A Correlational Study of Teachers' Conceptions of Learning and Students' Academic Achievement at Secondary Level.

 
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Byline: Kiran Shehzadi and Mahr Saeed Akhtar

Introduction

Knowledge regarding students' learning outcomes of a nation is important as it reflects the worth of learning expected by students in a society. The educational systems are evaluated on the basis of students' cognitive, behavioral or attitudinal development whereas economists have also described the quality of human resources in the form of assessment scores since these were found to be linked with increased individual earnings. Therefore, it has allowed policy makers to shift their attention from institutional inputs to the quality of outputs measured in terms of student learning outcomes (The World Bank Group, 2013).

Developing countries are host to majority of children in the world. Since 1960s, the third world countries have shown drastic increase in the enrollment of students which is still below the pre-set target. The dropout rate is still high in these countries and the impact of learning is not significant for majority of the school going children. The reason would be to focus learning rather than enrollment (Glewwe and Kremer, 2006). Therefore,researchers are concentrating to identify the factors influencing student learning.

A good deal of evidence has been reported which detects the effect of teacher related variables on students' learning that also acknowledges the worth of a teacher. However, the results of such studies have not been consistent in relation to the discovery of strong relationship between the constructs (Goe, 2007). According to researchers,in addition to characteristics of teachers, their behavior was found to be significantly linked with students' learning outcome (Araujo, Carneiro, Cruz-Aguayo, and Schady, 2014) as behaviors are the reflections of hidden belief systems. Therefore, it may be concluded that teachers' believes would have an effect on students' learning.

Teachers' beliefs is one of the possible and valid causes of teachers' varied behaviors towards different components of teaching learning process that have an impact on students' learning outcomes. Scholars argue that teachers' perception and practice of excellent teaching depends on how he/she conceptualizes it (Biggs, 2012). Consequently, teaching behavior of teachers' encompassing perceptions and student evaluations are influenced by their belief system regarding teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment and self-efficacy (Brown, 2003). Literature also supports the conviction that two constructs as teachers' teaching and students' learning both are affected by these beliefs/conceptions (Thompson, 1992; (Reid andPetocz, 2002).

That's why researchers have been working to find out links between teachers and students' perceptions and behavior, and their potential impact on other educational variables as research has found that teachers' different orientations to teaching lead towards different pattern of learning among students (Gowand Kember, 1993).

A teacher's thinking is important to provide creative opportunities of learning for the students whereas a good blend of thinking and practice used by teachers is fruitful to integrate with teacher-candidate characteristics (Villegas and Reimers, 1996). To a smaller extent, positive correlations between teachers and students' efficacy beliefs and their learning outcomes have been reported (Akbari and Allvar, 2010; Britner and Pajares, 2006; Pajares, 1996). In addition to this, students' conceptions regarding assessment were also found to be related to their learning outcomes (Brown and Hirschfeld, 2008). A smaller portion of literature describing the conceptions of teachers and its impact on students' achievement is available and therefore justifies its further investigations.

Teachers' believes/conceptions are categorized into five components including perceptions about a) learner and learning, b) curriculum, c) teaching, d) learning to teach and e) about one's own self. These conceptions lead one's behavior to the accomplishment of desired objectives. Researchers argued that teaching strategies and assessment practices have emerged as a result of their understanding for a particular subject(Brown, Kennedy, Fok, Chan and Yu, 2009).

Teachers' teaching approaches influence the students' learning approaches which ultimately affect their learning outcomes. Researchers discovered a direct link between learning approaches of students and teaching approaches of teachers (Beausaert, Segers, and Wiltink, 2013). It was found that a student centered approach of teaching leads towards better students' learning. It is evident in literature that in order to bring a positive change in students' learning outcomes; the educational practices of teachers should be transformed accordingly which is possible via introducing a change in their instructional conceptions. In order to facilitate this change, researches are required to investigate the current nature of these conceptions and factors affecting these conceptions along with particular emphasis on students' learning outcomes (Martin, Pozo, Mateos, Martin, and Echeverria, 2014).

The nature of these conceptions is assumed to be context specific. These contexts may include differences in subject, educational level, curriculum, evaluative systems or socio-cultural background. These contexts actually assist to develop varied perceptions among teachers. There is a wide scope of discovering these conceptions across different contexts and teaching levels as most of the research on conceptions remained confined to western cultures especially at higher level (Gao and Watkins, 2002).

Purpose of the Study

The major objectives of the study are to:

  1. Explorepublic sector high school teachers' conceptions of learning. These conceptions may be explored through identifying teachers' agreement or...

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