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Exploring Instructor Evaluation, Affective Learning and Teacher Credibility in International Classrooms

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International Journal of Management Science and Business Administration
Volume 6, Issue 2, January 2020, Pages 40-47


Exploring Instructor Evaluation, Affective Learning and Teacher Credibility in International Classrooms

DOI: 10.18775/ijmsba.1849-5664-5419.2014.62.1005
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18775/ijmsba.1849-5664-5419.2014.62.1005

1 Peter de Boer 2 Prantik Bordoloi

1 2 NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands

Abstract: In recent years the globalization trend in higher education has continued. This borderless educational world provides students opportunities to select and follow a study programme anywhere in the world. The resulting international classrooms create challenges and opportunities for international study programmes in preparing their diverse student populations for the demands posed by today’s fast-paced (business) environment. The teacher plays a pivotal role in accommodating the increasingly diverse student body and facilitating learning while being mindful of different learning styles, expectations and needs. Whereas initially the consequences of having an international classroom was taken for granted, higher education institutions have increasingly become aware that it involves more than offering the curriculum in English. In this study we explore the linkages between the student diversity, in terms of self-reported nationality, ethnicity and native language, affective learning and teacher credibility in the context of international classrooms. A key objective of this study was to check the reliability of the measurement items and scales for use in research pertaining to international classrooms. For this study, data was collected from 183 students following the International Business programme at an undergraduate level at one of the most international Universities of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. The study sample had students from 35 different countries with the Dutch (42%) and German (19%) students constituting the largest group. The sample was divided into two groups: those with the same ethnicity, nationality and native language as the teacher (student-teacher congruence), and those who were different (student-teacher incongruence). The results of this research suggest that the measurement tools for teacher credibility and affective learning are valid, whereas the tool for nonverbal immediacy did not prove reliable. In addition, the theory-driven hypotheses were not supported as no significant difference was found between the scores of affective learning and teacher credibility between the two different groups of students.

Keywords: Instructor evaluation, Affective learning, Teacher credibility, International classrooms

Exploring Instructor Evaluation, Affective Learning and Teacher Credibility in International Classrooms

1. Introduction

International higher education remains as dynamic as ever. The industry has seen many changes in recent years with traditional destination countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia attracting fewer students as a result of increased competition. There is still a lot of student mobility, however, a more diverse playing field has emerged with a larger number of countries attracting international students. This new reality has forced higher education institutes to distinguish themselves from the competition. According to Verbik and Lasanowski (2007), one of the key motivating factors for international students in deciding on a foreign study destination is the quality of the so-called student experience. This experience is to a large extent shaped in the international classroom. This international classroom is an environment in which a wide range of students from different cultural and academic backgrounds converge, each with own learning preferences and expectations. This necessitates that higher education institutes are aware of the success factors in an international classroom setting as well as the role of the teacher in facilitating a successful learning experience (British Council 2012).

Immediacy behaviours and affective learning are concepts which both have been researched at length. Studies have found that a positive relationship exists between nonverbal immediacy and credibility and learning (Schrodt et al. 2009). However, until now research has been primarily limited to monocultural sample groups and been comparative in nature (e.g. Santilli, Miller, Katt 2011). The impact of immediacy behaviours across cultures and in the context of the multicultural, heterogeneous international classroom has been largely overlooked. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining the relationship between immediacy behaviours, teacher credibility and instructor evaluation in an international classroom and how affective learning is achieved within such a context.

The premise of this research is to explore what factors are important when examining education in an international classroom. If it is accepted that teacher credibility and verbal and non-verbal affinity seeking measures have positive correlations with affective learning, what do different cultures expect from educators from their culture and from other cultures? In conjunction with this, do students learn differently from teachers from different cultures?

1.1 International Classroom

An international classroom consists of a diverse student population. Each student brings along his own cultural and academic background. This generally enriches the learning experience of students and also serves as a learning moment for the teachers involved. However, an international classroom also poses challenges for the teacher trying to utilize methods, which meet the students’ diverse needs. International students tend to have different learning styles, language barriers may occur, and bias might also cloud the learning experience. Initially they might also experience fear and a loss of confidence (Kwon 2009).

The concept of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) in curricula and instruction is put forth as a way of creating inclusive and effective teaching methods (Gay 2002). Jeannin (2013) noted that teaching in an international classroom should not be considered a homogenization process. Teachers need to do justice to the intercultural variety in their classrooms by seeking ways to create an individualized learning experience and drawing upon contextualized teaching approaches. This means that teachers need to engage with the diversity in the classroom and be aware of the impact this diversity has on the design of the curriculum (Leask 2015). It also calls for teachers to adapt their teaching approach to accommodate different levels of language proficiency and learning styles (Crose 2011).

1.2 Affective Learning

Affective learning has been defined as the perception of students on the course content as well as towards enrolling in another course with similar content (Teven and McCroskey 1997). It distinguishes itself from cognitive learning as the latter is geared towards knowledge comprehension and retention. Therefore, cognitive learning allows for easier measurement of learning outcomes compared to affective learning. However, Bolkan & Goodboy (2015) argued that affective learning serves as a “central mediator” in students achieving the intended learning outcomes, and affective learning has been incorporated as one of the most important student outcomes when researching teacher behaviour (Arbaugh 2010; Finn et al. 2009; Ozmen 2011; Teven and McCroskey 1997). As a result, research examining affective learning has significantly increased in the last decade (Hess 2015).

1.3 Teacher Credibility and Behavior

The relationship between international students and the faculty and staff of their study program is of vital importance to their success. A safe and inviting classroom environment allows

students to engage with their fellow students and lecturers in an inclusive manner (Crose 2011). A strong rapport between teacher and students results in a trust relationship and mutual respect. Additionally, it is imperative the teacher shows a real interest in students’ backgrounds and academic and social wellbeing. Inclusive approaches lead to effective communication and active participation in the multicultural classroom (Devita 2000). The teacher plays an instrumental role in the international classroom as it is the teacher’s responsibility to create a supportive environment that allows for intercultural learning to occur. Being caring towards the students is, as Gay (2002) put it, “a moral imperative, a social responsibility, and a pedagogical necessity” (109).

Although the ideal teacher in the international classroom may not exist, there has been a significant number of studies indicating some of the required skills necessary for a teacher to successfully teach. Teekens (2003) argued that in teaching in an international environment, a different skills set is required than in a domestic setting. She identified the importance of nonverbal immediacy behaviours in communicating meaning. Misunderstandings caused by language and nonverbal signals are often overlooked, but they are culturally influenced and contribute significantly to teacher effectiveness. Immediacy behaviours are verbal or nonverbal behaviours used to create a sense of physical or psychological closeness between teachers and their students. Verbal immediacy behaviours include behaviours such as the use of “we” and “us”, recalling names, previewing and reviewing to keep students focused along with rewarding and encouraging participation. While these affinity-seeking measures might seem artificial, studies in the US and elsewhere have demonstrated that they increase positive feelings towards the teacher and, in turn, the course content. In short, affinity-seeking measures are an important means to help increase affective learning – the enjoyment experienced in learning and self-reported cognitive learning levels (Ozmen 2011; Richmond, McCroskey, and Johnson 2003; Santilli, Miller, and Katt 2011). This leads us to hypothesize that

H1: There is a positive and significant correlation between teacher credibility and affective learning.

H2: There is a positive and significant correlation between teacher nonverbal immediacy behaviours and affective learning.

A teacher’s immediacy behaviours have an impact on his credibility. By encouraging questions, active listening skills and showing appreciation the teacher demonstrates open-mindedness, flexibility, enthusiasm and passion, which contribute to an inclusive environment (Jones 2010). This leads us to hypothesize that

H3: There is a positive and significant correlation between teacher nonverbal immediacy behaviours and teacher credibility.

1.4 Student – Teacher Incongruence

Egalite, Ikisida and Winters (2015) examined the effect of teacher-student race congruence on student achievement in primary and secondary school in Florida, USA. Their research suggests that students assigned to teachers of the same race/ ethnicity performed better in several areas and that this particularly the case with lower-performing students. Similarly, an experiment by van Ewijk (2011) shows the possibility of an indirect grading bias when ethnic majority teachers assess minority students as they seem to have lower expectations of these students. In conjunction with this, research conducted in the Netherlands by Thijs, Westhof and Koomen (2012) found that ethnic majority teachers consider ethnically incongruent relationships less favourable than ethnically congruent ones. They argue that cultural misunderstandings and intergroup bias play an important role in teachers developing this perspective. Another study by Geerlings, Thijs and Verkuyten (2018) found that teachers feel slightly self-efficacious with ethnic minority versus majority students, especially in the context of student problem behaviour. This leads us to hypothesize that when it comes to student-teacher incongruence in terms of ethnicity, native language and nationality:

H4a: There is a relationship between student-teacher incongruence and teacher credibility

H4b: There is a relationship between student-teacher incongruence and affective learning

The goal of this paper is two-fold. The first objective is to determine whether the existing research measures, compiled from a variety of sources worldwide and primarily in a post- secondary environment in the United States, will prove valid when researching in an international classroom in Europe. Secondly, the aim is to test the theory-driven hypotheses that have been formulated for this research.

2. Methodology

2.1 Participants and Procedure

For this study, data was collected from a purposive sample of 183 students following the International Business programme at an undergraduate level at one of the most international Universities of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. The study sample had students from 35 different countries with the Dutch (42%) and German (19%) students constituting the largest groups. The study sample has studied 4 different courses taught by 9 different teachers in different classes and stages of the curriculum. The class size varied between 12 to 50 students. The students were asked to complete a questionnaire at the end of the semester (after the classes were complete) and the teachers involved were not present in the class when the questionnaires were distributed and filled out. Table 1 presents some descriptive data of the study sample.

Table 1: Sample descriptives

2.2 Measures

In addition to the items presented in Table 1, respondents were asked to state their native language and self-described ethnicity. Furthermore, they had to state their native language, nationality and the perceived ethnicity of the teacher that they studied the course with. The student and teacher ethnicity, nationality and native language values were used to divide the student respondents into different two groups, namely same as the teacher and different from the teacher. As such, student-teacher congruence was measured and tested through difference of ethnicity, nationality and native language.
Affective learning. To measure affective learning, the measurement tool from McCroskey (1994) was used. With the aid of the tool affective learning is measured through two factors:
(1) affect toward content, and (2) affect toward classes in this content. Each factor has four items that were measured in bipolar scales. Affect towards content measures the perception of students on the content in the class in terms of its goodness, value, fairness and positivity. Affect toward classes in this content measures the likelihood of the students taking future courses in related content areas.
Teacher credibility. To measure teacher credibility, the measurement tool developed by McCroskey and Teven (1999) was used. Using 18 items (semantic differential scale), the tool measures teacher credibility through three factors: (1) competence, (2) trustworthiness, and (3) caring/goodwill.
Immediacy behaviours. For immediacy behaviours, the Nonverbal Immediacy Scale-Observer Report (NIS-O) developed by Richmond, McCroskey, and Johnson (2003) was utilized. The tool consisted of 26 behaviours of teachers, which the students rated on how frequently the said behaviour was observed from the teacher (1=never to 5=very often).

3. Results and Discussion

3.1 Validity of Measures

To establish the validity of the measures the alpha reliabilities for the items were first checked. Table 2 presents the Cronbach’s α coefficients for the factors relevant for this study.

Table 2: Cronbach’s α

Table 2 presents the alpha reliabilities for the factors calculated for the studies. When compared to other studies (Ozmen 2011; Santilli, Miller, and Katt 2011) it can be seen that the factor reliabilities of teacher credibility and affective learning are found to be within acceptable limits and within the range of what other researchers have found.

There was, however, low alpha reliability for nonverbal immediacy, which seems to confirm the concern raised by certain studies (McCroskey et al. 1995; Santilli, Miller, and Katt 2011; Zhang 2006) on whether the immediacy construct can be transferred to other cultures, non-American contexts. Due to unreliability of the measures for nonverbal immediacy hypotheses H2 and H3 could not be tested.

3.2 Teacher Credibility and Affective Learning

Table 3 presents the correlations between the dimensions of teacher credibility and affective learning.

Table 3: Correlations between teacher credibility and affective learning

There was a significant and strong positive correlation between the dimensions of teacher credibility, which is in line with what other researchers have found (Finn et al 2009). However, contrary to what was assumed, no strong and significant correlation was found between teacher credibility and affective learning. Based on our analysis we did not find any support for hypothesis H1 (There is a positive and significant correlation between teacher credibility and affective learning).

3.3 Student – Teacher Incongruence, Teacher Credibility and Affective Learning

Table 4 presents the results of the mean comparison between the student groups that were created based on difference of ethnicity native language and nationality. T tests did not indicate the evidence of any significant difference between the different student groups and their opinion of the dimensions of teacher credibility (competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill) and affective learning (affect toward content and affect toward classes in this content). Based on this analysis we could not find support for hypotheses H4a and H4b (There is a relationship between student-teacher incongruence and teacher credibility; and between student-teacher incongruence and affective learning). Although the results were surprising, some recent studies (Örtenblad, Koris, and Pihlak 2017; Wagner, Rieger, and Voorvelt 2016) have noted that there was no influence of student-teacher incongruence on learning.

4. Conclusion and Further Research

Our first objective for this research was to prove the validity of existing research measures, in an international classroom in Europe. This study has found that the measurement tools for teacher credibility and affective learning are valid for use in an international classroom. The measurement tool for nonverbal immediacy was not found to be reliable.

In terms of hypotheses testing, we could not find support for any of our theory-driven hypotheses. As we could not find support for hypotheses H4a and H4b, this lets us to presume that in an international classroom, language, ethnicity, and nationality do not play a role when it comes to teacher credibility and affective learning – which is at least surprising. Although the reasons are not clear, the student groups in the sample were very diverse, with students from 35 countries and a large variety of native languages, it is believed that the sample size needs be further expanded to conduct more reliable, statistically significant comparative studies. It might also be an option to limit the analysis to students from two or three different ethnic and national groups to reach more valid generalisations. Future research by the authors will focus on collecting more data in a similar international classroom setting and applying factor analysis to further explore the dimensions of teacher credibility in the context of a heterogenous international classroom. This will also allow for re- examination of the hypotheses, which were not supported in the current study. Furthermore, there remains scope to develop and evaluate a measurement tool for affinity seeking behaviours adopted by teachers in an international classroom.

Table 4: Comparing sample groups for teacher credibility and affective learning

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