The influence of learning environment on the satisfaction of pre-service teacher education students

Year: 1989

Author: Clarke, John A, Chant, David, Dart, Barry C

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines the effect of student perceptions of the learning environment on their satisfaction with that environment. Previous research has focussed either on the influence of actual perceptions or the influence of dissonance between preferred and actual perceptions per se. This study extends that work by suggesting that, depending on the circumstances, it may be actual perceptions, dissonance in perceptions, or some combination of these that is more influential. 130 teacher education students in a 3 year integrated course and from a variety of content area backgrounds classified either as an Arts/Humanities or a Science/Technology course completed the College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI) prior to (preferred) and at the end of (actual) a semester unit in Educational Psychology. The CUCEI consists of 7 scales: Personalization, Involvement, Student Cohesiveness, Satisfaction, Task Orientation, Innovation and Individualization. On the assumption that classroom behaviour is complex and perhaps not realistically explicable by strongly parameterized statistical models, a categorical model explaining student satisfaction is built up from the data by making few assumptions about the statistical characteristics of the data. Four discrete groups of students are identified for each scale: Low actual-low dissonance (labelled INDEPENDENTS), low actual-high dissonance (ACERBICS), high actual-low dissonance (EMPATHETICS) and high actual-high dissonance (IMPRESSEDS) and for each scale, the level of actual satisfaction for each group is computed. Initial analysis indicates that there is a strong course effect. Subsequent analysis carried out on Arts/Humanities and Science/Technology students separately indicates that for the former, satisfaction is related to actual perceptions of a number of classroom psychosocial characteristics, while, for the latter, satisfaction is related to the dissonance between actual and preferred perceptions on some characteristics. The results are explained in terms of the types of students attracted to the different courses and the history and ethos of teacher education institutions. Implications for teacher educators are discussed. In addition, the validity of the CUCEI is checked, with scale reliability measures using both the student and the class as the unit of analysis confirming for the most part the already reported internal consistency of the 7 scales. Also, the four groups of INDEPENDENTS, ACERBICS, EMPATHETICS and IMPRESSEDS tend to behave in a way that is theoretically predictable and may well be worthy of further research. The Study of Learning Project The Study of Learning Project is a large scale research project being undertaken by the authors which has the aim of improving the learning environments of, and the approach to study taken by, tertiary students. It is investigating the interaction between their learning styles and learning processes, their preferred and actual perceptions of their learning environment and cognitive and affective outcomes of their learning experiences. Data on all of the above has been collected over a semester period from students in both integrated and end-on preservice teacher education courses in a large metropolitan teacher education institution. This paper focuses on one aspect of that data - the influence of the perceptions of the learning environment on the satisfaction of students in integrated courses.