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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.15 No.9
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VOLUME 15 NUMBER 9 August 2016

Table of Contents
Mapping the Domain of Subject Area Integration: Elementary Educators Descriptions and Practices ..................... 1
Gustave E. Nollmeyer, Lynn Kelting-Gibson and C. John Graves

Improving Leadership Practice through the Power of Reflection: An Epistemological Study .................................. 28
Ann Thanaraj

Towards Actualising Sustainable Education Standards in Nigeria ............................................................................... 44

Dr. B. K. Oyewole and Dr. (Mrs.) F. M. Osalusi

Policy of Carrying Capacity and Access to University Education in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and the Way
Forward .................................................................................................................................................................................. 55
Dr (Mrs.) Chinyere Amini-Philips and Mukoro, Samuel Akpoyowaire

Who am I? Where am I Going? And which Path should I Choose? Developing the Personal and Professional
Identity of Student-Teachers ............................................................................................................................................... 71
Batia Riechman

Secondary Mathematics Teachers: What they Know and Don't Know about Dyscalculia ......................................... 84
Anastasia ChideridouMandari, Susana Padeliadu, Angeliki Karamatsouki, Angelos Sandravelis and Charalampos

Case Study Results at Primary School Leaving Examination in a Rural District in Rwanda .................................. 99
Jan Willem Lackamp

Teacher Evaluation and Quality of Pedagogical Practices ............................................................................................ 118

Paul Malunda, David Onen, John C. S. Musaazi and Joseph Oonyu

Investigation Learners Performance in TOEFL Prior to their Participation in the TOEFL Enhancement Training
Program................................................................................................................................................................................ 134
Ardi Marwan, Anggita and Indah Anjar Reski

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 1-27, August 2016

Mapping the Domain of Subject Area

Integration: Elementary Educators Descriptions
and Practices
Gustave E. Nollmeyer
Eastern Washington University
Cheney, WA

Lynn Kelting-Gibson and C. John Graves

Montana State University
Bozeman, MT

Abstract. A review of relevant literature reveals that integration is a

difficult practice to define, yet elementary teachers are quick to speak
positively of it and many claim to integrate in their practice. If there is a
lack of consensus about what integration means, what then are these
teachers doing when they say that they integrate? This study
investigated five cases in an effort to establish how elementary teachers
describe the domain of subject area integration. Qualitative data was
collected through interviews with the participants and observations of
the integrated lessons they taught. The data revealed a healthy mix of
commonalities within and differences between the teachers descriptions
and practices. These similarities and differences revealed a model of
integration that goes beyond the linear continuums common in the
literature. Instead we propose a model of the domain that consists of
four variables. These variables can be used to describe with great detail
an individual practice of integration and allow educators and
administrators an opportunity to consider and plan for growth in the
application of subject area integration.

Keywords: Integration; Interdisciplinary curriculum; Elementary

Education; Curriculum and Instruction

The practice of subject area integration began in the early part of the twentieth
century; however, its philosophical origins have been traced into the 1800s.
Mathison and Freeman (1997) credit Herbert Spencers writings of 1855 for
founding the idea of integration. The British psychologist suggested that the last
step of a changing or adapting organism was that of integration. Fifty years later
Spencers explanation of the organism as a whole was translated, by Gestalt
Theory, from the field of natural science to that of psychology (Humphrey,
1924). In the world of education this produced two practical realities. First, the
learner was seen as a whole in need of meaningful learning experiences

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reflecting this wholeness. Second, learning was not simply a linear process
with new ideas being added onto existing ones. Instead, it was complex and
interactivefilled with rebuilding and transformation (Harrell, 2010). It was this
progressive thinking that led to integrated curriculum and authentic experiences
which make learning meaningful (Mathison & Freeman, 1997).

Through the first half of the twentieth century, integration was advanced in both
theory and practice by innovators such as John Dewey and Hollis Caswell
(Bunting, 1987; Fraley, 1977). Then, in the 1980s and 90s integration experienced
another surge in popularity. Once again, integration was on the minds of
educators, researchers, and policy makers. This rich period in the history of
integration has been attributed to curriculum organizational theory, brain
research, and learning theory (Hartzler, 2000). Whatever the impetus, several of
the movements most cited advocates sprang up during these years, including
James Beane, Robin Fogarty, and Heidi Hayes Jacobs. It was a time of significant
research; Hartzler (2000), looking with a specific criteria, located and analyzed
thirty quantitative studies on integrationall between the years of 1985 and
1997. Also during this time, a number of United States policy organizations
turned to integration for answers including the National Association for the
Advancement of Science (NAAS), the Bradley Commission on History in
Schools, the National Research Council (NRC), the National Council of Teachers
of Mathematics (NCTM), the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS), and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

With so much interest and support, it appeared that the promotion of subject
area integration would be a fixture of education in the United States for some
time; however, in the years surrounding the turn of the century, calls for
accountability resulted in a surge of high stakes testing. Over the next decade
efforts in integration declined as teachers faced the pressure of the No Child Left
Behind legislation and the achievement expectations associated with it
(Musoleno & White, 2010).

In spite of these challenges, those practicing integration have continued to

believe in its ability to bring the curriculum alive (Treacy & ODonoghue, 2014).
This faith has been rewarded by recent policy changes. Integration has been
brought back to the vanguard in the United States. With the arrival of the
Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best
Practices, 2010) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States,
2013), relevance has once again been added to rigor. This shift in thinking is not
novel, but it has thrust subject area integration to the forefront of the
conversation among policy makers and educators. The resurfacing of integration
brings with it both benefits and challenges. Research has shown that students
experiencing integrated curriculum are more motivated to learn (Brown, 2011),
find their studies more meaningful (Leung, 2006), and do as well if not better on
standardized tests (Hartzler, 2000; Vars, 1997). Nevertheless, teachers who chose
to integrate subject areas face a number of challenges. Mcbee (2000) consolidates,
from a number of authors, a list of these barriers which include a lack of
professional development and the compartmentalization of content in published

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materials. These challenges are further complicated by the literatures lack of

uniformity in defining integration.

The literature presents a complex and diverse picture of integration; however,

this leaves it unclear as to what elementary educators mean when they say that
they integrate. With expectations for integration found in such policy
documents as the United States Common Core State Standards, it is important
to form a clear picture of what in-service teachers are doing when they integrate
(Collier & Nolan, 1996). With this purpose in mind, this research pursued two
main research questions:
1. How do elementary educators descriptions help map the domain of
subject area integration?
2. How do elementary educators practices fit within the resulting map of
the domain of subject area integration?

Situating the Study

The title of the Common Core Standards for English language arts is English
Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.
This title makes it clear that ELA skills are a necessary element to understanding
in the content areasa reality well established in the literature (Brozo,
Moorman, Meyer, & Stewart, 2013). The standards demand a high level of
reading competency and bring back an emphasis on content area writing
(Gewertz, 2012). These expectations combined with the push for nonfiction
texteven for the youngest studentswill require a successful integrated
response. Still, the expectation is not simply an application of general language
skills. Rather, there is a focus on content specific reading and writing which
often includes technical skills (Hoachlander, 2014). The goal is that by drawing
and synthesizing meaning from multiple texts, content knowledge would
increase (Ciecierski & Bintz, 2015). Also, writing about what is learned would
further strengthen the understanding.

Review of Relevant Literature

Literacy across the Curriculum

The Common Cores call for an increased emphasis on literacy across the
curriculum is not a new idea. Content area literacy was a major topic in the
literature of the 1980s and 1990s (Langer, 1986). The American Library
Association (1989) described the need for informational literacy and how it
would be achieved through an active, integrated curriculum based on real-world
problems. The primary thrust of the movement was using reading and writing
to facilitate learning in the content areas (Harp, 1989; McKenna & Robinson,
1990). Reading and writing about content knowledge stimulates thinking
(Dickson, 1995) and serves to facilitate student metacognition (Harp, 1989). At
the same time, using these skills while engaged in the content provide a
meaningful backdrop for the complex tasks of literacy development. Subject
specific applications allow students to explore their understandings of literacy
while focusing on the content (Taylor, 1989).

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Defining Integration
Over the years attempts have been made to define integration and its relative
terms. Instead of endeavoring to nail down one definition, most authors propose
a continuum or range of integrated approaches (i.e. Applebee, Adler, & Flihan,
2007; Jacobs, 1989; Lonning, DeFranco, & Weinland, 1998). Several authors do
propose a broad, all-encompassing definition: [Integration is] bringing together
in some fashion distinctive components of two or more disciplines (Nissani,
1995, p. 122); Integration involves relationshipsrelationships between
different subject areas, relationships between different content, relationships
between different skills . . . (Hartzler, 2000, p. 19). Wang, et al. (2011), divide the
domain into two categories of integration they label as multidisciplinary and
interdisciplinary. From another perspective, Kain (1993), Shriner (2010), and
Toren, et al. (2008), argue that all varieties of integration can fit within two
approaches. The approaches they identify are Beanes (1992) student-centered,
integrative approach and Jacobs (1989) subject-centered curriculum, approach.

Other researchers and authors do not address the fluid qualities of integration;
but instead, speak with some confidence in their own view of the domain.
Gehrke (1998) defines curriculum integration as, A collective term for
those forms of curriculum in which student learning activities are built,
less with concern for delineating disciplinary boundaries around kinds of
learning, and more with the notion of helping students recognize or
create their own learning (p. 248).
Case (1991) defines content and skill integration as: Connecting the
understanding promoted within and among different subject areas or
disciplines . . . . Integration of skills and processes refers to so-called
generic skills and processes. The call to teach reading and writing in the
content areas is an example of integrating reading and writing skills
into subjects such as social studies and science (p. 216).
Beane (1992) sees most interdisciplinary models a part of a
multidisciplinary category. In his view, an interdisciplinary curriculum
is one in which the concepts and activities are derived by the needs of a
central theme. There is no specific concern for how each discipline may
contribute to the study; And although we may draw from one or
another discipline of knowledge, the act itself is done without regard for
subject area distinctions (pp. 46-47).
Brown (2011) seems to take his thoughts a step further. Not only does he
speak with conviction on definitions, he separates multidisciplinary and
interdisciplinary approaches from what he calls true curriculum
integration. The major distinction he draws is that true integration
requires student involvement in the design process. In doing so he
claims, Few educators [understand] the design of true CI (p. 195).
Collier and Nolan (1996) recognize ambiguity in terms, but express a
confidence in distinguishing between integrated curriculum,
interdisciplinary instruction, and thematic instruction. While a review
of the literature indicated a clear distinction between the three
instructional models . . . (p. 7).

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Diversity may abound in defining integration, yet foundational principles still

exist. Beginning with integrations foundations in Gestalt psychology and the
progressive education movement and following the literature through to present
day, two consistent threads emerge. First, integrated curriculum in some way
addresses connections between discipline content and/or skill. Second,
integration enhances the relevance of school through meaningful experiences
and/or student-centered approaches.

Part of the frustration in defining the terms surrounding integration is alleviated

by seeing the wide range of approaches not as competing models, but rather
complimentary ones under a large umbrella. Some researchers speak directly of
a continuum of integrated practice and propose their own (i.e. Applebee et al.,
2007; Huntley, 1998; Leung, 2006; Lonning et al., 1998). Others infer or leave the
possibility open in their presentation of the terms (i.e. Beane, 1992; Fogarty, 2009;
Jacobs, 1989). Few of these authors agree on the terminology to be used at each
stage of the continuum; however, there appears to be some agreement as to the
scope and directionality of a continuum of integration. In scope, the continuums
or variations stay solidly on the side of curriculum and content. In direction,
Mathison and Freeman (1997) point out that most suggested continuums move
from discipline based models at one end to totally integrated ones at the other

Teachers Descriptions of the Domain

Considering the years that integration has been a topic of research and the rich
diversity of approaches, it is surprising that few studies have investigated in-
service educators definitions or descriptions of the domain. Of course,
throughout the literature the presence of teachers is felt. Many worked closely
with the movements foundational theorists (i.e. Beane, 1995; Fogarty, 2009;
Jacobs, 1991). Others participated in integrated programs under study (Greenleaf
et al., 2011; Lonning et al., 1998; MacMath, Roberts, Wallace, & Chi, 2010;
Romance & Vitale, 2001). A number have shared experiences, beliefs, or
challenges (Applebee et al., 2007; Dowden, 2007; Greene, 1991; Harrell, 2010;
Leung, 2006; McBee, 2000; Offer & Mireles, 2009; Shoemaker, 1991; Vars, 1991;
Wang et al., 2011; Weilbacher, 2001). Some even participated in crafting
integrated curriculums (DeCorse, 1996; Kain, 1996). However, our review
uncovered only three studies since the mid-90s where in-service educators
helped to describe or define the domain of integration (Collier & Nolan, 1996;
DeCorse, 1996; Stinson, Harkness, Meyer, & Stallworth, 2009). Two of these
studies included elementary educators. DeCorse (1996) studied how pre-service
training prepared teachers to teach integrated lessons. As part of her research,
she found that experienced teachers held to a variety of definitions. These
educators were doubtful about their ability to fully practice what they believed
integration to be. Collier and Nolan (1996) sought to understand elementary
teachers perceptions of three integrated instructional models. They reported
findings similar to DeCorse. When presenting three models of integration
integrated, interdisciplinary, and thematicteachers descriptions differed. The
responses were unclear and, at times, contradictory. The researchers concluded
that professional development was needed for the clarification of terms and the
success of any implementation (Collier & Nolan, 1996; DeCorse, 1996).

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Context and Participants

We worked from the inquiry paradigm of constructivism in this study. Instead
of beginning with a deductive framework, like Colliers and Nolans (1996)
work, our desire was to understand the participants constructed reality
(Shadish, 1995). Since constructivism purports reality to be relative and multiple
because of social and contextual factors (Lincoln, 1990), it captured the essence
of our goals. With the rich variety of definitions present in the integration
literature, educators will no doubt have constructed their own contextualized
reality. Therefore, it made sense to employ this naturalistic inquiry paradigm.
Our research design was case study as it is a preferred choice for answering
how questions (Yin, 2003).

Participants were identified using a combination of snowball and maximum

variation sampling (Patton, 2002). A snowball sample was accomplished by
talking to school principals about teachers in their building who integrated
frequently; direction was also given by one of the districts instructional coaches.
Following the leads supplied, five participants were selected based on several
demographic factors for maximum variation: grade levels taught, current grade
level, and years of experience. These participants were assigned pseudonyms for
purposes of anonymity. Employing a multiple-case model has the advantage of
being more robust than the classic single case design (Yin, 2003).

Data Collection
For our case study research, data were collected by conducting interviews and
observing lessons. Collecting qualitative data best fits the ideals of the
constructivist framework (Lincoln, 1990). The following pattern was used in data
collection: pre-observational interview, lesson observation, and post-
observational interview. The first interview was 30 to 45 minutes long and was
conducted in the participants classroom at her convenience. A pilot tested
interview guide (Maxwell, 2005) was used as a framework for the first semi-
structured interview. Data were collected during the interview by audio
recording. The final question of this interview asked the teacher to perform two
tasks with the Matrix of Integration (MoI) depicted in Figure 1. Each participant
was asked to mark the location that best described her current practice and mark
the location that best described what her teaching would look like in a perfect

Shortly after the first interview, a 30 to 60 minute lesson involving subject area
integration was observed. Data collection during the observation consisted of
typed notes. In the days following the observation, a second 30 to 45 minute
interview was conducted with the participant. Again, a pilot-tested interview
guide was used for the semi-structured interview. The final question of the
interview asked the teacher to place one more mark on the MoI. The participant
was asked to mark the location that best described the lesson taught for the
observation. The overall processpre-observation interview, lesson observation,
and post-observation interviewwas completed with each participant within a
two-week period of time.

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The MoI (Figure 1) used during the interviews was developed during a pilot
study. It attempted to blend the literature and our own experiences to picture
the domain of integration. For the purpose of labeling the MoI, Huntleys (1998)
terminology was used to establish three of the four points.
An intradisciplinary curriculum is typified by instruction that focuses on
one discipline (p. 320).
An interdisciplinary curriculum is one in which the focus of instruction is
on one discipline, and one or more other disciplines are used to support
or facilitate content in the first domain (p. 320).
An integrated curriculum is one in which a teacher, or teachers, explicitly
assimilates concepts from more than one discipline during instruction
(p. 321).
Needs driven was one researchers term to describe a fluid delivery of
instruction based on the current need instead of a daily schedule of
subjects. Beanes (1992) work supports this variable by describing the
flow of instruction as being concerned with the content or skill needed in
the moment.

Figure 1: The Matrix of Integration (MoI) displays, at one time, two variables involved
in integration.

Data Analysis
The unit of analysis in this study was the individual, and the method of analysis
was case study (Yin, 2003). The recordings were transcribed shortly following
each interview. These transcriptions were entered into the HyperRESEACHER
software program and coded as a case study. We used a combination of
inductive and deductive themes while coding these data. The deductive themes
arose from the pilot study and the review of the literature. Using
HyperRESEARCHs reporting feature, quotes were grouped by theme. From this
themed data, a case study was written and then emailed to the participant for

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member checking to enhance reliability (Patton, 2002). All five case studies were
returned with positive comments. Finally, the case studies were compared in a
cross-case analysis to identify broader themes and highlight complex ideas (Yin,

Each of the five case studies are displayed in order according to the grade level
taught by the educator. At the conclusion of the individual cases, the cross-case
analysis is summarized.

Cullen Case
Ms. Cullen, a kindergarten teacher with 26 years of experience, saw integration
as making connections and a natural part of teaching. Boy, I think its really
hard not to. The minute I think of a topic, I think of the books that go with it
because thats just a love of mine and I think because Ive seen kids love that.
This type of organic teaching included subject area connections as well as
connections of any kind. Im a believer in connections. I dont really care what
the connection is. Its firing a synapse; its growing curiosity and questions and
interest. And those are all good things. Cullen believed that integration
enriched learning experiences by creating more connections and increased the
probability of meaningful learning. I think [reading] hits a different area. And I
dont want to say it cements it, but it either sparks interest, or it creates a
synapse connection to what they were doing with their hands. Therefore, when
Cullen planned for instruction, she often sought to integrate. She built her
integrated lessons around science content and the inquiry process, yet she did
not plan with a detailed structure designed to ensure a certain number of subject
areas or skills got brought into the lessons. Instead, she allowed for the
integration to occur more naturally. I guess I dont feel like I purposely set out
to integrate like, This will be a math table, and this will be a social studies
table. Because of this organic process, Cullen struggled to place her current
practice on the MoI (see Figure 2). I guess I have no idea where I would plot
myself, but I would of course like to bethis is where Im aiming (pointing to
upper right corner). Eventually, she agreed to place a triangle over the area that
most closely pictured her practice. Cullen conceded to this because she felt that
when she did integrate it was a natural process, and things were delivered
concurrently without a lot of planning for specific content areas.

The observed lesson was an inquiry-based science lesson that integrated ELA,
math, social studies, and art. It was a multiday lesson about water; the science
content involved the states of water, waters interaction with other materials,
and the water cycle. Cullen stated that tackling such lofty scientific learning
goals and such complex concepts was only possible through high levels of
integration. She particularly saw the value of integrating reading, writing, and
speaking. Reading was integrated in the books about water Cullen read to the
class, the station where an adult helper read books about water with small
groups, and the station where students explored books on their own. Writing
was integrated at the station where students created their own books about
water. Speaking was integrated throughout as Cullen used inquiry based
questioning to explore student understanding, as well as, at the end of the lesson

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where students had a chance to present art work and their water books in front
of the class. As with placing her full practice on the integration matrix, Cullen
struggled to determine where the observed lesson belongedreadily admitting
the process was difficult. It is! Because I dont really set out planning, it just
kind of happens. Its the way that I see things. In an effort to help Cullen place
her lesson, we talked her through what we had seen. At that point, she readily
agreed that the lesson itself belonged up in the upper right hand corner of the

Figure 2: Cullens MoI completed during the interviews.

In a perfect world, Cullen felt that she would like to balance out that ability to
integrate organically, with an increased level of structured planning so that she
had a more complete integration of all knowledge and skill. She referred to this
as a good balance between the delivery of content on the y axis and the
combination of content on the x axis. I would hope that it would be balanced
and thats hard in kindergarten because were always leading up to something
else . . . . I guess Id like it to be up here and be using both of these. She also felt
that this balanced approach should be in the upper right hand corner of the MoI,
where everything was integrated. At first she felt like some rote things needed to
be handled in isolation. But, as we discussed it, she determined that even low
level knowledge and skill could and should be integrated. Then I would go all
the way up because even those little rote things like drill and practice numbers
we could be making it slightly more exciting.

Knox Case
Ms. Knox, a first-grade teacher with 22 years of experience, described integration
through the lens of teamwork. While she acknowledged that integration did
occur within her classroom without the collaboration of fellow teachers, Knox
believed true integration involved grade level teamwork. What it looks like to
me is that youre team teaching with a group of people that have the same grade
level and the same subjects that you teach . . . . Thats the beauty of integration

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when you work with teachers. Knox said that integration was a matter of
weaving together subject areas in the way that is best for kids. Its not how
many subjects you can teach at the same time. Its how well kids can relate to
real life situations. In her mind, single lessons done by individual teachers
could not be considered integration. Its an ongoing lesson; its not just one shot
. . . . We could do this for the rest of this year if we wanted. We could take
quality rather than quantity and just build on what we do this week. Ms. Knox
planned for integration by meeting with her grade level teaching team. They
met weekly and planned for special integrated units. These meetings were
inclusive and welcoming. Its an invitation to teachers, and Im learning that
you cant demand it . . . . Treat it as novelty and then build with the team. The
integration that followed provided meaningful learning that bound together all
subject areas. Because of the challenges of bringing team members on board and
the time involved in developing these fully integrated units, Knox placed her
current practice toward the bottom left corner of the MoI (See Figure 3). Yet, she
saw it moving up the center line through the year and ending close the middle
by the end of the year. Well, Ill get [more teachers] involved, and well plan
more science days . . . . You have to invite them and say, hey, wouldnt it be
great to save time if we did it this way? Knox stated that fully integrating all
the time with her team would be the perfect world situation. She placed this
near the upper right hand corner of the MoI because she believed there was
always room for improvement.

Figure 3: Knoxs MoI completed during the interviews.

The observed lesson was a multiday social studies lesson that integrated
multiple subject areas. Because of this full integration, Knox placed the lesson in
the upper right hand corner of the MoI. The content of the lesson was learning
about mapping and focused on students moving from a map of their bedroom
up to a map of the world. Reading was integrated through a read-a-loud book.
Math was integrated when students used rulers as a tool for drawing their own
maps. As Ms. Knox discussed the lesson, which included ELA, social studies,

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and math, she described how even that successful integration would be
strengthened by in involvement of her grade level team.

Havel Case
Ms. Havel, a first-grade teacher with seven years of teaching experience,
described integration as teaching two subjects at one time. While she did see
places for skills from one subject to be used as tools for mastering content
within the primary content area, true or full integration, Havel asserted,
needed to have lesson objectives for all subject areas being taught. She then
conceded that this was only her view. Are you integrating both subjects fully if
there arent objectives attached to both? I think youd hear arguments for and
against. Planning for integration came easily for Havel because she saw literacy
as a natural part of every content area. Regardless of what she was teaching, her
lessons involved reading, writing, speaking, and listening. [Literacy is] one
common subject thats in every subjecteveryday. Im constantly repeating a
word, having them repeat it backspeaking and listening, that covers that.
Writing down their thoughts in each of the subjects so you have writing
integrated with math and science and social studies. While discussing
integration, Havel never used the term continuum; however, she did employ
several other terms and descriptions. Mostly, she discussed different levels of
integration, but she exchanged this with full each time she described the
highest level of integration. Havel compared previously taught lessons by
discussing the difference in the degree of integration. This [lesson] would be
like a 1 or a 2on a scale of 1 to 5this would be a 2, and that would be a 4 or 5
because of the nature of how I did it.

Clearly having spent time considering how she was integrating as well as the
levels at which she tended to integrate, Havel identified the location of her
current practice on the MoI (see Figure 4) with some definitiveness and was able
to discuss in detail why. She placed herself just past half way to the right side
but well below the line. This was where Havel felt her practice belonged because
she was not able to integrate everything, yet she did so with every opportunity
she could find. She also felt that the inherit structure to her day limited her
ability to be any further up the y axis.

The observed lesson was a science inquiry lesson; however, the math and ELA
integrated into it were of equal importance to Havel. She felt like that was an
important feature of integration; each content area needed to have a purpose
within the integrationeven when its being used as a tool. I would say subject
area integration is teaching two subjects in the same lesson sequence. You know,
not less equally, so, with objectives in place for both . . . . I guess you could say
full integration or not true integration if the objectives on both sides arent
being met. She believed this one lesson was a good example of the content
areas she typically integrated, but placed it higher on the MoI since she was able
to integrate more seamlessly.

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Figure 4: Havels MoI completed during the interviews.

Ms. Havel was fairly content with the amount of subject area integration she was
able to do. The place she really wanted to have more flexibility was in the
delivery of her curriculum. In the perfect world she would have as much
blending of instructional time as she had connections between content. Her
practice would be balanced that way, on the center line of the MoI, up toward
the right hand corner. I think Id want to be up here; like this, but I still think
there would have to be some subject areas that I teach that would have to be
like spelling. I dont think I could teach it any other way just because of the
structure involved.

Bilas Case
Ms. Bilas, a third-grade teacher with nine years of experience, described
integration in terms of connections. These connections could be between subject
areas or bridging the gap between school and the real world. While regularly
planning for integration in a variety of ways, Bilas also saw the advantage of
connections that arise through teachable momentswhether they connected
subject areas or school learning and life. Bilas planned for subject area
integration because she believed that connecting reading and writing to her
content area units was critical to maximizing instructional time. So, like when I
was thinking about this last writing assignment . . . the first thing I thought
about was my social studies content. How can I build a writing assignment
around what Im going to be teaching in social studies? This was a regular
thought process for Bilas because there was so much ground to cover. Plus, from
a pragmatic standpoint, connecting subject areas only made sense. Why would
you be reading other nonfiction texts? That doesnt make any sense. Why not
teach your students how to read the nonfiction texts that give them the [social
studies and science] content? While she did not use the term continuum,
Bilas saw levels to integration where higher levels of integration would include
multiple content areas. I guess better integration, if it was on a scale, would be

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when youre able to connect multiple disciplines. Bilas conceded that the
planning involved in high levels of integration is overwhelming. I think that it
can be difficult on a daily basis so any kind of connecting is beneficial rather
than having things taught completely in isolation, separate from each other.
Because of this challenge and the constraints of school wide structures, Bilas
placed herself towards the bottom left corner of the MoI (See Figure 5).

Figure 5: Bilas MoI completed during the interviews.

The observed lesson was part of a unit studying a traditional Native American
story; however, it was the reading skills and not the Native culture that formed
the foundation of the unit. The social studies content, science content, speaking,
and writing skills were given attention as they were needed. The reading skills
taught during the observation were the skill of recognizing traditional stories
and the skill of visualization. Social studies was integrated through the
traditional Native American story used for the visualization. ELA speaking skills
were applied as students presented group work. In other lessons of the unit
science knowledge about fire and skills of inquiry were learned and applied.
Even though these other subject areas played a small role, Bilas saw it belonging
above the center line on and on the left edge of the MoI. I think its always
going to be heavy on the reading . . . . If you look at the whole unit, its going to
be heavy on the reading throughout.

As Figure 5 shows, Bilas wanted to be integrating most subjects most of the time.
She still saw the need for some isolated instruction and isolated content. So, I
dont feel like I can be like, here (pointing to upper right hand corner of the MoI)
because math has to be taught in isolation. Especially the last two years Ive
spent here with these students because I think that they have, in some ways,
really weak math skills.

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Donner Case
Ms. Donner, a fifth-grade teacher with eight years of experience, saw integration
as teaching multiple subject areas at the same time. She thought that it was
important for there to be a natural fit in the content being taught, and any
subject brought into the lesson needed to contribute to the purpose and goal of
the learning. If its a natural fit, Ill do it. If Im pushing, Ill think, Eh, maybe
this isnt the right thing. When we began our discussion about integration,
Donner felt that anytime another subject area was brought into a lesson (i.e.
writing about science content) integration was occurring. As we explored these
thoughts deeper and Donner spent time considering her own practice, she came
to the conclusion that true integration required knowledge or skill to be taught
for each subject being integrated.

Figure 6: Donners MoI completed during the interviews.

Ms. Donners planning for integration occurred primarily around her science
content. The main reason for this structuring of curriculum was that she loved
science. Since her fifth-grade team rotated students for several subjects, science
was also the place where Donner had the greatest opportunities to integrate.
For me, my easiest way to integrate is in science. I look at my standards in
science, and Well, okay! This is kind of the big idea, and this is what I have to
teach. So, how do I push other subjects into that idea? For Donner, looking for
opportunities to integrate was a natural part of planning. She began with her
science standards, but that did not mean that content from other subjects was
used merely as a means to an end. She examined the standards of other subject
areas to determine what should be brought inwhat would be a natural fit and
also needed to be taught. I have an environments kit now, and so, I have to
look where Im at in the math standards . . . . If I can find objectives that meet my
objectives in science, thats when I put them together. Because of the challenge
of designing such experiences and finding the needed materials coupled with
practical limitations with schedules at her school, Donner placed her current
practice low on the y axis of the MoI (See Figure 6). She did put herself half way

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through the x axis because of her focus on bringing subjects together whenever

The observed lesson was about environmental impact and integrated social
studies, mathematics, and ELA into the science content. It took multiple days to
complete. Working with a group, students developed their own stretch of land
bordering a river. Then, Donner explained the potential for pollution with each
plan. As students struggled with the realities of human impact, Donner
integrated reading through a nonfiction book about river pollution, and social
studies through an exploration of the industrial revolution. She then integrated
writing as students wrote critical pieces about technological advancement. Since
the lesson included nearly all of the subjects, Donner positioned it on the MoI far
on the right side. However, she felt that within the lesson there still was
significant separation between subject areas; therefore, Donner was not
comfortable placing the lesson very high on the y axis.

Donner discussed a range in integrated practice throughout the interviews. She

saw the highest level as the best practice of integration. In a perfect world, this
was what her teaching practice would look like. I would be . . . where you
would integrate fully all day, and the curriculum was completely integrated.
There [would be] no time constraintsif it was possible.

Cross-Case Analysis
A cross-case analysis revealed common themes within the cases and
discrepancies between the cases. Four compatible themes were found within the
cases: (1) an organizing description, (2) grounded in content, (3) range of
options, and (4) perfect world versus reality. The contrasting themes between
the cases were (1) philosophical foundations, (2) planning structure, and (3)
depth of integration.

All five participates described subject area integration as combining subjects.

Cullen and Bilas used the term connections, Havel and Donner simply stated
that it was teaching multiple subjects at the same time, and Knox referred to it as
weaving. Each statement contained nuances; nevertheless, the foundation was
the same.

Also, these educators saw integration as both a planned and natural process.
Bilas, Havel, and Donner all explicitly stated that they were constantly looking
for opportunities to combine subjects. Knox, emphasized the planning done with
a grade level team. Of the five, Cullen spoke the least about structured planning,
yet the lesson I observed contained a high level of subject area orchestration. At
the same time, each teacher spoke to one degree or another about the organic
elements of integrating. For Cullen, Knox, and Havel it was who they were as
teachers. Cullen questioned whether she could disintegrate if she tried. While
clearly more planning oriented, Bilas and Donner felt that true integration
required natural connections. They both spoke of combining subjects that had a
natural fit.

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While none claimed it to be the only way to integrate, four of the five
participants described integration that was grounded in the content disciplines
of science or social studies. Cullen and Donner planned and taught that way
because of their love for scienceeach referred to the fact that it was how they
saw the world. Bilas regularly built her integrated units around science or social
studies in order to maximize instructional time and cover all of her ELA
standards. Havel integrated based upon science and social studies because she
saw literacy as being the one commonality throughout her day. Knox did not
discuss planning in this way; yet, the lesson we observed was a social studies
based lesson that had integrated other subjects into it.

Each of the five teachers recognized a range of options for integration. They all
quickly grasped the MoI and discussed the range present there. Four of them
readily acknowledged that their methods of integrating were not the only ways
to do it. Cullen and Donner, who most routinely integrated through science
only, discussed how their teaching peers had different strengths and passions.
Havel, Bilas, and Donner all discussed a range of levels for integration. Havel
most frequently termed these as levels. Bilas discussed the range in terms of
complexity of integration. Donner, referred to the highest level as best
practice. Even though Knox never directly discussed a range of integrated
options, she suggested that her own practice changed in the amount of
integration throughout the year.

Figure 7: The compiled MoI comparing all teachers current and preferred practice.
B=Bilas; C=Cullen; D=Donner; H=Havel; and K=Knox.

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The final common theme across the cases was a discussion of the perfect world
versus reality. These educators all placed their current practice at low levels on
the MoI and their desired practice at very high levels (see Figure 7). The
uniformity in their desire to integrate at or near the full level of the upper
right hand corner of the matrix was very telling data. This shows that if possible,
each of these five educators would like to be integrating at a full or nearly full

The cross-case analysis also revealed contrasting themes between the cases:
philosophical foundations, planning structure, and depth of integration. There
were philosophical ideas about integration that differed between cases. In her
discussion of integration, Cullen described it as teaching the whole instead of
the parts. She emphasized the need for students to see the whole so that it makes
sense. This idea was unique to Cullens description. None of the other teachers
referenced this view, but Knox discussed a different idea dealing with whole
versus parts. She described integration as something that extended through the
whole year. Because of this perspective, Knox did not see a single lesson taught
in isolation to be part of the domain of integration. Again, no other participant
mentioned anything similar. Also, Knox believed that true integration was a
team effort. Others mentioned this as an option but never attributed higher
value to the resulting integration.

Differences were present between the participants planning structure for

integration. Two educators discussed using themes for planning but neither
explained them in the same way. Havel brought up themes in reference to
conceptual ideas that cross disciplinary boundaries. Knox, did not directly state
the word theme; however, her description of the integrated units taught by
her grade level team matched descriptions of thematic unitsas presented in the
literature. Other participants planned integrated units topically around a
science or social studies foundation. While planning for integration was clearly
performed by all participants, it was not as important to Cullen. She described
her planning for integration as an organic process. She integrated subjects as the
opportunity arose and felt like she never really set out to integrate certain
subjects or certain skills.

A final difference between the cases was variations in the depth of integration.
In describing the range of options in the practice of integration, there was
general consensus about there being amounts of integration. At the same time,
participants were split over the details. Two teachers, Havel and Donner,
believed that true integration required lesson objectives or standards for each
subject area in the lesson. In other words, reading an article in science class
would not be considered integration of reading unless specific standards or
lesson objectives for reading were being met. The other three participants did
not state such an expectation.

Knowing how teachers describe the domain of integration would be a helpful
addition to the literature. This is especially true in the United States with the
arrival of new standards emphasizing integration (i.e. English Language Arts and

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Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Common Core

Standards). The purpose of this study was to explore elementary teachers
descriptions and practices of subject area integration in an attempt to help define
the domain.

As the teachers in the study described their practice of integration, a number of

commonalities were found; however, with many unique perspectives also
present, it still remained challenging to establish a concise definition. This
finding mirrors Nissanis (1995) assertion that the very nature of integration
makes such clarity impossible. At the same time, Nissani provided a broad
definition of integration, and our participants general descriptions sounded
quite similar. In simple terms, subject area integration is combining two or more
subjects into a lesson, lesson sequence, or unit. As the participants discussed
integration, their ideas regularly agreed with Cases (1991) definition of skill
integration. According to Case, skill integration is bringing skills like reading
or writing into content areas like science or social studies.

While none of the participants identified a continuum, they all readily

recognized a range of options and approaches to integration. This finding again
matches work established in the literature where any number of continuums and
options for approaching the task can be found (Adler & Flihan, 1997; Applebee
et al., 2007; Fogarty, 1991; Huntley, 1998; Jacobs, 1989; Leung, 2006; Lonning &
DeFranco, 1997; Mathison & Freeman, 1997). On the surface it seemed that the
participants understanding of a continuum was only one dimensional. They
used terms like levels, amounts, full, range, and true. To some degree, the
continuums presented in the literature describe the domain of integration in
similar linear terms. At the one end of such a continuum, subjects are separated
and at the other, they are integrated (Mathison & Freeman, 1997). On closer
inspection the range of options, discussed by the elementary educators in this
study, were far more complex and required a model with multiple variables.
Even the dual axes of the MoI used during the interviews failed to fully capture
what educators described as the domain of integration. As Nissani (1995)
claimed, integration must be seen as multidimensional and not linear. With this
more complex lens in mind, it became apparent that many of the continuums
found in the literature also include more complexity. Though often presented in
a linear graphic, most contain characteristics from multiple dimensions that
describe movement along the continuum.

Based on findings in this study, we propose a model that maps the domain of
subject area integration (hereafter referred to as the Model) comprised of four
variables. Table 1 describes and gives an example of a low, medium, and high
level for each variable. Evidence from the study, by means of participant quotes,
is presented for most variable levels. The first variable, subject areas in the
integration, identifies the number of subjects being combined. The range of
options within this variable was presented on the MoI used in the interviews.
The second variable, frequency of integration, was one of the most conversed
aspects of the practice. The educators in the study all desired to integrate more
often and gave detailed explanations about the challenges that make an increase
in frequency difficult. The third variable, delivery of integration, was also on the

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MoI. The range of options within this variable are often challenged by factors
out of teachers control including district mandates, curricular programs, and
building schedules. Four of the five teachers in the study pointed to these issues
and others as hurdles to an integrated delivery. The final variable, depth of
integration, was discussed by four of the five educators. This variable has a
limited range, but according to some of the teachers in the study, the depth of
the combination can create distinct differences in learning experiences.

Table 1. Modeling the Domain of Integration: Descriptions and Evidence.

Variables Low Level Medium Level High Level
Lessons Lessons combine most or Lessons are developed
combine two all subjects taught at the around real-world
subject areas. grade level. problems that require
knowledge and skill
from all or nearly all
grade level subjects.
I think I hope the tactile, using So, lets say youre
teachers would the water with the lids, I studying the
normally think hope that that was math environments. Well
about it as just and science. What else did somehow you would
two [subjects] we do? We did some take your math
because you writing which is always standards and your
dontyou good . . . . Then, they read science standards and
kind of think it to each other or they your ELA standards
in pairs I think, read it to the group later. and all of that would
naturally. Cullen kind of be in harmony.
Subject Havel Interventions, for Donner
Areas in Moving example, leads to the [It starts with] a
Integration toward the study of simple machines problem, idea, or
middle of the in science, to reading and concept, and builds
continuum writing about inventors in knowledge from a
represents an language arts . . . to variety of areas without
increased drawing and studying regard to disciplinary
infusion of one Rube Goldberg boundaries (Adler &
discipline contraptions in math Flihan, 1997, p. 7).
(mathematics (Fogarty, 1991, p. 63).
or science) into
the teaching
and learning of
the other
(Huntley, 1998,
p. 321).

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Variables Low Level Medium Level High Level

Integrating Integrating on a regular Every all of the time,
only a few basis like one day a week. every lesson, every day,
lessons in the all year long.
Well, I get a [few] more I would [like to teach]
teachers involved, and we where you would
plan more science days. integrate fully all day
Knox and the curriculum was
completely integrated.
Knowledge Around half of the Knowledge and skill is
and skill for knowledge and skill delivered as needed
each subject content is delivered regardless of subject
area is separately and about half area.
delivered is delivered as needed
separately. regardless of subject area.
If I had I think honestly if you
complete had the perfect scenario
control over [you would] teach a
my classroom, lesson, a unit, where
I would you couldnt really
probably be distinguish between
reading [subjects]. Okay, this is
science content math and this is the
during my science part. Donner
reading The integrated day is a
block. Bilas natural day. Time is
structured according to
the needs of the
students, and the needs
of the curriculum are
planned around them,
rather than institutional
demands (Jacobs, 1989,
p. 17).

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Variables Low Level Medium Level High Level

Knowledge or Standards and objectives Standards from
skill from one are being met for each multiple subjects are
subject area is subject area being being met through
used as a tool integrated. curriculum developed
to enhance around real-world
learning in problems. No discipline
another subject is the primary or
area. organizing subject
You just have I think whenever you can Curriculum integration
to think about integrate the standards begins with the
how can one from any subject matter identification of
subject be whether it be math or organizing themes . . . .
used, if its reading or whatever it is, I drawn from real-life
math and think it makes the concerns . . . . [it]
science, how integration that much transcends subject-area
can math be more rich because youre and disciplinary
used as a touching on all of the identifications; the goal
Depth of tool? Havel things standard wise. is integrative activities
Integration They Donner that use knowledge
combined without regard for
literature and At the center of the subject or discipline
science to continuum are those lines (Beane, 1995, p.
make the activities meeting the 619)
science content curricular objectives for
more both science and
interesting and mathematics (Lonning et
meaningful. al., 1998, p. 313)
The literature,
they said, had
value, but the
emphasis was
the science
(Mathison &
Freeman, 1997,
p. 14)
Note. There are two types of information found in the cells for each variable. At the top is a
short description of the level for the variable. Below the description, most cells have one or
two quotations that support the description. These quotations come from the participants in
the study and/or from the literature on integration.

We believe that the interaction of the four variables in the Model provides
further clarity in mapping the domain of subject area integration. It also allows
for an individual to describe the patterns of personal integrated practice. By
utilizing a bubble chart, this interaction can be displayed visually. First, the
frequency of the integration and the subjects in integration are assigned to the x and

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y axes. Figure 8 shows the positions along these axes. As the frequency of the
integration increases, the position of the plot moves to the right. Since the range
in this variable moves from a single lesson to every lesson in the year, half way
across the axis would describe half of the lessons in a given period (i.e. day,
month, or year) being integrated. The number of subjects being integrated is
displayed on the y axis. At the bottom of the axis only two subjects would be
integrated. The further up the axis the greater the number of subjects involved.
With an increase in both frequency and the number of subjects being integrated,
the position plotted would move toward the upper right hand corner of the

Figure 8: Variables associated with the x and y axes of the Model.

The third and fourth variables are associated with the circles used to plot the
position on the chart (Figure 9). The depth of the integration is displayed by the
size of the circlethe smaller the circle the lower the level of depth. A small
circle, then, would display a practice that uses one or more supporting subjects
to facilitate the learning in an emphasized subject. An increase in the level of this
variable is displayed by an increase in the size of the circle. Similarly, the delivery
of the integration is depicted by the shade of color in the circle. A light shade
represents a low level of integrated deliveryindicating that knowledge and
skill are delivered in isolation. For example, a teacher may have students write
about their science content, but the science work and the writing take place
during different periods of the day. As the tint darkens, the level of the delivery
increases. A dark color indicates that content is being delivered as needed
regardless of the subject area or a set schedule of classes.

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Figure 9: Variables associated with the circles plotted on the Model.

Figure 10 displays the interaction of the four variables in the Model which is
designed to map the domain of subject area integration. Plotting a practice on
the Model, involves consideration of each variable. Moving from left to right
represents an increase in the frequency of the integration. Moving from bottom
to top represents an increase in the subject areas involved in the integration.
Increasing the circles diameter represents a deeper integration. Finally, a
darkening of the color shade indicates an increase in the integrated delivery.
Each circle plotted in Figure 10 represents an individual integrated practice.
Three plots have been labeled for the purpose of describing hypothetical
teachers. For clarity, we refer to the examples simply as Teachers A, B, and

Figure 10: The four variable Model proposed to help map the domain of subject area

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Teacher A integrates frequently. Over half of the lessons she teaches are
integrated. These lessons have a high level of subject area integration as
well as a high level of depth in integration. Her curriculum is constructed
around real-world problems that are not driven by any one discipline but
require the knowledge and skills from most subject areas. Teacher A
delivers this integrated curriculum as knowledge and skill are needed
without regard for subject area.
Teacher B integrates English language arts into her science curriculum.
These are the only two subjects she integrates; however, her frequency of
the integration is high. Teacher B integrates with virtually every science
lesson she teaches throughout the year because she uses a science
notebook as a central piece to her program. The depth of this integration
is at a medium level. She has both science and ELA standards in mind as
students write in their science notebooks. Nevertheless, she has a set
schedule for her day and does not attempt to do any of the actual writing
instruction during her science block. This means that her delivery of
integration is at a low level.
Teacher C rarely teaches integrated lessons throughout the year. When
she does integrate, she usually builds these lessons around her social
studies content. These lessons connect all or nearly all of the subjects;
however, there is a low level of depth. Teacher C is focused only on
students understanding the social studies content. The ELA, math,
science, and art knowledge and skills that are brought into the
integration are only used as tools to support and add meaning to the
social studies content. Some of the time, the typical schedule of the day is
removed and knowledge and skill are used in the flow of the curriculum.
At other times, Teacher C keeps the schedule in place and just uses those
blocks of the day to work on pieces of the integration.

While interpreting the data, it became apparent that what educators described
and practiced did not fit into a simple linear continuum. Nor was the MoI
developed during a pilot study sufficient to capture the full domain of subject
area integration. In an attempt to help map this domain and its rich range of
options, a Model consisting of four variables was developed. These variables
captured key aspects discussed by participants in describing subject area
integration. The Model provides a fundamental framework for considering the
various options in the range of integrated practice. It could prove useful for a
number of stake holders in education. Departments of Education and
Curriculum Leadership Teams could compare integrated practice and current
teacher understandings of integrated expectations with actual expectations and
desired practice. Districts and administrators could use these findings to plan for
professional development. Finally, teacher training programs, in concert with
Departments of Education, could use these findings to update pre-service
teacher education.

The Model interpreted from the data in this study remains untested. Further
research on the variables of the Model would help to refine it. One aspect of
future research should be to attribute value to the levels of each variable. The

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purpose behind the Model of the domain is to describe teacher practice and
promote professional development. However, without additional research it
remains unclear if each variable is equal in value. Should educators focus on
increasing their level of integration on one variable more than another? And,
how is the value of each variable influenced by the subject areas involved? These
and many more questions need answering to further understand the domain of
subject area integration. For now, we hope that the Model can serve to further
the conversation of educators everywhere.

We wish to acknowledge the contributions to the elementary educators who
gave their time and energy as they participated voluntarily in this study.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 28-43, August 2016

Improving Leadership Practice through the

Power of Reflection:
An Epistemological Study

Ann Thanaraj
University of Cumbria
Carlisle, United Kingdom

Abstract. This paper reports on a personal journey using reflection to

benefit and transform the development of the authors thinking on
important elements of leadership. The paper discusses the value of
critical reflection in professional development before building upon
the dynamic and complex multi-facet process of leadership. The
reflection has helped to draw out the authors epistemological stance
on the variety of different responsibilities, requirements of
professional, personal and interpersonal knowledge and skill and the
need to engage in reflection and continual improvement and growth
as a leader. In order to grow and improve as a leader there is a strong
need to address personal values and challenges that underpin thinking
about leadership and the manner of implementing leadership.

Keywords: Reflective learning; personal values; leadership,

professional learning, situational leadership, ethic.

This paper is an epistemological study which reports on a personal journey
using reflection to benefit and transform the development of the authors
thinking on key elements of leadership. The paper is written in a first person
speech in order to allow for personal reflection, drawing on lived experiences
and self-awareness as this develops.

As an academic team leader and a principal lecturer in my subject discipline of

law, the nature of my work and areas of responsibilities are set out in my
contract. To name a few, these include team leadership, management of
programmes, setting and meeting the objectives of the department, researching,
influencing academics and students through research, income generation and
contributions to the wider university and the professional bodies.

Within the context of working in higher education, I believe leadership is a

dynamic and complex multi-facet process of initiating positive impact on others.
This process brings with it a variety of different responsibilities, requirements of
professional, personal and interpersonal knowledge and skill and the need to

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engage in reflection and continual improvement and growth as an experienced

leader. This echoes what theorists have suggested; that leadership cannot be
taught as a skill set but it can be developed (Gill 2011; Avolio 2009; Yammarino
et al. 2005). As such, I am keen to develop more effective practices, learning and
evolving from challenges that have I have attempted to overcome. The paper
reflects on the skills, traits and challenges of leadership.

I began conscientiously reflecting on my experience of leadership two years ago,

with a strong desire for my team members to have confidence in me, as their
new leader and, together as a team, for us to take our subject area into a
successful and sustainable future. In order to achieve the wider aim of my
leadership, I set myself three priorities that underpin my leadership focus and
To achieve excellence in higher education through successful
management of teaching, learning and student support
To instil a clear sense of purpose
To motivate team members and work effectively

Increasingly, however, I have realised there is much more to being a leader than
effectively fulfilling the responsibilities set out in the job description. I decided to
keep a reflective journal, posing questions and issues that I found I needed to
address around my values that underpin what I think leadership is; my
understanding of influence and its place within leadership, my character and its
impact on how I lead, what it means to lead, the emotional dimension to leading
and general people skills. These reflections are reported in this paper.

This reflection is undertaken in light of the significant changes that higher

education continues to undergo in response to such factors as the advancement
of the new Higher Education bill in England and Wales being considered by
Parliament, contributions to the research excellence framework, impact of the
teaching excellence framework, impact of digital education, league tables,
widening participation and globalisation, to name a few (Times Higher
Education, August 2016). Furthermore within the legal profession, method of
delivery of legal services and legal education itself is undergoing vast
consultations and review (Legal Education Training Review 2013). In this
climate of change, there is a need for good strategic leadership and as such, I will
need to reflect, identify and develop my skills and qualities as a leader.


This study is a reflective biography giving an account of the authors thinking on

the development of leadership skills and qualities over the past two years within
the context of the higher education sector.

The reflection is written in an auto-ethnographical style. This gives priority to

the lived experiences and reflections drawn from considering issues and
questions which has raised self-awareness and critical thinking from the authors
point of view. As such, a self-study research provides readers with the

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opportunity to draw on the authors questions and experience and reflect on

their journey through leadership development.

Research focus

The research focus presented below guides the authors reflection on current
leadership experience.

The term leadership provides us with a mental picture of power, prestige, and
authority (Yukl 2002, p4). There is also some disconnect and ambiguity as to
what leadership is (Bryman, 2002, 2004). Some consider leadership as a function
or task for completion, or a role defined by the person carrying that
responsibility (Goodall, 2006). Others consider this to be a process of influence to
achieve common objectives (Northouse, 2004). It is acknowledged that skills
such as problem-solving, interpersonal skills, organising and planning, decision
making and delegating are absolutely crucial for successful leadership.

The aim of undertaking this reflection is to create some time and space to
consider personal characteristics, the values essential for leadership and to
develop awareness and reflect on current practices in higher education. Within a
wider context, it is hoped that this reflection may help to address whether good
leadership is derived from the personal traits of the leader or whether it is a
functional process.

The reflection will focus on:

1. Understanding the power of critical reflection in professional practice;
2. Identifying and reflecting on what my leadership values are;
3. Drawing out the extent to which emotion, influence and authority (Yukl,
2002) has an impact upon my leadership values; and
4. Reflecting on my character and its impact on the leadership process.

Evaluating the power of reflection in an ongoing journey of becoming

an effective leader

I have seen effective and transformational development in our students ability

to formulate new ideas and they try to figure out a solution to a problem on their
own, whilst identifying areas for change and improvement through applying
what was learned from one situation to other situations, through the embedded
reflective learning scheme across all our law programmes.

As such, being a believer in the power of reflections and its ability to bring to
surface awareness, improvement and tackling challenges, I adopted reflection as
a part of my personal and professional development as an academic leader to
understand and recognise influences and improvements to my leadership

There is no straightforward or simple definition of reflection; instead there is a

wide variety of literature on what it is and how it is best implemented. Moons

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(1999; 2005) work on reflection explains that reflection is a form of mental

processingthat we can use to fulfil a purposebased on the further processing of
knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (Moon
1999, 2005, working paper 4). This presents useful insights into what reflection
Thinking carefully about complicated matters where there is no obvious
or immediate solution;
There is an emotional dimension to reflection;
Existing knowledge is the starting point where reflections commence;
Through the mental processing we may add new knowledge or areas for
further investigation after an experience; and
Consequently, addressing the purpose of the reflection

Done well and effectively, reflective practice can be an enormously powerful

tool to examine and transform practice. It facilitates the time and space for one to
go to the heart of thingsto reengage with beliefs of fundamental importance, which
provides a cohesive bedrock for all of lifes activities (Fook 2013).

There are a variety of frameworks, for example from Argyris and Schn (1974);
Schn (1983, 1987); Dewey (1933); Brookfield (1995); Ghaye (2004); Boud and
Walker (1998) and Reynolds and Vince (2004) on reflective practice and how the
mental processing to achieve some anticipated outcome (Moon, 2005, Working
Paper 4), however a review of the literature shows that there is no one right way
of reflecting effectively. Instead a number of features of effective reflection need
to be present in order to draw out the process of learning from experience in
order to improve practice.

We begin with Deweys (1933) How We Think: A restatement of the relation of

reflective thinking to the educative process as a starting point in reviewing reflective
practices. Dewey was a pioneer in advocating for reflection becoming a core
feature in any education stating that while we cannot learn or be taught to think, we
do have to learn to think well, especially acquire the general habit of reflection (p.18).
He takes a holistic view of reflection as a process which moved people away
from routine ways of thinking about an experience towards reflective action
involving active, persistent and careful consideration (p.4).

Deweys (1933) view has influenced theorists such as Kolb (1984); Schn (1983)
and Boud and Walker (1998) thinking about learning from reflection.

Kolbs (1984) experiential learning model features reflection as its nexus for
effective and active learning. It has been defined as fundamental to develop,
renew and expand ones knowledge and learning, achieved through a cyclical
process of identification, review, questioning and reconstruction through experience

Schons (1983) work explored the development of ones professional practice

through reflection. He provided some helpful tips for reflection, which although
not a linear and sequential model, it offers structure to the process: i) being
aware of feelings or thoughts which may be challenging or uncomfortable, ii)

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undertaking a critical analysis of the experience and iii) evaluating new

perspectives derived from the analysis. The use of such a process has been
suggested to lead to a state of expertise by bringing to the forefront of thinking
ones existing knowledge so that it could be considered and improved through
the process of reflection (p.67).

Building on previous literature on reflection and its processes, Boud and Walker
(1998) explain that reflection is more than an intellectual exercise (p.194) and
acknowledges the emotional dimension of undertaking reflections. They offer a
structured approach to reflecting to encapsulate and harness the value of
emotions in reflections. They encourage one to begin with reflecting on an
experience by mentally replaying the experience and describing it in a
descriptive, non-judgemental way. After this, identify the positive and negative
feelings triggered by the experience and attempt to discharge negative feelings
which may obstruct the reflection. When the emotional dimension has been
expressed and acknowledged, re-evaluate the issue by associating new
information to what is already known and integrating new ideas with existing
knowledge. One is also encouraged to validate the authenticity of the newly
developed ideas, exploring inconsistencies or contradictions. Although they do
not explain how this process of validation may be achieved, I would be keen to
develop a reflective dialogue to inject a much needed social dimension to this
process. Finally, to adopt and appropriate the new knowledge or behaviour as
part of ones own practice to be applied in future circumstances.

With regards to achieving the depth of awareness and learning through

reflection, Mezirow (1990) explained, reflection requires critiquing on the
assumptions on which our beliefs and values have developed. In Van Maanen
(1995) and Thompsons (2008) view, to engage in critical reflection, an issue or
experience will need to be explored with the breadth and depth of practice, rather
than to focus on the negative or crisis point interpretations of the term (p.23). Taking
this a step further, Fook and Askeland (2006) advices to critically reflect using a
clear rationale and analysis embedded in theory to draw upon a structured
process for reflection.

Reflection can aid successful professional identity

Reflective practice is often discussed as the foundation in achieving improved

professional development (Schon 1983). In adopting Schons (1983, 1995) and
Fook and Askelands (2006)s view, to engage in critical reflection effectively, we
need to be involved in more than just thinking about our experiences and move
towards understanding our experiences within the social context, based upon
theories and research, to help us develop our knowledge about our practice. In
turn, this helps professionals including leaders become aware of the wider
organisation and context in which they operate. There are some insightful
studies situated within the realm of the literature surrounding the value and
implication of reflection on leadership.

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Research shows that the ability to reflect on experience is evident in leaders who
exhibit higher levels of cognitive development seen through their thought
processes, problem solving and decision-making (Kegan, 1994; Kuhnert &
Lewis, 1987). Reflective leaders also seem to be self-aware, able to reconsider
their assumptions and current practices and are more open to new ideas
(Mezirow, 1998). Neck & Manz (2010) explain that through self-awareness comes
improved work performance (p. 185) and as such have higher productivity and
more fulfilling careers (p.195). Further, adopting reflection as part of ones
professional identity can also assist and encourage one to draw upon personal
values, examine personality traits and consider their ethical stance in light of
challenging situations (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005),
whilst developing ones capacity to be mindful of the emotional dimensions in
which leadership operates (Goleman et al. 2002).

Fook (2004) proposes that critical reflection is a valuable tool which leaders
could employ to help them consider and understand the power and political
relationships within organisations and as such it has the potential of offering a
transformational approach to the manner in which one leads (Kayes, Kayes and
Kolb 2005), both to the individual and team level (Ghaye 2005).

Personal experience of reflection

From my own experience, conscientious and structured critical reflection has the
potential to bring about new ideas, renew practices and a sense of confidence
over the way I lead and decisions I make.

I enjoy writing and reflecting by making notes on my experiences, ideas,

feelings, challenges. Writing is a powerful mode of thinking (Smith 1998). I
adopt a structured approach to reflection by referring to a set of questions I have
developed which help me to draw out, focus and structure thoughts about my
experiences. This enables me to explore, question and evaluate my performance
and development as a leader. These questions which I have developed to aid my
reflection are derived from my tactical knowledge and past experiences and are
used as prompts when analysing a particular issue. Initially, I found that being
new to leadership and having read a limited amount of research on effective
practice, it was difficult to understand assumptions and analyse how pre-
conceived ideas of leadership could influence outcomes in a positive or negative

Having adopted Fook and Askelands (2006) advice on critical reflection to

question what we know as well as how we know it using theory (p.35), I
enrolled on a leadership study programme and studied various pieces of
research on effective leadership (including leadership papers by Kempster and
Stewarts (2010) Leadership as purpose: Exploring the role of purpose in
leadership practice; George & Sims et als (2007) discovering your authentic
leadership; Dents (1999) Challenging resistance to change; Duignan &
Bhindis (1997) Authenticity in leadership: an emerging perspective; Kotters

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(1995) Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail; Bennis & Nanus
(1985) Leaders: The strategy for taking charge).

This period of learning helped me to open up to new ideas and change as well as
realise the importance of adapting to new strategies (Napier & Fook, 2000). It
was this combination of reflection underpinned by critical theory which allowed
me to deconstruct and understand assumptions about practice and its influence,
explore perceptions and expectations and consider different ways to reconstruct
the incident with other possible outcomes in a structured manner.

I found that, over time, I became more confident and open to examining
assumptions and expectations about my values and personality which helped
me gain awareness on some of the key facets of leadership such as control,
management, uncertainty and change; all of which require more than just
decision making or problem solving skills. In fact, many of these facets require
personal strength in courage, integrity and values to succeed. From my
experience of critical reflection, I believe it is a powerful technique that has the
potential to bring about new understanding and confidence in knowing how to
handle a situation.

My learning journey on the elements of leadership

There is much ambiguity involved in forming an exact definition of leadership

and whether it is a process or a function. From my own experience, I have found
the art of leadership to be a process of influence, inspiring people to work
towards goals which require fulfilling the tasks and objectives along the way.

Understanding leadership values

Personal values is the underlying moral, ethical foundation (Copeland, 2014,

p.129), which is capable of underpinning ones leadership style and practice
(Brown & Trevio, 2006; Gardner et al, 2005). I wanted to reflect and understand
what my values were so that I had an awareness of how these could shape my
decisions, reactions to issues, and effectiveness as a leader as well as the example
I set for others.

Leadership theorists suggested that ones personal values influence how leaders
shape an organisations culture (Peregrym and Wollf, 2013), which
consequently, can impact on how teams under ones leadership will conduct
themselves. In a business administration doctoral study, Lichtenstein(2005)
contextualised the importance of this by reviewing 163 managers and leaders.
The study found that a leaders personal values had a direct and significant
impact on organisational performance and influence, whilst their age,
experience and qualifications had no bearing on leadership (Lichtenstein, 2005,

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Understanding the importance placed on value and its impact on a leader, I

drafted a set of questions to provide me with structure to my thought process,
whilst ensuring that I situated my thinking within critical theory.
What characteristics do I possess?
What do I know about effective leadership?
Do I have the skills and attributes which contribute towards effective
What does a leader do?
How well do I understand myself as a leader?
What do I hope to achieve as a leader?
Do I worry about what others think of me?
What do I believe to be the most important values in a leader?
What are my values?
What are my aspirations and how does it contribute to my personal
and professional practices?
What motivates me?
What motivates my stakeholders? What are the differences? How do
I adapt my values without compromising on my integrity and

My reflections lead me to the following value statements which underpin my

leadership style.

Adapting to fit

As a leader, I want to be able to help my team achieve our desired goals. In

order to do so, I have learnt that the way to lead effectively is to be fluid,
dynamic and responsive to change dependent on the needs of the group, using
different leadership skills and techniques at appropriate times. This mirrors
Fiedlers (1964, 1967), Hersey and Blanchards (1969, 1977) and Yukl & Mahsuds
(2010) findings that there are no templates or strategies on how best to lead;
instead the style and manner of leadership should be appropriate to a situation,
task and audience, and the level of attention paid to a situation or task or
audience may vary and this requires a careful balance (Adair 1973).

For example, when faced with situations in the workplace which disrupt the
normal operation of an academic delivery, I have been able to provide a rapid,
decisive and appropriate response to minimize the adverse effects for staff,
students and the organisation. However, this has been challenging for me as this
has sometimes meant that I have had to find a balance for objectives that involve
difficult trade-offs. From this, I have learnt that to be flexible and adaptive in my
approach to leadership, I should attempt to be proactive in planning how to
avoid anticipated problems and have a draft contingency plan to should a
difficult situation arise.

Understanding and appreciating those whom we are working with

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Being a results-focused individual, I have often failed to acknowledge that to

take forward an objective, team members will need to feel included, empowered
and engaged in the decision making process. Consequently, a leader requires
skills to work in a variety of settings, both in formal situations and in informal
settings, dealing with resistance and building relationships to share a common
vision, including learning to work through the dynamics of those involved
(Boyte, 1989).

Ramsden (1998) argued that successful leadership is about how people relate to
each other (p.4). This is also known as emotional intelligence which is capable of
influencing leadership effectiveness (Mayer et al. 2000; Goldman 1999, 2002).
Apart from the functionalities of a leader, the process of leadership is a state of
mind underpin by personal values and characteristics, which evolve from
experience and reflection (Parry & Kempster, 2014).

I recognised that despite being self-aware, I need to improve on emotional

intelligence and adopt a more suitable balance between prioritising people and
objectives, rather than one over the other. Theorists such as Goldman (1995,
1999, 2002), Cowan & Heywood (2001) and Mittal & Sindhu (2012) explain that
any form of effective people skill requires a good understanding of ones ability
to recognise and manage own feelings, react appropriately, recognise feelings
and emotions of others through especially paying attention to non-verbal cues,
and managing relationships including interacting appropriately, resolving
conflict and finding suitable outcomes (Arnold & Connelly, 2013).

Being clear and focused about the direction of travel

As a team leader, I have successfully and confidently created and established a

sense of direction for the team by outlining the vision of the future, developing
strategies for change to achieve goals, providing and justifying a clear sense of
purpose, focusing explicitly on the needs and experiences of stakeholders and
continually reinforcing key objectives. Although I have successfully
implemented many of these strategies, I am aware of the need to be more
people-focused, with an awareness and appreciation of the impact on team
members, the additionality of any work involved or changes to their practices.

Doing the right thing

When making a decision, I focus on why something should be done, what is to

be done, and the values that underlie the situation. Integrity has been a
cornerstone of my motivations behind making decisions, based on being
transparent, truthful and trustworthy and having courage of conviction. I
believe that my personal integrity and trustworthiness were important factors
which led the team to come together and work on developing a vision (Bolden
2001, 2003). I have come to realise that even above the need to be organised and
decisive; good people skills are most important in setting team direction,
creating an environment of collegiality, acting as a role model, and driving
forward goals and objective.

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Reflecting on my character and personality within the context of leadership

As a team leader, I believe that achieving excellence in the programmes we offer,

encouraging my team, communicating a clear sense of purpose and motivating
team members to work effectively are the overarching priorities that govern the
work we do. Together with the values which influence my leadership and these
objectives for the team which provides focus for my leadership, I reflected on my
motivations and style.

I began thinking carefully and delving deeper into my assumptions and

expectations; more so than the answers to the questions I had set out. I
considered the following issues:
How do I balance my personal values against external purposes, ethics,
authority and social pressures?
How do I balance meeting targets and objectives without compromising
staff motivation and values?
How do I support and develop new skills and make work as suitable and
meaningful for team members?
To what extent am I willing to make changes to my routine ways of
doing things to meet objectives?

The reflection to the questions above can be categorised as follows:

Using objectives to achieve results

I have always been driven by objectives and focus on achieving the desired
results in the interest of my team and students. In order to achieve a goal, I have
often ventured beyond familiar territory to pursue ambitious new outcomes, in
programme development, in identifying new opportunities for income
generation and in seeking collaborations nationally and internationally.

Despite being proactive and persistent with a clear sense of what needs to be
achieved, I have learnt that in order to achieve results, one cannot lead without
creating a positive, supportive and collaborative working environment with the
teams commitment and willingness to take forward objectives developed. I
have found it challenging at times to take the necessary time to ensure that
relevant stakeholders are on board with plans. However, I have learnt that
persuading academics to be open to proposed new practices by explaining their
perceived advantages and by ensuring that everyone is supported well, this has
helped to create collegiality in the department and to facilitate motivation.
Frequent communications on achievements, progress, new developments and
practices from other institutions and setting achievable tasks have all
contributed to motivating and promoting teamwork and sharing trials and
triumphs with each other.

Making decisions which prioritise students and staff:

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Literature on values-based leadership (such as George & Sims et al 2007;

Duignan & Bhindi 1997) advocate for a leader to be credible, with clear values
and using these to build a unified team-approach to vision and objectives.

As such, being a diligent and conscientious leader sometimes comes at the

expense of ones own sacrifices. However, a commitment to the collective good,
putting the team, student and the organisations values first is paramount. I find
this comfortable to do as I work from my core values of courage, integrity and
loyalty and I have found that this helps create and sustain a sense of community
that is empowering and collegiate.

However, being goal oriented, I am more concerned over the process and how to
achieve a goal. I have come to realise that effective leadership requires nurturing
of personality and the ability to empathise. I have in the past forgotten about
addressing expectations and engaging team members effectively. With
experience, as I have begun to realise the value and importance of the team and
their support, I have improved in the manner and frequency of communicating
our direction and creating a supportive and positive environment to encourage
best performance.

Overtime, I have become aware that professionals, such as law lecturers who
had practiced as lawyers before beginning their careers as academics require a
more subtle form of leadership rather than the traditional sense of providing
direction in the carrying out of tasks. This view is consistent with the literature
on the management of professionals, as Mintzberg (1995) suggests most
professional workers require little direct supervision from managers (p143). I have
found it to be quite a challenge in managing professionals, some of whom are
experienced academics and others who are new academics and all from
professional legal and non-legal backgrounds. There is a need to balance their
ability and experience in independent decision making and exercising
professional skills and judgement, with working within the policies of a well-
structured hierarchical organisation, following a regulated law curriculum,
meeting key statistics and objectives and operating as creatively using various
educational models of learning. As such, the structure of higher education
requires some degree of control and direction over the overarching aims and
mission of the department and university, whilst as a leader there is a need to
protect staffs freedom to undertake tasks within the creativity and judgement

Further, Raelin (1995) suggests that for change to occur in universities,

collegiality and persuasion must reign over bureaucratic control in which critical
debate and open examination on making decisions and setting team objectives
need to be adopted (p.208). Knight and Trowler (2000) view collegiality as
mutual supportiveness among staff such as offering professional and perhaps
personal support. With this in mind, I have moved away from setting directions
for the team on my own and our goals and objectives for the department are set
through collegiate discussions exploring the theoretical and educational
rationale for our thoughts, underpinned by the trust and shared vision - which

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


has strengthened team motivation. As a result of revising my priorities, I now

ensure that maintenance of staffs professional autonomy and they are consulted
over important decisions.

Reflection and learning underpin good leadership

A leader needs to continually learn, reflect and develop. This is a continual and
evolving process, adapting where necessary. I have learned to become more self-
aware and more adaptive; recognising when change is necessary, provided it is
driven by common good and new opportunities. In uncertain situations, I make
decisions through deep thinking and rationalisation, weighing up the impact on
all stakeholders and considering all possible options. Through my own
leadership reflection journey I have realised what is important to me -
adaptability, transparency, decisiveness, courageousness and empathy to
successfully lead the team. Though seeking feedback from team members
annually, I learnt what worked for the team and areas for improvement; I tried
new approaches to situations and discovered new ways of working.

Authority and influence in leadership

At the beginning of this journey, I used to align leadership with a position of

authority or expertise in a particular profession or subject area and as such,
Yukls description of leadership being a mental picture of power, prestige, and
authority (p4) resonated very well. Two years on, I view leadership as
something quite different being the voice of a collective decision, equipped
with knowledge through continual learning and adapting, whilst creating ways
to take forward common goals, nurturing, supporting and respecting each other.

When I started as a leader, as an academic who is frequently consulted on

learning and teaching matters, curriculum design and matters involving digital
education, I assumed that as I accumulated more knowledge and experience in
my field, I would automatically be regarded as a good leader. This wasnt the
case; instead, I was regarded as being an experienced and knowledgeable
colleague, rather than a leader. In consulting French and Ravens (1959) model of
power bases, I began to realise that knowledge expertise does not necessarily
equate good leadership. It also challenges expertise and specialist knowledge
such as with the possibility of making mistakes and keeping updated with
changes to practices through evolving technology or policy. Having reflected on
my experience thus far as a leader, I view leadership as demonstrating and
setting examples of desirable abilities and good practices to colleagues, rather
than only having the subject expertise in a field of practice.

Within the realm of influencing others, my default position usually begins with
making requests politely and especially with being results focused, using
detailed justification, with supporting information and reasoning. Although this
is an effective way of achieving objectives, it lacked the empathy and the
necessary support required by stakeholders. Now, I ask what would be the best

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


way forward for others, in meeting the wider goals of the department and
organisation, rather than either give in or to carry forward with the plans.

I have always believed that successful influencing comes from meticulous

planning. To an extent, armed with sufficient research, justification and
knowledge I felt that it would allow me to influence a situation and in turn did
not let down my team or key stakeholders to whom I was responsible for.
Always being able to articulate a well-researched and well-defenced positon was
linked to my assumptions about good professional practice, and this mirrors
Fooks (2002) challenge to question what we know as well as how we know it.
Consequently however this assumption impacted on how I view the level of
preparation expected from team members. I had to re-evaluate what efficient
and suitable preparation meant, and how I managed to balance my own level of
preparation against what I expected from others.


Reflecting on leadership has helped me question and establish my assumptions

and expectations of a leader, think critically and strategically about the ways in
which I lead and align the team with the direction of the organisation. I am
more aware about the importance of building relationships with those around
me focusing on team dynamics and the way we work together. This reflection
has provided me with new knowledge, an emphasis on what I have done well, a
renewed awareness of my beliefs, capabilities and shortcomings. The process of
reflecting had improved my ability to be more flexible and confident in my
approach as a leader, and to approach leadership with the resilience and
persistence needed to continue to inspire those around me.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 44-54, August 2016

Towards Actualising Sustainable Education

Standards in Nigeria

Dr. B. K. Oyewole
Department of Educational Management,
Faculty of Education,
Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria


Dr. (Mrs.) F. M. Osalusi

Department of Social Science Education
Faculty of Education
Ekiti State University, Ado- Ekiti, Nigeria

Abstract. The standard of education in Nigeria has now become an issue

for national debate as some are of the opinions that the standards of
education are falling in Nigeria today. This paper therefore examines the
concept of sustainable education standard with allusion to quality
education as suggested by UNICEF 2000. It examines the strategies
towards ensuring sustainable education standards in Nigeria. These
include reviewing the existing national educational policies, increase in
budgetary allocation to education, provision of adequate learning
resources, promoting capacity building for teachers, modernising
instructional supervision, promoting quality assurance in schools,
encouraging public/private partnership in education. It concludes that
there is urgent need to re-design the school curriculum at all educational
levels, train and re-train teachers and adequately fund the school system
for the sustainability of education standards in Nigeria as the future
development of our nation hinges on the product of our educational
system. It therefore recommends that the Federal Ministry of Education
in Nigeria should re-design the schools curricula and syllabi in order to
provide functional education for rapid national growth and

Keywords: Development, Education, Policies, Standards, Sustainable,


The vital role of education in the development of nation cannot be
overemphasised. In Nigeria, education has been a huge government venture as
the Federal Government is placing adequate attention on education because of

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its role in national growth and development (FGN, 2004). Education has been
conceived as a veritable and vital tool towards ensuring a strong and virile
society rather than a means of civilisation and social reform. Now that education
has been recognized as a sensitive issue and an important factor for the
development of any nation, Nigeria puts a high premium on the education of
her citizenry. The economic growth of Nigeria hinges on the available personnel
who are highly equipped with sound education and not only the high quantity
of natural resources which are available (Oyewole, 2008).
The standard of education in the contemporary Nigeria has now become
a paramount issue for national debate as some are of the opinion that the
standards of education in Nigeria today are falling (Sam, 2014). Hence, the issue
is whether the falling standard of education in our country today is a myth or
reality. Eguavo (2013) noted that a nation without sound education lacks
adequately equipped future leaders who will help to propel development for the
future generation. Oladunni (2012) observed that the falling education standard
in Nigeria could be linked with inadequate dedication and commitment by the
teachers who are saddled with the responsibility to facilitate effective
instructional delivery and inadequate funding of education by the government
in accordance with the United Nations standard. He further observed that the
teachers at all tiers of our educational system as well as the government have not
performed up to the expectation in the process of providing and maintaining
good education standard in all our schools.Ochuba (2008) noted that the
contents that students learn in secondary school, retain in their memory and put
into action after graduation has a great role to play in national development.
In another perspective, Chinelo (2011) opined that the declining
education standard could be attributed to ineffective traditional education which
helps to inculcate important values of hardwork, diligence, integrity and high
productivity. It is pertinent to note that the quality of education in Nigeria has
dropped to an alarming rate which could portend great danger for the future of
our country (Atanda, 2014). Adebanjo (2013) was also of this view when he
asserted that the standard of education is falling. He observed that the problem
came as a result of neglect which education has to experience in the 1980s is
gradually resulting to the decay of the nations educational system. He noted
that a study was carried out to examine whether the standard of education in
Nigeria is actually declining or not. The results of the study revealed that 76% of
the total respondents were of the opinion that the standard of education is
declining while 24% disagreed. Based on the view of the respondents, it was
revealed that the major aspects of falling standards of education are controllable.
These include adequate finance, inadequate teaching aids and unconducive
classrooms, corruption, persistent strike, low remuneration for teachers and
dearth of qualified teachers in some states in Nigeria.
It is quite unfortunate that education standard in Nigeria is losing its
credibility in the global market as most graduates from universities do not
possess saleable skills as required by many employers of labour
(Omoregie,2008). It is pertinent to note that most students cram their notes and
textbooks during the examination and therefore answer question words for
words. After the examination, such students forget what they have read
(Oladunni, 2013). In higher institutions, this trend is referred to by the students

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as la cram, la pour, la forget. It is highly instructive that this unwholesome trend

has been a major setback to our educational system. Examination has been
construed by learners as a matter of do or die in which students engage in
different forms of examination malpractices just to pass at all cost where as
examination is supposed to be testing the students knowledge of what they
have been taught in their own understanding (Ibukun & Oyewole, 2011). No
wonder, the observation that the quality of Nigerian university graduates in
recent time had declined considerably. Ijeoma (1997) observed that many of our
university graduates cannot rub shoulders with graduates from other
universities in the world. This implies that something must be wrong with the
Nigerian educational system right away from the foundational level (primary
and secondary education). The educational pyramid in Nigeria needs urgent
attention by the government and all other stakeholders in the education industry
in order to salvage and restore the lost glory of education in our country. To this
end, this paper attempts to examine some strategies to actualize sustainable
education standards in Nigeria.

Concept of Sustainable Education Standard

The concept of sustainable development came into the limelight in 1987
through the report of the Brundtland Commission where sustainable
development was perceived as indices for determining present economic and
social growth without losing focus on the ability of future generations towards
achieving their own needs (United Nations Department of Social Affairs and
Economics, 1987). Brundtland Commission posited that sustainability refers to
ensuring adequate balance in the areas of environmental, societal and economic
considerations towards the development and enhanced quality of life. It is quite
evidence that the role of education in achieving this balance cannot be
overemphasized. Atanda (2014) noted the significance of planning for sustaining
national growth and development should aimed at the future, that is, it should
foresee and planned in a way that will meet the needs of the future generation.
Sustainable education standard should entrench quality as the hall mark
that is ready to stand the test of time. The standards that are set as regards
quality education should be geared towards all round development in the
process of producing sound education that could impact positively towards the
development of individual and the nation in general. It is pertinent to note from
the above submission that sustainable education standard is joint responsibility
of every stakeholder in the education industry as everyone has a critical role to
play in the development of education sector. Igwe (2001) noted that quality at
any level of education is strictly based on measurement and degree of meeting
the laid down standards, policy formulation to implementing the educational
policies, coverage of the contents in the curriculum, the process of teaching and
learning, teachers performance evaluation as well as research and academic
environment. In essence, sustaining education standards in Nigeria requires
active participation of the parents, students, educational administrators and
education policy makers at both state and federal levels.

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Strategies Towards Ensuring Sustainable Education Standards in Nigeria

The following strategies as highlighted and discussed could go a long way
towards actualizing sustainable education standards in Nigeria.

a. Reviewing the national educational policies: The national educational

policies need to be reviewed in line with the current national needs and global
standard. Educational policy could be regarded as a principle or rule to guide
educational decisions in order to achieve rational outcomes. The present
educational policy of 6-3-3-4 educational system developed by the Federal
Government of Nigeria has witnessed different reforms in structure and
implementation in recent time, some of the changes that have political
undertone rather than national interest. Though the idea behind the present
national policy on education could be lofty but the implementation has not
yielded the desired results (Kayoom, 2015). There is no focus on what education
should be in addressing national problems. Hence, there is no stabled structure
as this system of education was once changed to 9-3-4 and now modified as 1-6-
3-3-4. This assertion was also remarked by Adebanjo (2013) when he noted that
the government change educational policies frequently leaving the teachers and
students confused. Amannah and Ahiakwo (2013) observed that there have been
44 Ministers of Education working to actualize the policies of 14 civilian
Presidents and military Heads of States since independence. Faulty
implementation of educational policies had undermined the fulfillment of
educational goals. Progress made in some areas of the education sector were not
necessarily consolidated as some education policies appear to be politicized
thereby resulting to neglect, misappropriation of fund and poor implementation.
There is need for a critical analysis of the existing situation in the education
sector putting into consideration the socio-political and economic issues which
could have significant influence on the education sector as well as decision
making and of course the process of implementation should completely be
devoid of politics. There is need to reform educational policies in Nigeria to pave
way for access to educational opportunities, equity in the distribution of
educational services, maintaining a consistent structure of the educational
system with focus on internal and external efficiency. Hence, the need to make
primary and secondary education compulsory for all school age children, train
and re-train the teachers and ensure stability in the structure of the educational

b. Increase in budgetary allocation to education: Sustaining the education

standards at all levels depends largely on adequate funding. There is no doubt
that education is the most capital intensive out of all other sectors as education is
the bedrock of any national development. However, in recent time, the
budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria has dwindled considerably when
compared to other sectors of the economy. The 26% of national budget that
UNESCO recommended for education has become a myriad in Nigeria as the
total budget for education is less than half of the recommended percentage in
some years back. Atanda (2014) observed that the percentage allocated to
education did not go beyond 10% as against 26% of annual budgetary allocation

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recommended by UNESCO. Adebakin and Ajadi (2014) opined that

underfunding education in recent past and budgetary restriction of Nigerian
education sector had posed a number of challenges in achieving quality in
Nigerian education. It is evident that political interference could influence the
level of funding the education system while corruption has constituted a major
impediment to sustaining education standards in Nigeria. The depressed
funding has resulted to inadequate supply of instructional materials and other
resources that could facilitate effective teaching and learning process in our
schools. To address this problem, Chinelo (2011) advocated for adequate
funding of education through the adoption of UNESCOs 26% recommended
from annual budget. The money to adequately finance education could be
derived from the Education Tax Fund (ETF) and Petroleum Trust and
Development Fund (PTDF). The bogus budgetary allocation to pay the public
office holders could be reduced in order to have enough money for the
development of the nations educational system at all levels. This will help to
address the decay in the state of school infrastructural facilities. In similar vein,
Adebanjo (2013) observed that most of the problems that led to the falling
standards of education are controllable and these problems can be solved easily
when there is a remarkable increase in budgetary allocation for education in
order to sustain educational standards in Nigeria as most of the problems facing
education today are emanated from inadequate funding of the educational

c. Provision of adequate learning resources: For any educational goals to be

effectively achieved, urgent attention must be given to provision of adequately
trained personnel and teaching materials. The infrastructural facilities in schools
must be put in place based on standards. Atanda(2014) opined that the
minimum standards documents for every level of education stipulate required
standard in construction of classrooms, toilet facilities, library, laboratories, etc.
Education is capital intensive and putting into consideration the demands of
other sectors of the economy, it becomes highly imperative to develop
public/private partnership in the process of funding education and instilling
moral discipline at all levels of education in Nigeria. Education finance and
provision of adequate facilities in schools should be the joint responsibility of all
the stakeholders in the education industry. Evidence exists on the degree of
dilapidation that characterizes school buildings especially in primary and
secondary schools in many parts of Nigeria. Many of the schools are ill-
equipped with basic learning resources while the taps of many laboratories in
the schools are dried up. Experiments can no longer be performed in science
laboratories as chemicals are not available. Many of the practical classes have
turned into tutorials. This situation must be urgently addressed. The rapid
increase in the demand for education relative to population increase in the
country is a significant factor to consider in the decline in standard. Any
expansion in the provision of such essential service must generate resources to
match attendant costs of having additional teaching staff, procurement of
textbooks, construction of classrooms, hostels, etc in the sustenance of standard
(Sani, 2014). Worse still, there are inadequate textbooks in school libraries as
many of the available textbooks are obsolete. Many of the students do not

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cultivate the reading culture as they are busy engaged in the social media
(Oyewole, 2015). Perhaps, this unwholesome attitude developed by the students
towards reading habit has not encouraged many of the school administrators to
place high premium on the acquisition of modern textbooks into the school
libraries as this could result into share waste of meager financial resources that
are available in the school.

d. Promoting capacity building for teachers: Developing various

programmes for teachers capacity building at all levels of the educational
system is vital towards actualizing sustainable education standards in Nigeria.
According to the national policy on education (FGN, 2004), it was clearly stated
that no education could develop above the qualities of its teaching personnel.
This implies that, the standard of knowledge acquisition of any teacher at a
particular level will determine the standard of education at that level. The
teachers play prominent role in determining education that is needed for human
and national development. This great responsibility bestowed on the teachers
cannot be handled carelessly or with levity. This calls for training and re-training
of teachers at all levels in order to face the challenges of education in schools
curricular which at times change from time to time in line with global standard
and national development. According to Aghenta (2006) as cited in Ochuba
(2008), the highly trained personnel help to bring about national development
that could facilitate the tremendous growth and development of any nation. It is
no doubt that teachers capacity building has a role to play in their job
performance in schools and consequently enhancing students academic
performance. Ajayi (1999) examined the relationship between teachers job
performance and academic achievement of secondary schools in Ekiti State,
Nigeria. The study revealed that levels of teachers job performance and
students academic achievement were low. Moreover, the relationship between
teachers job performance and academic performance of students was
significant. In essence, for the teachers to perform optimally on their job, there is
need to expose them to new strategies of teaching especially in the application of
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in classroom instructional
delivery. For educational standard in Nigeria to meet the global requirement,
there is need to adequately train and re-train teachers at all levels through
seminars, workshops and conferences on emerging issues that could facilitate
effective teaching and learning process in our schools. The teachers must be
exposed to modern techniques and application of ICT in instructional delivery in
classrooms. It is pertinent to note that the use of ICT facilities in training teachers
in Nigeria has been a great challenge as most of the teachers do not have
adequate knowledge of ICT.Ayodele and Oyewole (2012) remarked that the
teachers as builders of the nation should be adequately equipped in the
revolutionary approach to modern day knowledge. The contemporary approach
in teaching techniques need to be increasingly used and developed at all levels
of the nations educational system and this can only be achieved through
effective capacity building for the teachers.

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e. Modernising instructional supervision:Instructional supervision is very

vital in the actualisation of sustainable education standards in Nigeria. Ochuba
(2008) observed that for education to effectively develop human capital, it
becomes highly imperative to embark on regular and effective supervision. It is
quite unfortunate that both the federal state inspectors have not performed up
to the expectations due to various challenges such as inadequate fund for
inspection, lack of transportation and other problems. In the past, teachers of
schools were snoopervised in the process of ensuring quality education in
schools as this type of supervision was characterised with bossiness, threat, and
lack of human relations. Ayodele and Oyewole (2014) noted that the modern day
approach to instructional supervision is more clinical in nature as teachers need
to be helped to improve on their job performance through corrections and
personal guidance where necessary. The idea of clinical instructional
supervision places much emphasis on the behaviours of the supervisors in the
process of interacting with the teachers. It is a clear departure from the punitive
measure that are embedded in the old traditional supervision while the
modern approach (clinical instructional supervision) focuses on
corrective/rehabilitative measures in a cordial relationship that will totally erase
symptom of suspicion for any kind of witch-hunting on the part of the teachers.
Rather, this is a diagnostic approach that involves the teachers abilities,
preparation and creating enabling environment that will keep the teachers to
improve on the quality of instruction. This modern approach will ensure quality
control through mutual interactive behavior between the supervisor and the
supervisee in sustaining the standard of education in our schools.

f. Developing mechanism for accountability and evaluation in schools:

There is urgent need to develop accountability and evaluation of schools
programmes and activities in sustaining standards of education. What
distinguishes schools of the past from the present is discipline, hard work,
virtues and values. Adebakin and Ajadi (2014) asserted that quality assurance is
a concept that has been designed purposely to improve the quality of input,
process and output in schools. Ajayi and Adegbesan (2007) opined that quality
assurance could be linke with accountability which is aimed at maximizing
effectiveness and efficiency of educational systems according to stated goals and
objectives. Ajayi (2014) noted that the better the quality of education, the more
effective the education system and vice-versa. He therefore suggested that it is
necessary to ensure quality education so as to make the education system to be
relevant in solving societal problems.
One major problem that is confronting quality assurance in Nigerian educational
system is the issue of examination malpractices. That there are malpractices in
the process of examination in Nigeria is no longer news (Eguavo, 2013). The
concern in contemporary society is the alarming rate of the frequency and
dimensions of examination problems. Indeed, whether in the primary,
secondary or tertiary levels in the school system, the problems of cheating and
other sharp practices have been noted. Public campaigns and programmes
embarked on by government and non-governmental agencies on the need to
eliminate examination malpractices have not yielded the desired results, not
even the introduction of jail terms for culprits (Ibukun & Oyewole, 2011). Today,

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


the qualities of certificates from Nigerian schools are questioned in the light of
the growing challenges in the preparation and examination of the products of
the school system. It very unfortunate that universities graduates with first class
results are now put to test before they could be employed. There is urgent need
to wage war against examination malpractices in the nations educational system
through re-orientation and possible change in Nigerian value system,
developing better and more flexible evaluation system through continuous
assessment. The teachers handling pupils must be trained and experienced.
Teachers should seriously observe the conduct and performance of their
students. The continuous assessment on the students plus periodic tests results
should form the means of evaluation in order to determine the strength and
weakness of individual student. Those students who critically need assistance to
catch up should be given extra lessons to enable them cope with regular lessons.
There is also the need to enforce laid down laws/decrees on examination
malpractices thereby promoting quality assurance in sustaining education

g. Encouraging public/private partnership in education: It is important to

reiterate the fact that government alone cannot singularly bear the total costs on
education in Nigeria if the education standards are to be sustained. There has
been much criticism on the neglect of public schools by the government for
failure to take corrective measures which will arrest the rapid decline in the
standards of education. There is need for effective collaboration by all the
stakeholders in the education industry. These include government, parents,
philanthropists, religious bodies, private establishments and even the students.
All these stakeholders have key roles to play towards sustaining education
standards in Nigeria. The idea of private schools/institutions in Nigeria today
has helped to reawake the standards of education in our country as many of the
private schools are better equipped in terms of facilities than public schools.
However, the exorbitant fees charged by many of these private schools and
institutions have now become unbearable for parents especially the poor.
Children of the well to do including senior public servants are preferably
enrolled in private schools abroad where the educational standard is high and
elitist (Sani, 2014). This is not to say that the idea of setting up private school is
not good, but if this present trend is sustained, the education of the common
people may be hindered as there could be no equal access to education standard.
Government must therefore be committed in providing quality education. The
parents and other stakeholders should assist and cooperate with the relevant
authorities to ensure quality control in the standard of education which must be
sustained for the attainment of disciplined, just and egalitarian society.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The policy on education at the national level should be revisited as a
matter of urgency. Experts from the ministries of education should explore all
possibilities with a view to put in place workable mechanisms that could
provide remedial measures in order to enhance and sustain education standards
in Nigeria. There is urgent need to re-design the school curricula to meet the
local needs of Nigerian society. The teachers at all levels of the nations

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


educational system should be made to undergo training and re-training

programmes for improved instructional delivery in the classrooms. The public-
private partnership should be encouraged to improve better funding of the
nations educational system, while the budgetary allocation by the government
to the education sector should also be increased. The educational systems of
other countries like Ghana, United States of America, United Kingdom and
South Africa could be understudied for comparative analysis and adaptation of
methods and principles that best suit Nigerian situation. The curriculum
planners in the Federal Ministry of Education could be charged with this
responsibility. These experts in the field of curriculum planning should closely
understudy the school curricula at all levels in these various countries and study
the pattern of funding their educational systems. These countries have been
selected because of the urgent drive of affluent parents in Nigeria to send their
children/wards to study in some of these countries, not minding the financial
cost that this could place on them.
The schools curricula and syllabuses that are tested, trusted and found
effective should be adopted for teaching in schools, colleges and universities in
order to provide functional education for rapid national growth and
development. Greater attention should be placed on primary and secondary
schools curricula as these levels of education are very crucial to sustainable
development in the education industry. What the children learn at their tender
age must be of paramount interest to education policy makers. Students must be
encouraged to develop reading habit while special attention must be devoted to
communication ability and skills in the language of instruction. The promotion
of students to higher classes should strictly be based on their performance while
teachers should be encouraged to display better commitment in the discharge of
their duties. Good virtues such as hard work, diligence, punctuality, enhanced
productivity and creativity by the teachers should be adequately rewarded.

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Adebakin, A. B. & Ajadi, O. T. (2014). Issues and nexus between funding and quality
university education in Nigeria. In B. O. Emunemu & F. S. Akinwumi (Eds),
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Unhealthy rivalry between efficiency and effectiveness. 38th University Inaugural
Lecture. Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti.
Ajayi, T. & Adegbesan, S. O. (2007). Quality assurance in the teaching profession. Paper
presented at a forum on emerging issues in teaching professionalism in Nigeria.
(14-16, March), Akure, Ondo State.
Amannah, P. I. & Ahiakwo, M. J. (2013). Systematic approach to the improving standard
of Nigeria educational system. African Research Review: An International
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Atanda, A. I. (2014). Quality education for sustainable development: A task for every
stakeholder. In B. O. Emunemu & F. S. Akinwumi (Eds), Educational management
in Africa: Papers in honour of Professor John Iheukwumere Nwankwo, University of
Ibadan, Nigeria. 336-344.
Ayodele, J. B. & Oyewole, B. K. (2012). Repositioning the teaching profession to meet
developmental challenges in Nigeria. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences; 3(3):
Ayodele, J. B. & Oyewole, B. K. (2014). Clinical instructional supervision and sustaining
education quality in secondary schools in Ekiti State. In B. O. Emunemu & F. S.
Akinwumi (Eds), Educational management in Africa: Papers in honour of Professor
John Iheukwumere Nwankwo, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. 389-396.
Chinelo, O. D. (2011). Falling standards of education in Nigeria: An empirical evidence
in Delta State of Nigeria. A Journal of Contemporary Research; 8(3): 1-12.
Eguavo, O. E. (2013). Falling standard of education in Nigeria and the way out. Available
online at www.information.ng.com.
Federal Government of Nigeria (2004). National policy on education (Revised). 4th edition.
Lagos: NERDC Press.
Ibukun, W. O. & Oyewole, B. K. (2011). Examination malpractices in Nigerian schools:
Environmental influences and management strategies. International Journal of
Business and Management Tomorrow; 1(2), 138 147.
Igwe, S. O. (2001). Supervision, evaluation and quality control in education. In N. A.
Nwagwu, E. T. Ehiametalor, M. A. Ogunnu & M.O.N. Nwadiani (eds), Current
Issues in Educational Management in Nigeria. Benin City: NAEAP Publication.
Ijeoma, M. E. (1997). Maintaining excellence in higher education under conditions of
economic depression. Studies in Educational Planning and Administration (SEPA);
1(1): 41-47.

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Kayoom, K. A. (2015). Nigerian education policy and practice: Reform needs.

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Nwaogu, J. I. (1980). A guide to effective supervision of instruction in Nigerian schools. Enugu:
Fourth Dimensions Publishing Co. Ltd.
Ochuba, V. O. (2008). Improving the quality of education in Nigeria through effective
inspection of schools. http://www.questia.com/library/journal/IGI.
Oladunni, O. (2013). Why educational standard is falling? Vanguard News 2013.
Omoregie, N. (2008). Quality assurance in Nigerian university education and
credentialing. Education Winter. http://findarticles.com
Oyewole, B. K. (2008). Instructional supervision and secondary school teachers job
performance in Ekiti State, Nigeria. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Adekunle Ajasin
University, Akungba- Akoko.
Oyewole, B. K. (2015). Towards improving record keeping for effective school
administration in Ekiti State, Nigeria. International Journal of Educational
Foundations and Management; 9(1): 93101.
Sani, B. M. (2014). Improving standard of education. www.dailytrust.com.ng/
dailyindex. Retrieved 16th July, 2015.
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International Working Group on Education, Florence, Italy.
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23rd December, 2007.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 55-70, August 2016

Policy of Carrying Capacity and Access to University

Education in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and the Way

Dr (Mrs.) Chinyere Amini-Philips and Mukoro, Samuel Akpoyowaire

Department of Educational Management
University of Port Harcourt

Abstract. Education is considered by many people as the panacea for

national development. This explains the reasons many nations
emphasize the need for educational policy in designing their plan for
accelerated development. Thus, various programmes have been
launched in Nigeria aimed at universalizing access and promoting
equity in educational opportunity for the citizenry. Access to education
is equally given a place in the National Policy in education.
Furthermore, also enshrined in the Nigeria constitution is equity, as
contained in section 18 of 1999. However, the demand for education
especially at the university level has grown higher than supply, making
the university system to outgrow the resources available to it to continue
offering high quality education. In an effort to maintain quality and
standard, the National Universities Commission (NUC) adopted the
policy of carrying capacity. Unfortunately this policy poses an
impediment to access. Therefore, this paper examined the meaning of
carrying capacity and having university education. The work under
consideration also highlight the quest and availability of education at
the tertiary level in Nigeria, matters carried in the policy that directs
carrying capacity and its impediments vis--vis having university
education in our country. Finally, the paper provides the way forward
to enhance university carrying capacity and make having university
education expensive. Suggestions include improved funding,
facilities/infrastructure, dual mode universities, amongst others.

Keywords: Policy of carrying capacity, access, demand and supply of

university education, issues and challenges.

Universities are major forces for the growth and development of individuals
and the nation. This is because through universities, skilled competent and high
quality manpower are trained to meet the need of the society at large. Thus,
universities are the highest citadel of learning where human beings are trained
to discover new knowledge and pass it on in order to produce quality

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professionals in all facets of human endeavours. As noted by Ibiam and

Okunnamiri (2007) investment in this level of tertiary education is a sine qua
non of an appreciable level of human power development. As viewed by them,
such investment becomes high priority as countries all over the world both
developed and developing alike, steer in the direction of a knowledge society.
The awareness of the importance of university education as knowledge
industry for individual and national growth and development has made the
demand for university education to grow higher than supply. Ehiametalor
(2005) affirmed that the demand for university education will not only continue
but may even accelerate and twice more than what is obtainable now will be
needed to suitably tackle the current demand for university education. In fact
students enrolment in 141 licensed universities in Nigeria is over 1.7 million
(The Nation, 2015). As at October 2015, out of the 141 universities, 40 are Federal
Universities, 40 are state universities, and the remaining 61 are private

Admittedly, the high rate of demand for university education has over-stretched
the limited resources available thereby affecting the quality of programmes in
the universities. Hence, Okebukola (2008) described the Nigerian university
education as being at disequilibrium, matching student enrolment against
available resources, which are now obsolete and inappropriate. The problem is
further compounded by the low ranking of Nigerian Universities among the first
fifty universities in Africa. In 2015, it was revealed by online rating that five
Nigerian universities obtained the 20th, 23rd, 38th, 41st and 43rd positions among
the fifty universities in Africa. These include the University of Lagos, Obafemi
Awolowo University IleIfe, University of Ibadan, University of Ilorin and
Covenant University respectively (Channels Television May 18, 2015). In order
to maintain quality and standard of university education, the NUC in 2004
officially introduced and adopted the policy of carrying capacity. The policy
states the total number of students a university should admit in a year on the
basis of available facilities, staff and other resources. This is to ensure that the
universities offer high-quality education.

However, the sections (1) (4c) and (5c) of the NPE emphatically states that there
should be equal right to education by all children in the country without
exception (FRN, 2004). The policy further emphasized the need for equal access
to educational touch of the entire citizenry at all levels irrespective of level of
education, within and outside to formal system. Successive governments in
Nigeria are ensuring that the policy of education for all is implemented. These
efforts among others include increasing the establishment of higher institutions,
formulation of admission guidelines as well as issuance of certificate of
participation to private individuals and the establishment of Open and Distance
University in Nigeria. In spite of these steps taken by the government to expand
the provision of university education in the country, it is still obvious that many
do not still have access to it. Okebukola in Agboola (2011) remarked that social
pressure for expanded access are strong with only about 13 percent of qualified
candidates obtaining admission to university to study in spite of the
establishment of more universities. With this in mind, although the policy of
carrying capacity is to ensure quality but it seems to impact negatively on the

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level of access to university education in Nigeria, knowing quite well that all
effort geared towards the expansion of access through increased supply appears
not to have yielded the desired level of access. This is probably why Emenalo
(2009) averred that although the principle of carrying capacity is meant to
enhance the quality and standards of university education in Nigeria so as to
measure up with the world standard, but we must not lose sight of access to
university education considering its enormous benefits. It is, against this back
drop that this paper focuses on the terms: carrying capacity and undertaking
university education. In addition, the paper stressed the quest for university
education and its provision in Nigeria. It also treats the issues in the policy of
carrying capacity, challenges to carrying capacity vis--vis access to university
education in Nigeria and the way forward.

Concept of Carrying Capacity

The policy of carrying capacity means the highest number of learners that a
particular institution will be able to effectively manage for qualitative education,
considering the human and material resources at our disposal as a nation (NUC,
2004; Kanyip, 2013) This suggests that the admission of learners at this level is in
accordance with the facilities available and human resource on ground in each
university in Nigeria. These facilities comprise good staff/student ratio,
accommodation, required number of lecture rooms, libraries stocked with the
appropriate books, renowned national and international journals among others
and the human resource includes quality and qualified teaching and non-
teaching staff in the right number and mix. According to Adewale (2014:321) the
policy of carrying capacity introduced by NUC tell us how many students each
and every university can take based on available facilities. In this respect,
Nigerian universities have limits to their intake their respective carrying
capacities in relation to available resources and staff strength. The model below
depicts the criteria for deciding a university carrying capacity:
Facilities and equipment
Laboratory, studios, offices,
Hostels, playfield

Academic and non-academic

Staff (staff student ratio, mix
Facilities by rank and number in all
Carrying Class
Equipment Capacity Room Classroom facilities,
Lecture halls and theatres

Material Library, International

journals, books, chemicals,
ICT/Computers, learning

Figure 1: University carrying capacity model

Source: Adapted from Imogie A. I. & Imogie, O.A. (2008) Learning System as Correlate
of effective teaching and learning in Nigerian Universities.

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From the model, it means that each of the components is crucial to deciding the
carrying capacity quotas for a university. As such all the components must be
taken care of in the required quantity and quality. This influence the number of
students NUC approves for each faculty in the universities in Nigeria. Table 1
below shows the enrolment and carrying capacity of Nigeria universities.

Table 1: Enrolment and Carrying Capacities

System Enrolment Carrying Over
Capacity Enrolment
Universities 1,096,312 715,000 381,312
National Open University 35,000 100,000 -65,000
of Nigeria (NOUN)
Source: Okojie, J.A. (2015) Innovative funding in the Nigeria university system

Concept of Having University Education

Generally, having education refers to the right or ability to gain entrance into a
learning institution (Anumnu, Babalola & Taiwo in Zwalchir, 2007). According
to them in the Nigerian context, it means enrolment in or entrance into any
educational level. It also implies participating in education, whether formal or
otherwise (Ehiametalor, 2005) and the mandate, privilege or avenue of putting
education in place for all in a nation (Enaowho, 2009). Thus, getting in touch
with education suggests that education should be within the reach of every
individual in a nation irrespective of gender and age. Hence (FGN, 2004)
presented access as ensuring that everyone who is entitled to education receives

Furthermore, UNESCO in Moti (2010) advanced that obtaining university

education means making sure that university education is a function of
performance, capacity, hard work and persistence. Okeke, (2009) views
obtaining university education from a broad spectrum denoting free education
at this level and encompassing all to achieve the curriculum content at this level,
which will immensely enhance societal development. In this regard, there
should be no form of discrimination or negative attitude towards education in
the fulfillment of the right to university education. Depriving any person or
group of persons covertly or overtly of access to education in any form is a
violation of the right of the individual to education and against the declaration
of human rights (Anho & Onojetah, 2007).

The Demand and Supply of University Education

In Nigeria, the quest for university admission far outweighs the provision of
same. The data in table 2 clearly confirms this claim.

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Table 2: Demand and Supply of University Education in Nigeria 1999-2009

Academic Number of Number % Number of
Session Applicants Admitted Admitted Unplaced
1999/2000 418,292 64,368 15.39 353,924
2000/2001 416,381 45,766 10.99 370,615
2001/2002 714,548 90,769 12.7 623,779
2002/2003 994,380 51,845 5.21 942,535
2003/2004 1,046,950 105,157 10.04 941,793
2004/2005 841,878 122,492 14.54 719,386
2005/2006 916,371 65,609 7.16 850,762
2006/2007 803,472 123,626 15 679,846
2007/2008 911,653 119,195 13 792,458
2008/2009 1,054,060 127,082 12 926,978
Source: Okeke, E.A.C. (2009). Access in Nigerian Education

The above table shows that there is continuous craving for education at the level
of education under consideration. It also shows that about 84.7% to 94.8% of
qualified students who apply to be admitted into Nigerian universities were
denied admission on yearly basis. Atanda (2013), claims that the opening of
more institutions of this magnitude was a direct reaction to the increased
craving of same. He averred that although there was growth in the number of
universities established, the figure for students admitted annually is quite low in
comparison with the demand for university education. This situation has partly
been implicated in the policy of carrying capacity.

Issues in Policy of carrying Capacity in Universities

Denial of Admission: The policy of carrying capacity pose constraints to
university admission because universities have their upper limits in terms of
admission and failure to comply may attract sanctions from the National
University Commission (Abdulkareem & Muraina, 2014). According to
Statisense (2014) although most universities exceed approved carrying capacity
quotas, students still denied admission yearly clock 70%, despite the fact that
most of them meet the requirements. In this respect, the Nation (2015) reported
that in the 2010/2011 academic session, cumulatively, Nigeria had 112
universities and 1,493,611 applicants. Out of this number, the carrying capacity
was only 450,000 or 30.13 percent of applicants. We should note that most of the
applicants that were rejected have the necessary entry qualification to gain
admission. The report further indicated that for the 2011/2012 session, Nigeria
had a total of 117 universities with 1,503,933 applicants, carrying capacity rose
marginally to 500,000 translating to 33.25 percent. For the 2012/2013 session the
figure stood at 128 universities, 1,735,729 applicants with 520,000 carrying
capacity. Continuing, the report showed that for the 520,000 chances for
admission, 1.7 million candidates applied. This implies that about 1.2 million
candidates were denied admission in 2012/2013 academic sessions. As noted by
Emenalo (2009) the worry is, if this insignificant percentage of very high JAMB
applicants into universities are given admission in accordance with the carrying

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capacity, what happens to the greater percentage of candidates not admitted? Of

course those candidates denied admission will be frustrated and discouraged
about the admission process in Nigeria universities. This portends danger for a
country trying to attain economic growth, technological and scientific
advancement. The consequence of this is that those who cannot secure
admission roam the streets frustrated and because they are idle constitute
nuisance to the society. Table 2 below shows university, applicants and carrying
capacity in Nigerian Universities.

Table 3: University, Applicants and Carrying Capacity

Year University Applicants Carrying Capacity:
Cumulative Capacity Applicants
2010/11 112 1,493,611 450,000 30.13%
2011/12 117 1,503,933 500,000 33.25%
2012/13 128 1,735,729 520,000 29.96%
Source: StatiSense (2014) Carrying Capacity of Nigeria Tertiary Institutions

As evident from the above table, although there was yearly increase in the
carrying capacity quotas of universities, unfortunately, candidates who want to
gain admission into universities each year increased geometrically, thereby
making the increase in the carrying capacity quotas of each university not to be

Inadequate Provision of University Education in Nigeria: Adewale

(2014) stated categorically that Carrying capacity affects access to university
education in that not all the candidates sent by JAMB to a University for
admission can be offered admission because of inadequate facilities in her own
view Emenalo (2009) stated that:
Bearing in mind that Nigeria has a very high population density with
inadequate land mass for expansion and the continual cultivation of
these sparse lands due to heavy population density leads to infertility of
the soil, which makes meaningful agricultural production for both
consumption and commercialization difficult, access to university
education in Nigeria should not be toyed with but addressed without
delay (p.209).

The implication of this according to her is that Nigeria relies heavily on her
human resources for productivity. The human capacity requires proper and
adequate development and refinement of the potentialities and capabilities
through university education to be able to make effective, functional and
positive contributions to the advancement of the society. It is the human
resource in Nigeria that is being toyed with by not being given the opportunities
of university education vis--vis the principle of carrying capacity. Since
university education is a key contributor to economic, technological and
scientific growth and advancement as noted by Mohammed and Gbenu (2007),
how possible is it for our country Nigeria to realize that with this low or poor
access to university education? This situation portends poverty among the

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youths, which may stimulate belligerent nationalism and crime such as

kidnapping, terrorism, militancy and organized crime.

Competitive Admission: Due to the policy of carrying capacity which states that
the total number of students each faculty in a university admits should be based
on available human and material resources, admission into universities has
become very cumbersome and competitive because of inadequate carrying
capacity quota. One significant outcome of this competitive admission into
Nigeria universities is increase in number of students studying abroad.
Currently, according to Osinowo (2006) it is estimated that about 71,000
Nigerian students are studying in universities in Ghana, 30,000 in Great Britain
and 7,000 in the USA. As a result of this, parents are now prepared to pay huge
amount of money to ensure that their children are admitted to any university in
Nigeria. It has equally resulted in examination malpractice during UTME and
post-UTME entrance examination which may have adverse effect on quality of
Deviation from Carrying Capacity: This is a major and common issue in
carrying capacity in Nigeria universities. It is obvious that majority of
universities do not stick to the carrying capacity quotas (meaning that most
universities exceed their admission quotas). This is why students in most cases
stand outside lecture halls to receive lectures. This may negate the quality issues
for the adoption of the policy of carrying capacity by the NUC. However, the
reason for over enrollment may be due to large number of applicants that apply
for admission and equally qualified. Table 4 shows instances of deviation from
carrying capacity.

Table 4: Deviation from Carrying Capacity

Institution NUC Quota Admission Difference Deviation
Afe Babalola 1,200 2,372 1,172 97.67%
KWASU 725 1,257 532 73.38%
Redeemers 800 1,290 490 61.25%
FUA, Makurdi 2,133 3,350 1,217 57.06%
Babcock 2,337 3,561 1,224 52.37%
UNN 5,970 8,267 2,297 38.48%
UNILORIN 5,514 7,098 1,584 28.73%
UMYU 1,600 1,996 396 24.75%
NSU 2,500 3,113 613 24.52%
UNILAG 6,500 7,527 1,027 15.80%
KASU 1,400 1,591 191 13.64%
CRUTECH 2,500 2,778 278 11.12%
ABU 6,688 7,397 709 10.60%
UNIMAID 5,600 5,699 99 1.77%
Source: StatiSense (2014) Carrying Capacity of Nigeria Tertiary Institution.

The table below shows some universities and their carrying capacity (admission
quotas) during the 2011/2012 academic session that was released by NUC, but

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many of the universities gave admission to students above their approved


Table 5: Some Universities and their Carrying Capacity for 2011/2012 Academic Session
Federal ABU 6,688 7,397 -709
UNILAG 6,500 7,527 -1,027
UNN 5,970 8,267 -2,297
UI 5,720 2,989 2,731
UNIMAID 5,600 5,699 -99
UNIPORT 5,522 3,820 1,702
UNILORIN 5,514 7,098 -1,584
FUA,MAKUR 2,133 3,350 -1,217
UMYU 1,600 1,996 -396
FULOKOJA 500 443 57
FUEBONYI 500 150 350
FUBAYELSA 500 498 2
FU OYE-EKITI 500 384 116
State LASU 5,294 1,103 4,191
EKSI 3,500 1,300 2,200
ANSU 2,500 1,408 1,092
CRUTECH 2,500 2,778 -278
NSU 2,500 3,113 -613
KASU 1,400 1,591 -191
AISU 800 484 316
OSUSTECH 800 397 403
KWASU 725 1,257 -532
Private TASUED 3,500 2,898 602
COVENANT 2,500 2,162 338
BABCOCK 2,337 3,561 -1,224
BENSON 1,260 867 393
AFE 1,200 2,372 -1,172
AJAYI 1,000 474 526
REDEEMERS 800 1,290 -490
Source: StatiSense (2014) Carrying Capacity of Nigeria Tertiary Institutions.

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From the above table it is obvious that most universities exceed their
recommended carrying capacity. However, it is very glaring that over 70%
candidates were not given admission, despite the fact that they were qualified.

Inability of Private Universities to meet their Quotas: Available evidence

indicates that there is so much pressure on the public universities which
obviously affected their carrying capacity. This has been attributed to the
inability of private universities to meet their carrying capacity quotas. As
disclosed by the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, the private universities
admitted 19,254 candidates as against 67,009 allocated quotas in 2013 (The
Nation, 2015). One of the cogent reasons responsible for this may be inability of
parents to provide the financial resource to sustain their children in private
universities in Nigeria given the expensive fees charged by these institutions. As
noted by Osinowo (2006) the high fees being charged by private universities put
them beyond the reach of most students.

Challenges to Carrying Capacity Vis--vis Access to University

Poor funding: Poor funding is a major challenge that affect carrying capacity
and in turn access to university education in Nigeria. This is probably why Ajayi
and Adeniyi (2009) argued that the challenge of poor funding is common to all
universities in Nigeria. The phenomenon of low level of financial allocation to
education which is below the recommended UNESCOs 26% of the total budget
pose challenges to the implementation of the policy of carrying capacity vis--vis
access. This is because the introduction of the policy of carrying capacity without
proper funding had brought about poor and decaying resources, facilities and
shortage of human resources. Table 8 below shows government allocation to
education from 1999-2014.

Table 6: Government Annual Budgeting Allocation to Education 1999-2014

Year Allocation Percentage
(Billion) (%)

1999 23 11.2
2000 44.2 8.3
2001 39.9 7
2002 100.2 5.1
2003 64.8 11.8
2004 72.2 7.8
2005 92.6 8.3
2006 166.6 8.7
2007 137.5 6.1
2008 210 13
2009 183.4 7.2

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2010 249.1 6.4

2011 356.49 7.5
2012 8.4
2013 426.53 8.7
2014 - 10.7
Sources: Adapted from Ebisine, S.S. (2014). Quality Education in Nigeria and Ezeanya, S.A.
(2015). Democratization of Education in Nigeria.

Table 6 indicate clearly that Nigeria have never met the UNESCO
recommended 26% of annual budgetary allocation to education in developing
nations. A comparison of some African countries with Nigerias spending on
education as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP) brings out clearly
the picture of Nigerias poor financing of education as indicated in table 7 below:

Table 7: Spending on Education (% GNP) for Some African Countries in Comparison

to Nigeria
Country % GNP Ration in
Angola 4.90 7.00
Cote 5.00 7.14
Ghana 4.20 6.00
Kenya 6.50 9.29
Malawi 5.40 7.71
South Africa 7.90 11.29
Tanzania 3.40 4.86
Uganda 2.60 3.71
Mozambique 0.76 5.86
Nigeria 4.10 1.00
Source: The African Debt Report by Jubilee 2000 in Ede (2010) University Education
improvement and commensurate distribution in Nigeria.

Table 7 shows that Nigeria spends the lowest percentage of its GNP on
education compared to other nine African countries. The implication is that
education in Nigeria is not appropriately and adequately funded and the
universities are no exception. An evidence of this is the trends in funding for
Federal Universities in Nigeria where the focus is more on recurrent expenditure
as against capital expenditure as shown in Table 8 below:

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Table 8: Trends in Funding of Federal Universities in Nigeria 1999-2011

Recurrent Capital
1999 10,362,430,271 1,469,500,000
2000 28,206,218,865 1,936,785,632
2001 28,419,719,502 4,226,691,359
2002 30,351,483,193 0.00
2003 34,203,050,936 0.00
2004 41,840,735,050 9,462,455,178
2005 47,290,489,886 9,397,660,000
2006 73,161,996,247 5,760,105,402
2007 78,482,540,961 7,184,637,934
2008 94,552,983,733 13,197,505,486
2009 103,008,978,422 9,995,998,748
2010 163,729,239,325 20,429,524,422
2011 167,667,580,574 15,956,588,967
Source: Adapted from Shuara, J. (2010) Nigerian Higher Education Data and Uvah, I.I. (2015).
Academic Planning and Orderly Development.

From table 8 above it is very clear that Federal government provides a budget
cap based on projected earnings and not on the needs of the universities. In this
way many universities have budget provisions well below their needs (Uvah,
2015).These funding patterns of universities have implications for the policy of
carrying capacity and access to university education due to lack of qualified
staff, incentives, dilapidated facilities and other material resources (Akpochafo,
2006) and inability to expand facilities and equipment, thus increasing lecturer-
students ratio. In effect the poor funding of universities has resulted in slow
physical growth and the required number of facilities to encourage the
introduction of new departments in line with societal need. In this way only
small percentage of the qualified thousands of students are given admission in
relations to the material and human resources in all the licensed conventional

Infrastructure/Facilities: Poor and outdated infrastructure, equipment and

library facilities had been critical challenges to the implementation of the policy
of carrying capacity and access to university education. In much the same way,
the Federal Ministry of Education, (2009) reported that about 15-30% of the
books, facilities, materials and equipment are outdated. Furthermore, Okebukola
(2008) revealed that the general environment, laboratory and the lecture rooms
of all public universities are far below the standard that will ensure optimal
teaching and learning and conduct of quality research. With regard to
infrastructure, the committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public
Universities (NANPU) in Nwachukwu and Okoli (2015) revealed that public
universities were bereft of teaching and learning facilities and that the ones
provided were getting dilapidated or improvised. It also discovered that many
Nigerian universities suffered inadequate facilities such as old laboratories,
workshops in addition to lack of proper furnishing and erratic power and water
supply among others. According to the report, no Nigerian university has any

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


place among the first 1000 universities in the world. This is quite worrisome. The
implication is that university education in Nigeria is facing serious challenges.
This is what informs the criteria stipulation with regards to carrying capacity.

Academic Staff Inadequacies: The shortage of teaching staff in Nigerian

universities is a major factor in increasing carrying capacity to enhance access.
UNESCO in Okebukola (2008) reported that there are evidences that among the
so many school variables, teachers quality and encouragement are worthy of
note aside enrolment, students participation and achievements in the university.
This is consistent with the Nation (2015) that we are facing enormous challenges
as there is a dearth of qualified lecturers. Federal Ministry of Education (FME) in
Aluede, Idogho and Imonikhe (2012) revealed that the university system in
Nigeria as at 2006 needed 50,000 academic staff strength but only had 27,394
academic staff. This situation meant ineffectiveness in course delivery in all the
disciplines. According to Nwana and Babatope in Kanyip (2013) there are
universities where only one lecturer teaches between 1000 to 1500 students. In
some cases, such lecturers are without any public address system. Sometimes
some of the lecture halls are smaller than the number of students to be taught.
Therefore, some students stay outside the classroom to listen to the lecturer.
These shortages of academic staff affect the carrying capacity quotas vis--vis
access to university education in Nigeria.

Lack of Proper Maintenance of Available Facilities: Nigerian universities do

not only lack the required facilities but have not equally developed the culture of
maintaining the existing ones. This has resulted in the deterioration of facilities
which have impacted negatively on the quality of teaching and learning, as well
as, reduced admission capacity due to insufficient facilities to accommodate
students. In effect government failure to appropriately fund university
education for efficiency and effectiveness and maintain existing structure for
improved quality and standard equally have multiplier effects as regards
expansion to accommodate the millions of candidates seeking admission yearly
in Nigeria.

The Way Forward

Improved Funding: The minimum expenditure of 26% of annual budget
recommended by UNESCO for developing nations should be our base line. To
do otherwise will be contrary for our avowed statement as found in the national
document directing all issues concerning education in Nigeria, in which
education is deemed paramount for national development and as tool for
change. Therefore, the government should endeavour to make available at least
26% of its annual budget to education. Also, Nigeria universities should look up
to other non-statutory sources of funding such as corporations, dividends from
investments, foundations, alumni, endowment for funds. After all, Nigerian
universities by law are to generate up to 10% of the annual budget while in
Ghanaian universities it is 30% for infrastructural development and expansion.
In this way, the institutional managers have to be prudent in management of
funds to avoid wastage. This is because available data indicated that financial
budgetary allocations to universities in Nigeria are inadequate. For instance, the

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Federal Ministry of Education in Aluede, Idogho and Imonikhe (2012) reported

that in 2004, the sum of 216, 622, 706, 206 (216 billion naira) was requested by
the federally funded universities. According to the Federal Ministry of
Education report, the Federal government however released the sum of 53, 466,
287, 848.61 (54 billion naira) representing the budget request from the
universities. In effect the improved funding of the existing conventional
universities will enable the building of new structures/facilities, renovation of
old ones in order to increase their carrying capacity. When this happens, more
students will have access to university education in Nigeria. After all it was due
to dearth of facilities/structures that the NUC introduced the policy of carrying
capacity that eventually impeded access.

National Open University of Nigeria: There is the need to expand the activities
of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to accommodate more
candidates. This will solve the problem of high cost of establishing more
universities in Nigeria. Besides the cost and long gestation interval required in
getting a university properly established, it might take about ten years or more
for the impact to be felt. But allowing NOUN to promote online study
programmes in affiliation with some international institutions, many students
will avail themselves the opportunities provided to access highly reputable
foreign universities. In this way, universities in Nigeria will have the number of
candidates seeking admission not too far exceeding their carrying capacity.

Operation of 24 Hours Campus Model: All Nigerian universities should be

allowed to operate 24 hours campus model where there will be the normal day
study and night study mode. This will increase the carrying capacity of the
universities vis--vis improved access. As noted by Osinowo (2006) virtually all
Nigerian universities at present operate for only eight to ten hours daily. The
facilities remain idle for the rest of each day. According to him, the introduction
of night study on these campuses has the potential of increasing enrollment by
50% to 100) with minimal additional investment in solar panels or diesel
generators, pending improvement in power supply through the national grid.

Improved Facilities/Infrastructure: All the licensed conventional universities

should be expanded with the required facilities and infrastructure
commensurate with the number of students approved by NUC. There should be
adequate provision of classrooms, laboratories, expansion of libraries, and other
relevant materials in the existing conventional universities to ensure that more
students access university education.

Improved Human Resource: Adequate staff and facilities are crucial in the
management of the university/educational institutions and admitting fresh
candidates. In order to increase the carrying capacity level and access capacity
for qualified and competent applicants in universities in Nigeria, universities
need to employ more lecturers.

Dual Mode Universities: The government should allow universities (especially

older universities) to operate dual mode to accommodate students for both
regular and part-time or open and distance learning programmes. This is to
create room to admit more students. This is in line with what is obtainable in the

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University of India in New Dalhi, where the excess of up to 10 million students

are admitted into a virtual university (Adesulu in Vanguard, 2014).

Education is the fulcrum for societal progress and development of individual for
survival and sustainable economic development. Through university education,
one is prepared to develop his full capacities to live and work, improve the
quality of ones live and ones taste and attitudes are fine-tuned. In this way
everyone that is qualified should be given equal access to high quality education
at this level in Nigeria. In order to achieve quality, every university has to admit
candidates based on their carrying capacity. However, in implementing the
policy of carrying capacity there are some challenges that were identified. Until
we appreciate and overcome the challenges to carrying capacity vis--vis access,
more qualified candidates shall continue to be denied the privilege of having
university education in Nigeria. Therefore, it is recommended that the
challenges militating against carrying capacity vis--vis access should be
handled properly through improved funding, facilities, dual mode universities,
and so on to enhance universities carrying capacity and increase access to
university education in Nigeria.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 71-83, August 2016

Who am I? Where am I Going?

And which Path should I Choose?
Developing the Personal and Professional Identity of
Batia Riechman
Kaye Academic College of Education

Abstract. The formation of a professional identity is an important stage

in the teachers professional development. The process of professional
identity construction begins with teacher training studies. As part of the
learning program in the first year of an academic college training
process, the college offered a course entitled Personal Professional
Identity. The present study investigated student-teachers attitudes, at
different training stages, concerning the contribution of their occupation
with personal professional identity to the construction of their
professional identity as future teachers. The study employed mixed
methods research, using both quantitative and qualitative data-
collection tools. Findings indicated that in the first and second years
student-teachers gave greater weight to the contribution of different
aspects in the course for the construction of their identity, in comparison
to students at the end of their training who tended to minimize the
contribution of the course. The paper suggests possible explanations for
the emergent findings and recommends possible ways to enable the
process of personal professional identity building of the trainee teacher
over the years of training.

Keywords: constructing personal/professional identity; teachers

professional identity, teacher-training; student-teachers.

The concept of an identity is based on three W questions - responses that a
person gives to three substantive questions: Who am I? Where am I going? And
which path should I choose? These three W questions elicit information
concerning an individuals goals, values and beliefs and their assessment of their
own strengths and weaknesses and their self-image (Vignoles, 2011). Scholars
have proposed various definitions of identity. One popular definition is an
organized summary of information, rooted in observable facts concerning
oneself, which includes such aspects as traits of character, values, social roles,
interests, physical characteristics and personal history (Bergner & Holmes,
2000). The anthropologist Margaret Mead (Mead 1934, in Korthagen, 2004) and
the psychologist Erik Erikson (1968) both saw personal identity as something

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that develops over the years in socio-cultural contexts and is influenced by those
contexts. It is founded on interaction with the environment and internalization
of social roles.Given the understanding that the individual lives and acts in a
social environment and that this environment provides meaning for their
actions, the construction of such an identity is seen as a continuous process
involving interpretation and reinterpretation of experiences (Kerby, 1991).
Professional identity constitutes one dimension of an individuals personal
identity and answers the question: Who am I as a professional? In the context of
teaching, teachers ask themselves: Who am I as a teacher? What sort of teacher
do I want to be? How do I envisage my role as a teacher? (Korthagen, 2004).
Teachers may experience tension between the different components of their
identity since they are exposed to the expectations of varied stakeholders:
students, parents, colleagues, school leaders and superintendents (Warin et al.,
2006). The tension between personal and professional identities may mean that
the teachers have a sense of dissonance as they try to navigate between the
different objects of their work (Boyd & Tibke, 2012).

The term teachers professional identity has been studied in different

theoretical conceptualizations, and through different research methods.
Although there is no agreed definition of this term, Beijard et al. (2004) pointed
to four characteristics of teachers professional identity:
1. An individuals identity development processes are not universal, rather
they are particular and they are structured through a context-dependent
continuous, dynamic process as a response to experiences while
providing interpretation to those experiences.
2. A professional identity is an element that should be intentionally
developed. The personal knowledge that teachers bring with them to
their teaching posts, their beliefs and values alter through their
experiences as teachers in the school culture.
3. .Identity is not a matter that awaits exposure rather it is the result of a
process of providing meaning and the individual takes an active part in
the construction of their professional identity.
4. The development of a professional identity is not a linear process, for
example from the state of a student to the state of being a teacher rather it
is an interpretative process that is continually being re-examined. At least
at the inception of their teaching career, teachers professional identity is
composed of sub-identities linked to different contexts within which they
act (for example, the identity of a learner, the identity of a teacher). It is
important that these sub-identities should co-exist in harmony and not be
in conflict.

Research has shown that the behavior of the teacher in the classroom and the
pedagogic decisions that they make depend on their self-awareness. In other
words, they depend on the teachers perceptions, basic assumptions, beliefs and
values by which the teacher is guided (Stenberg, 2011). The teachers
consideration of questions of identity creates self-understanding, allowing them
to make decisions and to perform conscious choices (Kelchtermans &
Vanderberghe, 1994). Moreover, professional identity constitutes a major

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component in the teachers professional development. It advances the teachers

philosophical perception (Mockler, 2011) and constitutes a fundamental element
in the teachers commitment to their profession, their efficacy and abilities and
improves the teachers willingness to cope with change and reforms and to
implement innovations in teaching and even enhances their satisfaction with the
profession (Day et al., 2006).

The process of professional identity construction already begins during teacher-

training (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009). During this period the teachers
professional identity grows and develops from the student-teachers initial
beliefs and covert theories concerning teaching. Student-teachers beginning their
training usually arrive with clear beliefs and perceptions concerning teaching
and learning, and the teachers role and they have a clear image of the ideal
teacher (Feinman-Nemser & Remillard, 1996; Beltan, et al., 2015). These
perceptions stem from their own experiences as school pupils over several years
and from their observations of teachers from the perspective of a pupil
(Schempp, Sparkes & Templin, 1999). In the main, these beliefs do not fit
present day perceptions of teaching and learning. Research has also shown that
student-teachers tend to see teaching from a pupils viewpoint, in the context of
their own understanding as learners and not from the viewpoint of the teacher
(Sutherland, Howard & Markauskaite, 2010).

Pete Boyd indicates that one of the challenges in teacher training arises due to
the uniqueness of student-teachers identity. They develop their identity
simultaneously as both learners and as teachers and the students are
committed at the same time to learning-to-teach and teaching-to-learn
(Loughran, 2006). He suggests that training programs should be seen as an
interplay, combining knowledge, identity development and practical wisdom
(Boyd & Bloxham, 2014).

Fuller & Bown (1975) proposed a model of teacher development based on

analysis of subjects that concern the teacher (Three-Stage Concerns-based
Theory) in which they describe the development of motivation from inside-
out; meaning first the teachers are concerned about subjects associated with
themselves, at the next stage they become concerned about subjects relating to
the teaching task, and finally they deal with subjects relating to the pupils.
This professional identity, which Flores and Day (2006) call pre-teaching
identity is polished and refined through reflection and the student-teachers
develop more complex and sophisticated understanding of their work as
teachers through their experiences in formal learning and through their practical
work in schools and classrooms (Beijaard et al., 2004). Some scholars argue that
professional identity is constructed through interaction with the environment
and as part of the individuals experience in the profession. In the construction
of professional identity, actions, experimentation and work in the field with the
target community and with the professional community all play central roles
(Kirpal, 2004).

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Some researchers argue that, in their first year in teaching, teachers do not have
sufficient opportunities to develop a robust professional identity that would
allow them to cope with the challenges they face. They therefore argue that a
personal professional identity should be prepared in advance during teacher-
training (Korthagen, 2004). Helping student-teachers to acquire a professional
identity during their training could allow them to examine to what extent the
teaching profession is appropriate for them (Schempp, Sparkes & Templin,
1999). One of the challenges in the construction of identity is to deal with
exposure to subconscious aspects so that they become overt and conscious
(Webb, 2005). Different researchers have suggested a variety of ways to assist
this process, including involving student-teachers in dialogs, use of metaphors,
imagination and reflection (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009), writing
autobiographies, representation through paintings (Beltman et al., 2015), and
structured discussions concerning contradictions that exist in the field (Olsen,
2008) etc.

In light of these insights, the Academic College of Education and Teacher-

training introduced a learning program for student-teachers in their freshman
year. This program includes several core courses, including a course entitled
Personal-Professional Identity that provides an opportunity to challenge the
perceptions that student-teachers brought with them to the college and expose
them to different teaching methods than those that they experienced as pupils.
Additionally the program employs a Gradual Experience Model (GEM),
gradually familiarizing the student-teachers with different teaching components
based on the student-teachers encounters in the field: observations, peer
teaching, individual teaching sessions and teaching in small groups (Reichman,

The Personal-Professional Identity course establishes the subject of the

students professional identity development as a planned and intentional
process and it includes intensive work on the substance of the teaching
profession, on the concept of being a teacher, on the inner, personal-
professional identity of the teacher (the why), and the characteristics of the
teacher and their role and deals less with the behaviors and skills of the teacher
(the what).

The personal professional identity course was conducted as a workshop, was

taught once a week in a regular learning group including up to 23 students, and
involved active participation and experiences in the sessions, the students read
learning materials and presented written assignments. The introductory sessions
involved activities intended to create a safe space in which to nurture trust and a
sense of affiliation to the group in order to facilitate non-judgmental discourse,
free from stereotypes and willingness to become acquainted with others. During
the course, the students write personal narratives that allow them to conduct
personal learning about the reasons for their choice of the teaching profession,
and to examine the links between their childhood, youth and education and the
manner in which they perceive the teachers role. The personal narratives that
emerged from shared discussion in the group, open new broader horizons for

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observation of the students personal profile and the profiles of others. The
characteristics of a meaningful teacher figure that influenced the students can be
understood from the student-teachers stories of their personal memories,
research texts and films dealing with the image of teachers that influence their
students. The different activities in the course offer the students a space in which
they look inwards on themselves, examining the strategies they use to cope with
various situations, while developing their awareness of their strengths and
weaknesses and examining the implications of these characteristics on their

The research examined student-teachers attitudes at different stages of their
teacher-training studies, concerning the contribution of their participation in the
Personal-professional identity course during their freshman year of studies in
an academic teacher-training college to the construction of their professional
identity as future teachers. The research used mixed methods, employing
qualitative and quantitative data-gathering and evaluation tools (Tashakkori &
Teddlie, 2010). Integration and cross-checking of the data from the different tools
permits profound understanding and describes a comprehensive picture of the
student-teachers attitudes at different points over the training period, regarding
their work on personal-professional identity.

Student-teachers (N=183, including 154 women and 29 men) responded to

questionnaires that included both open and closed questions. The structured
questionnaires were administered to all student-teachers in Year 1 at the
beginning and end of the academic year. At the beginning of the year, the
questionnaires examined the students background details, motivation for the
choice of teaching and perceptions of learning-teaching. At the end of the year
in addition to these fields, the questionnaires examined the students attitudes
concerning the contribution of the Personal-Professional Identity course and
different aspects of the course to the construction of their personal and
professional identities. The questionnaire included 15 closed questions and 4
open questions relating to their view of the importance of the course and
another part of the questionnaire contained statements relating to the
achievement of the courses goals. The students responses were marked on a
Likert scale of 1-5, where 1=strong disagreement and 5=strong agreement.

Additionally individual in-depth interviews were held with students at different

training stages (Year 1, Year 2 and end of the training). In order to attain a
representative sample of the student-teacher population for the interviews, a
random stratified sample was selected, including approximately 10% at each
stage of the training: 18 students from Year 1, 12 students from Year 2 and 18
students at the end of the training period. The researcher maintained ethical
rules throughout the research (maintaining participants rights, receiving their
informed consent to participation in the research and maintaining

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Research questions
1. What attitudes do freshman student-teachers hold regarding the course
dealing with the subject Personal-professional identity taught in Year 1
of a teacher-training course?
2. What attitudes do Year 2 student-teachers hold regarding the
consideration of the subject of personal-professional identity at the
beginning of their training process?
3. What attitudes do student-teachers hold at the end of their training
period regarding the consideration of the subject of personal-professional
identity at the beginning of their training process?

Attitudes held by Year 1 student-teachers regarding the consideration of
personal-professional identity at the beginning of their training

Graph 1: Responses to the question: Why was the Personal-Professional

Identity course significant for you?
The graph shows the students reasons why the Personal-professional identity
course was significant for them. The reasons mentioned at the highest frequency
were learning about myself (60%) and the opportunities given by the course to
clarify the suitability of teaching and consolidation of a professional identity
(35%). Dealing with personal issues was also mentioned (25%) (including:
opportunity to express myself, thinking about coping strategies for different
situations, and development of ability to reflect, familiarity with the other).
In addition, the student-teachers noted the encounter with an alternative and
interesting teaching method as a reason for the courses significance for them.

Figure 1: The importance of the course

components in percentages




Figure 1: The importance of the course components in percentages

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Table 1: Percentage of student-teachers who agreed to a strong extent very strong

extent with statements relating to the courses goals

% of student-teachers who
Statement agreed to a strong extent
very strong extent
I had an opportunity to clarify my attitudes
concerning my choice of teaching
I had an opportunity to clarify my strengths and
After the course I know myself better 61
As a result of the course I understand the reasons that
I came to study teaching
The course contributed to my understanding of the
link between my perceptions concerning teaching 58
and my past experiences

Table 1 shows that the student-teachers tended to agree to a strong very strong
extent that the course allowed them to clarify their strengths and weaknesses
and to get to know themselves better. It also emerged that a large proportion of
the student-teachers agreed to a strong very strong extent that the course
allowed them an opportunity to clarify their attitudes concerning their choice of
teaching and helped them to understand the reasons for their decision to study
teaching. It was clear that the course contributed to their understanding
regarding the link between their past experiences and their present perception of

The responses of freshman student-teachers in the interviews supported

these quantitative findings. The interviewees reported that the Personal-
professional identity course contributed for them in the following fields:
Approximately 55% of the students related to the development of their self-
awareness. In their words:
In the personal identity course I learnt to look at myself in the mirror,
I saw things of which I had previously been unaware. I also dealt with
things that I was aware of and tried to understand them. The course
is important for people who work in education, who communicate
with other people and can sometimes be hurt by them. When you
know yourself and are aware of your different parts, there is a chance
that it will be easier to work with children, perhaps you will be hurt
less (Source 4).
In the personal identity course I learnt who I am and learnt to accept
myself sometimes I feel that it is difficult to talk about myself, but I
studied in a setting that required my self-examination and I even
spoke about myself, something that I usually could not do easily. Also,
when you speak with others about yourself, its an opportunity for
others to get acquainted with you and come closer to you; and its
also an opportunity for me to get to know others and come closer to
them (Source 12).

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There were some respondents who felt that clarification of their choice of
the teaching profession (approximately 40% of the student-teachers) was
the contribution provided by the course:
[I] see the relevance, Its a preliminary process, where each one digs
within their inner self and decides whether they have made the right
choice. I am most satisfied with my decision (Source 1).
I received the answers to those questions for myself in the course,
whether I am fitting for teaching, I was able to organize things in my
mind, to understand why I had gone for teaching (Source 7).

Other students (approximately 40%) mentioned the clarification of

attitudes concerning what sort of teacher do I want to be?:
The course on personal identity activates thought as a future teacher:
what do I want to do and how do I want to do it. You see the
importance in practice, you enter into the mind of the teacher, each
lesson on identity is really meaningful. It develops your thinking, each
lesson we learn and think about things in different ways and connect
the activities to teaching, and that is amazing (Source 5).
The course on personal professional identity is excellent. It
contributes to your professionalism as a teacher. Relating to yourself
for example, examining which teachers were significant for you and
that advances your ability to act as the model for imitation that you
would like to be for your pupils (Source 4).

The student-teachers also noted the attentiveness and empathy for others
in the course (approximately 25% of the students):
I reached very deep insights about myself in the course. For example,
the matter of attentiveness: I look back retrospectively on cases in my
life where I listened in a not so good way. It led me to change. I am
now happy with the way that I pay attention and I am changing it
we learnt about empathy, the correct and incorrect way to empathize.
Its a course that influenced me most because I learnt how to pay
attention to what is happening around me, to the pupils; to be more
alert, and when there is some sort of difficulty, to take care of it
(Source 16).

In the interviews some of the interviewees related to the development of

pride in the teaching profession (approximately 25%):
In the program in Year 1, I received something very important I
received myself. In the personal identity course I understood that I
felt embarrassed to be learning to become a kindergarten teacher, I
was ashamed of myself and before my environment, and at first my
studies were very difficult for me. I wrote about this and talked about
it and over the year I began to understand that I was actually
working with children in early childhood, that I would influence their
future and so this is actually a very wise and important profession
Today at the end of the year I am happy with these studies now I

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am proud to be a kindergarten teacher, something that I was

ashamed to admit at the beginning of the year (Source 13].

Attitudes held by Year 2 student-teachers regarding the consideration

of personal-professional identity
The Year 2 students tended to note that the Personal-Professional Identity
course was a significant and relevant course for the continuation of their
studies and their work in teaching, and related to the following fields in
which they felt that the course had contributed to them
(1) The development of self-awareness (50% of the students):
I especially remember how the matters that I was exposed to in the
personal-professional identity course occupied me all day and even
all week, those things made me think for a long time about myself
(Source 5).
I especially remember the personal identity course; I really liked that
course. It made me ask myself questions that I would not have
considered, to put myself at the center and to think what I had
brought with me. It led me to think, even after the lessons, and also in
relation to things that were not mentioned in the lesson for example
about myself as a mother why was I doing particular things, what
did I think motivated me to take particular directions? (Source 7
Considering your personal and professional identity is important and
most meaningful, it helped me to understand the substance of my
choice and myself and that allows me to do better and more complete
work (Source 11)
[Having an] identity helps me to shape my personality as a teacher
(Source 3).

(2) Developing self-confidence and shaping personality (25% of the

The course was excellent. It strengthened my self-confidence, showed
me how to construct my personality (Source 3)
In that course, I worked on my self-confidence. I feel now that my
self-confidence has increased due to the course, today two years later
I feel confident, I was not like that at the beginning of my studies
(Source 8)

(3) Understanding aspects of the teachers role (25% of the students):

In the professional identity course I understood that as a teacher, and
in general as a human being, there are limits to my ability to solve
problems. I learnt to distinguish between identification and empathy,
I can understand someone who has a difficulty, to try to help them
but I understand that the work itself should be done by the pupils or
persons who are having difficulty by themselves, I cannot do it
instead of them and I am not supposed to identify with them. I am not
supposed to solve the problem for them, they must want to do so
themselves, and they must do the work to solve the problem alone. I

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can suggest a way, a method and from there the person must
continue to progress. This is new learning of which I was not aware
before (Source 10)

(4) Awareness of attentiveness (25% of the students):

I took the matter of attentiveness how to react to the pupils, how to
show them that what they say is OK and important (Source 1)
It [the course] shaped my personality as a kindergarten teacher. I
know what it is to listen and not to hear, I will take this with me to the
kindergarten (Source 16).

Attitudes held by student-teachers at the end of the training process

regarding the consideration of personal-professional identity at the
beginning of their training (Rafaeli, 2011)

At this stage, very few of the students talked about the advantages of the
Personal-Professional Identity course. They felt that the course had
contributed to them by offering them a place where it was possible to share
and receive support from the group:
The professional identity workshop encouraged us to talk about
feelings, fears, things with which we are less comfortable. It really
helped us. We all arrived as new, it was a sort of support group where
we saw that things were difficult for all of us and we were all afraid, it
helped us to cope with the fears. This was the way in which we got to
know girls from other streams (Source 15)

Most of the students noted the problematic nature of the discussion of

professional identity at an early stage of their training, for example:
[I] dont remember a lot about the program. It was not really relevant
for me. I think that these courses should be performed in Year 4,
during the practicum. It would speak more to me today, because my
personal identity is being formed now, when I am a teacher in the
field and I have ideas and opinions In year 1 you dont really know
what your identity is (Source 7).
Your professional identity doesnt really crystallize if you are not
actually exposed to the field. Identity is formed when you are in the
field. [In Year 1] it is more theoretical, for example discussing what is
professionalism in my opinion, in theory. [I] dont see the
contribution of professional identity as a theoretical course, it does
not contribute (Source 2).

Discussion and Conclusion

Student-teachers at the beginning and middle of their training indicated that
they saw the consideration of the issues of personal and professional identities at
the beginning of their training was significant and it was something that
contributed to their professional identity. It seems that the course allowed the
student-teachers to conduct dialog with themselves and to reconsider aspects of

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their identity. Student-teachers in Years 1 and 2 noted that learning about their
self through a continuous process over the course helped them to become
more aware of themselves and offered an opportunity to clarify their
weaknesses and strengths. In this way they were able to know themselves better
(Vignoles, 2011). In addition, clarification of attitudes regarding the choice of a
teaching career developed their awareness of the considerations involved in
their choices (Kelchtermans & Vanderberghe, 1994).

Discussion during the course about the image of the ideal teacher led to
exposure of covert beliefs and perceptions that the student-teachers had brought
with them to the teacher-training program, and this helped them to understand
the connection between their considerations as learners in the past with their
growing perceptions of teaching in the present (Sutherland, Howard &
Markauskaite, 2010).

It also emerged that the student-teachers who learned in a group with their
peers, experienced a dynamic group process and the group interaction helped
them to recognize the other. It therefore seems that assisting the students in
their construction of their personal-professional identity through a Personal-
Professional Identity course achieved its goals. Among the student-teachers
studying in Years 1 and 2, dealing with the issues of personal and professional
identity was experienced as something that prompted inner observation and
awareness. The reflective skills that the student-teachers developed at the
beginning of their training influenced the process of the formation of their
professional identity as teachers for the future (Korthagen, 2004).

However, student-teachers who were at the end of their training indicated the
problematic nature of putting such studies concerning identity at the beginning
of the training. They felt that the lack of real practical experience in the
classroom at the beginning of their training reduced their ability at that stage to
experience the course as something relevant for their teaching work. They
argued that at later stages of teacher-training, practical experience becomes more
continuous with intensive encounters with pupils and at that stage their
behavior in class surfaced their beliefs regarding teaching. They had to make
pedagogic decisions and these processes challenged the beliefs and values that
guided them. In their opinions, it would perversely be advisable to examine
aspects of personal and professional identities, when the student-teacher is
engaged intensively in the education and teaching field and in light of the
practical and theoretical knowledge that was built up during the training. This
attitude is in line with research in this field that indicated that professional
identity is constructed through interaction with the environment and in
professional experience (Kirpal, 2004). In the construction of a professional
identity, practical work, experience and work in the field with a target
population and with the professional community play an important part.

While student-teachers in Years 1 and 2 felt that the contribution of different

aspects discussed in the course for identity construction in Year 1 had a strong
impact, student-teachers at the end of their training tended to think that the

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cycle of influence of the course and its contribution to them as restricted. It

seems that, over time, they forgot details that they discussed in the course and as
part of their training process, new layers of experience and activity in the
education field were added that set new challenges and dilemmas before them
(Fuller & Brown, 1975).

It is therefore recommended that work on the subject of personal-professional

identity should be conducted continuously throughout all the years of the
student-teachers training. Integration of the Personal-Professional Identity
course over all the years of the training should ensure continuous and coherent
development of what is learnt in Year 1. At the end of the training process and
until their induction as novice teachers, a course of this kind can constitute a
process of closure, to evaluate the process that the student-teachers underwent
in training.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 84-98, August 2016

Secondary Mathematics Teachers: What they

Know and Don't Know about Dyscalculia

Anastasia ChideridouMandari1, Susana Padeliadu1, Angeliki Karamatsouki2,

Angelos Sandravelis3, Charalampos Karagiannidis4
1 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece)
2American College of Thessaloniki (Greece)
3 2nd Special Education Diagnostic Centre of Thessaloniki (KEDDY) (Greece)

4 University of Thessaly (Greece)

Abstract. Although much research on teachers knowledge and attitudes

towards their students with dyslexia has been accumulated, students
with dyscalculia have not gained the same attention. Teachers
knowledge about the nature and characteristics of students with
dyscalculia seems to be limited and this has a strong impact on their
instructional decisions. In secondary education, where teachers pre-
service educational programs are more focused on the scientific subject
instead of appropriate instructional methods, teachers knowledge about
dyscalculia has not yet been taken into account. The aim of this study
was to examine the extent to which mathematics teachers know what
dyscalculia is, and what its features are. Possible differences that may
occur between teachers with and without special education training
were also examined, as well as differences that may occur as a result of
their working experience. One hundred and fourteen secondary
mathematics teachers, with an average service time of twelve years,
completed an electronic questionnaire in which they had to respond to
19 questions about the definition, the content and the major
characteristics of dyscalculia. Although they seemed to understand the
innate profile of dyscalculia, 31% of them attributed dyscalculia to
learning gaps resulted by student absence from school while 67% of the
teachers felt that mistakes of students with dyscalculia in solving
algorithms may be reduced if more time is provided to the students.
Furthermore, confusion prevailed regarding skills of students with
dyscalculia to solve word problems. The findings in this study
contribute to the ongoing discussion on the appropriate education and
training of secondary mathematics teachers, which should not neglect
the special characteristics and difficulties of students with dyscalculia.
The teachers knowledge about dyscalculia is suggested as the base for
the design of appropriate teaching practices to address specific learning
disabilities in math.

Keywords: dyscalculia; learning disabilities; views; beliefs; secondary


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The definition of Dyscalculia has gained significant interest by the scientific
world in the last four decades. A variety of terms, such as mathematics
disorder, learning disabilities in mathematics, specific learning disabilities in
mathematics, e.tc. have been used to describe the dyscalculia phenomenon. In
1970, Kosc was the first to highlight the developmental nature of the disorder
and define dyscalculia as an innate disorder with genetic base, that exists
without a simultaneous disorder of general mental functions (Kosc, 1974).
Currently, the term dyscalculia refers to the specific learning disabilities in
mathematics presented with difficulties in areas such as: number knowledge and
processing, learning and memorizing arithmetic facts, executing arithmetic
calculations fluently and accurately, as well as mathematic reasoning (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013). The prevalence rates of dyscalculia seem to be of
the same size with those of dyslexias. Several publications have appeared
documenting dyscalculia percentages of 5,6% (Dirks, Spyer, van Lieshout, & de
Sonneville, 2008), 6,1% (Landerl & Moll, 2010), 10,5% (Mogasale & Patil, 2012),
3,4% (Reigosa-Crespo, et al., 2011), 4,5% (Jovanovic, et al., 2013) and 2% (Dhanda
& Jagawat, 2013). As in any other disorder prevalence rates vary depending on
the age group, the screening measures applied and the discrepancy criteria
selected in each study. However, the above rates are in line with Geary (2004),
according to whom 5% to 8 % of the students have some kind of dyscalculia.

Although the strong presence of dyscalculia in the student population has led to
increased scientific interest about the study of the phenomenon and its
characteristics, dyslexia has still a dominant position in research. The fact that
dyslexia is a language disorder, manifested when students enter school, makes
teachers role highly important for its screening and future progress. This central
role of teachers in the academic and social inclusion of students with dyslexia
has been documented in a plethora of studies focusing specifically on either the
knowledge of the educators (Kerr, 1998; Moats, 2014; Ness & Southall, 2010;
Regan & Woods, 2000; Soriano-Ferrer & Echegaray-Bengoa, 2014; Soriano-Ferrer,
Echegaray-Bengoa, & Joshi, 2016; Wadlington & Wadlington, 2005; Washburn,
2009; Washburn, Joshi, & Binks Cantrell, 2011; Williams, 2012) or their attitudes
towards dyslexia (Gwernan-Jones & Burden, 2010; Hornstra, Denessen, Bakker,
van den Bergh, & Voeten, 2010; Kerr, 2001; Tsovili, 2004; Woolfson, Grant, &
Campbell, 2007).

Unfortunately, researchers have not shown the same interest about teachers
knowledge of and attitudes towards dyscalculia. Relevant research interest has
been expressed mostly by studying teachers beliefs of the nature and meaning
of mathematics and the instructional methods they use (Cady & Rearden, 2007;
Handal, 2003; Stipek, Givvin, Salmon, & MacGyvers, 2001). Educators
perceptions about the difficulty of the mathematics as a subject and about their
ability to teach (Cady & Rearden, 2007), their perspectives about the knowledge
they have or should have on the subject itself (Mosvold & Fauskanger, 2013), as
well as the assessment tools needed in order to fully evaluate students
performace (Adams & Yang Hsu, 1998; Watt, 2005) have been widely

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Research about the knowledge of teachers has focused on their background

knowledge on the subject of mathematics (Even & Tirosh, 1995), mathematics
instruction (Ernest, 1989) and the different ways of assessing students reasoning
(Ernest, 1989; Even & Tirosh, 1995). Teachers knowledge about all the above
areas has gained the attention in recent years, especially within pressure for
instructional effectiveness and teacher accountability (Tickle, 2000 in Zakaria &
Musiran, 2010) and high academic performance of students (Hill, Rowan, &
Loewenberg Ball, 2005).

Only recently, considerable attention has been paid also to the phenomenon of
dyscalculia. The relevant research has focused on clarification of the definition
and the nature of the difficulties (i.e. Geary, 2004; Jimnez Gonzlez & Garcia
Espnel, 1999; Mazzocco & Myers, 2003; Martin, et al., 2012; Silver, Pennett,
Black, Fair, & Balise, 1999), the characteristics and the specific errors of students
in mathematics (i.e. Andersson, 2008; Bryant, Bryant, & Hammill, 2000;
Compton, Fuchs, Fuchs, Lambert, & Hamlett, 2012; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002; Geary,
1990), the prediction, early identification and assessement of these difficulties
(i.e. Desoete, 2008; Desoete, Ceulemans, De Weerdt, & Pieters, 2012; Geary, 2011;
Geary, Bailey, Littlefield, Wood, Hoard, & Nugent, 2009; Gersten, Jordan, &
Flojo, 2005; Gilbertson Schulte, Elliot, & Kratochwill, 2001; Kling & Bay-
Williams, 2014; Morgan, Farkas, & Wu, 2009; Stock, Desoete, & Roeyers, 2009)
and the effective teaching practices that should be used (Gallagher Landi, 2001;
Gonsalves & Krawec, 2014; Ives, 2007; Leh & Jitendra, 2012; Montague, Warger,
& Morgan, 2000; Powell & Fuchs, 2015).

However, despite the large amount of academic knowledge available, very few
publications are available in the literature, to the authors best knowledge, that
address the issue of teacher knowledge of dyscalculia. The relationship between
secondary mathematics teachers beliefs and learning disabilities in mathematics
was examined by DeSimone & Parmar (2006) in a study with 226 middle school
mathematics inclusion teachers. Most of them had a Masters Degree and had
taken part in limited inclusion-or Learning Disabilities-related workshops.
Teachers were asked to answer a questionnaire about their beliefs regarding the
academic profile of students with learning disabilities in mathematics, as well as
their readiness beliefs to teach in inclusion classrooms. Although they stated
feeling quite comfortable or very comfortable in their abilities to adapt
instruction for students with learning disabilities, their comfort relied especially
to their general beliefs about their strategy knowledge they use to succesfully
adapt instruction. Based on the results reported, it was evident that they had an
unclear picture of students with learning disabilities in mathematics and the
majority of the teachers believed that there was no distinction between a student
with learning disabilities and a low-performing student. The indistinct picture of
students with dyscalculia characteristics is consistent with results from another
study by the same authors (DeSimone & Parmar, 2006), in which in-depth
interviews, surveys and classroom observations were conducted with seven
general education mathematics teachers. According to those teachers, students
with learning disabilities in mathematics are very slow in understanding and

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processing teachers instructions, they find it difficult to focus and concentrate

and they also need constant reinforcement for their efforts. Teachers believed
that students difficulties in reading lead to additional problems in
understanding and solving word problems. The explanation and presentation of
a concept with various ways was regarded as an effective practice, but
unrealistic, given the limited available time for teaching during the school day.
In 2010, Saravanabhavan & Saravanabhavan conducted a survey in India
investigating the knowledge of regular high school, special school and pre-
service teachers about specific learning disabilities. Regular education teachers
knowledge was higher than the two other groups, but still quite below the
desired level, a fact which was explained by the researchers by the inadequate
training and the small number of workshops available regarding the specific
learning disabilities. As Kamala & Ramganesh (2013) revealed three years later
in a study focusing on the knowledge of 94 teacher educators about dyslexia,
dyscalculia, dysgraphia and behavioral problems of students with specific
learning disabilities, even teacher educators had low level of relevant

In conclusion, it appears that very little is known about teachers knowledge and
their skills to efficiently teach students with dyscalculia, although currently the
presence of students with dyscalculia in school classrooms is increasing. On one
hand, instruction of these students is certainly challenging, especially for the
secondary mathematics teachers, since their academic training is focused mostly
on the subject of mathematics itself. On the other hand, while many efforts for
implementing interventions for students with dyscalculia in secondary
education are made (Graham, Bellert, & Pegg, 2007; Ives, 2007; Krawec &
Montague, 2014), the background knowledge of the teachers about the special
characteristics and difficulties of these students is not taken into account.

Our goal in the present study was to investigate the knowledge of secondary
mathematics teachers about dyscalculia. In particular, we focused on examining
their knowledge about: a) the nature and definition of dyscalculia and b) the
content of dyscalculia and the characteristics of students with dyscalculia.
Furthermore, possible relationships between teachers knowledge and their
teaching experience, as well as their relevant training were examined.


One hundred and fourteen secondary mathematics teachers participated in the
survey, 47 of them male and 67 female. The majority of the teachers (n=48)
worked as private math tutors, 41 of them taught in public middle and high
schools and the rest of the participants taught in private afternoon tutoring
centres (phrontistiria). As far as their teaching experience, 42% worked six to 15
years, 31% worked up to five years, whereas the smallest part of them (27%) had
16 to 35 years of teaching experience. The percentage of the participants who did
not have any training in special education was 58%.

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A questionnaire designed by the authors was distributed to the participants
through the Internet, and data selection lasted three weeks. The questionnaire
consisted of 19 questions about teachers knowledge and teachers had to
respond by choosing between True or False. In particular, the first five
questions (A1 - A5) concerned the nature and definition of dyscalculia (e.g.
Dyscalculia isnt due to insufficient teaching) and the other 14 questions (A6 -
A19) referred to specific characteristics of students with dyscalculia (e.g. They
respond to word problems impulsively.)

The analysis of the results indicated that less than half of the teachers (40.4%)
answered correctly to all of the questions about the definition and nature of
dyscalculia (A1 A5). Only two teachers gave the correct answers to questions
A6 to A19 and it was just one, who didnt give a single wrong answer to all 19

As presented in Figure 1, the descriptive analysis of the answers revealed that

the majority of the participants (86%) knew about the innate nature of the
disorder and were correct about the prevalence rates of dyscalculia, which are
more than 1%. Participants who felt that inappropriate teaching is not
responsible for the appearance of dyscalculia reached the percentage of 83%.
Nevertheless, fewer (74%) knew that dyscalculia is not a result of low I.Q. and
69% of the teachers were aware of the fact that long students school absence is
not the cause for dyscalculia.

Figure 1. Definition and Nature of Dyscalculia

A5 86%
Questionnaire items

A4 86%

A3 69%

A2 74%

A1 83%

Percentage of correct responses

Figure 1: Percentage of correct responses regarding the definition and nature of

Dyscalculia. Description of questions: A1. Dyscalculia isnt due to insufficient
teaching, A2. Dyscalculia isnt due to low I.Q., A3. Dyscalculia doesnt stem from
learning gaps due to long students school absence, A4. Dyscalculia is an innate
learning disorder, A5. Dyscalculia is present in more than 1% of student population.

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Regarding the content of dyscalculia (Figure 2), data analysis indicated that
almost all of the participants (99%) knew that linking arithmetic terms to their
symbols is an area of difficulty for these students. A large number of the
participants (95%) were aware of the fact that students have difficulties in
choosing the correct arithmetic operation in order to solve a problem, whereas
93% of the participants knew that students with dyscalculia find it difficult to
explain their answers. The comprehension of arithmetic terms (e.g. sum, bigger
than, e.tc.) and the retrieval of basic arithmetic facts was considered by 91% of
the teachers as a major difficulty of students with dyscalculia. A percentage of
84% of the teachers knew that students with dyscalculia respond to word
problems impulsively and 82% of them knew that students have difficulty in
manipulating measures of weight and length. Teachers, who knew about
students difficulties in memorizing multiplication tables, reached the
percentage of 73%, while 63% of the teachers knew that students face difficulties
in designing and interpreting a diagram and 60% of them were aware of
students money exchange difficulties. Only 58% of participants knew about
students difficulties in telling the time and 55% were correct about students
difficulty in translating the word information of the problem into visual
representation. Further, only 37% of the teachers recognized that the reason for
students mistakes in word problem solving is not only their difficulty in
reading. Regarding the ability to execute arithmetic algorithms, only one third of
the teachers (33%) knew that students mistakes werent due to the limited time
provided to them.

Figure 2: Percentage of correct responses regarding the content of Dyscalculia.

Description of questions: A6. They have difficulty in learning the multiplication
tables by memorizing them, A7. They make a lot of mistakes in recalling basic
arithmetic facts (results by adding and subtracting into the first tens, e.g. 6+4), A8.
They have difficulty in understanding the content of arithmetic terms (e.g. sum,
bigger than, e.tc.), A9. They have difficulty in making connections between arithmetic
terms and their symbolic representations (e.g. +, >, e.tc.), A10. They have difficulty in
making money exchanges, A11. They have difficulty in telling the time, A12. They
manipulate ineffectively the measures of weight and length, A13. They may execute

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incorrectly an arithmetic algorithm even if they have plenty of time, A14. Their
difficulty in solving word problems isnt due to their difficulty in reading them, A15.
When they solve a word problem, they usually have difficulty in choosing the
appropriate arithmetic operation, A16. They cant translate the word information of a
problem into a visual representation (schema, picture, table, and diagram) in order to
solve it, A17. They respond to word problems impulsively, A18. They have difficulty
in designing and interpreting of diagrams, A19. They have difficulty in explaining the
answers they give.

No statistical significance was found between the total responses of the group of
teachers with no training courses taken and the one with some kind of training.
However, there was statistical significant difference between these two groups
in only 2 particular items of the questionnaire. Specifically, there was a statistical
significance (t=2.988, df 112, p=.003) between the no training group (M=1.53,
SD=.503) and the some kind of training group (M=1.27, SD=.447) regarding
their knowledge about students skills in money exchange. Statistically
significant was also the difference (t=2.545, df=112, p=.012) between the first
(M=1.53, SD=.503) and the second group (M=1.30, SD=.464), when responding
about students difficulty in telling the time. Finally, the one way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) performed, for the examination of the relationship between
the responses and the teaching experience, revealed no statistically significant


Definition and Nature of Dyscalculia

In the present study we intended to investigate the knowledge of secondary
mathematics teachers about dyscalculia and its characteristics. As far as
knowledge about the definition and nature of dyscalculia are concerned,
teachers answers were contradictory. Teachers seemed to be aware of the fact
that dyscalculia phenomenon is real and highly prevalent in student
populations, as well as of the innate nature of the disorder. Unfortunately, some
of them still seemed to confuse dyscalculia with intellectual disability. Teachers
in our study appear to be uncertain about the relationship between general
intelligence and dyscalculia, even though teachers are well aware of the fact that
dyslexia is not attributed to low I.Q. (Regan & Woods, 2000; Wadlington &
Wadlington, 2005). The underlying conception that dyscalculia is related to low
intelligence, is a significant finding, which should be taken seriously into
account. The connection between learning ability and intelligence and the
perception that ones ability is stable has a strong effect on the expectations and
efforts a teacher makes (Dweck, 1986). In the case of students with dyscalculia,
who appear to show a low performance in mathematics, the perception of
teachers that their difficulties are due to lack of adequate intelligence may lead
to limited opportunities for learning, low expectations and less efforts on part of
the teachers during instruction.

Another interesting finding from the current study refers to the role of
schooling. Participants were certain about the low contribution of insufficient
instruction to the appearance of dyscalculia, but they did not show the same
certainty, when they were asked about the connection between dyscalculia and

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students school absence for a prolonged time. Although both the above notions
are not the cause of dyscalculia, we notice teachers tendency to blame student
attendance more easily, than their own teaching for any students difficulties. On
one hand, the misconception that learning gaps due to a prolonged students
school absence are connected with dyscalculia contradict almost all of the
traditional learning disabilities definitions, according to which learning
disabilities are not a result of insufficient and inappropriate instruction
(Bateman, 1965 in Hammill, 1990; Kass & Myklebust, 1969; Kirk & Kirk, 1983;
NJCLD, 1991). On the other hand and most importantly, we have to take into
consideration that learning disabilities, as defined by Individuals with
Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA, 2004), are manifested as
the lack of student progress and their academic failure despite the presence of
early, evidence-based instructional programs and practices. This, immediately,
highlights the significant role of the instructional methods teachers use before a
student is identified as a student with learning disabilities.

Teachers knowledge in relationship with teaching experience and training

As presented in the results, teaching experience did not appear to affect teacher
knowledge about dyscalculia. Whereas experience seems to help teachers in
adapting their instruction for students with learning disabilities (DeSimone &
Parmar, 2006), the effectiveness of these adaptations is questionable, if teachers
are not familiar with students learning profile and characteristics. In our study,
knowledge about dyscalculia and the special education training courses taken
by the participants were not connected. It can be assumed, that their in-service
training was either generic or limited and consequently did not lead to an
increase of their knowledge of dyscalculia. This assumption relies on earlier
findings of a study about teachers attitudes towards their training in special
education in Greece (Padeliadu & Patsiodimou, 2000), where secondary teachers
seemed to prefer a generic training program concerning a variety of special
education areas instead of a more specified one. In a study of DeSimone &
Parmar (2006) the results also showed that the number of training courses did
not affect teachers self-efficacy beliefs.

Content of Dyscalculia and students difficulties

Secondary mathematics teachers knowledge about the origins and general
picture of dyscalculia phenomenon seems to be more solid than the knowledge
about the specific characteristics, which constitute the learning profile of a
student with dyscalculia. However, the knowledge about the nature of
dyscalculia itself is inadequate both for a deeper and global understanding of a
child with dyscalculia and the implementation of an appropriate and efficient
instructional intervention.

The majority of the teachers participating in this study knew about students
difficulty to understand the content of arithmetic terms and their connection
with their symbols, as well as to retrieve arithmetic facts. The participants of the
study also considered the explanation of the answers students give and the
memorization of multiplication tables as main difficulties presented by all
students with dyscalculia. Furthermore, they seemed to be aware of the fact that

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students with dyscalculia give answers to the word problems without second

However, it is important to notice that the question which concentrated the

largest number of wrong answers was the one regarding arithmetic algorithms.
Teachers falsely tend to believe that the difficulty in executing an arithmetic
algorithm (e.g. 459 + 345) is the limited time provided. On the contrary, possible
reasons for students difficulties are limited procedural knowledge or arithmetic
deficits, which consume all of the students attention and may prevent them
from following the series of steps involved in the algorithm. Further, other
reasons for students difficulty in computing an algorithm can be their levels of
attention, their working memory or phonological processing (Fuchs, et al., 2006),
but definitely limited time frames is not the only cause, as teachers assumed.

Nevertheless, teachers in this study seemed quite confused with students

abilities regarding word problem solving, which is a basic area of difficulty for
these students. The selection of the right arithmetic operation to solve a word
problem was correctly considered as one of the most prevalent difficulties
manifested in this area. However, almost half of the teachers believed that
students with dyscalculia are able to translate word information of a problem
into a visual representation and one third of them thought that it is easy for
students to design and interpret a diagram. One possible explanation for this
finding may be attributed to the misconception that all of these students have
higher abilities in visuo-spatial processing (Mammarella, Lucangeli, & Cornoldi,
2010; Passolunghi & Mammarella, 2011; Schuchardt, Maehler, & Hasselhorn,
2008). The ability to visualize the information of a problem constitutes a
significant predictor of problem solving accuracy (Krawec, 2014), meaning that
the selection of the right arithmetic operation might be simply the outcome of a
deeper difficulty in visualizing the word information. Interestingly, even when
students with dyscalculia use visual representations for a problem, they prefer
pictorial rather than schematic representations, which is a less advanced and
mature way of representing information (van Garderen, 2006). Nevertheless,
since the visualization of a problem contributes significantly to its solving, this
skill needs to become a discrete part of students intervention program.

The majority of the participants considered the role of decoding in problem

solving as specifically important, attributing the problem solving inaccuracy of
students to their diffuculty in reading the word information. In DeSimone &
Parmar (2006) teachers also believed that decoding difficulties stand as an
obstacle for word problem solving, but in their study the student group, they
were referring to, was characterized as generally learning disabled, with no
specific reference to dyscalculia. Other studies showed that students with
dyscalculia without comorbid reading difficulties perform better in word
problems than the students who have comorbid reading difficulties (Andersson,
2008; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002). Consequently, word problem reading difficulties
may stand as an obstacle to its solving, only when students reading skills are

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In addition, it is interesting to have a more careful look in participants

knowledge about the students ability to handle money exchanges, to tell the
time and to process the measures of weight and length. Teachers in the study
recognized that students with dyscalculia find it difficult to process weight and
length measures. Although the number of studies focusing on these skills is
limited, school reality proves that students with dyscalculia face severe
difficulties in this area and usually fail to transfer the knowledge they get
through teaching to their everyday activities (Patton, Cronin, Bassett, & Koppel,
1997). The fact that secondary mathematics teachers knew about this kind of
difficulty may be due to the extented appearance of these skills into the
curriculum, which makes these difficulties easily identified by teachers.

A small number of teachers were aware of students dificulties in telling the time
and dealing with money exchanges. More than half of them wrongly believed
that students with dyscalculia find it easy to tell the time. However, time
telling and especially digital time telling is as difficult as the decoding of one
and two-digit numbers is for these students, since time and minute values are
presented as numbers. In a survey conducted by Andersson (2008), results
showed that students with dyscalculia could not easily tell both analogical and
digital time. It should be pointed out, that the students in the above study were
students of 3rd and 4th grade of primary school, which is a much younger
population than the age group that secondary teachers have to teach everyday.
Time deficits were noticed in another research, too, in which students with
dyscalculia, from 10 to 14 years old, showed a low performance in tasks of
accurate time estimation and time production (Hurks & van Loosbroek, 2014).
The limited research in this area is the reason why the ability of students with
dyscalculia telling the time in middle and high school should be further
examined. The ability to tell the time, handle money exchanges and process the
measures of weight and length are applied math skills, dominant in every
dimension of students everyday life, especially as they move towards
adulthood. A further investigation of the appearence of these skills in students
with dyscalculia should be taken into consideration.

In summary, the findings of the present study revealed that although secondary
mathematics teachers appear to be certain about the high prevalence rates of
dyscalculia, they may be confused about the factors that lead to dyscalculia.
Moreover, while they seemed to know more about the manifestation of students
difficulties, they appeared to know less about the underlying cognitive deficits
of these difficulties. Furthermore, the results showed no connection between
teachers knowledge and their teaching experience, as well as teachers
knowledge and their relevant training, pointing to the need for more specific
and focused on dyscalculia teacher training.

Conclusion and Suggestions

To conclude, in this study, we sought to reveal any misconceptions and/or
limitations in the knowledge of secondary mathematics teachers about
dyscalculia. Furthermore, our goal was to shed some light on the required
content of any future training for teachers working with students with

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dyscalculia. Our findings lead us to suggest that training of secondary

mathematics teachers should focus especially on dyscalculia and should concern
specifically two issues: a) the clarification of dyscalculia nature, so teachers can
discriminate between general low intellectual functioning and dyscalculia and b)
the complete description of the learning problems and manifestations of
students with dyscalculia, so teachers can fully understand students needs.
Specific training courses focused on both dyscalculia and effective practices for
students with dyscalculia are required in order for secondary mathematics
teachers to meet students needs and provide them with the best instruction in
general classroom settings (Kamala & Ramganesh, 2013). Further, a training
program based on the Response to Intervention model would increase teachers
sense of responsibility about their students academic performance and assist
them to play an active role in early identifying students who struggle and
adapting their instruction accordingly (Vaughn & Bos, 2012).

The design of specific and intense training exclusively on the area of dyscalculia
is imperative and it seems that it is a demand of the teachers, too, who feel
inadequate to cope with the educational needs of students with disabilities
(Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000; Easterday & Smith, 1992). Since intact
knowledge of students characteristics has a positive and strong effect on the
instructional effectiveness of teachers (Ernest, 1989), future informed teacher
practice may eventually contribute significantly to our scientific knowledge and
expand our comprehension of dyscalculia itself.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 99-117, August 2016

Case Study Results at Primary School Leaving

Examination in a Rural District in Rwanda
Jan Willem Lackamp1 MSc, MEM

Abstract. The Rwandan system of classifying learners at national

examinations in divisions has as a consequence that the performance of
schools shows better at first sight than justified. Learners can pass in the
lowest division (IV) although their results are very poor. Analysing
results in terms of divisions is done quite regularly, but it gives little
information about what lays behind the level of performance. In this
study the distribution of marks is being introduced as a tool for getting
grip The study shows that in Rulindo District at national school leaving
examination the majority of learners score the lowest marks (8 and 9).
Poor mastery of English is reflected in low results for the other subjects,
which are taught and examined in English. However, the number 1
school of the district, which is in no way a privileged school, shows that
much better results could be achieved. Quality of leadership, mastery of
the medium of instruction and learner-centred methodology seem to be
crucial factors for making the difference.

Keywords: Primary school leaving examination; divisions; distribution

of marks; medium of instruction; learner-centred methodology.

1. Introduction
Rwandan primary education has changed a lot in recent years. Net enrolment
rate has gone up impressively from about 80% in 1999 to 98,7% in 2012, the
highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (EFA, 2105 p78, 233). In the same period grade
repetition has been brought down from 28% to 12% (EFA, 2015 p86).

In 2008 it was decided to replace French as medium of instruction by English in

all public schools, initially for all levels of education. In 2011 this decision was
overruled: Kinyarwanda would be the medium of instruction in lower primary.
However, as most teachers were educated in French and did not master English,
this really challenged education (Tolon 2014; Sibomana 2014; Reddick, 2015).

From 2006 to 2010 new curricula were introduced for all subjects. The English
curriculum of 2010 has been revised to integrate learner-centred methods and
reflect the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) trends in
education. (Republic of Rwanda, 2010a).

Now, in 2016, the implementation of again a new curriculum is on its way

(Republic of Rwanda, 2015f). By introducing a competence-based curriculum

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the Rwandan government aims to contribute to the development of a

knowledge-based society. This is seen as necessary because of the regional and
global competition in the jobs market (Republic of Rwanda, 2015h)

Officially the results at primary school leaving examination in Rwanda are

considered to be good. According to Ministry of Education official, the results
for 2013 academic year for both primary and ordinary level exams a pass rate
of 84 per cent was impressive compared with the past four years. (Rwirahira,
2014). Pass rates were 85 % in 2014 and 2015 (Tashobya, 2016). However, under
close scrutiny performance is less impressive. It appears that many learners pass
although their results are very poor. The threshold for passing in the lowest
division, that is division IV, is very low. Similar observations have been made
for Tanzania, which also uses a division system. At school leaving examination
2010 50% of candidates did not pass, 39% passed in division IV (Kassile, 2014).
Strictly speaking, therefore, 88,6% of the candidates failed () as they cannot
proceed with any further levels of education training(HakiElimu, 2012).
In Rwandan Rulindo District the percentage of learners who failed plus the ones
who passed in division IV at primary school leaving examination 2014 add to
66%. Taking into account that the completion rate is low, about 35% in 2010
(EFA, 2015 p82), this means that a large majority of children do not learn very
much during their primary school career, as far as exams show.

Nevertheless, some schools succeed in performing much better than the average,
although their socio-economic context in no way is exceptional. In order to find
out what is behind this contrast between successful and average schools a case
study has been done for one district: Rulindo District in North Province. The
ultimate goal of this study is to provide head teachers and education officers at
sector and district level with tools for analysing and improving performance of
their schools.

This study analyses the results at primary six national school leaving
examination. It addresses: distribution over divisions, distribution of marks,
differences between subjects, comparison between the number one (#1)2 school
and an average school. Suggestions for improving teaching and leadership are

The examination itself (questions, setting, marking) is taken for granted3 in this
study as it is outside the sphere of influence of head teachers and education

2. Research Questions
In this case study the results at national examinations of all primary schools of
Rulindo district and so defining the average school have been compared to
those of a few individual schools.

The research questions are: what tells the distribution over divisions about the
performance of a school, what reveals the distribution of marks about

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performance, in what respect differs performance of the #1 school from an

average school and what factors are crucial for improving performance?

3. Methodology
The analysis has been done for schools in Rulindo district, North Province.
Several sources were available:

Annual school questionnaire. Aggregated data collected by the district education

office from head teachers in the annual school questionnaire. The spreadsheet
contains data of all schools and calculates the district totals. The format comes
from the Ministry of Education.
In this study the data of the 2014 questionnaire have been used (Republic of
Rwanda, 2014a). They reflect the situation at the end of school year 2013.

Ranking of schools. The district education office has provided a spreadsheet that
contains the results for national examinations for all schools of the district with
numbers and percentages for subjects and divisions, leading to a ranking of
schools according to results at national examination.
For the ranking of schools the results at national examinations 2013 have been
used (Republic of Rwanda, 2014b).

Ranking of candidates. Head teachers receive a hard copy for their school of a list
with all candidates and their marks for all subjects. Candidates are ranked
according to the aggregate of their marks. The lists are produced by Rwanda
Education Board (REB), an agency of the Ministry of Education, and distributed
by the district office at the beginning of the following year. Aggregated results
for the whole district about the marks for each subject were not available.
In this study the listings of results at national examination 2014 of a number of
schools in Rulindo district have been used (Republic of Rwanda, 2015a, b, c, d).

School inspections. Above mentioned sources have been complemented by the

author with observations regarding both teaching and leadership at school
inspections in Rulindo district during his work4 as education leadership advisor
for VSO5. During an exchange visit a group of twenty head teachers and sector
education officers of three sectors spent a day at the #1 school of a neighbouring
district. They observed lessons and discussed their findings with at a meeting
with teachers and staff, using a checklist. Participants exchanged their views on
what lays behind the success of that school.

4. Findings and Analysis

4.1. Grading system

In Rwanda there are five subjects which are examined at the national
examinations at the end of primary school: mathematics, science and elementary
technology, social studies, English and Kinyarwanda6. The school year runs
from January/February till November. School leaving examinations are held in
November. Independent teachers do the marking during sessions under

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direction of REB in a few centres at national level. REB collects the marks. In
January or February the results become available at district level.

For each subject a learner gets a mark between 1 (best) and 9 (worst). Then the
aggregate is calculated. This runs from 5 (all subjects scored 1) to 45 (all subjects
scored 9). According to their aggregated marks learners are classified in five
categories. From the listed results of the schools in Rulindo district at 2014
examinations (Republic of Rwanda, 2015a, b, c, d) one can deduce that the
following ordering criteria7 were used:

Marks aggregated Classification

5 to 15 Division I
16 to 30 Division II
31 to 37 Division III
38 to 41 Division IV
42 to 45 Unclassified

So even with an aggregate of 41, for instance with four 9s and one 5, a learner
will pass examination. As an example, this means that a learner who failed
completely for math, science and elementary technology, social studies and
English, and who has a mediocre result for Kinyarwanda would nevertheless
pass. That means that this grading system allows learners to pass examination
with extremely poor results.
So, when one wants to judge the performance of a particular school it is not
sufficient to look at the pass rate. One should also look at the distribution over

4.2. Divisions
Only a very small proportion of learners earn a place in the first division. At
national level at 2015 examination no more than 4.04 % of candidates were
classified in div I (Tashobya, 2016). Learners who are classified in divisions I and
II get an admission letter for secondary boarding school.

Now we turn to the schools of Rulindo District. The results at national

examination 2013 were used to find the distribution of divisions. The largest
group between all candidates of the district (6,021), is that of unclassified
learners (37.3%). The second largest category consists of the ones who pass in
division IV (28.9%). The smallest group are the ones in division I. The
percentages for each category go down from div IV to div I.
However, passing in division IV is not at all a satisfactory result, as explained
above. See figure 1 (by author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2014a).

The pass rate at 2013 school leaving examination in Rulindo District was 62.7%,
which is low compared to the nation-wide pass rate of 84% (Rwirahira, 2014).
The graph shows that in Rulindo District in 2013, notwithstanding a pass rate of
over sixty percent, two out of every three learners left primary school with
hardly any knowledge (div IV plus unclassified) as measured at national
examinations. The same pattern is seen in many schools in the district. So,

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thanks to the division system presentation of school performance in terms of

pass rate is quite embellishing.

It is useful for head teachers to draw such a graph for their own school, in order
to get a better insight in how the pass rate at their school is built up.

Figure 1: Distribution over divisions at national examination 2013 all 6,021 learners
of the district

However, some schools deviate sharply from this average pattern, for instance
the #1 school of Rulindo district8.This is a rural public school, not at all in a
privileged socio-economic situation9. It had 41 learners in P6. All of them passed:
seventy percent in division II, no one in division IV. See figure 2 (by author,
based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015a). The graph shows a kind of bell shape
around an average value: the large majority of learners pass in division II, some
perform better, some perform less good. No one fails or leaves school with poor
knowledge (div IV).

all learners school B


Figure 2: Distribution over divisions at #1 school of the district

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4.3. Marks
As we have seen above (figure 1), the large majority of candidates in Rulindo
District are performing poorly. In most schools the average mark for all subjects
but Kinyarwanda is somewhere between 8 and 9. So it is quite useless to
calculate the average mark for a certain subject if one wants to evaluate the effect
of teaching in that subject. Therefore we decided to look at the distribution of
marks. As far as we know this has not been done before in Rwanda.
As no aggregate results for all schools of the district were available, we
calculated the distribution of marks from the listed results of individual schools,
in this case at national examination 2014 (Republic of Rwanda, 2015a, b, c, d).

We singled out four schools to study the distributions of marks:

A. a groupe scolaire (or GS, combination of primary and secondary) with
73 learners in P610. In many respects this school can be seen as an
average school.
B. the #1 school of the district (mentioned above), an cole primaire (or EP,
primary school), having 43 learners in P611.
C. an EP with 79 learners in P612. In this school, in comparison with the
average school, a relative large number of learners earned an admission
letter to boarding school.
D. a government aided GS, the #1 school of a neighbouring district, having
67 learners in P613.

4.3.1. All subjects

The distribution of marks at school A for all five subjects combined and for all
learners together is shown in the left graph of figure 3 (by author, based on
Republic of Rwanda, 2015a). More than 40 percent of all marks are 9, which
means complete failure. The next largest group is that of 8s etc., with a smaller
number of learners for every better mark. Not one learner had an 1 or 2 for any
subject. If we define a score of 5 or better (on a scale from 1 to 9) to be
satisfactory, only 15% of marks are satisfactory.
Nevertheless, the pass rate is 64%. According to pass rate this school is in line
with the district average, which was 63% in 2014.

Figure 3: Distribution of marks for all subjects at an average school and at the #1

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Completely different is the situation at school B, the #1 of the district, which

boasts a pass rate of 100% (Republic of Rwanda, 2015b). See right graph of figure
3. Here the distribution of marks shows the typical bell shape one would expect:
there is a more or less symmetrical distribution around the average value. The
average score lies between 5 and 6, which is just satisfactory. Although being the
#1 school of the district, there clearly remains a lot of room for improvement:
one would expect such a well performing school to have more learners with
high marks.

4.3.2. Kinyarwanda, English, mathematics

To investigate whether some subjects are dominant in producing these
differences between both schools, the distribution of marks for three subjects has
been analysed: Kinyarwanda, English and mathematics. Kinyarwanda was
chosen because it is the only subject (from primary four onwards) taught and
examined in the mother tongue. So the results for this subject should reflect the
intellectual abilities of the learners and the quality of education in general,
without interference by mastery of English. English was chosen because it is the
medium of instruction and examination in all other subjects. So mastery of
English is an important prerequisite for successful participation in the other
lessons (except those in the mother tongue) and consequently for success at
national exam. Mathematics was chosen because it is by many considered to be
the most difficult subject. If learners have problems with understanding the
teacher because of the medium of instruction and because of the difficulty of the
subject, they will be doubly handicapped when doing exam.

We juxtapose the results of schools A and B for Kinyarwanda. See figure 4 (by
author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015a, b). As could be expected, the
results for mother tongue examination are better than the overall picture of all
subjects together (figure 3). Both graphs have a similar form: more or less a bell
shape. But when looking closer, one sees an important difference. In school B,
the #1 school, about eighty percent of the learners have a satisfactory result (5 or
better), whereas in school A, the average GS, only a bit more than thirty percent
of the learners have a satisfactory mark for the mother tongue exam.

Kinyarwanda school A Kinyarwanda school B

30% 30%

20% 20%

10% 10%

0% 0%
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Figure 4: Distribution of marks for Kinyarwanda at an average school and at the #1

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As it is unlikely that the intellectual abilities of learners of both schools differ so

much, one is tempted to suppose that this reflects the quality of teaching in these

Because for all subjects except Kinyarwanda English is the medium of
instruction and also of examination, it is essential that learners have a basic
knowledge of this language to be able to perform in other subjects as well.
However, a large majority of learners (57%) at school A have a very poor
knowledge of English (mark 8 or 9). See figure 5, left graph (by author, based on
Republic of Rwanda, 2015a). Clearly, learners do have problems to understand
and answer the questions at the mathematics, science and social studies exams
when their knowledge of English is inadequate. Only 17% of the candidates in
this average school show to have good or satisfactory knowledge of English
(marks 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5).

English school A. English school B

40% 40%

30% 30%

20% 20%

10% 10%

0% 0%
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 5: Distribution of marks for English at an average school and at the #1 school

The situation is very different in the #1 school. See right graph in figure 5 (by
author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015b). Here 44% of the candidates
appear to have satisfactory knowledge of English. Only one learner got an 8
(2%), no one a 9.

* mathematics
Math is considered to be the most difficult subject. One can expect that learners
who have difficulty with English are specially at a disadvantage when doing
math exam.

Indeed, the results at the average school A are extremely low: seventy percent
of the learners got a 9. See figure 6 (by author, based on Republic of Rwanda,
2015a, b). A meagre 7% performed satisfactory (mark 5 or better). Although still
poor, the results at the #1 school, school B, are clearly better. Here the graph
shows the beginning of a bell shape. The percentage of learners who fail
completely (mark 9) is not higher than 16%.

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The impact of the results at mathematics on the overall distribution of marks is

evident. One can assume the reason for very poor performance by candidates of
the average school A at math is to be found in the weak results for English
(compare the corresponding graphs in figures 5 and 6).

math school A
math school B
60% 40%

40% 20%

20% 0%
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 6: Distribution of marks for Mathematics at an average school and at the #1


4.3.3. Partition
Now school C comes in. This EP (primary only) was praised rightly by district
authorities for having a relatively large number of learners who got an
admission letter for boarding school. So in this school talented learners are
served well at least in comparison with the average school.

However, the distribution of marks for Kinyarwanda at this school has a

peculiar shape. See figure 7, left graph (by author, based on Republic of Rwanda,
2015c). It looks as if two graphs have been superimposed. Although nearly forty
percent of candidates score a 9, giving a high peak, the distribution for the other
sixty percent is like a bell. Quite a few have a satisfactory result (5 or better),
together 41% of the learners.

Kinyarwanda school C English school C math school C
50% 50% 50%

40% 40% 40%

30% 30% 30%
20% 20% 20%
10% 10% 10%
0% 0% 0%
1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9

Figure 7: Partitioned distribution of marks at school with many admission letters

More or less the same applies to English and mathematics. See figure 7 centre
and right graphs. Especially the result for mathematics is much better than that

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of average school A. A higher percentage of learners of school C have been able

to pick up enough from their lessons to produce at least some good answers
(marks 8 and higher).

How this reflects in the distribution of divisions in school C is shown in figure 8

(by author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015c). Compared to the average of all
schools of the district (figure 1, above) the difference is striking. Although the
percentage of unclassified learners (48%) is much higher than the average of the
district (37%), the distribution over divisions of the ones who pass shows much
more of a bell shape. The largest group in this partition is in division II.

all learners school C


Figure 8: Partitioned distribution over divisions at school with many admission


So this school C shows two faces. The graphs suggest that the learners in this P6-
class have been unintentionally without doubt - partitioned in two sub groups.
One sub group consists of learners who fail for all subjects. They seem to have
been lost on the way: not even for Kinyarwanda they succeed. The teaching has
not reached them. This regards about half of the learners.
In contrast, the second sub group seems to have been really involved in the
educational process. For every subject the marks produce a bell shape. And so
they deliver a bell shape for divisions. More than forty percent of the learners in
this sub group are either in division I or in division II, earning them an
admission letter to boarding school. So this is truly a result the school may be
proud of, although the overall picture is less bright: the general pass rate (52%) is
below the district average (63%).

4.3.4. Two #1 schools

In order to get more evidence about factors determining the difference between
the #1 school and the average school, the results of two#1 schools, school B of
Rulindo district and school D of a neighbouring district, have been studied for
Figure 9 (by author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015b, d) shows the
distribution of learners over divisions. Essentially both #1 schools show the
same traits: 100% pass rate, largest group in division II, no learners in division

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IV. The only difference is: the percentages of learners in divisions I and II in
school D are even higher than in school B.

divisions school B divisions school D


80% 80%

60% 60%

40% 40%

20% 20%


Figure 9: Distribution over divisions at the #1 schools of two districts

Also the underlying distributions of marks for Kinyarwanda, English and math
are similar. See figure 10 (by author, based on Republic of Rwanda, 2015d). Still,
in both schools there is space enough for improvement, especially with regard to

Kinyarwanda school B English school B math school B

40% 40% 40%

30% 30% 30%

20% 20% 20%

10% 10% 10%

0% 0% 0%
1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9

Kinyarwanda school D English school D math school D
40% 40%

30% 30% 30%

20% 20% 20%

10% 10% 10%

0% 0% 0%
1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9 1 3 5 7 9

Figure 10: Distribution of marks at #1 schools of two districts

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4.3.5. Pass rate is not enough

Concluding, this analysis shows that pass rate in itself doesnt tell a lot about
performance of a school at national examination. Distribution over divisions
adds useful information about how the pass rate is built up, but really valuable
information about strengths and weaknesses for any subject is found by looking
at the distribution of marks.
It would be worthwhile for head teachers and education officers to analyse the
distribution of marks when evaluating school performance.

5. Critical Success Factors

Based on observations and discussions at an exchange visit14 to school D, the #1
school of a neighbouring district, the following factors were tentatively judged
to be pivotal for making these #1 schools in the rural context of the district -
more successful than the average school:

Ownership. Head teacher and teachers cooperate closely; so do teachers and

learners; the head teacher discusses educational policies with parents; the school
has strong ties with local community and local authorities. Therefore all
stakeholders experience ownership of this school.

Medium of instruction. English is used extensively in teaching as well as in daily

school life; learners and teachers get accustomed to using English easily;
balanced use of English and Kinyarwanda to make sure all learners understand
the teaching.

Learner centred methodology. All learners are involved in the lesson; they are
actively constructing knowledge and skills; progress is assessed continuously at
individual level; didactic materials are exposed at the walls; teachers show
personal interest in their pupils.

Leadership. The head teacher discusses educational policy and performance with
teaching staff and stimulates the development of a shared vision; the head
teacher sets an example (punctuality, behaviour, visibility); goals and targets are
shared by all; the head teacher promotes cooperation between teachers and
creates an atmosphere in which everyone is eager to learn from experiences; the
head teacher masters a variety of leadership styles according to what is
necessary in the specific situation. The result is shared leadership.

Incentives. Teachers and learners are praised or awarded for excellent

performance; there are competitions to strive for the best.

Planning. Strategic plans, action plans and lesson plans are made according to a
plandocheckact scheme; targets are formulated specific, measurable,
achievable, relevant, time-bound (SMART); bench marks are used to compare
school performance with other schools which serve as a reference.

These supposed prerequisites for success are in line with research findings.
Essential factors for effective teaching and learning include: curriculum,
pedagogy, didactic materials, continuous assessment, good teachers, learning

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time. Quality education is dependent on school leadership and students

nutrition and health (Hewlett Foundation, 2006).

However, different studies lead to different conclusions. Recently there have

been several systematic reviews and meta-analyses into the interventions that
lead to improved learning outcomes in developing countries (Kremer, 2013).
Some reviews show that the use of information technology leads to the greatest
improvement in student learning, others find this is done by interventions
regarding information about school quality. Sometimes even the availability of
basic infrastructure proves to be most effective (Evans, 2015).

Although there are strong indications that the above-mentioned factors are
critical for success of the #1 schools, they remain to be supported by further

6. Conclusion and Discussion

The above analysis shows on the one hand that the average results at national
examination of the schools of Rulindo District are very weak. The division
system for classifying learners, at which learners with very poor results still can
pass, conceals this sobering fact. On the other hand the analysis shows that some
schools are able to perform much better, although they are not in a socio-
economic privileged situation.
So the optimistic conclusion could be that for all schools a considerable
improvement in performance is within reach, if lessons to be learned from
successful schools are taken into consideration.

The main reason behind the poor performance at the average school seems to be
that a large proportion of learners did not really particate in the educational
process. Their results for all subjects are very weak, even for the mother tongue
subject. This is not because they are lacking intellectual abilities, as under similar
circumstances their fellow learners at #1 schools perform well. So this suggests it
must be a consequence of the way they are taught.
The performance of school C indicates what progress can be achieved by better
addressing individual learners. Although half of the learners have not been able
to produce any good result, the distribution of the marks of the other learners
shows a bell shape around a mean value. Such a partition in haves and have-
nots is not desirable, of course. But the example of this school suggests that if
the proficiency in English is better and the teaching is more learner-centred a
larger proportion of learners can get satisfactory results.

Concluding, the first crucial factor for improvement seems to be mastery of the
medium of instruction by learners. According to a 2011 USAID study, 62% of
Rwandan Primary 6 students were unable to respond correctly to even one
comprehension question in a simple English text intended for children in
Primary 1 and Primary 2. (Reddick, 2015). In a study by Pearson (2014), none
of the Rwandan teachers (from both rural and urban schools) reported to have
sufficient skills to teach in English(Sibomana, 2014).

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Our research shows the correlation between poor performance at English and
the results in other subjects that are taught and examined in English. Problems
with English seem to be at the root of disappointing results. Change of this state
of affairs cannot be achieved exclusively by better teaching in the English
lessons. Learners should be surrounded by the English language for many hours
each day. This can be achieved by a range of activities, such as meetings,
debates, competitions, etc. (Sibomana, 2014).

The government recognizes the need for addressing the role of English. That is
why in 2012 it introduced the English Language School-based Mentors
programme, by which over 800 mentors were recruited and distributed across
the country, but that programme has been suspended in 2015 to allow for
restructuring. The government wants all schools to have a resident mentor
(Buhungiro, 2015). It is yet unclear when and how the programme will be
resumed. So, schools should not wait for the government. There is a lot which
can be done, using the #1 schools as an example.

The second crucial factor for success regards pedagogy and didactics in general:
learner-centred methodology. Although a lot of effort has been given to promote
learner-centred teaching, in most schools teacher-centred methodology is
predominant. The implementation of new curricula for primary and secondary
schools between 2006 and 2010 in most schools of Rulindo has not done enough
to change this situation.
In retrospect these curricula are called knowledge based (Kwibuka, 2015), but
in fact they were already explicitly aiming for learner- centred approach
(Republic of Rwanda, 2010b). The new curriculum which is being implemented
currently is even more explicit: The curriculum must address learners
individual needs, interests, abilities and backgrounds, creating an environment
where learning activities are organized in a way that encourages learners to
construct the knowledge either individually or in groups in an active way. In
short: a competence-based approach (Republic of Rwanda, 2015g).

However, not necessarily the implementation of new curricula which are based
on learner-centred methodology leads to teaching on that basis, as experiences
from other developing countries show (Pritchett, 2012). In Uganda teachers told
researchers that they did not feel well equipped to implement the new thematic
curriculum. The confusion and inadequate information even lead to resentment
and opposition, which was not supportive for effective implementation
(Altinyelkin, 2010). In Tanzania, for secondary schools, it was found that the
majority of interviewed teachers did not grasp what is meant by the concept
competence-based (Komba, 2015).

When many teachers do not understand the implications of the new curriculum
for their way of teaching, they need to be trained to teach in a more learner-
centred way. Leadership will be needed to bring along necessary changes. The
quality of teaching and the quality of school leadership are dominant school-
related factors for learning results (Peeraer, 2014). The evaluation document of
26 education innovation projects in Rwanda concluded, Significantly, for

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


projects across all the themes, securing the support of head teachers was shown
to be crucial in the implementation of any innovation implemented in the school.
It became clear that head teachers need to be actively involved in some way with
discrete roles that enable them to support innovation. () School leaders need to
be clear of their given roles so that these are not at odds with their other
priorities or responsibilities. (Innovation for Education, 2016a)

7. Further Research
The aim of any school improvement should be: achieving learning outcomes for
all. It is clear that this goal is still far away for the average school in Rulindo

The new curriculum, of which the implementation began in 2016, is supposed to

be competence-based. It requires schools to give skills and attitudes a prominent
place in their educational programmes. However, any new curriculum will not
change the situation for the better as long as there is no change away from
traditional teacher-centred methods. That means, the new curriculum could and
should be used as a stimulus to strengthen learner-centred methodology. In the
Rwandan context it is a precondition that teachers and learners become versed
in English.

Further research could be action research, connected to the introduction of the

new curriculum, into the effects on performance of learner-centred
methodology, emphasis on the medium of instruction, and of shared leadership.
It would be worth wile to include the points of view of head teachers, teachers
and even learners.

Altinyelken, H.K. (2010). Curriculum change in Uganda: Teacher perspectives on the
new thematic curriculum. International Journal of Educational Development 30151-161
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Buhungiro, E. (2015). School mentors programme: The successes and challenges. New
Times (Sep 16).
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EFA Global Monitoring Report (2015). Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and
Challenges. Unesco.
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Evans, D., Popova, A. (2015). What Really Works to Improve Learning in Developing
Countries? World Bank Group Africa Region
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HakiElimu (2012). School Children and National Examinations: Who Fails Who? Dar es
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Hewlett Foundation (2006). The Quality Education in Developing Countries Initiative

Grantmaking Strategy
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Innovation for Education (2016a). Learning from Innovation for Education in Rwanda
(2016). Partnership between the Governments of Rwanda and the United Kingdom.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Innovation for Education (2016b). Achieving Learning Outcomes for All (ALOA).
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Kassile, T. (2014). Pass rates in primary school leaving examination in Tanzania:

implication for efficient allocation of resources. South African Journal of Education 34
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Kellaghan, T., Greaney, V. and Murray, T. (2009). National Assessments of Educational

Achievement Volume 5: Using the Results of a National Assessment of Educational
Achievement. World Bank.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Komba, S. C., & Mwandanji, M. (2015). Reflections on the Implementation of

Competence Based Curriculum in Tanzanian Secondary Schools. Journal of Education
and Learning. Vol.4, No. 2.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Kremer, M., Brannen, C., & Glennerster, R. (2013). The challenge of education and
learning in the developing world. Science, 340, 297-300.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, via

Kwibuka, E. (2015). New skills-centred curriculum unveiled. New Times (Apr 24).
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

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Pearson, P. (2014). Policy without a plan: English as a medium of instruction in Rwanda.

Current Issues in Language Planning, Vol.15 Iss.1.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, via

Peeraer, J., Zult, H., Mugenzi, L. (2014). Coaching school leadership in Primary
Education in Rwanda. Evolutions in Head Teachers self-assessment. Rwandan
Journal of Education Vol.2 Iss.2.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Pritchett, L. and Beatty, A. (2012). The negative consequences of Overambitious

Curricula in Developing Countries.
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Reddick, C. (2015). Alternatives to Current Medium of Instruction Policy in Rwandan

Primary Schools. Harvard Graduate School of Education
Retrieved August 28, 2016, via

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primary schools in Rwanda.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Republic of Rwanda (2010b). Science and elementary technology curriculum for upper
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Republic of Rwanda (2014a). Rulindo District Education Office. Rulindo Primary Data.
Table III.8. National Exam Performance during 2013 by subjects.
Internal document

Republic of Rwanda (2014b). Rulindo District Education Office. National Examinations

Results 2013.
Internal document

Republic of Rwanda. Rwanda Education Board. Examination Results Primary 2014.

Hard copies distributed available at district education office of
(2015a) GS Masoro,
(2015b) EP Ruvumba,
(2015c) EP Sayo
(2015d) GS Musasa.
Internal documents

Republic of Rwanda (2015f). Rwanda unveils competence-based curriculum to guarantee

a better quality of education.

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Retrieved August 28, 2016, from


Republic of Rwanda (2015g). Ministry of Education. Competence-based Curriculum.

Summary of curriculum framework pre-primary to upper secondary.
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Syllabuses. Foreword.
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East African (Jan 25)
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challenges and promises. Rwandan Journal of Education Vol.2 Iss.2.
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Tashobya, A. (2016). P6, Olevel results out. New Times (Jan 14)
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

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Rwanda: Voices from Kigali Public Schools
Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

VSO International (2016). About VSO.

Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

1 Retired CEO in secondary education in The Netherlands, independent replacement
head teacher and advisor. He worked for over a year for VSO as education
leadership advisor in Rulindo district, North Province.
Opinions expressed in this article are strictly his own.

2 As the number one (#1) school is seen the school which performs best according to
pass rate.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


3 That doesnt take away that it would be useful to do research on the examination
itself. Are the school children failing the national examinations or vice versa; that
is, are the national examinations failing the school children? (HakiElimu, 2012).
Because the instrument used to measure students achievement is the cornerstone
of a national assessment, its quality will affect the use that can be made of findings.
() The tests used in many national assessments do not meet [the] conditions. They
may be limited to measuring lower order levels of knowledge and skills, they may
not contain a sufficient number of items, and they may be too difficult, with the
result that potential users do not have a reliable basis for policy and decisions.
(Kellaghan and Greaney, 2009).

4 January 2014 till March 2015, within the Achieving Learning Outcomes for All
project, UK Department for International Development (Innovation for Education,
2016a, b).

5 VSO is the worlds leading international development organisation that uses

volunteers to fight poverty and reduce inequality (VSO International, 2016)

6 The Rwandan system is very similar to the system used in Uganda. Also the
subjects are the same. However, in Uganda there are only four subjects in national
primary school leaving examinations: there is no national examination in a local

7 For the national examination at the end of lower secondary education, the same
division system is being used, with its own criteria for classifying in a certain

8 EP Ruvumba, a public school in Tumba sector

9 Data about the socio-economic context of the #1 schools compared to the average
schools have not been found. The statement is based on oral information given by
head teachers and district office.

10 GS Masoro, a government aided school in Masoro sector

11 EP Ruvumba, a public school in Tumba sector

12 EP Sayo, a public school in Kisaro sector

13 GS Musasa, a government aided school in Gitovu sector, Burera district

14 Head teachers and sector education officers of three sectors of Rulindo district.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 118-133, August 2016

Teacher Evaluation and Quality of Pedagogical

Paul Malunda1, David Onen2, John C. S. Musaazi3 & Joseph Oonyu4
College of Education and External Studies
Makerere University, Uganda

Abstract. This study explored the extent to which teacher evaluation

influences the quality of pedagogical practices in public secondary
schools in Uganda. It was triggered by the persistent criticisms about the
deteriorating quality of teaching and learning in secondary schools in
the country. The study was approached from the positivist research
paradigm. However, a descriptive cross-sectional survey research
design was specifically used to conduct the study. Data were collected
from 76 head teachers and 960 teachers drawn from 95 public secondary
schools and two officials from the Ugandas Ministry of Education,
Science, Technology and Sports (MoESTS) using survey and interview
methods. Ordered logistic regression and content analysis methods of
data analysis were used to establish the influence of teacher evaluation
on the quality of pedagogical practices in the schools. Study findings
revealed that both formative (coeff. =5.557; p=0.000<.05) and summative
(coeff. =3.056; p=0.000<.05) teacher evaluations significantly influence
the quality of pedagogical practices in school. Thus, it was concluded
that the way teachers teach, is partly determined by how well and
regularly they are evaluated, other factors notwithstanding. Therefore,
the researchers recommended that in order to enhance the quality of
pedagogical practices, MoESTS needs to develop standard formative
evaluation tools that can be used for continuous teacher evaluation as
well as train head teachers on how to effectively appraise their staff.

Keywords: teacher evaluation; pedagogical practices; quality; teachers;

secondary schools.

The provision of public education is one of the primary duties of any state. This
explains why the Government of Uganda, over the last two decades, has been
heavily investing in improving access to, and quality of public education.
Although access at both primary and secondary levels of education appears to
have been widened, the quality of education in the country generally seems to
remain a big challenge (Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports
[MoESTS], 2014; National Planning Authority [NPA], 2010). For instance,
according to the Directorate of Education Standards (DES) report of 2012, the
pedagogical practices in secondary schools in Uganda were at variance with the
expectations of Government and the curriculum planners. In fact, even the

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


subsequent annual reports of the Directorate have repeatedly revealed that the
way teachers working in the secondary schools in Uganda teach, does not
conform to the classroom standards set by the Directorate as well as the National
Curriculum Development Centre [NCDC] (Curriculum Assessment and
Examination [CURASSE], 2007). According to these reports, most teachers in
secondary schools in Uganda do not adequately prepare for lessons, and many
still use mainly teacher-centred instead of the desired student-centred
pedagogies. Besides, the teachers all seem bent on teaching students to cram
subject materials for passing national examinations rather than to equip the
students with high order thinking and life skills (Uganda National Examinations
Board [UNEB], 2012). All these are happening amidst efforts by Government to
introduce performance contracts that involve rigorous evaluations of how public
servants - including teachers do their work. This study was conducted to explore
the extent to which teacher evaluation influences the quality of pedagogical
practices in public secondary schools in Uganda.

In this study, two key concepts were considered: teacher evaluation and quality
of pedagogical practices. According to Darling-Hammond as cited by Zepeda
(2010), teacher evaluation refers to the process of establishing whether teachers
are conforming to set standards and procedures in the teaching and learning
process or not so that corrective measures can be taken. Phillips, Balan and
Manko (2014) meanwhile look at teacher evaluation as the means by which
school administrators provide a review of what has been accomplished and
what has to be done by teachers in the short and long-run. According to
Orenaiya, Adenowo, Aroyeum and Odosoga (2014), teacher evaluation enhances
accountability, motivates teachers, facilitates professional development,
promotes teaching quality; and above all, it augments students learning. In this
study, teacher evaluation was looked at in terms of formative and summative
evaluations. Formative evaluation - also known as developmental appraisal,
refers to a qualitative assessment on the teachers current practice, aimed at
identifying strengths and weaknesses and providing adequate professional
development opportunities to improve on their weaknesses (Isor, 2009, p.7).
It is carried out to determine the teachers mastery of his/her subject content,
and to identify areas in which a teacher is less competent (Harris, 1986) with the
aim of providing support through continuous professional development and
practice (Papay, 2012). In this study, formative evaluation was characterised by
regular short-visits to classrooms, review of teaching artefacts, and the provision
of feedback to teachers by head teachers. Summative teacher evaluation on the
other hand, is an overall assessment of the teachers performance, often used for
accountability and making personnel decisions such as on promotions (or
demotions) and salary increments (Elliott, 2015; OECD, 2013). In the case of
Uganda, summative evaluation of teachers is often undertaken in form of annual
performance appraisal, which according to the Public Service Standing Orders
(Ministry of Public Service, 2010), is expected to be conducted at school level by
head teachers who are the immediate supervisors of teachers by December 31st
of every year. In the case of this study, summative evaluation was looked in
terms of the evaluation conducted by respective public school head as
prescribed by the Ministry of Public Service of Uganda

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The dependent variable in this study was quality of pedagogical practices. First,
pedagogical practices refer to teaching strategies that are used by teachers.
Therefore, when we talk about quality of pedagogical practices, Kahsay (2012)
says, they are teaching strategies that enhance learning and focus on the quality
of learning outcomes. In that case, quality of pedagogical practices is about the
effectiveness of teaching strategies used by teachers. For the case of Uganda,
NCDC and DES have set standards that define quality pedagogical practices.
The standards spell out what the teachers should be able to do in the process of
teaching. In this study, these standards were the ones that were used as
indicators of quality of pedagogical practices.

Contextually, this study was undertaken in public secondary schools in Uganda.

It was prompted by the fact that despite Governments initiatives to improve the
quality of education in the country, the quality of pedagogical practices at
secondary school level remains poor (MoES, 2013a). The poor quality of
pedagogical practices has been manifested in diverse ways. For instance, there
have been reportedly poor scheming and lesson planning by teachers; more use
of teacher-centred rather than learner-centred pedagogies; and dominant
application of theoretical rather than practical approaches to the teaching of
sciences (UNEB, 2011; MoES, 2012; Uganda National Council for Science and
Technology Report [UNCST], 2012). Furthermore, assessments of students have
been geared towards passing national examinations instead focusing at
achieving other objectives of the curriculum like the uplifting of moral values,
imparting of practical skills and engaging learners in social and cultural
activities. In fact, the decline in the conformance to guidelines laid down by
NCDC by teachers in secondary schools has been attributed to the weak teacher
supervision and evaluation systems (MoES, 2012). Kagolo (2014) earlier revealed
that the evaluations of teachers in public secondary schools in Uganda have
been badly conducted with very appalling feedback being given to the teachers.
This kind of scenario, Teacher Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (TISSA) advised
in their 2013 report to be urgently addressed if the quality of Ugandas
education system is to improve (MoES, 2013b). Nagel (2003), in fact, counselled
that neglecting the quality of pedagogical practices could have serious
repercussions on the countrys quality of education in general, and its
development in particular. This study was thus specifically designed to establish
the extent to which formative and summative teacher evaluations explained
variations in the quality of pedagogical practices in public secondary schools in

Literature Review
Theoretical Review. This study was underpinned by the PlanDoCheckAct
(PDCA) model of quality enhancement that was postulated in 1929 by Walter
Shewhart (Chaffee & Sherr, 1992). This model was later in the 1950s popularised
by the quality guru, Edwards Deming. According to the model, a continuous
feedback loop is essential in order to analyse, measure, and identify sources of
variation from customer requirements so as to take action for continual quality
improvement (Deming, 1986). As a result, the model indicates that any

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


improvement should always begin with systematic planning. This, the model
adds, should lead affective action, and finally proceed to systematic planning in
a cyclical manner. Oakland (1993) refers to this pattern of quality improvement
where the completion of one cycle continues with the beginning of the next -
Demings never ending quality cycle. The PDCA cycle is illustrated as in Figure


Act Do

Figure 1: The PDCA cycle Source: Deming (1986) p.134)
According to Figure 1, the PDCA cycle goes through four phases. Phase 1, Plan
it involves establishing the objectives and processes required to deliver results in
agreement with the expected output. Phase 2, Do it involves executing the plan
or effecting the processes and making the product. Phase 3, Check it involves
studying the actual results and comparing them against the expected results.
Finally, Phase 4, Act it involves using the results to improve further what is
being done. According to Phillips, Balan and Manko (2014), the PDCA model is
relevant in ensuring quality improvement in different aspects of education,
including the quality of pedagogical practices. The researchers agree with this
observation. Thus, in this study, the model was opted for because the
researchers also concurred with Ayeni (2011) who hypothesised that to ensure
continuous improvement in the quality of education, the teaching and learning
activities need to be regularly evaluated against the set objectives and standards,
and corrective actions need to be taken to produce the desired changes with
regard to efficiency, quality, and satisfaction. As a result, it was believed that the
quality of pedagogical practices in secondary schools in Uganda would be
improved through the process of collecting data for evaluation purposes;
making classroom observations, evaluating the teaching practices, analysing
data to determine areas that need to be improved, and providing relevant
professional development for teachers following the PDCA cycle.

Related Literature. Some earlier scholars have already attempted to investigate the
linkage between evaluation and the performance of teachers in different settings.
Some of these studies established the existence of a strong relationship between
teacher evaluation and the quality of teaching and learning in schools.
Milanowski (2011) and Marshall (2009) for instance examined how teacher
evaluation influences the quality of pedagogical practices. They discovered that
formative evaluation through regular classroom observations, review of
classroom artefacts, and checking of learners note books by school
administrators lead to improved quality of teaching and learning. Pappy (2012)

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


did a similar study and concurred with Milanowski and Marshall - except she
emphasised the fact that for formative teacher evaluation to enhance the quality
of teaching and learning, it must be directly linked to teacher professional
growth and development.

Meanwhile, a study conducted in three rural districts of Uganda on Teacher

supervision practices by Kalule (2014) established that head teachers who are
expected to conduct formative teacher evaluation lacked the required training
and skills needed for the job. This implies that the benefits of teacher evaluation
in Uganda may not be reaped as expected. Furthermore, analysis from a survey
carried out in 10 districts of Uganda by DES in 2012 (MoES, 2012) revealed that
only 20 percent of the school administrators often conduct classroom
observations or review the classroom artefacts that the teachers in secondary
schools in Uganda use during teaching. This means that many head teachers in
the country do not know what could be happening in the classrooms in their
schools. The DES report however, does not give the reasons for the
administrators failure to conduct formative evaluations as expected. In a study
by Donaldson and Peske (2010) in five chartered schools in the USA, they found
that failure of the school administrators to conduct formative evaluations, and
lack of competencies and skills to effectively appraise and provide quality
feedback on the evaluation of teachers that could inform professional growth
was responsible for the ineffective teaching of several teachers. This scenario
may not be any different from the Ugandas case.

Some studies have also been conducted on the linkage between summative
evaluation and the quality of teaching and learning. For instance, Mpokosa and
Ndaruhutse (2008) revealed that there is a significant relationship between
summative evaluation and the quality of teaching and learning. But while the
two authors assert that summative teacher evaluation plays a significant role in
enhancing the quality of pedagogical practices, Mielke and Frontier (2012) are of
the view that summative evaluations do not support teacher professional
growth since the judgmental nature of the evaluation impacts negatively on the
self-esteem of the teachers. In fact, they suggest that an evaluation system that
allows teachers to appraise themselves and suggest areas for professional
development is better than the one carried out at the end of the activity. Shorter
(2013) further reiterates that summative evaluation contributes to the
deterioration of collegial relationships, feelings of mistrust, fear, nervousness,
and tension during the time of appraisal (p.ii). Therefore, such kind of
appraisal can be harmful to the staff that are praised if it is not appropriated
conducted. Musaazi (2006) then advises that for summative evaluations to be
effective, they must be frequently conducted in a cordial and collaborative
manner. However, this does not seem to be the case in most secondary schools
in Uganda. A report from the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES, 2013a)
shows that summative teacher evaluations in Uganda are irregular and
inconsistent. In fact, in the Education and Sports Sector Annual Performance
Report (ESAPR) of 2014/15, (MoESTS, 2015) indicated that several schools had
not conducted annual teacher appraisals for the previous two years. Donald and
Peske (2010) in their study of schools in the USA attributed failure of the school

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


administrators to conduct regular teacher performance appraisals and provide

quality feedback to teachers due to lack of time. They observed that few school
administrators had evaluation systems, competencies and skills to effectively
appraise and provide quality feedback on the appraisals that could inform
professional growth. This may partly explain the Ugandas scenario where head
teachers hardly conduct staff appraisals; yet, they are mandated to do so as part
of their responsibilities. In addition, the Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) report (2013) also observes that summative teacher
evaluation in the OECD countries influence career and remuneration, and
endorsements for under performance. However, in Uganda, teacher
performance appraisal contributes only 20 percent in the criteria considered for
promoting staff and does not have a direct influence on teacher salaries (World
Bank, 2012). This de-link between results of performance appraisal and
professional growth and remuneration renders teacher appraisal ineffective in
the country.

The study employed a descriptive cross-sectional sample survey design. The
target population was comprised of teachers, head teachers and officials from
the Directorate of Education Standards (DES). The study sample consisted of 934
teachers selected through multi-stage sampling technique, 95 head teachers, and
two officials from DES who were purposively selected. Data were collected
using three different data collection methods, namely: survey, interview and
observation methods. Three different instruments were also used to collect data.
First, a questionnaire whose items were adopted and modified from the teaching
and learning assessment instrument of DES comprised of three sections: A, B
and C was used to collect data from the teachers. Section A of the questionnaire
had six questions pertaining to respondents background information. Section B
was composed of seven questions aimed at finding out the respondents
opinions pertaining to teacher evaluation; and section C had 11 items aimed at
collecting respondents opinions on quality of pedagogical practices in public
secondary schools. The items in sections B and C were measured on a 5-point
Likert scale with the following categories: Strongly Agree (5), Agree (4), Non-
committal (3), Disagree (2) and Strongly Disagree (1). The questionnaire was
preferred in this case because the respondents were many but they could also all
read and write. This helped to save time and costs during the study. Second, to
elicit the opinions of DES inspectors and head teachers of the selected schools on
the contribution of teacher evaluation to the quality of pedagogical practices, the
interview method and its corresponding interview guide were used. The
interview method was opted for because it enabled further probing of the issues
that were being investigated. Third, the researchers used the observation
method to collect data. An observation check-list was adopted from DESs
teaching and learning quality instrument and used to conduct the observations.
This method made it possible to triangulate the information obtained through
the use of the other two methods described above. Overall, the instruments used
were pre-tested before the actual data collection was carried out. Descriptive and
inferential statistical methods were used to analyze quantitative data.
Specifically, the logistic regression model was used to establish the extent to

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which teacher evaluation influences the quality of pedagogical practices. The

tests of significance were performed at the probability level of p< 0.05.
Qualitative data were on the other hand analyzed using content analysis
method. In the next part of the paper, the findings of the study are presented.

First, the researchers present herein the background characteristics of the
respondents in order to portray that data were collected from an authentic group
of subjects. The results are presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Demographic characteristics of the respondents
Variable Category Frequency Percentage
Age Less than 20 years 6 .6
20 - 40 years 664 71.1
40 years and 264 28.3
Gender Male 644 69.0
Female 290 31.0
Highest level of Diploma 208 22.3
education Bachelors 577 61.8
Post-Graduate 149 15.9
Length of years in Less than 3 years 175 18.7
the school 3 to 10 years 554 59.4
10 years above 205 21.9

The results in Table 1 show that majority (71.1%) of the teachers were aged
between 20 and 40 years, demonstrating that majority were young and energetic
to effectively discharge instructional tasks. Results also suggest a gender
disparity in employment of teachers in public secondary schools with more male
teachers (69.0%) employed compared to their female counterparts (31.0%). The
results also show that the majority (83%) of the teachers had the requisite
qualification (at least a diploma) to teach at secondary school level,
demonstrating that the teachers in the system have the necessary qualifications
to offer quality teaching. In relation to numbers of years spent in the schools,
findings in Table 1 show that majority (81.3%) of the teachers had spent more
than three years in the sampled schools while 18.7 percent had spent less than
three years, indicating that teachers had long standing cognate experience in
serving as teachers.

Descriptive Results of on Teacher Evaluation

The researchers asked the teachers on how well they are evaluated by their head
teachers. The results indicating their views are presented in Table 2.

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Table 2: Distribution of teachers views on evaluation in public secondary schools in

Teacher Evaluation Disagree Non- Agree
Q5.The head of department assesses the way 369 51 514
I teach (39.5%) (5.5%) (55%)
Q6. I agree with my Head of Department on 391 37 507
the teaching and learning targets at the (41.8%) (3.9%) (54.3%)
beginning of every term.
Q7. Evaluations by Heads of Department are 391 51 492
based on the targets set and agreed upon at (41.8%) (5.5%) (52.7%)
the beginning of the term.
Q8. My head teacher annually appraises me. 148 57 729
(15.8%) (6.1%) (78.1%)
Q9. The head teacher discusses with me the 277 67 590
results of the annual appraisal. (29.7%) (7.1%) (63.2%)
Q10. Appraisal of my work is fair assessment 359 66 509
of my performance as a teacher in this school. (38.4%) (7.1%) (54.5%)
Q11. Appraisal of my performance has a 306 77 551
great impact on the way I teach in the (32.8%) (8.2%) (59.0%)

The results in Table 2 indicate that slightly over 50 percent of the teachers agreed
with their subject heads at the beginning of the academic term on the teaching
and learning targets and were appraised basing on these targets. Although 78
percent of the teachers agreed that they were annually appraised by the head
teachers, a lower percentage (63.2%) indicated that head teachers discussed with
them the results of the appraisals. This implied that several teachers did not
participate in setting performance targets and some head teachers did not give
feedback on the appraisals undertaken. The pattern of the responses was
maintained for all other questionnaire items concerning teacher evaluation.

Information from the interviews demonstrated that public secondary schools did
not have a systematic approach of evaluating teachers. Most schools evaluated
teachers basing on the students performance reflected in UNEB examination
results. The teachers whom the students performed well in their subjects were
rated as good performers and recognised with prizes! Furthermore, information
from the head teachers demonstrated that annual performance appraisal of
teachers in the majority of the selected secondary schools was not frequent
despite its being a requirement by the Ministry of Public Service. The
inconsistency in the annual appraisal of teachers was more pronounced in the
Universal Secondary Education (USE) schools than non-USE schools. Only 32
percent of the interviewed USE school head teachers had conducted staff
appraisals the previous year. Further analysis revealed that 42 percent of the
head teachers in the Elgon and 38 percent of head teachers in West Nile sub-
regions had not appraised their teachers for the previous two years.

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Further findings showed that some head teachers lacked the competency to
effectively appraise the teachers. Head teachers in the districts of Bulambuli,
Manafwa and Ntungamo acknowledged failure to determine the key
performance indicators and targets that would be used to appraise teachers.
According to one head teacher, the design of the appraisal form was general for
all civil servants and tailoring the format to teacher appraisal was our big
challenge. Some head teachers from West Nile Sub-region confessed that they
invited senior head teachers from neighbouring schools towards the end of the
year to help in the appraisal of their teachers. However, some of those head
teachers were unwilling to help junior ones. This means that lack of evaluation
skills amongst head teachers could be responsible for the irregular teacher
evaluation in secondary schools in Uganda.
Descriptive Results of Teachers Opinions on Quality of Pedagogical
Information on quality of pedagogical practices in public secondary schools was
sought from teachers and the findings are also presented in Table 3 below.
Table 3: Descriptive results of teachers perceptions on quality of pedagogical
Quality of Pedagogical Practices Disagree Non- Agree
I make schemes of work at the beginning of 154 2 778
every term (16.5%) (0.2%) (83.3%)
I make lesson plans for all my lessons 527 40 367
(56.4%) (4.3%) (39.3%)
I prepare class exercises for students before 257 17 660
the lessons. (27.5%) (1.8%) (70.7%)
I assess the student's prior knowledge and 82 16 836
skills at the start of a lesson. (8.8%) (1.7%) (89.5%)
I use a variety of teaching methods to improve 325 5 604
the quality of teaching. (34.8%) (5%) (64.7%)
I find explaining concepts clearly to learners 374 35 525
using real life examples a challenge. (40%) (3.7%) (56.2%)
I mark the class exercises while in class 388 32 514
(41.5%) (3.4%) (55.0%)
I give homework at the end of each lesson. 89 27 818
(9.5%) (2.9%) (87.6%
I go through marked homework exercises 353 53 528
with the students at the start of the lesson. (37.8%) (5.7%) (56.5%)
I give at least two tests in my subject per term. 260 31 643
(27.8%) (3.3%) (68.8%)
I return marked scripts in time before the next 134 22 778
test. (14.3%) (2.4%) (83.3%)
I make corrections when I return marked 111 19 804
scripts to students. (11.9%) (2.0%) (86.1%)

Table 3 shows that whereas 83.3 percent of the teachers agreed that they made
schemes of work at the beginning of every term, 56.4 percent perceived making
lesson plans a waste of time and 70.7% indicated that they prepared class

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exercises before their lessons. Other than making lesson plans, results indicate
that there is an effort made by teachers to prepare for lessons. Concerning the
teaching and learning process, 89.5 percent of the teachers indicated that they
assessed the students prior knowledge and skills at the beginning of the lesson
and 64.7 percent agreed that they used a variety of teaching methods to improve
the quality of teaching. Results also indicate that 54.8 percent of the teachers
gave class exercises while teaching. The majority (56.2%) of the teachers
indicated that they had challenges with explaining concepts using real life
examples. Regarding evaluation of students, 55.0 percent of the teachers marked
class exercises. Whereas 87.6 percent of the respondents agreed that they gave
homework, only 56.5 percent agreed that they revised marked homework with
the students. While 68.8 percent of the teachers gave at least two tests in the
subjects they taught per academic term, 83.3 percent returned marked scripts
before giving the next test. The majority (86.1%) of the respondents agreed that
they made corrections whenever they returned marked scripts. These results
show that teachers put more emphasis on marking tests other than the class
exercises and homework. Despite a general pattern of teachers indicating that
they were conforming to the set standard, interview with the head teachers,
lesson observation, and document review results demonstrated otherwise. This
cast doubt on the teachers positive responses to items on quality of pedagogical
practices. Could it have been that teachers feared to give negative responses to
items that examined their conformance to professional standards?

Although the majority of the teachers (83.3%) agreed that they made schemes of
work at every beginning of the term, document review revealed that most
schemes of work lacked evidence of planning for teaching or learning aids and
use of learner-based methods of teaching. Scrutiny of the schemes of work
revealed that most teachers did not refer to NCDC guidelines that emphasised
learner-based approaches of teaching and practical teaching of science subjects.
The head teachers explained that teachers found it difficult to go by the
guidelines because they would not be able to complete the syllabi in time for the
national examinations. Results of lesson observation showed that of the 106
teachers that were observed only 36 (33.9%) used learner-based methods. Of the
33.9 percent teachers who used a variety of teaching methods, 86 percent were
science or mathematics teachers. A review of 530 students exercise books
revealed that only 284 (53.5%) books had class exercises given and marked.
These findings were in agreement with descriptive results of the teachers
responses in Table 3 where 56.5 percent of the teachers indicated that they gave
and marked class exercises. Where class exercises or homework were marked,
only 196 (36%) of the teachers made constructive comments after marking the
students work. Overall, these results indicate the existence of poor quality of
pedagogical practices in the schools that were studied.

Factor analysis
Principal component factor analysis was conducted on the 7 variables related to
teacher evaluation to extract factors for regression analysis. The Rotated
Component Matrix showing factor loadings for each variable helped to identify

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factors that each variable loaded most strongly on. The factor loading matrix is
presented in Table 4 below.
Table 4: Factor loadings with communalities based on a principal component
analysis with rotated factor loadings
Variable Factor

Formative Summative
evaluation evaluation
Q5. The head of department assesses the way I teach 0.710
Q6. I agree with my Head of Department on the 0.853
teaching and learning targets at the beginning of
every term.
Q7. Evaluations by Heads of Department are based on 0.851
the targets set and agreed upon at the beginning of
the term.
Q8. My head teacher annually appraises me. 0.443 0.734
Q9. The head teacher discusses with me the results of 0.467 0.700
the annual appraisal.
Q10. Appraisal of my work is fair assessment of my 0.819
performance as a teacher in this school.
Q11. Appraisal of my performance has a great impact 0.786
on the way I teach in the classroom.
Note: factor loadings < 0.3 were suppressed
Results in Table 4 indicate that two factors were extracted that were renamed
formative evaluation and summative evaluation. Items Q5, Q6, Q7 and Q10
loaded heavily on factor 1 that was renamed formative evaluation. And items
Q8, Q9, and Q11 loaded more on factor 2 that was renamed summative

Verification of Research Hypotheses

The ordered logistic regression was conducted to test the following null
i. Formative teacher evaluation does not significantly influence the quality
of pedagogical practices; and
ii. Summative teacher evaluation does not significantly influence the
quality of pedagogical practices.
The results of the hypothesis tests are presented in Table 5.

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Table 5: Ordered logistic regression results on quality of pedagogical practices

Quality of pedagogical Coeff. P>|Z| 95% conf.

practices interval

Formative evaluation 5.557 0.000 4.78 6.33

Summative evaluation 3.056 0.000 2.60 3.51

Sub-region 0.006 0.947 -0.18 0.19

School status 0.730 0.004 0.23 1.23

Age -0.045 0.803 -0.40 0.31

Gender -0.177 0.434 -0.62 0.27

Education level -0.338 0.068 -0.70 0.03

Duration -0.213 0.121 -0.52 0.06

Pseudo R2 =0.7001, Number of respondents = 934, LR 2 (10) = 1403.92, Prob> 2

= 0.00
Results in Table 5 show that all the 934 observations were used in the analysis.
The likelihood ratio chi-square of 1403.92 with a p-value of 0.000(< 0.05)
indicated that the model as a whole was statistically significant compared to the
null model with no predictors. Pseudo R2 =0.7001 means that the explanatory
variables in the model explained 70% variability in quality of pedagogical
practices and 30% of the variability was explained by other unknown factors. In
the model, formative evaluation, summative evaluation and school status
significantly explained variations in quality of pedagogical practices (< 0.05),
whereas other demographic variables in the model (age, gender, marital status,
level of education and duration of teaching in the school) did not. These results
indicate that a unit increase in formative evaluation explained 6 unit increase in
quality of pedagogical practices, whereas a unit change in summative evaluation
explained 3 unit increase in quality of pedagogical practices. The results in Table
5 also show that a unit shift from USE (coded 1) to non-USE (coded 2) category
resulted into a 0.73 unit increase in quality of pedagogical practices. This implies
that the quality of pedagogical practices was better in non-USE schools
compared to their USE counterpart. Thus, based on the findings in Table 5, the
null hypotheses i and ii were rejected implying that:
i. Formative teacher evaluation significantly influences the quality of
pedagogical practices in public secondary schools in Uganda; and
ii. Summative teacher evaluation significantly influences the quality of
pedagogical practices in public secondary schools in Uganda.

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Discussion of Findings
The findings of this study are in agreement with findings of earlier studies
(Phillips, Balan & Manko, 2014; Orenaiye et al., 2014) that reveal that formative
teacher evaluation plays a significant role in enhancing the quality of
pedagogical practices. Despite the significant contribution of formative teacher
evaluation to quality of pedagogical practices, several public secondary schools
in Uganda did not have a system of continuous evaluation of teachers output as
indicated in the ESAPR report of 2013/14 (MoESTS, 2014). There was, in fact, no
evidence of formative evaluation systems that focused on classroom activities or
specifically pedagogical practices such as teacher preparation, the teaching and
learning process, and assessment of learners on a continuous basis. Lack of such
systems is detrimental to teacher professional development and quality of
teaching (Papay, 2012). Finding of this study also demonstrated that teacher
performance was gauged by the students performance reflected in UNEB
examination results. Use of national examination results may not measure
teachers conformance to standard pedagogical practices. The study further
established that in the few schools where formative evaluations were conducted,
the approach was not for the purpose of continuous professional development,
but rather for punishing individuals with poor performance. For example, the
head teachers transfer of teachers to lower classes after establishing their low
performance levels without addressing the areas that needed to be improved
could be interpreted as punitive by the affected teachers. The OECD (2013)
asserts that evaluation feedback that is oriented towards judging and control of
teachers rather than professional growth and development cannot improve the
quality of pedagogical practices. Teacher evaluation systems should be used to
help teachers to know how they are teaching and how they can improve on their
teaching (Mpokosa & Ndaruhutse, 2008).

The study also established that summative teacher evaluation significantly

contributed to increased quality of pedagogical practices. However, findings
showed that several secondary schools in Uganda had not conducted annual
teacher appraisals for the previous years in agreement with the ESAP report of
2013/14 (MoESTS, 2014). This practice is not in harmony with Ugandas public
service standing orders (Ministry of Public Service, 2010). The failure to conduct
regular annual appraisals is attributed to the inability of some head teachers to
establish performance indicators, targets and outputs. Even where appraisals
were consistent, only a few head teachers offered opportunities for teachers to
set key performance indicators and targets that would be used for appraisal, and
provided feedback on assessment of their performance. To enhance professional
growth, it is imperative that head teachers agree with individual teachers at
every beginning of the year on the performance targets (Musaazi, 2006) and then
provide the support that the teachers need to achieve the set targets within the
evaluation period (Taylor, 2003). And furthermore, the head teachers should
give teachers feedback on assessment of their performance so that teachers get to
know how well they are meeting the set objectives/targets, get a clear
understanding of the quality of their work and what they need to change to
improve on their delivery (Musaazi, 2006).

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Conclusion and Recommendations

Quality of pedagogical practices is significantly anchored on both formative and
summative teacher evaluation; yet the formative evaluation systems are barely
in place and summative teacher evaluation is irregular in public secondary
schools in Uganda. Head teachers of several public secondary schools lack the
competence in teacher performance appraisal. To improve quality of
pedagogical practices in public secondary schools, head teachers and subject
heads of department should continuously evaluate teacher performance in the
classroom and provide constructive feedback for professional growth and
development that will lead to improved quality of pedagogical practice. This
implies that if quality of pedagogical practices is to improve, the Ministry of
Education, Science, Technology and Sports should put in place training
programmes for all the newly appointed head teachers specifically in teacher
performance appraisal and also provide them with the necessary support to
use the appraisal tools more effectively. The Ministry should further develop a
standard formative teacher evaluation tool for all secondary schools in Uganda
for the continuous assessment of teachers performance.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 9, pp. 134-152, August 2016

Investigating Learners Performance in

TOEFL Prior to their Participation in the TOEFL
Enhancement Training Program

Ardi Marwan (Corresponding Author),

Anggita and Indah Anjar Reski
The State Polytechnic of Pontianak, Indonesia

Abstract. This study discussed TOEFL need analysis of students and

also identified the TOEFL sub-skills which require improvement and
their preferred teaching strategies. Twenty-four students from an
Indonesian Polytechnic were involved as participants. To examine
students TOEFL scores, a paper-based TOEFL test (practice version)
excluding writing was used. The test scores were analyzed to identify
students English proficiency level at the beginning of the project. Then,
the results were further analyzed to examine the problematic sub-skills.
Next, focus groups were incorporated to examine students learning
preferences. Test results showed that 20 students achieved scores of less
than 400 (i.e. only 4 with scores of above 400 but less than 500). These
scores implied that all students in this study required further training to
improve their TOEFL scores. Findings from test items analysis revealed
that students were only good at few sub-skills and still had problems
with many others. Results of focus groups suggested that students
preferred to be taught using learner-centered teaching approaches. This
study, therefore, recommends the development of module and training
plans according to the outcomes of this analysis study.

Keywords: Needs analysis, TOEFL, test, performance.


This study examines the type of training or referred as sub-skills that

students need and the preferred teaching strategies in order to help them
achieve higher TOEFL (Test of English as A Foreign Language) scores. It
is part of a larger study involving a three-year-long project where its first
year is aimed at collecting baseline information or data with regard to
students learning needs and preferred teaching strategies. The second
year is used to develop a learning module which is designed according to
the information obtained in the needs analysis work. The first cycle of the

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


treatment or training lasting for 20 weeks will also be carried out in the
second year. If the results of TOEFL scores after the training still show no
significant improvement, then the second cycle of training will be carried
out in the third year.

This article reports the findings attained in the first year of the overall
three year project (i.e. analyzing learning needs). This question is worth
researching for at least two reasons. Firstly, improving English skills often
involves a lengthy process of learning that can even last for many years. It
is most unlikely that someone can improve their English proficiency
within a short period of time (e.g. in a few months) unless they undergo a
very well arranged and effective training program or are exclusively
exposed to an English only speaking environment (e.g. undertaking
learning in English speaking countries). This research, in its second and
third year of implementation, seeks to carry out an intensive training
program incorporating teaching strategies that are of students interest
and the module designed according to the results of this current analysis
work. We argue that effective training should be accompanied by a well-
developed module and effective teaching strategies. Through this couple
of months training, students are expected to improve their TOEFL scores
significantly. Then, research looking into TOEFL test sub-skills requiring
improvement and preferred teaching strategies is still underrepresented
in the language testing literature. Most previous studies mainly
addressed the issues of items difficulty (e.g., Sung, Lin, & Hung, 2015),
factors affecting test performance (e.g., Al-Rawashdeh, 2010; Fahim,
Bagherkazemi, & Alemi, 2010; Ling, Powers, & Adler, 2014; Mahmud,
2014), test taking strategies (e.g., Heffernan, 2006), the relationship
between a certain variable and TOEFL performance (e.g., Fahim et al.,
2010). This study, thus, fills in this gap by presenting information about
kinds of sub-skills and teaching strategies that should be taken into
consideration in the process of module and teaching strategies
development prior to the delivery of the TOEFL training program.

Context of this Study

The polytechnic of this study requires students to demonstrate a certain

level of English prior to their graduation and paper-based prediction
TOEFL is used as the standard for measuring such performance. To date,
various efforts have been undertaken to enable students achieve the
required level of English while pursuing their education in this
institution. First of all, all new students are obliged to have their English
performance assessed and the scores are shown to their English teachers
for their record. Teachers are also advised to facilitate learning which
enables students achieve better performance in the skills tested in TOEFL.

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Second of all, a language unit provides a fee-based TOEFL training for

students interested in improving their English. Since it is not a free
program, this unit usually has no more than 3 classes to handle in an
academic year. So, not all students can benefit from the service. All
students, once again, are provided with another TOEFL test prior to the
completion of their three-year diploma study.

The training program managed by the language unit is carried out

without a process of needs analysis and the use of a well-designed
module. Trainers only use TOEFL practice test items found in the
commercial books as their teaching handouts. With such a training
approach, a success guarantee is difficult to attain and it certainly requires
a significant change. This study, therefore, proposes a change through
careful work involving the analysis of TOEFL sub-skills that students

Literature Review

Needs Analysis
Needs analysis or needs assessment is generally defined as activities
performed by an individual or a group of individuals aimed to identify
areas that require improvement (see Jordan, 1997; Long, 2015; Songhori,
2008; Wai et al., 1999). It offers value by providing logical and
disciplined methods for collecting useful information and making
decisions based on that information. This work is often done before any
action has been taken (Watkins, Meiers, & Visser, 2012, p. 2). According
to Akyel and Ozek (2010, p. 969) the answer to how educators or
practitioners develop effective curricula often lies in needs analysis.
Expressed in a similar fashion, Long (2015, p. 1) argues that in the context
of foreign and second language learning, a careful needs analysis is
important to be done as it is the prerequisite for effective course design
(see also Berwick, 1996). In other words, teaching a language without
knowing students learning need will result in inefficient outcome. Grier
(2005) mentions needs analysis as a way to identify reliable information
about what students need to learn. He suggests that teachers including
curriculum developers have to base their curricular decisions on the
careful process of needs analysis because only through which they can
collect valid information about their learners learning need (p.65)(see
also Brown, 1995; Fultcher, 1999; Songhori, 2008).

In the past, within the context of English as a foreign language , needs

analysis was mostly done when English was taught for specific purposes
(e.g., English for business, Engineering, Science, etc). But today, needs
analysis is also crucial for the study of English for general use (Brown,
1995; Songhori, 2008). Songhori argues that the needs of the learners are

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of paramount importance in any language process (p.22). Needs analysis

is also often associated with efforts to identify areas in which students are
still lacking. This analysis process usually results in students current
language ability and identification of strategies used to reach the expected
ability or outcome (Jordan, 1997).

Brown (1995) asserts that needs analysis is an integral part of a language

education program and it plays a crucial role as it determines the success
of this language program implementation. Figure 1 illustrates that needs
analysis is performed in order to meet the learning objectives, the design
of learning materials and the planning of teaching strategies. The learning
activities carried out should be then evaluated for measuring their
effectiveness. In short, needs analysis is a process that has to be
undertaken to ascertain that if learners can meet their learning needs and
improve language learning performance.

Needs Analysis




Figure 1: Systematic approach to designing language curriculum (Brown, 1995)

In line with the above theories, this study partly seeks to identify learning
areas or sub-skills that students are still lacking. Such information is then
used as the means to develop a training module to be used in the
upcoming intensive program.

Teaching Strategies

Duckett and Tatarkowski (2005, p. 5 ) learning from Diamonds research

(1999) argue that in their teaching, teachers of language should apply
strategies which can:

stimulate learning, provide an atmosphere free from undue

pressure and stress, present a series of novel challenges that are
neither too hard nor too easy, encourage social interaction for a
percentage of activities, promote a broad range of skills and

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interests, and encourage the learner to be an active participant

rather than a passive observer.

Not less important than the above, teachers should also do whatever they
can to help raise students motivation, confidence and self-esteem. This
can be done in a number of ways to achieve these including finding
something unique and positive about each learner and pointing it out to
them, and taking an interest in their outside activities, as well as
developing a culture of shared responsibility and emphasizing collective
achievements (Duckett & Tatarkowski, 2005, p. 46 ) According to
Duckett and Tatarkowski, students can be more responsible with their
own learning if they can demonstrate their feelings of confidence and
motivation. In regard to this, teachers play a key role (Rosenshine, 2012).

Overview of Paper Based TOEFL

The first skill tested in a paper-based TOEFL is listening comprehension.
This section of the test contains 50 multiple-test items and should be
completed by the participants within 30-40 minutes. Secondly, the second
skill measured is structure and written expression. In this second section
of the test, participants or test takers are allocated only 25 minutes to
complete 40 multiple-test items. Reading is the next skill which
participants should complete. It contains 50 multiple-test items with 55
minutes time allocation. In the international version of paper-based
TOEFL, participants are also required to write an essay within 30 minutes
covering one topic in order to assess their English writing ability.
However, in another version of paper-based TOEFL (i.e. ITP TOEFL), the
writing test is not included (see ETS, 2015a for further details ).

The test results are reported in numeric scores where each skill (except
writing) will receive a score from 31 to 68 except for reading where the
score range is from 31 to 67. Then, the total scores in which test takers will
obtain are from 310 (the lowest possible score) and 677 (the highest score)
(refer to ETS, 2015b for more details ).

To guide this study, the research questions were worded as follows:

1. How do students perform in a paper-based TOEFL test?

2. What sub-skills are commonly tested in a paper-based TOEFL test?
3. What sub-skills of listening, structure, written expression and
reading in TOEFL do students find to be least and most difficult?
4. What teaching strategies do students feel would fit well with their
learning styles?

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This study involved 24 students (one class) who were in the first semester
of their three-year diploma study in information and technology. They
were voluntarily and conveniently recruited. They were also informed
that their involvement would not affect their study in any way and they
could cancel their involvement at any time. To maintain their identity,
codes (pseudonyms) were used in replacement of their names.

Data Collection and Analysis

TOEFL paper-based tests (practice version) covering three skills

(listening, structure and written expression, and reading) were used to
assess participants achievement in TOEFL. Although they were a
prediction version, it could so far be used to predict ones scores when
taking the actual TOEFL test (e.g. ITP version). All the participants of this
study had no idea what the test was like before being invited to be part of
this research. In short, test items were not familiar to the participants as it
was their first experience doing the test. The test was carried out the day
in which students did not attend lectures and took place at a language
center in a local university.

After the conclusion of the test, we calculated their scores and performed
item analysis to identify what sub-skills were being measured . To
facilitate this process, we adopted the sub-skills name(s) formulated by
Phillips (2003). Then, the participants test results were analyzed to
identify the sub-skills that the students found to be problematic. For this
reason, the percentage of correct and incorrect answers from each item
was displayed to identify the total number of participants who could get
it correct or wrong.

Next, to identify students preferred teaching strategies, focus groups

were held with all students participating in this study. Data was recorded
and subjected to content analysis (i.e. identification of themes based in the


Students Performance in TOEFL

The TOEFL test results prior to the intensive preparation program (see
table 1) indicated that the majority of students still had a lot of hard work
to do in order to improve their English proficiency. As the majority of

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participants scored below 400 (N = 20), this proved that their English was
still far below the desired level. Even for work purposes, such scores
would not be considered at all since most companies and government
offices in the country usually set a minimum TOEFL score of 450.
Furthermore, working for companies overseas would not be possible for
these students if they graduate with similar scores. Data also showed that
there were only a few students (N = 3) who could achieve the scores of
equal or above 400 but still below 450. The best score of the current testing
event was 490 (N = 1). Overall, findings of this study suggested that a
carefully arranged TOEFL training is essential to enable students achieve
better scores.

Table 1:
Students TOEFL Scores
No Students initials Raw Score Total Score
Listening Structure Reading
1 IB 12 11 15 353
2 HA 21 11 15 377
3 RE 13 11 20 373
4 RO 18 14 18 390
5 LA 14 7 11 330
6 FI 13 14 33 413
7 AL 15 12 17 373
8 TI 22 18 23 423
9 IN 18 9 23 387
10 FA 18 13 19 390
11 DB 11 12 17 360
12 SY 21 14 13 380
13 RS 15 24 24 433
14 MI 11 6 16 333
15 AO 23 11 21 400
16 MF 11 16 12 357
17 QN 14 10 27 390
18 LR 21 13 14 380
19 IM 13 6 18 347
20 TA 11 9 13 337
21 TN 10 9 18 350
22 RH 27 27 33 490
23 MW 11 15 21 383
24 MT 16 7 17 357

Sub-Skills Tested in The Current Test

Having administered the test to the research participants, we then

underwent an items check to gain information about the sub-skills
contained in the current test. Prior to doing so, we also compared this test
with several other paper-based ones (including available resources

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online) and came to a conclusion that the sub-skills of the current test also
appeared in many other paper-based TOEFL test samples. Therefore, we
argued that the sub-skills tested in the current test were the ones
commonly measured in the actual paper-based TOEFL test.

The table below displays information about the sub-skills and number of
items in the test measuring them.

Table 2:
Sub-skills tested in the current paper-based TOEFL test

Listening sub-skill No of Structure & written No of Reading sub-skill No of

items expression sub-skill items items
Part A: Part A: Structure
Focusing on the 2nd line 2 Object of preposition 1 Answer the main idea 3
Choosing answers with 1 Past participle 1 correctly
synonyms Coordinate connectors 1 Organization of ideas 2
Conclusion about who, Adverb of time and Answer stated detail
what, where 7 cause connectors 3 questions correctly 12
Listen for who and Other adverb Find unstated details
what with multiple 3 connectors 1 Pronoun referents 3
nouns Reduced adjective 1 Answer implied detail 1
Listen for negative 6 clauses 1 questions correctly 10
expressions Reduced adverb clauses 1 Answer transition
Listen for almost 1 Invert subject and verb questions correctly 1
negative expressions with negatives Find definitions from
Skill with negative with 1 Part B: Written structural clues 4
comparatives Expression 1 Determining from word
Expression of 1 Make verbs agree after parts 2
agreement 1 prepositional phrases 3 Use context to determine
Expression of Parallel structure with meanings of difficult 7
uncertainty and 1 coordinate conjunctions 2 words
suggestion Using the past with the Use context to determine 5
Emphatic expression of 1 present 4 meanings of simple
surprise 3 Using the correct tense words
Untrue condition 2 and 3
Two and three-part 2 with time expressions 1
verbs 1 Correct form of the
Idioms 2 passive 2
Part B: 3 Active and passive 1
Conclusion about what meaning
Conclusion about when 6 Singular and plural 1
Conclusion about 3 noun
where 3 Countable and 1
Conclusion about why uncountable nouns
Part C: Distinguish the person 3
Conclusion about what form the thing 1
Conclusion about why Pronounce reference for 2
Conclusion about how agreement 1
Basic adjectives and 1
adverbs 1
Logical conclusion 2

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Reported speech
Affirmative agreement
Question tag
Total of items 50 40 50
Sub-skills names were adapted from Phillips (2003, pp. iii-vii)

It could be learnt from the sub-skills table that certain sub-skills were
allocated more items than other sub-skills. In section 1 of TOEFL, for
example, listening for conclusion about who, what, where (part A),
listening for negative expressions (part A), and listening for conclusion
about what (part C) were allocated 7 and 6 items. Then, in section 2,
adverb of time and cause connectors, parallel structure with coordinate
conjunctions, correct form of the passive and basic adjectives and adverbs
were allocated 3 items each while using the correct tense and with time
expressions had 4 items. In section 3, answering stated detail questions
correctly, answering implied detail questions correctly, using context to
determine meanings of difficult words and using context to determine
meanings of simple words were allocated from 7 to 12 items. All these
sub-skills should be given more time proportion in the upcoming
intensive training program since their good understanding could
influence TOEFL score quite significantly.

The Least and Most Difficult Sub-Skills

Having seen students abilities in the listening section of TOEFL (see table
3 for the details), it could be argued that most of them still had difficulty
coping with some of the sub-skills tested. Areas or sub-skills that students
found most difficult were mostly located in Part A (i.e. listening for short
dialogues). For example, items related to the sub-skills of listening for
negative expressions and comparative expressions were answered
correctly by only 8% of students while the rest (82%) were incorrect. The
next most difficult sub-skills were listening for idioms and listening for
negative expressions of surprise where there were only around 21% who
chose the correct response and more than two third (79%) selected the
wrong ones.

Conclusion drawings were the next sub-skills that students found to be

difficult to cope with. Results indicated that there were less than 25% of
them who could respond effectively to the items. Then, listening for two
and three part verbs and listening for who and what with multiple nouns
were found to be less difficult by just around 30% participants and the
rest (70%) considered the items rather difficult. Another sub-skill that

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students had to struggle with was listening for expression of uncertainty

and suggestion where there were only 8 students (30%) answered the
items correctly. Then, the test results proved that the sub-skills that were
found to be least difficult were listening for expression of agreement and
listening for untrue condition since more than half of the participants
could choose the correct answers.

Table 3:
Students performance in each of the listening sub-skills
Sub-skills No of participants with No of participants
correct answer (in percent) with wrong answer
(in percent)
Part A:
Focusing on the 2nd line 21 79
Choosing answers with 46 54
Conclusion about who, what, 39 61
Listen for who and what with 29 71
multiple nouns
Listen for negative expressions 22 78
Listen for almost negative 8 92
Skill with negative with 8 92
Expression of agreement 50 50
Expression of uncertainty and 33 67
Emphatic expression of surprise 21 79
Untrue condition 54 46
Two and three-part verbs 29 71
Idioms 17 83
Part B:
Conclusion about what 42 68
Conclusion about when 25 75
Conclusion about where 48 52
Conclusion about why 22 78
Part C:
Conclusion about what 31 69
Conclusion about why 54 46
Conclusion about how 31 69

Structure and Written Expression

In this section of the test, there was only one sub-skill which was
considered least difficult by the majority of students. That skill was
pronoun reference for agreement. Results showed that items related to
this skill could be dealt with easily by more than two third (71%) of the
participants. Then, other sub-skills found to be less difficult by more than

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half of the participants were countable and uncountable nouns, adverb

clauses, and adverb connectors.

The participants of this study found the sub-skill of subject and verb with
negatives to be the most difficult as there were over 90% of them who
could not answer the items correctly. Using the correct coordinate
connectors was also viewed as the second most difficult sub-skill by
majority of the participants. Items associated with this sub-skill could
only be well answered by 17% of the study participants. Details of the
sub-skills which were considered by more than half of the participants
could be viewed in table 4.

Table 4:
Students performance in each of the structure & WE sub-skills
Sub-skills No of participants No of participants with
with correct answer wrong answer (in
(in percent) percent)
Part A: Structure
Object of preposition 46 54
Past participle 33 67
Coordinate connectors 17 83
Adverb of time and cause connectors 36 64
Other adverb connectors 58 42
Reduced adjective clauses 25 75
Reduced adverb clauses 54 46
Invert subject and verb with negatives 8 92
Part B: Written Expression
Make verbs agree after prepositional 21 79
Parallel structure with coordinate 26 74
Using the past with the present 27 73
Using the correct tense and 30 70
with time expressions
Correct form of the passive 28 72
Active and passive meaning 21 79
Singular and plural noun 25 75
Countable and uncountable nouns 50 50
Distinguish the person form the thing 21 79
Pronounce reference for agreement 71 29
Basic adjectives and adverbs 31 69
Logical conclusion 38 62
Reported speech 25 75
Affirmative agreement 21 79
Question tag 33 67
Gerund 25 75
Infinitive 31 69

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Reading skill was also still under the desired level where most of the
students still experienced difficulty responding to the questions
measuring their ability in identifying main ideas (22%); recognizing the
organization of Ideas (23%); answering stated detail questions (38%);
finding unstated details (29%); answering implied detail questions (35%);
answering transition questions (46%); finding definitions from structural
clues (49%); and using context to determine meanings of difficult words
(32%). Then, the items measuring the sub-skills of determining meaning
from word parts, using context to determine meanings of simple words,
and pronoun referents were considered the least difficult sub-skills since
they could be answered by half or more than half of the students (67%,
51%, and 50% respectively). Details of students performance could be
viewed in table 5 below:
Table 5:
Students performance in each of the reading sub-skills

Sub-skills No of participants with No of participants with

correct answer (in wrong answer (in
percent) percent)
Answer the main idea correctly 22 78
Organization of ideas 23 77
Answer stated detail questions 38 62
Find unstated details 29 71
Pronoun referents 50 50
Answer implied detail questions 35 65
Answer transition questions 46 54
Find definitions from structural 49 51
Determining from word parts 67 33
Use context to determine 32 68
meanings of difficult words
Use context to determine 51 49
meanings of simple words

Students Preference of Teaching Strategies

All the participants preferred a stress-free training atmosphere. They

seemed to have such a good understanding as to how a foreign language
should be learnt. For example, most argued that language learning should
be fun and filled with joyful activities. Such activities should be integrated
with the targeted learning activities. Two students believed that even for
the context of TOEFL training where although many of the activities

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would be dealing with test items discussions, joyful learning activities

were still a possibility.

Several participants also expressed their interest in learning from their

peers and they wanted teachers to give them with such an opportunity.
Having said this, a few of them then mentioned some possible learning
activities including small group discussion, pair work and peer coaching.
According to them, learning from peers through the said activities would
make them acquire effective learning outcome.

Overall, focus group discussions with the participants resulted an

understanding that they preferred teaching strategies which focused on
students (student-centered learning) rather than on teachers (teacher-
centered learning).


The main aims of this study were to identify sub-skills in the sections of
listening, structure and written expression, and reading of the paper-
based TOEFL which were still found to be problematic and examine
teaching strategies preferred by students. This information is necessary
since the next part of this research would be the development of training
module and teaching strategies which was to be developed following the
outcomes of this needs analysis stage. Results of the paper-based test,
overall, showed that majority of the participants attained low scores (
400) with only 3 persons gaining the score of over 400. Mahmud (2014)
points out that one of the main reasons affecting the Indonesian
university students poor performance in TOEFL is due to their poor
English mastery. These findings also imply that students of this study did
not learn English effectively during their 6-year-secondary education
study. It was also identified in the study performed by Mahmud that
university students majoring in non-English study programs were not
motivated to acquire English. Thus, the current study argues that the
upcoming intensive training program (i.e. to be carried out in the 2nd and
3rd year of this project) should also consider the inclusion of teaching
strategies which can arouse students learning interest. In other words, a
well-designed module should be accompanied with attractive teaching
approaches (Duckett & Tatarkowski, 2005). Rosenshine (2012, p. 17)
argues that optimal learning outcome can be best reached if teachers
perform attractive teaching (e.g. through hands-on activities) and spend
more time in guided practice, more time asking questions, more time
checking for understanding, and more time correcting errors.

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The findings of this study regarding the preferred teaching strategies also
confirmed the concept of attractive learning proposed by Rosenshine and
Duckett & Tatarkowski where students put a high expectation that the
upcoming training would pay more attention to their learning
preferences, that is, for example though peer coaching activities.

Next, analysis of listening test items revealed that part A of this section of
TOEFL could not be coped with well by the participants. The reason that
might account for this matter was because the students of this study were
not used to listening to conversations performed by native users of
English. They might argue that the two speakers spoke too fast. In fact,
the dialogues were spoken at a normal speed like in their actual setting.
Thus, the future developed training module should provide more
weights, both in terms of time allocation and materials covered, for part
A. Figure 2 illustrates the proportion of time and materials which should
be considered in the module.

Figure 2: Proportion of time and materials

GE] Part A

Sub-skills with more

The above chart shows that part A of listening section should be given a
higher proportion than the two other parts. This study also suggests that
at least 30% of the time and materials to be allocated for part A should be
for the sub-skills of listening for negative expressions, comparative
expressions, idioms, and negative expressions of surprise, the sub-skills
which found to be most problematic my majority of students. Then, 10%
of the proportion should also be directed to deal with sub-skills which are
allocated more items in this section of the test.

The results of items analysis of section 2 of the test indicate that most of
the sub-skills excluding pronounce reference for agreement, reduced
adverb clauses, other adverb connectors, countable and uncountable

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nouns should receive priority in the training module. More weights

certainly go to the sub-skills which students found most difficult
including, for example, inverting subject and verb with negatives and
coordinate connectors. The proportion of time and materials to be covered
in the module might be shared according to the following figure.

Figure 3: Proportion of time and materials for

structure and written expression

Less than 20%

correct answers
10% Above 20% but
less than 50%
50% correct answers
Above 50%
correct answers

Sub-skills with
more items

Figure 3 explains that sub-skills with less than 20% of correct answers
should be given a higher proportion or 50% from the total time and
materials proportion while the ones with above 50% but less than 65%
correct answers should receive around 30% of time and materials
proportion. Then, other sub-skills gaining above 50% correct answers
should be given the third priority or 10% from the total time and
materials proportion. An additional 10% of proportion should be for sub-
skills with more items in the test.

Finally, data from reading items analysis proved that there was only one
sub-skill (i.e. determining from word parts) in which students of this
research were quite good at while most others were found to be rather
difficult. Therefore, majority of sub-skills in reading section needs to be
given priority in the training module. The proportion of time and
materials to be covered in the module might be shared according to the
following figure.

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Figure 4: Proportion of time and materials for reading

less than 50% correct

10% Equal to or above 50%
50% but below 65%
30% Above 65%

Sub-skills with more


The figure indicates that sub-skills which attain less than 50% of correct
answers should be given a higher proportion while the ones with above
50% and less than 65% must receive the second priority or 30%. One sub-
skill considered the least difficult one might receive 10% of the total
amount of training time and materials. Then, another 10% should be
allocated for sub-skills with more items.

Overall, results of the current needs analysis work can then be used for
the development of TOEFL training module and teaching strategies.
Referring to language curriculum model proposed by Brown (1995), the
effectiveness of the module and teaching strategies resulting from the
current needs analysis research will be examined after the conclusion of
the first cycle and second cycle of the upcoming intensive preparation


The present study has several limitations. Students learning needs in

terms of the sub-skills that students had particular problems with and
their preferred teaching strategies were investigated. Other needs were
not observed in this study. The second limitation is concerning the use of
multiple choice test items. This type of test, to some extent, may provide
incorrect information about the actual sub-skills that participants are still
not good at since they can simply guess the answer by ticking one of the
responses without knowing the reason why they choose this particular
answer. However, guessing one response from four selections can give
only a small chance or 25% that students can come up with the correct
answer. But of course, there is such a probability.

Another limitation of this research is concerning the participating

students. Since there were only 24 students from one study program
involved in this research, results are not applicable to a larger population
such as all students undertaking learning at this particular higher

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institution. Thus, further research can be conducted involving more

students coming from all study programs existing in the institution.
Involving students from other similar polytechnic will also provide a
better picture about students ability in each of the TOEFL sub-skills.

The present research does not include writing component in its needs
analysis work. As such, a further research can be directed to also include
writing in addition to listening, structure and written expression and
reading. This future study may also involve various approaches such as
interview and observation in collecting information about students
learning need since this research only used information from students
test results to arrive at a conclusion about their TOEFL learning needs.
The use of additional instruments may give better information about
students current language background, motivation level or learning
interest and teaching strategy preference.

Conclusion and Implications

In conclusion, the results reveal that the identification of students TOEFL

learning need can be done through the assessment of sub-skills that they
are good or not good at and the examination of their preferred teaching
approaches. Such an identification work will result in information about
learning areas that TOEFL trainers can concern more when designing or
developing a TOEFL training module and program. As Jordan (1997)
pointed out, analysis or identification of skills that students are still
lacking can be an effective way for developing language learning
curriculum or module.

This study could also observe results which suggest that the upcoming
intensive training program lasting for 20 weeks should be handled with
care since students still demonstrated weaknesses in many of TOEFL sub-
skills. Such weaknesses have to be dealt carefully, for example, by
creating a friendly classroom atmosphere and by always praising
students for their excellent work during the training sessions. Data from
students preferred teaching strategies also confirm the case where they
are in need of a stress-free learning atmosphere. This also indicates that
teachers or TOEFL trainers should come to the class with fun learning
activities enabling students to acquire English skills more effectively.
Next, correcting students mistakes is also necessary but it has to be
undertaken properly (e.g. through personal approach with an individual
student rather than correcting him/her before their classmates). It is
important that this be undertaken to ensure that students will not feel
uneasy when corrected.

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The authors wish to thank the reviewers for helpful comments to improve
the article.


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