulting in the formulation of a design that produces
significant shifts in student reasoning and the means of supporting these shifts
(Cobb et al., 2003, p.11). To begin DBR and define the scope of the research
project, a researcher should answer the following questions (Cobb et al., 2003, p.

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What is my theoretical intent? What is the point of the study? For

example, identify and account for successive patterns in student
thinking by relating these patterns to the means by which their
development can be supported and organized.
What are the salient ideas and reasoning behind the goals or
endpoints for student learning? This can be discovered by conducting
a systematic review of the literature in the domain.
What is an alternate conception of this domain, i.e. case study design
as related to factors outlined earlier, thought of as patient-centered
skills or to have promoted patient-centeredness?
What is the starting point for this innovation? Define current student
capabilities, current practices and draw on lit review to establish this.
Document learning ecology as it relates to the tutorial learning focus.

With these guidelines in mind, research on narrative-based case design within

the context of PBL may focus on variations on designs that have the potential to
enhance patient-centeredness. Assessment could involve the analysis of student
performances showing deep or shallow understanding of patient-centeredness
as compared to the students initial interpretations and understandings. To be
consistent with the goals of DBR, overall, these outcomes should illuminate the
dynamics of situated constructivist learning and teaching.

The literature indicates that design-based research is uncommon in medical

education research, perhaps due to its status as a relatively new approach to
research and to the overwhelmingly positivist emphasis of medical research
itself. Studies focusing on technology-supported education could make a useful
contribution to the literature, since there is little research to date informing
technology-supported educational practice in medical education (Cook, 2009).
This is despite evidence that shows technology-based medical education has
similar or slightly better outcomes than non-technology supported medical
education (Cook et al., 2008). Therefore studies centering on the best use of
technology in medical education, including pedagogies such as PBL, could yield
useful information. The development of patient-centered skills is an important
concept in medical education (MacLeod, 2011) and as such, research in this area
within the PBL context can be considered a worthwhile contribution to the field.

Despite a lack of studies that involve all aspects of research described in this
paper, that is, using DBR as an approach to study online PBL case studies in
connection with patient-centered skills and values, there are many studies
concerned with design-based research, online PBL, and the development of
patient-centered skills. Drawing the threads together calls for implementing
DBR and employing qualitative and/or quantitative methods to identify, collect,
and assess the research findings. But first, as Cobb recommends, we must
specify the patient-centered skills wed like to foster in PBL tutorials, and the
practices that might promote them, drawing on situated constructivist learning
as the anchor to bring these elements together coherently.

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Street et al. (2007, p. 586) offer a simple, workable model that captures the salient
characteristics of patient-centered behaviors that produce positive patient
outcomes. In this model, the quality of care a patient receives depends on the
doctors communication skills. Doctors who are informative, supportive, and
respectful, and facilitate patient participation, generally have patients who are
more satisfied, more committed to their treatment plans, and experience better
treatment outcomes.

Stewart et al. (2000) explore similar territory, offering more tangible examples of
patient centered communication skills (Table 2).

Table 2: Stewarts Examples of Patient-Centered Communication.

Component Example
Exploring the illness experience The doctor explores the patient
symptoms, function, ideals, feelings,
and expectations.

Understanding the patient as a whole The doctor elicits and explores

person issues relating to life stage, life
context including family, and

Finding common ground The doctor clearly defines and

answers questions about the
problem and the management plan
and takes the time to discuss and
agree on them with the patient.

Source: Summarized from Schwartz, Webb, & Mennin (2001) and Stewart et
al. (2000)

Once patient-centered skills are defined, the next step from the viewpoint of
design research is to develop opportunities for practice within the PBL
environment that can support the students acquisition of patient-centered
values and specific skills, such as learning the patients perspective, getting to
know the patients life context, and working out a mutually agreed treatment
plan. This may be possible, since studies have shown that PBL can offer greater
opportunities to integrate patient-centered values such as humanism and
empathy into their curriculum than those curricula without a PBL program
(Newton, Barber, Clardy, Cleveland, & O'Sullivan, 2008).

There are many factors that could shape the PBL experience in the pursuit of
patient-centered care skills and values. In a medical curriculum, doctor/patient
relationships can be enhanced by mindful practice, communication training, and
recognition of cultural formation (Frankel, Eddins-Folensbee, & Inui, 2011).
Case design may also be a powerful tool in shaping patient centered skills and
values by telling the story of the patient experience. Kenny and Beagans work

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on embodying the patient perspective in case design may offer some insights on
this. Access to resources that model patient-centered interviewing techniques
may be another avenue to explore.

However, for the purposes of this article, it is important to establish what is

meant by patient-centered skills and values, as well as to understand how
current practices may hinder their development. From here we can suggest how
PBL might be designed to offer the opportunity to develop these skills and
values and outline a strategy to create and test design options.

Both quantitative and qualitative methods can shed light how well our research
goals have been met. Studying the medical student experience, skills, and
attitudes before, during and after PBL tutorials may provide valuable insights
about how patient-centeredness can be nurtured and developed. Quantitative
research can offer data that measures patient-centered skills and attitudes.
However, qualitative methods are more helpful for understanding a students
feelings, beliefs, values, and subjective experiences in relation to patient-
centered care and how these may evolve within PBL tutorials. For example,
narrative research is based on the assumption that humans interpret their own
world based on their construction of reality, and that telling the story from the
perspective of the individual is important. This idea is closely linked to the
constructivist view that individuals generate knowledge and meaning within a
social context of experience (Clandinin, 1989). Narrative research could therefore
help us understand the development of patient-centered attitudes in a PBL
tutorial. In particular, we are interested in understanding how the experience of
just-the-facts cases (called thin cases) and rich narrative cases (thick cases) may
develop different perceptions of the patient and affect the patient-physician
relationship. Although it is a bit premature to pinpoint the exact methodology
for our research, implementing DBR in conjunction with narrative research may
provide findings that illuminate the subjective experience of PBL.

Next Steps

Since learning happens in the complex, messy context of the PBL interactive
setting, other components will need to be further studied, such as the teaching
and learning of communication skills, the value of video cases and multimedia
case resources, tutorial facilitation, and the supports necessary to encourage
group discussion, an activity central to PBL. It is also necessary to recognize that
PBL does not operate in a vacuum but is a component of medical education as a
whole, within the socio-cultural world of the medical school experience.
However, the scope of a research project will need to be defined within certain
specified parameters in order to be carried out and interpreted.


Although patient-centered care is a medical practice ideal and is known to be

related to better patient outcomes, patient-centered attitudes decline as students

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progress through medical school and related skills are not well-developed. Both
the formal and informal medical school curricula influence the acquisition of
patient-centered attitudes and skills. There is a need to recognize and integrate
educational components that develop patient-centeredness through
communications skills training, practice-based learning, and reflective practice.
PBL can offer a venue for enhancing these types of skills. Creating cases based
on stories can make the learning environment more authentic by telling a
narrative from the patients perspective while providing engaging, memorable
context for practicing patient-centered skills. Recounting thick narratives
through the medium of video and supporting PBL with multimedia resources
may provide a richer experience for learning and teaching.

Implementing design-based research in conjunction with quantitative and/or

qualitative research methodologies could provide new information on PBL as a
whole and case study design in particular, in relation to patient-centered skills
and values. Quantitative methods could involve measuring the level of patient-
centeredness through tools like the Patient-Practitioner Orientation Scale
(Krupat, Hiam, Fleming, & Freeman, 1999) and newer scales under development
(Methodology Committee of PCORI, 2012; Van Den Assem & Dulewicz, 2015;
Zill, Scholl, Hrter, & Dirmaier, 2013), while qualitative methods may focus on
the experience of the students as they progress through the PBL tutorial. The
goal is to not only to investigate domain specific learning processes like the
development of patient-centered competencies and attitudes but to develop
theory that describes successful patterns in students reasoning together with the
means to support them.

More work is needed to specify the features of PBL that might contribute to a
patient-centered learning environment and so define the iterations that could be
studied within the context of design-based research. Although design-based
research can be challenging because of the evolving learning ecology like PBL,
this type of research, used in combination with other research approaches,
appears likely to make significant contributions to situated, constructivist theory
within a PBL setting.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 181-191, October 2015

A Case Study Approach to Secondary Reanalysis

of a Quantitative Research Synthesis of Adult
Learning Practices Studies

Carl J. Dunst and Deborah W. Hamby

Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute
Asheville and Morganton, North Carolina, USA

Abstract. A secondary reanalysis of a quantitative research synthesis of

four adult learning practices is described where a case study research
methodology was used to identify which practices with which
characteristics under which conditions were associated with the largest
sizes of effects for different adult learner outcomes. Results showed that
a case study approach was able to detect patterns of relationships
among four adult learning practices (job-embedded learning, authentic
learning opportunities, learner reflection, extended professional
development supports) and adult learning outcomes that otherwise
were not explicitly apparent from a quantitative analysis of the studies
in the research synthesis. This was discerned from pattern matching and
both literal and theoretical where studies including the adult learning
practices had the largest effect sizes and those not including the
practices had the smallest effect sizes.

Keywords: Case study methodology; meta-analysis; secondary

reanalysis; adult learning practices; pattern matching; replication logic.

1. Introduction
This paper includes a description of how a case study research methodology was
used to conduct secondary reanalysis of a research synthesis of four different
adult learning practices to identify the characteristics of and conditions under
which the adult learning methods and strategies were most effective in terms of
changes and improvements in learner outcomes. According to Rossman, Yore,
Hand, and Shelley (2009), secondary reanalysis of studies with a common
focus, method, or outcome (p. 589) is analogous to a multiple case study where
consolidated results ofdata from [different] studies with a similar research
focus can afford greater discovery power (p. 587).

The secondary reanalysis was motivated by the results from a metasynthesis of

reviews of inservice professional development studies where remarkably similar
results were found for quite varied types of inservice training with educators,
teachers, and other school personnel (Dunst, Bruder, & Hamby, 2015). Findings

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


from the metasynthesis were used to recode and reanalyze data from a meta-
analysis of adult learning practices to determine if a case study methodology
could reveal generalized patterns of results that would otherwise remain hidden
by only the quantitative analysis of the studies (Gibbert & Nair, 2013; Rossman
et al., 2009). Generalized pattern of results refers to the extent to which the
relationships between independent and dependent variables are systematically
replicated in the different studies in the analyses of multiple case study
data (Yin, 2014). The meta-analysis of the adult learning practices was one
of 15 reviews in the metasynthesis of inservice professional development
afforded preschool, elementary, and secondary educators.

1.1. Metasynthesis of Inservice Professional Development Review

The metasyntheses of inservice professional development reviews (Dunst et al.,
2015) involved secondary reanalysis using replication logic (Hak & Dul, 2010b;
Yin, 2014) and pattern matching (Hak & Dul, 2010a; Yin, 2014) to identify the
common features of inservice professional development associated with changes
and improvements in educator and student outcomes. The 15 research reviews
included 550 studies of more than 50,000 early childhood intervention,
preschool, elementary, and secondary education teachers, educators, and
practitioners and the children and students with whom they worked.

A unique feature of each research review was researchers attempts to identify

which studies with which characteristics under which conditions were
associated with optimal educator and student outcomes. Results from the
metasynthesis showed that inservice professional development was most
effective when it included job-embedded educator learning opportunities, active
and authentic educator learning experiences, opportunities for the educators to
reflect on their learning experiences, coach or mentor supports or performance
feedback during the inservice training, extended follow-up supports to reinforce
inservice learning, and inservice training and follow-up supports of sufficient
duration and intensity to have discernible educator and student effects.

The results provided evidence for literal replication (Hak & Dul, 2010b; Yin,
2014) where the researchers independently came to the same or very similar
conclusions about what matters most in terms of inservice professional
development having optimal educator and student outcomes. Results showed
that all 15 reviews included evidence for the benefits of job-embedded educator
learning opportunities, all 15 reviews included evidence for the effectiveness of
active and authentic educator learning experiences, 13 reviews included
evidence for the effectiveness of extended follow-up supports, and 12 reviews
included evidence for the effectiveness of sufficient dosage (duration and
intensity) of inservice professional development. What was not able to be
determined from the reviews was whether there was evidence for theoretical
replication (Yin, 2014) since researchers did not describe or attempt to determine
whether studies that had no effects or yielded equivocal results did not include
the characteristics found to be effective in the studies with positive results.
Theoretical replication would therefore need to be inferred rather than
demonstrated which limits the generalizability of the findings (de Vaus, 2001;

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Gibbert & Nair, 2013). There was, however, one
review in the metasynthesis that included sufficient information and data to
conduct secondary reanalysis to ascertain theoretical as well as literal
replication. This meta-analysis was the source of information and data for the
secondary reanalysis described in this paper.

1.2. Adult Learning Practices Meta-Analysis

The adult learning practices that were the focus of secondary reanalysis were
coaching (Fletcher & Mullen, 2012; Leat, Lofthouse, & Wilcock, 2006), guided
design (Hancock, 1991; Selby & Tuttle, 1988), just-in-time training (Beckett, 2000;
Rosen, 2005), and accelerated learning (Meier, 2000; Wlodkowski & Kasworm,
2003). The four adult learning practices are grounded in principles that
emphasize a readiness to learn, autonomous learning, active learner
participation in the learning process, critical thinking and reflection, and real-life
relevance and application of learning content, material, or practice (Merriam,
2001; Trotter, 2006). The four practices, however, differ in terms of the methods
and strategies that were used by professional development specialists to support
and facilitate adult learning.

The meta-analysis included 57 randomized design studies of more than 4,000

adult learner participants. A content analysis of the studies of the four adult
learning practices found that they could be categorized in terms of the patterns
of practices shown in Table 1. Based on the different patterns of characteristics of
the four adult learning practices, the outcomes associated with each adult
learning practice at different levels of extended supports were expected to vary
in terms of the sizes of effects for the relationships between the practices and
outcomes. More specifically, coaching (which included job-embedded learning,
authentic learning experiences, active learner reflection, and large doses of
extended supports) was hypothesized to be associated with the largest adult
learner benefits, whereas accelerated learning (which included none of the four
adult learning practices used in the coaching studies in smaller doses) was
hypothesized to be associated with the smallest adult benefits.

Table 1: Patterns of Professional Development Characteristics

of the Four Adult Learning Practices
Professional Development Characteristics

Job Authentic Learner Extended

Adult Learning Embedded Learning Reflection Supports
Practices Learning
Coaching Yes Yes Yes Yes
Coaching Yes Yes Yes No
Guided Design No Yes Yes Yes
Guided Design No Yes Yes No
Just-in-Time Training No Yes No Yes
Just-in-Time Training No Yes No No
Accelerated Learning No No No Yes
Accelerated Learning No No No No

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The coaching studies were characterized by job-embedded learning

opportunities, active and authentic learner experiences, and opportunities for
learner reflection on their learning experiences. The guided design studies
employed real world problems as authentic learning experiences to develop
decision-making skills and instructor led group discussions for engaging
learners in reflection on their learning experiences. The adult learning practice,
however, was not job-embedded inasmuch as learning opportunities only took
place in workshops or university classroom settings. The just-in-time training
studies included active and authentic learning experiences specifically in
response to learner requests for guidance or mentoring where the assistance was
offered in non job-embedded settings (typically the mentors offices or
classrooms) and there was no explicit attempt to engage the learners in reflection
on the use of mentors guidance. None of the accelerated learning studies were
job embedded, included authentic learning experiences, or learner reflection on
their experiences. Rather, the studies included procedures for creating a relaxed
emotional state (e.g., breathing exercises), imagery and dramatic readings, and
skits or role playing for participants to learn content knowledge or practice.

1.3. Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study described in this paper was to conduct secondary
reanalysis of the Dunst et al. (2010a) meta-analysis of adult learning practices
using the framework and results in the Dunst et al. (2015) metasynthesis to
guide the reanalysis. The reanalysis was done in order to confirm or disconfirm
both literal and theoretical replication (Yin, 2014) using pattern matching (Hak &
Dul, 2010a) as an analytic strategy for determining if there was a match between
an observed pattern (a pattern of measured values) with an expected pattern
(a hypothesis), and deciding whether the patternsresult in [confirmation or]
disconfirmation of the hypothesized relationships (Hak & Dul, 2010a, p. 1). The
metric for accomplishing this was the effect sizes for the relationship between
the different combinations of practices shown in Table 1 and the adult learner
outcomes and the patterns of those effect sizes. The goals were to determine
whether (1) a case study research methodology could be applied to quantitative
data (Rossman et al., 2009) and (2) to determine if there was value-added yield
in terms of a better understanding of the types of adult learning methods and
strategies that are related to optimal learner outcomes (de Vaus, 2001).

2. Method
2.1. Sources of Case Study Data
The sources of information and data for the secondary reanalysis of the four
adult learning practices was the meta-analysis of the studies of the practices
(Dunst et al., 2010a), supplemental tables and data on the different
characteristics of the practices (Dunst, Trivette, & Hamby, 2010b), and other
publications of findings from the meta-analysis relevant to the purposes of the
study described in this paper (Dunst & Trivette, 2011, 2012). These various
sources included all the necessary information to categorize the adult learning

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


practices in terms of the Table 1 characteristics and to compute the effect sizes
for the relationships between the classified practices and study outcomes.

2.2. Professional Development Characteristics

Operational definitions of the four professional development characteristics
were used on an a priori basis to categorize each of the adult learning practices as
either including or not including each of the four characteristics in Table 1 and
for determining how many studies of each adult learning practice included each

2.2.1. Job-Embedded Learning Opportunities

Job-embedded adult learning opportunities were defined as professional
development occurring in the work settings of the study participants whereas
non job-embedded was defined as professional development occurring in
workshops, college or university classrooms, or other non work settings (Croft,
Coggshall, Dolan, Powers, & Killion, 2010). Fourteen of 15 coaching studies
included job-embedded professional development whereas 3 of the 21
accelerated design studies, 1 of 6 just-in-time training studies, and none of the 13
guided design studies used job-embedded professional development practices.

2.2.2. Authentic Learning Experiences

Authentic adult learning experiences were defined as context-specific active
learning opportunities that occurred or were representative of what learners
would experience as part of real life problems or challenges (Firestone &
Mangin, 2014). The operative used to characterize adult learning practices as
authentic was active learner participation in acquiring knowledge or mastering
skills directly applicable to learners professions or practices. All 13 guided
design studies, 14 of the 15 coaching studies, 4 of 6 of the just-in-time training
studies included authentic learning opportunities, and none of the accelerated
learning studies included these types of learning experiences.

2.2.3. Learner Reflection

Learner reflection was defined as an explicit effort by professional development
specialists to engage adult learners in evaluation or assessment of their mastery
of the content knowledge or practice learned as part of the learning
opportunities and experiences afforded learners (Essuman, 2015). All 13 guided
design studies, 10 of the 15 coaching studies, 2 of the 21 accelerated learning
studies, and 1 of the 6 just-in-time training studies included some type of
practice to engage learners in reflection on their learning experiences.

2.2.4. Extended Supports

Extended supports were operationally defined in terms of the number of
professional development hours afforded study participants. A median split of
the hours of training was used to divide all 57 studies into those including less
than 20 hours of professional development and studies of more than 20 hours of
inservice training. A 4 Between Adult Learning Practices x 2 Between Hours of

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Training ANOVA showed no differences in the hours of training afforded study

participants for the four adult learning practices, F (3, 53) = 0.65, p = .645, but a
significant between hours of training effect, F (1, 53) = 47.44, p = .001. The
average hours of training afforded study participants in the low and high
extended support groups was 8.43 (SD = 6.64) and 46.31 (SD = 17.22)
respectively. The Cohens d effect size for the between hours of training
comparison was 2.85 which indicated a very large difference in how much
professional development was afforded the study participants.

2.3. Adult Learner Outcomes

The study outcomes were categorized as either learner acquisition of content
knowledge or skills, or learner attitudes toward or beliefs about the efficacy of
the adult learning methods. Content knowledge included measures of mastering
course or workshop content knowledge or on-the-job requirements. Learner
skills included measures of proficiency in the use of teaching methods or job
performance. Learner attitudes included measures of satisfaction with the adult
learning practices or judgments of the value of the learning experiences afforded
the study participants. Learner beliefs included measures of learner confidence
or competence in terms of either learning content or skills having intended
learner outcomes or benefits.

2.4. Methods of Analysis

The methods of analysis were guided by the thoughtful methodological
discussions of de Vaus (2001) and Rossman et al. (2009) who have articulated
procedures for combining quantitative and qualitative information and data to
identify the relationships between independent and dependent study variables
as part of reanalysis of quantitative research findings. The Cohens d sizes of
effect (Hedges, 2008) for the different combinations of adult learning practices
characteristics shown in Table 1 at the two different levels of extended supports
were examined for both dependent measures as well as for both measures
combined to determine if expected patterns were supported by the obtained
patterns (Hak & Dul, 2010a; Yin, 2014) and to confirm or disconfirm either or
both literal and theoretical replication (Hak & Dul, 2010b; Yin, 2014).

3. Results
The average effect sizes for the four different adult learning practices at
the two levels of extended supports for all learner outcomes combined are
shown in Figure 1. For each adult learning practice, more than 20 hours of
extended supports was associated with larger sizes of effect compared to
less than 20 hours of extended supports. The pattern of results indicated
that coaching, which included all four adult learning practices
characteristics, was associated with a larger average effect compared to
the other three adult practices, and that coaching, which included job-
embedded learning, authentic learning opportunities, learner reflection,
and more than 20 hours of extended supports was considerably more
effective than the other three adult learning practices, and far superior to
accelerated learning which included none of the four adult learning

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practices characteristics hypothesized to be associated with optimal

learner outcomes.


< 20 Hours of Extended Supports

20 + Hours of Extended Supports





Coaching Guided Just-In-Time Accelerated

Design Training Learning
Figure 1: Average Effect Sizes for the Presence of the Four Adult
Learning Practices Characteristics and the Study Outcomes

Table 2 shows the average effect sizes for the relationships between the four
different adult learning practices and the two adult learning study outcomes at
less than and more than 20 hours of extended professional development
supports. In every instance, the sizes of effect for 20 or more hours of extended
supports were larger than those for less than 20 hours of extended supports for
both of the adult learning practice outcomes. In addition, at each level of
extended supports, coaching, which included all four professional development
characteristics (job embedded learning, authentic learning, learner reflection, 20+
hours of extended supports), had larger sizes of effects for both outcomes
compared to the other three adult learning practices as was found for both
outcomes combined (Figure 1), indicating that the patterns of relationships
between the practices and the two different outcomes were almost identical.

4. Discussion
Results from the secondary reanalysis of the four different adult learning
practices described in this paper provided evidence for both literal and
theoretical replication by demonstrating (1) that the coaching studies which

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included all four adult learning practices characteristics constituting the focus of
investigation had the largest sizes of effects with each adult learner outcome
(literal replication) and (2) that the other three adult learning practices which did
not include all four adult learning practices characteristics had smaller sizes of
effect (theoretical replication). Literal and theoretical replication were also

Table 2: Average Weighted Effect Sizes for the Relationships Between

the Four Adult Learning Practices and the Learner Outcomes
Learner Outcomes
Knowledge/Skills Beliefs/Attitudes
Adult Learning Practice Effect p-value Effect p-value
Size Size
20+ hours of extended supports 1.24 .0000 .91 .0000
< 20 hours of extended supports .92 .0000 .64 .0000
Guided Design
20+ hours of extended supports .55 .0000 .76 .0000
< 20 hours of extended supports .33 .0009 .21 .1087
Just-in-Time Training
20+ hours of extended supports .58 .0000 - -
< 20 hours of extended supports .37 .0098 - -
Accelerated Learning
20+ hours of extended supports .50 .0000 .33 .1248
< 20 hours of extended supports -.29 .0001 .01 .9375

demonstrated by the fact that the individual coaching studies each serve as a
distinct experiment that stands on its own as an analytic unit [and] like a series
of related laboratory experiments, multiple cases [i.e., studies] are discrete
experiments that serve as replications, contrasts, and extensions of emerging
theory (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007, p. 25). Accordingly, the results provide
evidence that the presence of the same professional development characteristics
in different studies hypothesized to be related to optimal learner outcomes were
in fact associated with predicted benefits, and the absence of the professional
development characteristics in other studies were related to less than optimal
benefits also as predicted.

The fact that hours of extended professional development supports had value-
added effects in terms of the learner outcomes deserves comment because it
illustrates that a larger dose of different combinations of adult learning practices
characteristics was clearly a factor contributing to learner outcomes. This is
consistent with contentions by Desimone (2009) and Guskey (2002) who noted,
based on both research and practice, that job-embedded learning, authentic
learning opportunities, and learner reflection are more likely to have expected
results if done on repeated occasions over extended periods of time measured in
the present study in terms of the hours of extended professional development
supports (see also Dunst, 2015).

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Both deVaus (2001) and Rossman et al. (2009) describe how case study research
can be combined with quantitative data to test hypothesized relationships
between independent and dependent variables. A case study logic was used in
the study described in this paper to categorize four adult learning practices
according to the presence or absence of four different professional development
practices characteristics where quantitative effect sizes were used to discern the
relationships between eight different predicted patterns (Table 1) and the sizes
of effects with two different adult learner outcomes (Table 2). This was neither
new nor innovative (see e.g., Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007). What was
innovative was the secondary reanalysis of the studies of adult learning
practices where studies that had the same characteristics were treated as
multiple case examples and where the combined results from those studies were
used as the metric for testing whether observed relationships provided support
for hypothesized relationships. This permitted a better and more complete
understanding of which adult learning practice (coaching) with which
characteristics (job-embedded, authentic learning, learner reflection) under
which conditions (20 or more hours of extended professional development
supports) was associated with different adult learning outcomes. As a result,
both goals of the study were achieved: (1) demonstrating the utility of a case
study approach for secondary reanalysis of a quantitative meta-analysis and (2)
identifying which adult learning practices with which characteristics had value-
added explanatory yields.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

e-ISSN: 1694-2116, p-ISSN: 1694-2493
Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 192-209, October 2015

An Exploration of Student-Teachers Views

about the Practice of Postgraduate Diploma in
Teaching: English Major Prospective Teachers in
Bahir Dar and Haromaya Universities, Ethiopia

Demis Gebretsadik, Haileslasie Beyene and Dawit Tesfaye

Jimma University, Ethiopia

Abstract. The present study explored the views and perceptions of

trainee teachers towards Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching (PGDT)
training in general and the teaching profession in particular. A
descriptive survey research design which in corporate both qualitative
and quantitative data types was employed. The total population of the
study was all available fifty (50) prospective teachers who were enrolled
in two Ethiopian universities in the year 2014/15. Questionnaire, key
informant interview, and focus group discussion were the data
collection tools employed. Descriptive statistics and content analysis
were the techniques used to analyze the data. The findings of this study
disclosed that majority of the trainee teachers joined PGDT program due
to lack of other job options. This in return, revealed lack of the trainees
inherent interest towards teaching profession. Moreover, promotion
about the importance of teacher education is not so far made by the
stakeholders to attract graduates to the teaching profession. The PGDT
implementation guideline in admitting trainees and follow up
procedures are not uniform across universities. Likewise, there are
inadequacies of material and financial resources too. To the betterment
of the program, stakeholders need to promote the teaching profession.
Course modules should also be revised to meet the trainees needs.
Equally important, the shortage of time allotted for teaching practice,
and the per diem paid to the trainees during practicum should be re
assessed together with the other shortcomings of the program.

Keywords: Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching, view, student teachers,


The introduction of modern education in Ethiopia is traced back to Emperor
Menelik II regime (1889-1993). However, a noticeable development in Ethiopian
modern education was registered during the period of Emperor Haile Selassie I
(1930 1974) though it was limited to few elites. Because of this, the Faculty of

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Education was established at Haile Sellassie I University, the now Addis Ababa
University, in 1961. This university was named right after the emperors name; it
was the only pioneer institution in the country to train secondary school teachers
for several decades (Marew et al., 2000 as cited in Ahmed, 2013). Nevertheless,
changes in educational system and educational services continued during the
imperial period (1934-1974) and the Derg regime (1974-1991) respectively.

Above all, the most significant turn in Ethiopian education sector took place in
1991 when the countrys political system was changed. The Federal Democratic
Republic Government of Ethiopia (FDRGE) introduced a new educational
reform, which brought about a major change in the history of Ethiopian
education system. Thus, the new Ethiopian Education and Training Policy was
adopted in 1994 to assert four educational goals of the nation: quality, access,
relevance, and equity. Accordingly, the major policies and reforms introduced to
advance the education scheme in the country were Education and Training
Policy (1994), Teacher Education System Overhaul Program (TESO), and
Teacher Development Programs (TDPs). Therefore, teacher education
programs in Ethiopia have undergone structural changes over the years (Ahmed,

Currently, Ethiopian primary school teachers are trained through Cluster and
Linear models, and the candidates are awarded a diploma in teaching with a
10+3 education program (MOE, 2013). However, secondary school teachers are
obliged to pass through different training program. For example, earlier to 2010,
teachers were given training for three consecutive years in which applied,
pedagogy, and practical courses were offered simultaneously. However, starting
from 2011, Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching (PGDT), which is a new system
of secondary teacher education, came into effect. Accordingly, the four years
pre-service secondary school teacher education was reshaped to three years
training period to qualify candidates for applied degree, and later on after their
graduation, teacher trainees are required to attend pedagogical and practical
training for one year before they go to secondary schools for the actual teaching.
However, Ethiopia achieved remarkable achievements due to this educational
policy and mass enrollment of trained and skilled teachers; their proficiency and
their perception towards the profession remains questionable.

In line to the changes to Ethiopian policy, literature dictates few local studies
conducted so far on the Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching program. For
instance, a study conducted by Adugna (2012) revealed PGDT trainees join the
teaching profession to advance their education, and get job opportunities.
Similarly, according to study conducted by Koye (2014) the primary motive of
trainees to join the teaching profession was lack of any other career
opportunities. Similarly, Koye and Yonas (2013) studied that change of modality,
lack of understanding between the Ministry of Education (MoE) and other
stakeholders, low motivation of students, shortage of appropriate mentors, and
absence of organized teaching materials were the main problems of PGDT

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According to Muhammed et al (2014), lack of experienced mentors and

insufficiency of materials and facilities to properly carry out practicum activities
were among the main problems to affect PGDT program smooth run. Related
overseas study conducted by Tefo (2005) showed student teachers chose the
teaching profession mainly for extrinsic reasons such as job security and
economic advancement while some of them chose teaching as a career to serve
the community.

Therefore, the present study was conducted to contribute to the existing body of
knowledge and to address the research gap focusing on PGDT trainees who
were enrolled in two Ethiopian universities. Consequently, the study is different
from the previously discussed studies in terms of the focus groups and scope of
the study. While the above studies focused on PGDT trainees in general, this
study focused on English major prospective teachers who were attending their
PGDT training in Haromaya and Bahir Dar universities.

Statement of the Problem

The transfer of Ethiopian student-teachers education and specialty in teaching
profession from the B.Ed. degree program, in which prospective teachers were
trained to teach at secondary schools, to Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching is a
very recent experience; it was commenced here in Ethiopia in 2011. Obviously,
the on-going developments in education and a number of other related variables
likely influence changes to teachers training education, especially at
Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching level. Nevertheless, since PGDT is recently
introduced to Ethiopias teacher education program, its practicality in terms of
trainees motivation, skill, knowledge, competence, perceived academic
satisfaction and trainees views about the training and the teaching profession
has remained less studied.

Graduates willingness is one of the admission parameters used to recruit

applicants to the training program. However, the investigators previous
observation witnessed that prospective teachers were not interested and
dedicated to attend the training. Consequently, many student teachers dropped
out the training. Pertinent to this scenario, a study conducted by Koye (2014),
showed that the main motive of prospective teachers for choosing teaching as a
career was absence of any other job opportunities. Thus, trainee teachers might
leave the program either at the middle of the training or immediately after
completion when they get any other job. Muhammed et al (2014) pointed out
PGDT practicum implementation is among the major challenging areas in the
current teacher-training program and more importantly, it needs unreserved
interventions across the nation (p.3). They further highlighted that even though
the challenges of PGDT practicum implementation are tackling the development
of teacher education here in Ethiopia, the issue has not gained substantial
attention by scholars in the field of higher education.

Although there are few local studies carried out on this area, no study was
conducted that focused on English major PGDT trainees. Therefore, this study
sought to explore English major PGDT trainees views towards postgraduate
diploma in teaching training, and it assessed the participants acquisition of
@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.

knowledge and skills from the training. Therefore, the research objectives listed
beneath were addressed by this study:

Objectives of the Study

This study was aimed at exploring English major Ethiopian public universities
student teachers views about the practice of PGDT program in general and the
teaching profession in particular: perception, expectation, satisfaction, skill, and
knowledge. Precisely, this study had the following specified research objectives:

1. to identify student-teachers perceptions of teaching profession and the

PGDT program;

2. to examine student-teachers expectations of PGDT training;

3. to find out student teachers views towards their teachers and the
training implementations;

4. to identify trainees perceived academic satisfaction, knowledge and skills

in teaching education;

5. to check trainees reflection on their mentors and supervisors on PGDT

training; and

6. to point out if the training has met trainees needs and expectations

Review of Related Literature

1. An Overview of Teacher Education in Ethiopia and the Birth of

The major themes of the 1994 Ethiopias education and training strategy are
expansion of the educational infrastructure, access to educational opportunity,
and improvement of quality of education. Ahmad (2013) further explained that
quality, access, relevance, and equity are the four educational goals that were
focused by the 1994 Education and Training Policy framework. Thus, the policy
was drafted to meet the overall educational development challenges within the
country with greater stress on the teacher education programs (Ahmad, 2013).
Pertinent to this, training qualified teachers was planned and carried out
concurrently with the development of the education scheme. Moreover, new
teacher training colleges were also established aiming at upgrading and
improving the quality of education as well as the academic qualification of
teachers. The reform directed colleges and institutions not only to provide
educational and ethical values, but also to improve methodological approaches
of teachers. More specifically, the Ethiopian Educational Training Policy dictates,
teachers are expected to have the ability, diligence, and professional interest,
and the physical and mental fitness appropriate for the profession (Ministry of
Education 2012 cited in Ahmad 2013:12).

Moreover, according to Adugna (2012), previously, Ethiopian secondary school

teachers were trained at universities in four-year degree program that combined

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educational coursework and teaching practicum, and student teachers majoring

in various disciplines enrolled in different departments for three years stay at
universities. However, starting from 2011 the recruitment standard and the
education plan of secondary school teachers is revised. As per the change,
teaching methodology coursework were set to be offered by faculties of
education aster graduates successfully complete their applied degree in different
disciplines. Accordingly, qualification requirements were amended in 2010, and
primary school teachers training was changed from a one-year certificate to a
three-year diploma program. Similarly, secondary school teachers training
programme was reshaped from a three years B.Ed. (bachelor of education
degree) to a three-year BA degree. Students were also made to rejoin universities
after they have already secured their BA degree, and they were required to have
one additional year on professional teacher training to obtain a Post-Graduate
Diploma in Teaching (PGDT).

Adugna (2012) further explained that the one-year Professional education

program consists of preparation in how-to-teach basics, schoolwork, and
teaching practicum. Accordingly, graduates who are interested in the teaching
profession and can satisfy the requirements of Ministry of Education (MoE) are
selected, and they are enrolled in the PGDT program to become secondary
school teachers. Nevertheless, literature reveals that implementing the training
in line with the already set guidelines is found to be one of the main challenging
issues in the current Ethiopias teacher education program.

2. The Teaching Profession and Teachers Perceptions

Ajayi (2004) defined a teacher as someone who causes learning to take place;
someone who imparts knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to a group of
learners. According to this author, a teacher can be viewed as a professionally
trained person, who imparts the necessary skills, and the one who guides and
facilitates learning to take place. Teaching is a profession that comprises
activities, such as initiating, guiding, smoothing, aiding, and helping so that
learning can take place in line with the intended aims and goals. Thus, the
person effecting all these actions is the teacher. Therefore, teacher is the key part
of the teaching/learning process.

According to Halawah (2008), positive attitude towards the teaching education

can be formed by taking part in the teaching profession directly, experiencing
the general values and standards given to the teaching profession by the society,
and by experiencing the livelihood of the teachers. These statements imply that
the attitude towards teaching can be inherited from the living conditions of
those who are already teachers and from the values and perceptions of the wider
society in which the teacher is the part. Because of this, even though prospective
teachers do not practically face the difficulties and prospects of the teaching
profession, their feeling about teaching as a profession is similar to those who
are already teachers.

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Methodology of the Study

A descriptive survey research design, with both quantitative and qualitative
data types, was used. Questionnaire, key informant interview and focus-group
discussion were the research instruments employed. Forty-eight (48) statements
among which 45 closed and 3 open-ended questions were used. The
questionnaire was developed based on the literature review and relevant studies
conducted in the area. To maintain its validity, it had been piloted before it was
used in the final study. Its reliability was also checked statistically, and the
Cronbachs alpha coefficient was .87. The prospective teachers who participated
in the study responded to the closed ended questions on a 5 point Likert scale
labeled as 5=strongly agree, 4= agree, 3= neutral, 2= disagree, 1=strongly
disagree. Accordingly, the questionnaire was coded, and fed to the Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences [SPSS] 20.0, and it was analyzed quantitatively.
The 5-point Likert scale is merged to 3 scales to suit for interpretation; here, a
similar procedure was adapted like that of Musa and Bichi (2015). To this end,
strongly agree and agree merged to agree; neutral remained as it was. Likewise,
disagree and strongly disagree merged to disagree. Therefore, the data obtained
through questionnaire was analyzed quantitatively using descriptive statistics:
frequency, percentage, means, and standard deviation whereas the open-ended
items are categorized, integrated and analyzed qualitatively.

On the other hand, key informant interview was conducted with the
coordinators of PGDT program in the study universities. The coordinators were
purposively selected because they followed the students situations more
closely; therefore, they were found rich information about the trainees. The
contents of the interview included: efforts made by universities to promote
PGDT program, assessments of PGDT implementation, orientation level of
stakeholders and their roles as well as problems of students during PGDT
learning and practice. During the interview, a note was taken and analyzed
qualitatively (organizing, categorizing, integrating, and summarizing the
responses). In addition to this, focus group discussion was conducted with 20
PGDT trainees from the two universities. They were included based on their
willingness to take part in the discussion. The main purpose of the trainees FGD
were to get supplementary data about trainees motivation to join PGDT,
facilities to discharge PGDT training, trainees satisfaction and challenges as
well as their effects later on their academic career as a teacher. The data obtained
through FGD were analyzed qualitatively using content analysis and response

As far as the size of trainee participants is concerned, the total number of English
major trainee-teachers enrolled in Ethiopian universities was only 50, and they
were admitted in two selected Ethiopian public universities namely: Bahir Dar
and Haromaya universities. It was only this number of students that were
attending the PGDT training in Ethiopian higher institutions in the year
2014/15. Thus, since the number of the population was small and manageable,
all the trainees were taken using comprehensive sampling technique.

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Findings and Discussion

Table 1: Perceptions of Students for Choosing PGDT

Degree of frequency

Statements Disagree Neutral Agree

N % N % N % Mean Std. D

I chose PGDT because it suits my personal 31 62.0 1 2.0 18 36.0 3.2600 .96489

I chose teaching profession because it was 18 36.0 3 6.0 29 58.0 3.2200 .95383
the only alternative for me

I joined teaching because it is a noble 4 8.0 31 62.0 15 30.0 3.3200 .91339


I joined teaching because it grants me a 15 30.0 9 18.0 26 52.0 3.2200 .88733

respect/autonomy in the society

I joined PGDT because I was advised by 23 46.0 11 22.0 16 32.0 2.8600 .88086
my parents and peers

I joined PGDT to increase the chance for 15 30.0 5 10.0 30 60.0 3.3000 .90914

Valid N (list wise) 50*

As it is demonstrated in Table 1 above, majority of the respondents that accounts

62% asserted that PGDT training is not their personal interest where as only a
few of them that accounts 36% joined the program based on their choice.
Therefore, this result deduced that the trainees joined the program without their
interest. On the other hand, 58% of the respondents chose teaching profession
because they had no any other option, but 36% of them disagreed with this
claim. Therefore, taking the opinion of the majority, the prospective teachers
joined PGDT for the fact that they had no any other option. With regard to the
nobility of the teaching profession, majority of them (62%), do not take sides, but
30% of them agreed that they joined teaching for it is a noble profession.
Therefore, it can be deduced that majority of respondents do not think teaching
is a noble profession. Thus, it is not the reason why they are attending the
training. On the other hand, 52% of them agreed that they joined teaching
profession for it grants them a respect and autonomy in the society. In contrast
to this, 30% of them disagreed that their reason for joining the program was not
the reasons stated while 18% them remained neutral. Regarding the involvement
of others in their choice to join PGDT, 46% of them confirmed that they were
advised by their parents and peers to do so whereas 32% of the trainees
disagreed with the statement implying that their reason for joining PGDT is not
others pressure. Similarly, significant number of the respondents, 60%, asserted
that they took part in the training to increase their chances for employment. In
contrast to this, 30% of them disagreed that the reason for joining PGDT is not
@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.

what is stated. Thus, based on majority response, we can understand that the
trainees choose PGDT for it increases the chance for employment.

Table 2: Students views towards their teachers and the training implementations

Degree of frequency

Disagree Neutral Agree

N % N % N % Mean Std. D

I found adequately trained teachers/lectures 14 28.0 4 8.0 32 64.0 3.3600 .89807

who can inspire me to teaching profession

Im learning high level of competence and 10 20.0 5 10.0 35 70.0 3.5000 .81441
commitment in teaching from my role model

Usually my PGDT instructors show high 10 20.0 4 8.0 36 72.0 3.5200 .81416
motivation and subject mastery in teaching

Im usually interested with all that is taught 32 64.0 4 8.0 14 28.0 2.6400 .89807
in my class

I feel the lessons offered in my training can 8 16 4 8.0 38 76.0 3.6000 .75593
help me to be a good secondary school

I feel the courses that Im taking are valuable 13 26.0 9 18.0 28 56.0 3.3000 .86307

The courses offered to me as a PGDT are not 27 54.0 5 10.0 18 36.0 2.8200 .94091

My instructor plans usually innovative class 9 18.0 8 16.0 33 66.0 3.4800 .78870
activities, techniques and assignments

Class activities are usually clear and well 13 26.0 5 10.0 32 64.0 3.3800 .87808
organized (task oriented)

Valid N (listwise) 50*

With regard to the adequacy of trained teachers and lectures who let trainees
inspire to teaching profession, majority of the respondents that accounts 64%,
agreed that they were able to meet qualified teachers who inspired them to
teaching profession where as 28% of them are not inspired by their teachers. On
the other hand, 70% of the respondents agreed that they are experiencing high
level of competence and commitment in teaching from their role model lectures.
Thus, it is possible to infer that a significant number of PGDT trainees are
developing high level of commitment and competence because of their teachers
who are role models. Likewise, it can be deduced that instructors are motivated
and posses subject mastery of teaching which might help the prospective
teachers acquire the necessary skills and competence. However, majority of the
respondents that accounts 64 % are not usually interested with courses they are
taught. Moreover, significant number of the respondents (76%) confirmed that
the lessons they are offered can help them to be good secondary school teachers.

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


On the other hand, (56%) of the participants agreed that they feel the courses
that they are taking are valuable whereas (54) of them disagreed that the courses
offered to them as a PGDT are attractive. Similarly, (66% and 64%) of the
respondents agreed that their instructors plan usually innovative class activities,
techniques and assignments; Class activities are usually clear and well organized
(task oriented) respectively.

Table 3: Students Perceptions/Views to Infrastructure

Degree of frequency

Disagree Neutral Agree

N % N % N % Mean Std. D

I think my class room and the overall learning 21 42.0 5 10.0 24 48.0 3.0600 .95640
environments are not attractive

I feel Im getting adequate services as a PGDT 28 56.0 4 8.0 18 36.0 2.8000 .94761

My university provides me adequate 26 52.0 5 10.0 19 38.0 2.8600 .94782


Schools work allocation and residence for 30 60.0 6 12.0 14 28.0 2.6800 .89077
PGDT students is suitable

Valid N (listwise) 50*

As it is vividly illustrated in table 3 above, majority of the respondents that

accounts 48% agreed that their classrooms and the overall learning
environments are not attractive; nonetheless, 42% of them disagreed with this
statement. The remaining 10% of the participants do not take either of the sides.
On the other hand, it is possible to deduce from the significant number of the
trainees (56%) that they are not getting adequate services. In contrasts to this,
36% of them did not sense the inadequacy of services. Similarly, most of the
respondents (52%) claimed their university did not provide them adequate
materials that would support them in the training. This result is consistent with
the results obtained from the key informant interview and focus group
discussion. Regarding the schoolwork allocation and residence provision of the
trainees, it can be possible to deduce from the majority of the students (60%) that
the aforementioned services are not suitable for the prospective teachers

Table 4: Perceived Academic Satisfaction of Students

Degree of frequency

Disagree Neutral Agree

Statements N % N % N %
Mean Std. D

Im satisfied with my performance in the 14 28.0 7 14.0 29 58.0 3.3000 .88641


@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


I think attendance and pass mark is enough 22 44.0 6 12.0 22 44.0 3.0000 .94761
for me

I feel PGDT courses could have been 10 20.0 5 10.0 35 70.0 3.5000 .81441
offered before I completed my applied
degree in English

I feel my applied degree in English is 20 40.0 12 24.0 18 36.0 2.9600 .87970

enough to be a secondary school teacher
(PGDT is a waste of time)

I know graduated students in applied 15 30.0 7 14.0 28 56.0 3.2600 .89921

English are already teachers at secondary

Im proud to be a teacher, and Im proud to 10 20.0 5 10.0 35 70.0 3.5000 .81441

express it

I think I will not be a teacher in my entire 16 32.0 6 28 56.0 3.0000 .94761

career/life 12.0

I would like to have another profession 10 20.0 8 16.0 32 64.0 3.4400 .81215
other than teaching as soon as I get it

I feel teaching is a despised profession; not 18 36.0 9 18.0 23 46.0 2.9800 .91451
wanted by many.

Valid N (listwise) 50*

As it is demonstrated in the above table 4, 58% of the respondents agreed that

they are satisfied with their performance in the tests and assessments while 44%
of them agreed attendance and pass mark is enough for them. In contrast, equal
number (44%) of respondents disagreed to this claim. Regarding the timing of
the training, a majority of the respondents that accounts 70% felt the PGDT
courses could have been give parallel to their applied degree in English courses.
This result is also consistent with the result obtained from the focus group
discussion. Nonetheless, 40 % of respondents sensed their applied degree in
English is not enough to be a secondary school teacher showing that PGDT is
not a waste of time while 36% of them agreed that their applied degree in
English is enough to be a secondary school teacher implying that PGDT is not
needed. On the other hand, 56% of participants replied that they knew
graduated students in applied English are already teachers at secondary schools.
Moreover, a majority of the respondent that accounts (70) % asserted that they
are proud to be a teacher. However, 56% of the respondents do not want to
pursue their career in the teaching profession. Furthermore, a majority (64%) of
the prospective teacher like to have another profession other than teaching. It is
also summarized in the above table 4 that 46% of the respondents confirmed that
they feel teaching is a despised field. In contrast to this, 36% of the respondents
claimed teaching is not a despised profession. The result summarized in above
table 4 is consistent with the findings obtained from the FGD data.

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Table 5: Perceived Knowledge/Skills into Teaching Education

Degree of frequency
Disagree Neutral Agree
N % N % N % Mean Std. D

In my practice as a student teacher, I 10 20.0 5 10.0 35 70.0 3.5000 .81441

inculcated positive moral value through my
The training enables me to demonstrate 10 20.0 2 4.0 38 76.0 3.5600 .81215
professional commitment and work ethics
I feel Im ready to implement ministry of 10 20.0 5 10.0 35 70.0 3.5000 .81441
education initiatives into class room practice
I plan lessons that take into account the 8 16.0 4 8.0 38 76.0 3.6000 .75593
different abilities of students
I work well with colleagues at school 6 12.0 2 4.0 42 84.0 3.7200 .67128

Im being able to evaluate myself for 4 8.0 1 2.0 45 90.0 3.8200 .56025
I usually participate actively and attentively 4 8.0 6 12.0 40 80.0 3.7200 .60744
in class discussions and activities
I clearly know Ministry of Education plans 19 38.0 9 18.0 22 44.0 3.0600 .91272
and goals about PGDT and teacher education
I am satisfied with the knowledge, concepts, 14 28.0 6 12.0 30 60.0 3.3200 .89077
procedures and principles of teaching
profession I acquired from the training.

I am ready and motivated to implement the 8 16.0 6 12.0 36 72.0 3.5600 .76024
practice in the workplace
The training enables me to further develop 8 16.0 4 8.0 38 76.0 3.6000 .75593
my language(English) and communication
Valid N (listwise) 50*

As it is clearly depicted in table 5 above, a majority of the respondents (70%,

76%, & 70%) respectively agreed that they inculcated positive moral values in
their practice as a student teacher; the training enabled them to demonstrate
professional commitment and work ethics; and they are ready to implement the
ministry of education initiatives into classroom practice. On the other hand,
(76%, 84%, 90%, 80%, and 60%) of the respondents agreed that they plan lessons
based on students abilities; work well with colleagues at school; they are able to
evaluate themselves for improvement; participate actively and attentively in
class discussions; they are satisfied with the knowledge, concepts, procedures
and principles of teaching profession they acquired from the training
respectively. However, as for clearly knowing the ministry of education plan
and goals about PGDT is concerned, only 44% of the participants confirmed that
they are clear with the mission about PGDT and teacher education. The
confusion of the remaining 56% of respondents, including those who remained
neutral, implies that there is a need for an urgent refreshment and awareness
creation campaign in this area. On the other hand, a majority of the respondents
(72% & 76%) agreed that they are motivated and ready to implement the practice
in the work place; the training enabled them to further develop their

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


communicative skills respectively. Therefore, based on the majority response,

we can deduce that perceived academic satisfaction of students is high.

Table 6: Students Reflection on Their Mentors and Supervisors on PGDT Training

Degree of frequency

Disagree Neutral Agree

N % N % N % Mean Std. D

University supervisors supervise over 13 26.0 9 18.0 28 56.0 3.3000 .86307

all activities regularly
Our mentors usually give us timely 14 28.0 6 12.0 30 60.0 3.3200 .89077
Our performance is continuously 11 22.0 4 8.0 35 70.0 3.4800 .83885
assessed to check our progress
Our mentors adhere to professional and 12 24.0 4 8.0 34 68.0 3.4400 .86094
ethical standards
Our mentors dedicate their regular time 13 26.0 10 20.0 27 54.0 3.2800 .85809
to help us overcome education
Our mentors understand our common 13 26.0 4 8.0 33 66.0 3.4000 .88063
problems as beginner teacher
Valid N (listwise) 50*

As it is clearly depicted in table 6, it is possible to deduce from the majority of

the respondents (56 %) that university supervisors supervise trainees overall
activities regularly while a few them (26%) felt supervisors do not act according
to the guidelines set for supervision. Similarly, significant number of the
prospective teachers that accounts 60% assured their mentors usually gives them
timely feedback. However, 28% of the respondents replied that their mentors do
not give them timely feedback. On the other hand, from the significant number
of participants (70%), it can be inferred that teachers continuously assess
students performance and progress. Similarly, regarding, mentors professional
and ethical standards, 68% of the trainees confirmed that mentors are adherent
to the qualities specified.

Moreover, a majority of the respondents (54%) claimed their mentors dedicate

their regular time and help trainees to overcome their education. In contrast to
this, 26% of the respondents claimed their mentors do not provide them regular
feedback where as 20% of the respondents remained neutral. Generally, a
significant number of the respondents (66%) agreed that their mentors
understand their common problems, and they have positive outlook towards
PGDT trainees.

Results Obtained From Open Ended Questions

1. PGDT Trainees Expectations
The data obtained through the last three open-ended questions were labeled
based on participants responses regarding their expectations of the training, and
the responses then converted into numbers. Accordingly, nearly 45% of the
participants explained that the training has met their needs and expectations in
terms of the major points summarized as follows: they got both theoretical and
practical knowledge that would help them to teach at secondary schools. They

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


also pointed out that the training enabled them to develop their skills,
knowledge and confidence, and it helped them assess their performance. In
addition to this, trainees were also able to experience school work and working
with colleagues. In contrast to this, nearly 55% of the respondents explained that
the training has not met their expectations because of the following reasons. The
universities where they were assigned to attend the training do not fulfill the
necessary materials for them, and lack of coordination and communication
among the stakeholders made the training boring. It was also found that the
training does not meet their needs and expectations. Particularly, participants
who were attending their training in Bahir Dar University were made to attend
the PGDT program at Agriculture Campus (Zenzelima Campus) where there
were no relevant materials for the training. The distance of the training place
from the main campus was challenge to the trainees and the supervisors.
Moreover, the time given to teaching and practices was inadequate, and the per
diem they were given during practicum was insufficient. Likewise, mentioning
the training was essential for them, the respondents complained about the
quality of some of the courses and materials they were provided as PDGT
trainee. They also pointed out that they could have taken this training while they
were at universities for applied degree in English, and they sometimes feel that
attending this training is waste of time and finance. Moreover, they explained
that the training has not met their expectations in that the number of courses
they are required to take and the time given to complete the training are not
proportional. This in return, made the trainees to be overloaded with courses
though the time and the finance allotted for the training were not appropriate,
planned and fair.

2. Trainees Problems and Suggested Solutions to improve the PGDT

The respondents of the present study pointed out a number of problems they
faced during the training, and they suggested the following way out solutions:
first, the trainees felt the time given to the training was too long and boring.
Second, they added that there are no relevant and sufficient materials, references
and textbooks. Besides, in very rare cases lack of experienced mentors and more
skilled professional teachers was also a problem encountered. Third, lack of
adequate treatment from the university society, and lack of motivation of the
trainees themselves were among the problems. Lack of communication among
the coordinators, the trainees and school principals was also mentioned as a
problem they encountered during their training. Poor financial incentives and
delayed campus placements were also the other troubles mentioned. Finally,
courses they were taking tend to be more of theoretical instead of focusing on
the practical English language teaching/learning aspects. To overcome, the
above problems mentioned, the trainees suggested MOE to revise the program
and the materials designed for the raining so as to bring about quality education
and sustain the PGDT program.

Results of Key Informant Interview

The key informant interview and FGD helped the researchers of the present
study to elicit an in-depth data about the issue in discussion. Therefore, the
@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.

result obtained from the key informant interview showed that there are no
promotions made at university level to attract trainees to the teacher education
program. Therefore, brochures, quotes and pamphlets were not even posted to
attract trainees to the teaching profession. From this result, it can be possible to
conclude that insignificant attention is given to the development of teachers
education and fulfillment of the necessary physical infrastructure that triggers
students to come to this field of study. This situation significantly affects the
quality of education and the students career.

In connection with the implementation of PGDT program, there are in

consistencies right from the admission of the trainees to their universities. The
students spent their time at home after they are already assigned; they waited at
home as late as January specifically this year. Therefore, it was difficult for the
universities to discharge the training on time. Thus, the key informants reported
that only a month was allocated for students practical teaching and learning at
secondary school; consequently, the trainees face limited time for practice.
However, the students are oriented about their way out for teaching and
learning as well as for research problem identification, general ethical issues and
assignments of supervisors with in this limited time. Lastly, the key informants
explained the challenges such as shortage of time, inadequacy of committed and
qualified supervisors, lack of professional payment for supervisors and limited
resources (modules, action research guidelines). In return, these inconveniences
affected the smooth implementation of PGDT program.

Results of Students FGD

The PGDT trainees discussed the reason/motivation behind joining the teacher
education-training program. According to discussants response, they had no
inherent motivation to be teachers except it was the only option to get job. In this
case, the discussants reported, Nothing motivated us to join the teacher
education, but it was the only option. Moreover, the trainees claim, We joined
PGDT because it was the only means of survival for us; it was difficult to get
other job. Likewise, the trainees felt that some of the modules are not well
prepared and not related to nature of their subject matter. Some of the materials
are downloaded and even not edited well. This result showed that a majority of
the trainees were not with the right motivation that helps them to pursue their
training and bring threshold for their career.

Furthermore, the trainees discussed the evaluation of their working

environment they experienced as PGDT trainee. The trainees evaluation in this
regard showed that they faced financial problems, harsh working environment,
scarcity of resources and unsmooth physical infrastructure; follow up problems,
far school placement, lack of books in the practice areas, limited time allocated to
collect data for action research and lack of computers. The above result showed
that although experienced teachers can overcome the problems, they could be
discouraging for beginner teachers such as PGDT trainees. The above
unprecedented situation of the trainees possibly affects the trainees motivation
to be teachers. Equally important, the PGDT trainees discussed the support of
the stakeholders in PGDT implementation. The discussants response showed
that the college is committed and very serious in offering the PGDT courses, and

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


the secondary school communities were supportive to the PGDT program.

However, secondary school students were not willing to learn through PGDT
trainees. This problem negatively affected the trainees teaching practice and
confidence to be teachers.

Moreover, the trainees focus group discussion showed high dissatisfaction of

the trainees on the program. They said, We are dissatisfied with the program.
The modules, time allocations to the program, and materials are not prepared in
a way we get meaningful learning out of it. Likewise, they claimed they are
dissatisfied with the admission time, logistics and with the long time training
schedule; they felt their applied degree could be suffice. This scenario can
adversely affect the trainees teaching profession and quality of education at

Lastly, the trainees mentioned their challenges such as duration of the training,
budget allocation and lack of relevant promotion in the area. To overcome the
aforementioned mentioned challenges, they forwarded the following solutions.
First, the training should be supported financially. Second, they suggested the
duration of the training to be minimized to 4 months, or the PGDT courses to be
offered parallel to their applied English major courses so that they can
immediately go to work after graduation. This shows that the trainees do not
like to stay in the teaching profession for a number of reasons among which low
salary is a major cause. Moreover, they claimed the teaching and learning
materials to be appropriate to nature of their subject matter and their profession.
Therefore, this situation of the trainees calls for an urgent attention to promote
or refresh the teacher education discipline in Ethiopian context.

Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Conclusions
Based up on the findings of the study, the following conclusions were drawn:
Trainees were not interested with the program because most of them joined the
program for they had no any other job opportunity. Consequently, most of the
trainees do not think teaching is a noble profession. It is also found that their
parents advised trainees and peers to attend PGDT and increase their chances
for employment. Therefore, this shows that prospective teachers are not
intrinsically motivated to join the teaching profession. Moreover, though
trainees felt that the lessons they were offered in general can help them to be
good secondary school teachers, they were not interested with courses they
taught in class implying that there are some irrelevant courses that they are
made to take. Likewise, the classroom and the overall learning environments
were not attractive and sufficient too.

Despite all the problems they are encountering, trainees are satisfied with their
performance in the tests and assessments. However, the trainees perceived that
PGDT courses could have been offered before they had completed their applied
degree in English. It was found that trainees have inculcated positive moral
values in their practice as a student teacher; the training enabled them to
demonstrate professional commitment and work ethics. Although they are still

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


somewhat doubtful about the plans of MoE, they are ready to implement
ministry of education initiatives into classroom practice.

Nonetheless, the universities where trainees are assigned to attend the training
do not fulfill the necessary materials required for the training. There is lack of
coordination among the stakeholders; the number of courses that trainees are
required to take and the time given to complete the training are not
proportional; in return all these challenges made the training boring to meet the
trainees needs and expectations. Particularly, participants who are attending
their training in Bahir Dar University mentioned that they were made to attend
PGDT program at Agriculture Campus where there are no relevant materials for
the training. It was also found that the time given to teaching practice was
inadequate, and the per diem they were given during practicum was

The result of the study also revealed that promotions were not made at
university level to attract trainees to the teacher education program. Brochures,
pamphlets and quotes that encourage students into teaching profession were
not made. And all these show that much attention is not given to the
development of teacher education and fulfillment of the necessary physical
infrastructure that triggers students to come to this field of study. Hence, it is
undeniable that this situation significantly affects the quality of education and
the students career.

There are also inconsistencies in the implementation of the PGDT program. The
students spent their time at home after they were already assigned; they waited
at home for months. Besides, it was difficult for the universities to discharge the
training on time. Shortage of time, absence of committed and qualified
supervisors, lack of professional payment for supervisors and limited resources
(modules, action research guidelines) were also affecting the smooth
implementation of PGDT program. These challenges negatively affected the
attitude of students towards the teaching profession and career as teachers.

Lastly, the trainees had no inherent motivation to be teachers except it was the
only option to get job. In addition to this, the course materials prepared for
PGDT students were bulky and unmanageable. Moreover, trainees face financial
problems, harsh working environment, scarcity of resources and unsmooth
physical infrastructure, far school placement, lack of books in the practice areas,
limited time allocation to collect data for action research and lack of computers.
Therefore, this scenario can adversely affect the trainees teaching profession and
quality of education at large.

2. Recommendations
Based up on the results obtained and the conclusions drawn, the following
recommendations were forwarded:

Most of the trainees were found extrinsically motivated, and most of

them were dissatisfied with the training. This scenario might have come
from lack of promotion towards the PGDT program. Consequently, to

@2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


alleviate this problem and to intrinsically motivate trainees, the MoE and
other stakeholders should promote the teaching profession.

PGDT implementation cannot be effective unless stakeholders join hands

together for its success. In this case, the admission date of the students,
time allocation for teaching and practice, the PGDT guideline and follow
up procedures, student teachers orientations about the training,
supervisors follow up and timely feedback should be thought a head of
time uniformly in all the institutions.

Financial incentives energize PGDT supervisors and trainees to discharge

their program successfully. In this case, supervisors and mentors should
get appropriate per diems and incentives for their accomplishments.
Likewise, since the trainees are assigned for PGDT practice far from their
universities and harsh environments, the government should reconsider
the trainees per diem and high school teachers salary to attract
graduates to the profession; otherwise, the trainees may easily lose
interest towards the teaching profession.

Learning and training materials are almost preconditions to bring

trainees positive view towards the teaching profession. To this effect, the
trainees modules and materials should be revised content and
profession wise to meet the trainees needs and the programs intended
outcomes. Moreover, trainees should attend the training in universities
where there are adequate resources that help them to discharge their

Encouragement and refreshment campaigns should be carried out before

or right from the arrival of PGDT trainees in their respective
institutions/universities. Consequently, influenced by this effort, trainees
can value teaching profession and attend the training appropriately,
though naturally resources can be limited.

We would like to express our gratitude to the student teachers who helped us in
giving the necessary information through questionnaire and FGD. Next, our
heartfelt appreciation goes to the program coordinators who were interviewed
and gave us their precious time for the successful accomplishment of the data
collection through key informant interview. Lastly, we also would like to thank
Jimma University, particularly, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, for
funding and sponsoring this research.

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