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To begin with, the rationale used for the seeking of an
attitude change towards teaching should be understood.
One of the major movements in education today is towards
the individualization of instruction. In practice, however,
it appears that this concept is much easier to talk about
than to implement.
The essential problem seems to be that many current
practices mask the need for change.
The reason for proposing
this change arises out of the wide range of differences generally found among children and within particular children
when standardized tests are administered.
Teachers seem to look at pupils on a category basis.
These categories may be based on (1) simply a "pass-fail" dichotomy, or, (2) a somewhat more elaborate system of letter
grades and the related Grade Point Average (GPA).
The distribution of the pupils' marks is generally
exnected to approximate the symmetry and proportions of the Gaussean Curve. One-track-teaching, where the teacher treats
each child as being identical with all others and expects a
"normal" distribution of marks to result, seems to be the
most effective method of producing mark distributions which meet the expectations built upon the Gaussean Curve. This
use of the Gaussean Curve produces a consistent percentage of
letter grades (including failures) regardless of the abilities
of the pupils. Thus, the variability among the pupils tends
to be accepted by the teacher as a reasonable expectation.
She does not usually individualize her teaching (cf. Adams &
Biddle; 1970) and may not see the need in this context to
systematically adapt her teaching procedures to meet these
differences. The possible exception is that of "failures."
Since the marks for each subject are usually scaled indepen
dently, much of the evidence for within-child-variability may be absorbed in the scaling procedures.
in current vogue,
With these practices
it is not surprising that the need for the
individualization of pupil instruction is not generally
evident to the classroom teacher.
Student teachers, whose most recent learning experiences
in the classroom have probably been based on this one-track-
teaching approach, and who would seem to have had their own
academic success based upon the selective factors caused by
the marking procedure just discussed, may consider present
practice to be the most appropriate instructional strategy.
On the basis of these arguments an introduction to the
area of special education (where individualized pupil
instruction is strongly emphasized) should begin with an
attempt towards attitude change on the part of the student
teacher. This report gives an account of such an attempt.
The approach started with the assumption that students in this class had had little, if any, experience with an
individualized approach to instruction, and saw little need
for such an approach.
These 87 students were in their second
(professional) year of a two-year program.
few of them had had teaching experience.
At this point,
Halfway through the
course, the class spent two weeks in the field "practice
The major objective of the course was to produce a shift in attitude away from "one-track" instruction towards
"individualized" instruction as an expressed objective of the
students. To accomplish this objective a favorable
disposition towards "individualized" instruction was assumed by the instructors. Since both seminar leaders were
therapists by training and experience, and myself, as lecturer, a "special" class teacher, such an attitude did
not represent a departure from our own basic approach to
Major Features of the Course
The major features of the course were designed to
facilitate attitude change.
lecture time was devoted to
(1) About 40 per cent of the
the needs of the exceptional
child and other theoretical justifications for an individ
ualized approach to instruction.
the lecture time was devoted to
(2) Another 40 per cent of
demonstration of materials
and procedures which might assist the teacher to use an
time was devoted to
(3) The balance of the lecture
to assist the teacher in
In addition to the lectures, the text used (McLeod;1968)
was admirably suited to the same end.
It was readable,
stressed theory somewhat more than the lectures did and,
because of its emphasis upon the situation in Australia,
could be used as a basis for student assignments with a view to helping them to understand their own local scene through comparison.
The major drawbacks of the text were:
(1) it inferred
the relationships rather than bridging the gap between theory
and practice, and, (2) it contained a somewhat clinical
orientation. That is, the text tended to stress "individ
ualization" from a treatment (one-to-one) point of view
rather than from an adaptive programming (many-to-one) point
of view so that some of the suggestions tended to be rather difficult to implement in a classroom setting. To bridge
this gap, and to provide the students with a continuing source
of reference materials which were more dependable than the
usual lecture notes, a set of student handout material was
The concepts in these handouts were presented to
the class as demonstrations of how these concepts can be
applied rather than being repeated in detail as a lecture.
In order to allow for closer contacts between
instructors and students,
the three hours per week of class
time was subdivided:
(1) the class met in two roughly equal
sections for two hours, and, (2) further subdivisions for
seminars of about fifteen students each were provided on a
To complete the package, the
students were given two small-group assignments, the writing
of an individual paper, a set of optional assignments, and a
set of guide questions related to the text.
examination also had some unique features.
The first of the two small-group assignments involved
the administration of the Peterson Kit (1970) to a pre-school
child by one student while three others observed, so that
approximately 20 Kits were administered.
they were shown a video tape of the same survey being
administered by myself.
The purpose of this procedure was twofold:
give the students firsthand contact with a child rather than
facing a classroom of pupils, and, second, it gave them the
visual experience of watching another child experience the
same Kit . The intention was to show them by comparison the
individual differences exhibited by children.
The second small-group assignment involved an attempt to
subdivide a class of forty children (reported in the McLeod
Text; pp. 20-21) into five instructional groups based upon
their chronological age, or their age norm scores on two
aptitude dimensions, or on some combination of five
achievement dimensions. The students were then to select
appropriate materials which might be used in teaching these groups and present the results of their deliberations to
the rest of the class. The use of standardized tests
reported in age norms avoided the complications which can
arise concerning comparability of scores without having to
resort to normalized transformations. Thus, the variability
among children and within children was preserved in the data. The individual assignment was to produce a short
critical review of a set of text books in a subject area of
their choice (which they might expect to use in a classroom)
for a particular age group of children. This assignment
proved to be too much like the small-group assignment.
future, it will be changed,
(possibly to a "case study"
using a set of anonymous files compiled from the records of
children who have been tested).
Marking the Class on Assignments
The administration of the Peterson Kit was not marked
because for many of these young students this was their first contact with young children in an educational setting.
The individual paper and the final examination were
the two representing the bulk of the course
The second small-group assignment was given a token mark
with every member in the work group receiving the same mark.
There was provision within the marking scheme, as well, for the completion of two optional assignments, but no lower
or upper limit was set for the number of optional assignments
to be submitted and accepted.
Marking of the optional
assignments were on an "all or nothing" basis.
of the optional assignments involved:
(1) the removal of
pressure to obtain marks on the final examination for those
students who wanted to practice a "self-starting" approach to
learning, (2) to provide a practical demonstration of one
method of individualizing instruction, and, (3) to provide an
illustration of marking on the basis of performance rather
than the G-aussean Curve.
There were no marks given in connection with the guide
questions, although a seminar session was devoted to a
discussion of their effectiveness. These questions were
designed to illuminate the text, and to illustrate some of the
types of questions which might be asked of pupils in a guided
study program (another method of "individualization").
Bloom's Taxonomy (1956) was used in the preparation of these
Marks were cumulative, rather than scaled, to demonstrate
the "mastery" approach to performance evaluation.
Several features of the course were designed specifically
for their psychological impact.
The first lecture used a
number of audio-visual devices and optical illusions designed
as a confrontation to illustrate the psychological problems which perceptual confusion can generate. This was done to
introduce college students, who are in general effective learners, to the "feel" of the problem from the point of view
of the child who is not yet an effective learner.
The next two lectures were devoted to a somewhat
technical discussion of the first handout.
(Powell; 1970) was a copy of a paper delivered to a
The model presented is a convincing argument in favor of
"individualization" but its technical content Dlaced it over
the heads of second year students.
The idea behind the
presentation of this particular model was to lay the theoretical framework for the course, and at the same time to
provide for the disorientation which seems to be a second
necessary precursor to attitude change,
(Hovland et al; 1953).
The expectation was that this course of action would produce
a high degree of polarity in the class. To have continued
this procedure for more than two lectures might have meant
loss of contact with the class, but the course came quickly
down to earth because the next item on the agenda was the
first small-group activity:
the testing of a child.
The third item was also designed for impact.
involved an interview with a parent of an exceptional child.
Teachers quite often have difficulty understanding the
parent's point of view because in the parent-teacher
interview the teacher often feels professionally threatened
by the remarks of an upset parent. The reason for intro
ducing this problem within the context of this course was to illustrate, in a situation which was nonthreatening to the
students, the justifiable complaints which parents of
exceptional children often express about the one-track
school system. Following this event the students devoted most of the
balance of their time before the practice teaching break to
the grouping of the class already mentioned (see: p. 5,
There was a small excursion into testing and
the interpretation of test results (with appropriate handout)
to act as a bridge between evaluation and prescription.
These three parts of the course (testing, seeing the parent's
point of view, and grouping a class) constituted the third
phase of sensitization.
Following the practice teaching break there were
demonstrations of materials and techniques suitable for
"individualization" with the class participating in some of
Also, there was a series of guest
lecturers on specific applied topics, and finally,
a "bear-pit" session on the problems and the role of a teacher
as a change agent since "intervention" casts teachers into the
change agent role. Again, appropriate handouts were supplied.
These activities may be regarded as representing the
application part of the course. The final examination is worthy of note in that it was
a take-home paper consisting of both multiple choice and
optional short essay answers.
The students were to defend
each answer in the multiple choice part with a reason for its
choice if they wished to do so.
The alternatives for each
question in this part were made to be very similar and often
differentiated only by a matter of opinion. The idea, here,
was to require a thorough understanding of the concepts of the
course. Keyed answers and well defended nonkeyed answers were
The function of this examination was for
given equal credit.
the consolidation of the attitude change.
Thus the entire course was a carefully interlocked set of
experiences specifically designed to bring about an attitude
change on the part of the students in the course. To
the sequence of the attitude change aspects of
this course were:
(1) confrontation, (2) disorientation,
(3) sensitization, (4) application, and, (5) consolidation.
DATA ANALYSIS PROCEDURES
In the absence of a carefully designed opinion survey
administered before and after this course was taught the
validity of the effectiveness of the procedures used had to be obtained by more indirect methods.
The direct methods used were:
(1) the impression of the
instructors at the outset,
(2) the way in which the students
wrote about individualization throughout the final examination;
and the indirect methods used were:
(1) a course evaluation
survey conducted by the Education Students' Society (ESS)
about midway through the course, (2) the general tone of the
students' answers to one of the short-answer questions on the
final examination, and, (3) an analysis of the content of this
same question on the final examination.
The ESS survey was collected anonymously and can be
regarded, therefore, as an independent source of data.
questions on it were not strictly comparable to the examination question, nor were they directly related to the
individualization objective, hence changes must be inferred from the proportions since no correlations between this and
the other data sources were possible.
In order to further support the presence of attitude
change and to infer the point of change a careful analysis of
the students' answers to the final examination question was
made. If a student indicated, some discomfiture in the early
part of the course in his answer on the final examination that
student was included into an "initially negative" category.
If such students indicated a more favorable response at the
end of the course the point of attitude change was sought in their answer. If he specifically indicated this point, it
was used, otherwise the part of the course about which he was
most enthusiastic was taken as the turning point.
The direct methods used were both highly subjective in
nature. Any inference from these alone would be questionable.
It was assumed, therefore, that indication of attitude change
towards other aspects of the course or towards the instructor
himself, if these changes occurred in the same direction,
could be taken as indirect supportive evidence for the
primary attitude change objective.
The attitudes of the student teachers towards teaching methods was not pretested because of the absence of a
suitable properly validated instrument.
subjective impressions of the three instructors who
participated in the project were taken.
It was agreed that
the assumption that the students were disinclined, whatever reason,
towards individualization of teaching was,
in general, valid.
This observation gave us the baseline
from which attitude change was assessed.
The multiple choice part of the final examination was a
"good" examination in that the mean for 40 items was almost
exactly 20, and more than 30 items had point-biserial
correlations with the overall distribution significantly
different from zero.
The defence of the wrong answers and short essay answers
both clearly showed that nearly all students were explicitly favorable to individualization as a teaching strategy by the
end of the course.
However, without other evidence, this
could have been an attempt on the part of the students to say
what the instructors wanted to hear.
As indicated in the discussion of the teaching procedures
a degree of polarization of the students was expected as a
result of the teaching strategy. If this were to be supported
by the data, this polarization should be evident at the mid
point in the course. As one of many items, the ESS Survey
asked the following question:
"Would you rehire this professor?"
Why or why not?
This question is the one most relevant to evidence for
or against attitude change on the part of class members.
relates to attitude towards
the lecturer rather than towards
individualization and is, therefore, an indirect measure of
the attitude change objective. Table 1 summarizes the frequencies and proportions of
responses to this Question.
As can be seen from the results given in Table 1 there
is clear evidence of polarization of the students at this
point in the course.
The split is about 2:1
favorable in the
The proportion of "No's" is substantially different
The proportion choosing "Yes" is significantly greater than the proportion choosing "No", with an error "z" score
of 4.11 which is highly significant (p^.01).
A mix-up in the timetables led to only 63 out of the 87
students responding to this survey.
Thus far we have a subjective impression at the start
of the course,
in the negative, a subjective impression at and a more objective
the end of the course in the positive,
but indirect measure of the attitude change target in the
middle showing a 2:1 split in opinion.
source of data be found for the course?
Can a more objective
The question on the final examination which was used in
this study was one of five of which the students were to
choose three. It read as follows:
How valuable has the course (Course Number) been to you,
and in what ways do you feel it could have been improved
to make it more useful?
The responses were judged into the following categories:
F - Tone of remarks generally favorable. -F - Tone of remarks generally not favorable.
U Tone of remarks undecided.
-A - Student did not answer question.
R Student said he would take more courses in
the same subject area (Recruitment).
Table 2 shows the frequency and proportion of these
From Table 2 it is clearly evident that the polarizarion
of the class had disappeared in favor of a favorable reaction
by the end of the course. The amount of negative reaction
had reduced to insignificance, and the positive reaction had
grown from majority to consensus levels. It would be
possible to increase the negative group to one of significance
by including in this group those students who chose not to answer this question. Had this group been substantial, this
would have been the correct procedure since not answering
could then be taken as a refusal to answer. For so small a
group, however, the reasons could be too various to include
with assurance this group among the negatives.
a procedure does not greatly change the overall impression
of these data.
The impression gained from the way in which the students
answered the entire paper with respect to their attitude
towards individualization compared with their attitude to the
course, and the lecturer, all point in the same direction.
Apparently their attitude was consistently positive at the
end of the course.
The proportion indicating a recruitment factor operating
is small, but the employment situation for teachers with
more than minimal training could be a factor in producing
this small proportion.
The sequence of events in the course presented in
Table 3 follows the outline given above.
made about points of attitude change are given in Table 3.
Insert TABLE 3 here
be noted that
begun with about a 50-50 split.
By the time of the ESS
Survey, their statements as indicated in the final
examination has shifted to a 3:1 -positive.
differs somewhat from the 2:1 reported on the ESS Survey. Unfortunately, the proportions cannot be compared but they
positive .67, and negative .21, which do not seem to
1. If the 7
be verv different from those reported in Table
"did not answer" students are included with the negatives
this proportion becomes .29 making both proportions almost
identical to those reported on the ESS Survey. Since these
were not included following Table 2, they should not be
included here either.
These findings seem to be sufficiently consistent with
the others reported, including an "independent" source, to
suggest that an attitude change did,
the direction intended from the
take place in
It is also interesting to note that the shift frequencies at each point of the course when considered in sequence
resemble a typical learning (acquisition) or "growth" curve.
This observation gives further indirect evidence to support
the suggestion that attitude change occurred.
The direct and indirect evidence presented suggests that a rather substantial change of attitude may have
occurred in this class in the direction which was intended.
In any case,
the evidence is sufficiently suggestive that
a replication of the study with a tighter design would seem
to be in order.
There is a small degree of contradiction between the 3:1
favorable reported for the middle point of the course^~-33f
the f-i-naiy and the 2:1 reported in the ESS Survey.
It is possible that a degree of memory failing, or a
delay in the full impact of the grouping assignment, or the
somewhat negative tone of the ESS Survey or a degree of
classification error by myself, or a combination of these
factors could explain this difference.
The proportion of
positives are nearly identical (.65 to .67) with the main
difference being in the proportion of negatives (.30 to .21).
These differences may be insignificant. Further research is
needed to show that these procedures are consistently
effective. The dropping of specific components in subse
quent studies, such as the direct child contact, or the
disorientation aspect might be appropriate in an attempt to
determine the necessary and sufficient conditions for an
attitude change of comparable magnitude.
One factor not
stressed in the procedure was that the attitude change
sought was towards more realistic, critical, and accurate
observation and the application of better techniques once this increase in reality orientation was accomplished. The
moving of attitudes towards reality may be considerably
easier than moving them away from reality. be a researchable topic.
Another factor which the results of this study
This might also
illuminate is the problem of the possible use of student
evaluations and student expressions of dissatisfaction in
assessing the worth of an instructor or a course. It would
seem that the timing of the survey could be a critical variable if the instructor is pursuing a more complex set
of course objectives than the simnle dissemination of
Research into this problem could be useful.
Also bearing on the issue of researchable topics related to attitude change is the problem of how to assign
marks to a class in the context of this sort of objective.
This problem is important in the context of this sort of objective because of the many issues now being raised
concerning accountability in education. Attitude would seem
to be related to performance and when a positive attitude
shift occurs the resulting enthusiasm seems to make for high performance. This high performance may be related to
In such circumstances it would seem
the Hawthorne Effect.
reasonable for the marks awarded to the class to be
Two problems arise.
First, without a clear
understanding of what has transpired the "high" marks of the
students in a class organized towards complex objectives
may seem unreasonable to a university administrator,
particularly to one who is wedded to the Gaussean Curve.
Second, if university instructors in general shifted their teaching strategy successfully towards more highly
motivating procedures and more complex objectives, would it
then be fair to the students to rescale their output with
the Gaussean Curve?
This rescaling would effectively
eliminate the benefits gained (in terms of awarded marks)
by the use of improved methodologies. What would be the
effect on the positive attitude changes gained of the
rescaling of these marks?
Should scaling be abandoned in
favor of marking to performance criteria when more complex objectives are sought? Should instructors be permitted to
step on the tail of the Gaussean Curve without a squawk from
In conclusion, it is reasonable to propose that the
transition from naive adolescent to competent professional
involves some important attitude changes.
It may be
possible to encourage if not foster these changes by
instructional methods similar to the one elaborated here.
What factors most contribute to success and what types of
evidence should be accepted when evaluating such an
Student Response to
the ESS Survey
41 19 3
on the Final Examination
.040 .025 .025
Probable Attitude Change
Frequency Cumulative Cumulative
Topic Frequency Frequency
Points of change
ESS Survey occurred at this point in course
8. Final Exam
Adams, Raymond S; and Blddle, Bruce J. Realities of Teaching: Explorations with Video Tape. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.
Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of educational objectives: Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay, 1956.
Hovland, Carl I., Janis, Irving, L., and Kelley, Harold H. and Persuasion. New Haven, Yale, 1953.
McLeod, J. (Ed.), The slow learner in the primary school.
Peterson, Wretha. A program for early identification of learning disabilities; Kit I - Educational evaluation. Seattle, Special Child
Powell, J. C.
A communication model for instruction, Unpublished Paper; delivered to a seminar of the Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce, University of Alberta, March, 1970.
Powell, J. C.
Educational change in rural Alberta.
used as handout for course,
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