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The Effects of learning and instructional style congruence in an adult education learning environment Rubidge, Nicholas Andrew

Abstract

In recent years there has been a significant trend away from 'instructor-centred' and towards 'student-centred' instructional styles. While the re-evaluation of the role of an instructor has caused controversy in the teaching profession, researchers have been unable to provide conclusive evidence as to the effect of different instructional styles. This lack of conclusive evidence probably results from interactions between various learner and instructor characteristics that influence learner outcomes. This study was developed to investigate whether congruence between the instructor and adult learners' attitudes towards learning and instruction was related to learner participation and satisfaction with the learning experience, and with the instructor's evaluation of learner performance. The three hypotheses developed were that: 1. Discrepancy scores between instructor and learner's attitude towards learning and instruction will be negatively correlated with learner satisfaction. 2. Discrepancy scores between instructor and learner's attitude towards learning and instruction will be negatively correlated with learner persistence. 3. Discrepancy scores between instructor and learner's attitude towards learning and instruction will be negatively correlated with the instructor's perception of learner's learning achievement. No instruments were available that would measure learning and instructional style or learner's satisfaction therefore two measures were developed. These measures were developed in concert with a number of expert judges, who checked the instruments for clarity of expression and content consistency. A factor analysis was performed prior to and during the study. All items loaded significantly and in the same direction on the first unrotated factor. It would appear that both indices were unidimensional. A research instrument was designed to collect participant and instructor socioeconomic data; this instrument incorporated the two indices mentioned above. The reliability of the entire instrument was checked through a test-retest design by repeated applications on the same population. Unreliable items were deleted. The data required to test the hypotheses were collected at two adult education centres operated by Vancouver Community College. The sample consisted of 38 classes with 638 participants selected at random from a total of 84 classes offered at the Langara and Eric Hamber centres of Vancouver Community College. None of the three hypotheses were confirmed. The discrepancy between instructor's and learner's attitudes towards learning and instruction appeared to be less important than the attitude of either the participant or the instructor towards learning and instruction. In particular there were strong positive correlations between learner satisfaction and both learner and instructor Learning and Instructional Style Index scores considered independently of each other, but when considered as discrepancy scores, the significance of the correlation was greatly diminished. Similarly, it appeared that learner persistence was related to the learner's and the instructor's attitude toward learning and not to the difference in attitude between them. The hypothesized relationship between learner achievement and learner-instructor learning and instructional style congruence was rejected. However, it would appear that these variables were correlated and that the calculation of the measure of congruence disguised the significance of this relationship. Regression equations were generated to identify variables that predict learning and instructional style, learner persistence, and learner achievement. Variables that related to the instructor's socio-economic status and various measures of instructor and learner previous educational experience were the most powerful predictors of learning and instructional style, learner satisfaction, learner persistence, and learner achievement. The method through which the measure of instructor-learner congruence was derived may disguise an otherwise significant correlation. In this study, both actual (arithmetic) and discrepancy differences were recorded. As a result, it was possible to identify some instructor-learner congruence relationships which otherwise would not have been observed. These effects may have confounded the work of previous researchers who used only one measure of congruence and a statistical procedure that required a linear solution. Future studies which attempt to further unravel the complex learner-instructor relationships using the notion of congruence should anticipate and seek to identify these curvi-linear relationships.

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