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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.10 No.2
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VOLUME 10 NUMBER 2 February 2015

Table of Contents
Factors that Perpetuate Test-Driven, Factory-Style Schooling: Implications for Policy and Practice ......................... 1
Karl F. Wheatley

Teachers Perspective of their Role and Student Autonomy in the PBL Context in China ........................................ 18
Huichun Li and Xiangyun Du

Is a Rubric Worth the Time and Effort? Conditions for Success .................................................................................... 32
Hiroshi Ito

The Art of Teaching: Instructive, Authoritative and Motivational ................................................................................ 46

Diana Martinez, PhD

Intercultural Understanding in the New Mobile Learning Environment .................................................................... 60

Daniel Chun

How Home Economics Teachers in Norwegian Lower Secondary Schools Implement Sustainability in their
Teaching? .............................................................................................................................................................................. 72
Else Marie vreb

WelWel: Proposal for a Collaborative/Cooperative Learning Model in the Cloud ................................................... 84

Luis Garcia and Maria Joo Ferreira

User Behaviour on Google Search Engine ...................................................................................................................... 104

Bartomeu Riutord Fe

International Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 1-17, February, 2015.

Factors that Perpetuate Test-Driven, Factory-Style

Schooling: Implications for Policy and Practice

Karl F. Wheatley
Cleveland State University
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

Abstract. This article analyzes the factors that perpetuate test-driven,

factory-style schooling, despite evidence challenging the efficacy of that
approach. Both empirical and anecdotal evidence are presented to illustrate
the failures of test-based accountability in the U.S., including the failures of
specific policies to improve student outcomes, as well as evidence of
collateral damage resulting from those policies. Factors that perpetuate test-
driven, factory-style schooling include personal and institutional inertia,
ignorance of the historical roots of factory schooling, ignorance of
alternative educational paradigms, and The Overton Windowa narrow
range of acceptable discourse that precludes discussing more productive
alternatives. Other factors perpetuating factory-style schooling include
misleading language and media coverage, bureaucratic tendencies, the
profit motive, self-fulfilling prophecies regarding student motivation,
traditional academic objectives and linear curricular sequences, and flawed
and misleading research. Accountability policies and practices are discussed
as a strategic political initiative that benefits wealthy and powerful members
of society in multiple ways. Based on extensive experience with progressive
education, the author presents eight suggestions for helping others
transcend the factory model of schooling.

Keywords: educational reform, paradigm change, accountability movement,

progressive education, school organization


Thousands of years of history suggest that the schoolhouse as we know it is

an absurd way to rear our young; its contrary to everything we know about
what it is to be a human being. - Deborah Meier, vii, in Littky, 2004

There are multiple indicators that the policies that have gripped American
education for the last decade are backfiring. These test-based accountability policies,
despite being touted as real reform, have actually intensified the most

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


problematic features of traditional, factory-style schooling. In this article, I survey

evidence that our current policy approach is backfiring, and provide a conceptual
analysis of the many factors that perpetuate test-driven, factory-style schooling.

The Failures of Test-Based Accountability

People who haven't darkened the door of a public school in decades have no
idea how accountability has robbed those institutions of vitality, of zest,
and of the intangible elements that make children want to succeed. There's
only so much brow-beating, only so much drilling, only so many test-prep
worksheets a small mind can endure without zoning out. Later, when the
option is availed, that uninspired child will drop out.
- John Young, Waco Tribune, 10/23/05

Evidence of Failures
As a parent, countless other parents have complained to me that the high-stakes
testing and increasingly standardized curricula and methods of the accountability
movement have made their childrens schooling more stressful and less meaningful.
Valuable activities such as play, project-based learning, the arts, and even science
and social studies are being crowded out for more test preparation, often focusing
only on reading and mathematics. Parents say that everything is about the tests,
not real learning. With remarkable regularity, parents comments about what is
happening in schools begin with Its crazy.

As a teacher educator, and as I have reported elsewhere (Wheatley, 2015a), when I

now show my students videos of good teaching, their response has increasingly
become to say, I know that this is good teaching, and that this is what is best for
children, and I would love to teach this way, but if I teach this way, I will be fired. I
have to follow the mandated curriculum and teach to the tests. This situation
seems not only unacceptable, but also unethical.

From a research perspective, graduation tests have not yielded any clear benefits
(Musoba, 2011), high-stakes testing has increased student and teacher stress levels
enormously, and reports abound of turned off learners and burned out teachers.
Faced with seemingly-impossible performance demands, some teachers and
administrators have even turned to cheating. Even for those with enormous faith in
the meaning of test scores, in 2008-2012, during the most intensive period of test-
driven schooling in U.S. history, the long-term trend scores for 17-year-olds on the
National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) were flat in reading and
mathematics, for both genders and all racial groups (National Center for
Educational Statistics, 2013). And that lack of any discernible improvement came
despite of, or perhaps because of, sacrificing other subjects and meaningful
activities to focus narrowly on test preparation in two subjects. Making matters
worse, creativity, often cited as the most important student outcome in the 21st
century economy and world, has been declining since the beginning of the

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standards movement (Kim, 2011), with the sharpest declines in the elementary
years. Furthermore, student-initiated activities that allow students to practice the
initiative and executive functioning required of adults in a participatory democracy
and entrepreneurial economy have disappeared from many schools.

Meanwhile, experiments to use student test scores to reward teachers have failed in
Florida, Texas, Chicago, New York, and Nashville (e.g., Springer, et al., 2010), and
psychometricians and professional societies have repeatedly pointed out that so-
called value-added assessments are not intellectually defensible and should not be
used to rate or reward teachers (Amrein-Beardsley, 2014). Aware of the harm that
these policies are doing, and the lack of progress even on narrow indicators of
traditional academics, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences has scolded the
policymakers for basing these test-driven accountability policies on ideology, not

None of these failures should surprise anyone broadly versed in educational

research. There is voluminous research on the ways in which high-stakes testing
backfires for students while fundamentally distorting education (Madaus, Russell,
& Higgins, 2009; McNeil, 2000; Nichols & Berliner, 2007). Also, evidence of the
distorting effects of high-stakes tests goes back centuries, to the civil service exams
in China (Madaus, Russell, & Higgins, 2009). Furthermore, China, Singapore, and
Korea, three countries with the most intensive high-stakes testing, are currently
trying to escape the grips of such testing, because of the harms that testing has done
to student learning, creativity, initiative, and mental health (Zhao, 2009). Moreover,
for teachers, decades of research shows that merit pay does not improve
performance in complex professions such as teaching (Perry, Engbers, & Jun, 2009).
These findings call into question the core assumptions of accountability policies.

Thus, there is ample evidence that Americas current policies, characterized by test-
driven curricula within factory-style schools, are not merely unsuccessful, they are
counterproductive on multiple fronts. These negative results could have been
predicted from previous research and theory in educational psychology,
motivation, curriculum, and comparative education. Indeed, many researchers and
educators predicted these results before the accountability movement began.

Understanding the Repeated Failures to Correct Course

When one accountability policy after another failed to improve education, U.S.
policymakers seem to merely double down on the same approach, while educators
and the public, despite believing that something is clearly wrong, often seem at a
loss to propose coherent alternatives. Why? If, as the popular axiom says, insanity
is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then
why does American education seemed locked in a vicious cycle of repeating the
same mistakes over and over again?

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As a researcher and teacher educator, much of my time over the last decade has
been spent trying to provide empirical answers to this broader question, and this
research has identified three important sub-questions. First, why did so many
Americans initially go along with education policies that make schools even more
like factories, with even greater authoritarian control, much greater standardization
of curricula and teaching methods, and marked intensification of high-stakes
testing? Second, what sustains those policies and practices, even where their failures
are apparent? Third, what can be done to change this situation, and to steer
American education in a healthier direction? I have addressed the initial acceptance
of traditional schooling elsewhere (Wheatley, 2015b), and primarily focus here on
the second question, with some attention to the third question. To better understand
these questions, during the past decade, I read over a hundred books, hundreds of
research articles, thousands of news reports and blog posts, and have observed and
participated in live and on-line discussions and debates. During that time, I posted
over a thousand blog responses regarding educational policy. Based on this earlier
broad-based research, I developed advocacy tools that I tried out with my early
childhood teacher education classes and also used in public advocacy work, and I
have reported on the results elsewhere (Wheatley, 2012, 2013).

So, given this research, what explains the tendency of the American public and
American educators to stick with test-driven, factory-style schooling even when its
failures have become obviousand perhaps even painfulto those directly
involved in education? Numerous interconnected factors explain our continued use
of a model of education marked by authoritarian control, factory-style organization,
increasingly standardized goals, curricula, and teaching methods; and an almost
singular focus on raising scores on high-stakes standardized tests in a few subjects.

Factors that Perpetuate Factory-Style Schooling

The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.
- John Maynard Keynes, 1935

It is evident that the factors promoting factory-style schooling are

overlapping, reciprocal, and sometimes operate on a psychological, sociological,
and political level. These factors are also deeply rooted.

Individuals and institutions have great inertiathey usually continue doing what
they have always done, and one of the simplest explanations why American schools
are organized like factories and focused on test scores in 2015 is that this is how they
have been operated for a long time. Thus, unless some significant failure or
epiphany creates the disequilibrium necessary to provoke a profound change,
individuals and institutions only make incremental changes.

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The role of alignment in recent policies is critical for inertia. The more that
educational goals, curricula, teaching methods, assessments, and other policies are
tightly aligned, as they are with current policies, the more difficult it is to change
any aspect of education, such as teaching methods. This dynamic exists because any
changes in one part of the system bring it out of alignment with other parts of the
educational system (e.g., assessments), which generally elicits pressure for
everything to become aligned again.

However, while the tightly aligned model of factory-style schooling creates

enormous pressure for individuals to conform and not attempt meaningful changes
in any aspect of education (e.g., stopping giving mandated tests), this feature also
suggests the potential for rapid, transformative change. That is, if a tightly aligned
system fails dramatically, it is easier to imagine people saying that we dont just
need to tinker with this or that aspect of the system: we need an entirely different
approach to education. In this sense, better educating the public about the many
ways in which the test-driven, factory-style schooling is backfiring for children,
families, and the nation may well nudge the public to a tipping point at which they
demand something substantially better.

Ignorance of Historical Roots

Largely lost in the mists of history is the fact that our factory model of K-12
schooling was never designed to educate students for creativity, critical thinking,
problem-solving, 21st century skills, let alone for handling shared challenges such
as terrorism or climate change. Rather, our school model was largely designed to
assimilate disparate immigrants into a cultural uniformity and to educate the
masses for dirty, mindless, and often dangerous factory work.

Here is William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906,
in The Philosophy of Education (1893), describing the purposes and effects of formal

Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in

prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not
accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined,
is the subsumption of the individual.

Theres also a troubling analysis in Gatto (2006), that reports that the historian Henri
Remarque blamed the carnage of World War I on the tricks of the schoolmasters,
while German theologian Dieterich Bonhoffer said the Nazi atrocities were the
inevitable by-product of good schoolingPrussian-style schooling designed to
subvert moral judgment and action. In my experience, only a small minority of
people knows of these obedience-oriented origins of our current education model. If
more people were aware that our current factory model of school was intentionally
designed to inculcate mindless conformity and train for factory workrather than
promote the broader goals we have for children and society todaywe might be

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more inclined to abandon the factory model and adopt a model better suited to our
goals and modern world. Of course, theres another built-in obstacle. People
educated in schools that were custom-designed to promote obedience often struggle
to think outside of the box, and if they do think such thoughts, were never educated
in how to take decisive action to challenge the status quo.

Ignorance of Alternatives
Suggestions were made in the previous section about conditions that might lead the
public to demand better education, but another obstacle to this occurring is that the
public knows very little about truly alternative educational approaches. Thus, while
Ive observed countless people over the last decade speak articulately about what
they dislike about high-stakes testing or the Common Core State Standards (CCSS),
most get pretty quiet when asked to describe what we should be doing instead. At
best, most propose only minor tweaks in the traditional model (e.g., less or different
high-stakes testing), not fundamental changes in how children are educated.

The American publics knowledge of alternatives to factory-style schooling may

well be becoming more limited over time. While some truly innovative alternative
approaches to education were moderately common in the 1960s-1970s, most of the
people who experienced those years are retired or even passed away. Constructivist
approaches to subject matter teaching and authentic assessment made some
inroads in the 1990s, but these advances were mostly washed away by the
advocates of traditional instruction, and then were largely eliminated by the wave
of test-driven policies beginning with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Thus,
with every year that passes, fewer citizens and prospective teachers know about the
very successful alternatives to traditional schooling. Having only experienced test-
driven schooling, they find it difficult to imagine any other possibilities.

Trapped Within The Overton Window

Because Americans are most familiar with test-focused and factory style schooling,
and also have limited knowledge of alternatives, it is not surprising that more
Americans cannot articulate a clear alternative to this approach. Furthermore,
because our own education prized conformity, it is perhaps also unsurprising that
when Americans know of such educational alternatives, they often do not advocate
vigorously for them. But what is truly remarkable is the degree to which public
discussions of education stay confined to an incredibly narrow range of educational
alternatives. When an intense focus on academic content standards for two decades
brings no clear successes, we hear more discussion of the need for better content
standards, not a discussion of the possibility that we are simply thinking about
education goals in the wrong way, or that perhaps content standards alone cannot
improve education. When high-stakes testing fails to improve our educational
trajectory, people discuss how maybe we need different or better tests, but rarely
mentioned is the possibility that perhaps the very idea of high-stakes testing is
counterproductive. When programs to reward teachers for student test scores fail
repeatedly, we hear discussions of how these incentive systems need to be

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modified, instead of discussion of the fact that such incentive systems reliably
backfire. When $6 billion spent on implementing supposedly evidence-based
reading instruction methods yielded no improvement in reading comprehension
(Institute of Educational Sciences, 2008), and created substantial collateral damage,
we heard from policymakers that the problem was that teachers werent doing quite
enough of the recommended practices. Why didnt we hear instead discussion of
the possibility that perhaps our whole conception of reading instruction is flawed,
and our approach to researching educational effectiveness may be similarly flawed?

The simplest explanation for all this is that Americas discussion of education is
trapped within the very narrow confines of the Overton Window, a phenomenon
identified by Joseph P. Overton (Lehman, 2014): In brief, the Overton Window
refers to the limited range of ideas that are considered acceptable for discussion in
politics at any given time. Despite frequent exhortations for all of us to think
outside the box, those who introduce ideas outside of the Overton Window are
routinely ignored, ridiculed, or punished. Although initially used to discuss policy
proposals from a conservative/libertarian perspective, the Overton Window has
taken on a broader meaning in recent years.

As an active participant in many educational debates over the last decade, I have
experienced how the Overton Window works firsthand. For example, for about five
years, I regularly read and participated on the Flypaper blog, the education blog of
the conservative Fordham Institute, an organization that played a pivotal role in
promoting current market-oriented, and test-driven education polices. Interestingly,
the Fordham education commentators were determined to keep the debate focused
on what worked best to raise reading and math test scores fastest or what was the
most efficient way to carry out factory-style, test driven education. When
challenged about the very validity of test scores as evidence of educational
effectiveness, or when it was suggested that test-driven, factory-style schooling was
perhaps a less effective model overall, they seemed eager to not let the discussion
go there. Why? These questions would expand the Overton Window dramatically,
and shift the discussion to a range of issues they did not want to discuss, perhaps
because the evidence regarding those issues was not on their side.

To illustrate other ideas outside of our current Overton Window in education,

imagine if someone suggested that we would improve education by strengthening
teachers unions, reducing formal reading instruction by 50% in the primary grades,
ending homework in elementary school, ending all high-stakes testing, and
increasing play and student-initiated learning. Those ideas all fall well outside of
the currently acceptable boundaries of educational discourse. However, all of those
proposals were education reality in the 1960s-1970s in America, and there is
substantial empirical evidence that those approaches work better for children,
families, and the nation. If this claim is correct, then this suggests that Americas
current Overton Window is not well aligned with empirical reality. This raises the
interesting question of how we got to this point.

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Misleading Language and the Media

He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument,
but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the
power of sense. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, 1900

Language is power and politicians and the business community marketed our
current education policies to us by using language that first described failing
schools, and then demanded higher standards, academic rigor, measurable
objectives, objective testing, data-based decision-making, performance incentives,
sanctions, performance pay, evidence-based practices. The language of
measurement and control implicit in these terms steers our thinking and actions
towards traditional schooling, with top-down control, factory-style organization, a
narrow focus on testable academic knowledge and skills, and rewards and
punishments to ensure compliance. Notice how differently we might think about
education if we said that the main problem with our schools was that they followed
an outdated factory model, and that the ways to improve them included whole-
child goals, real-world curriculum, substantial child-initiated learning, healthy
intrinsic motivation, authentic assessment, and teacher autonomy. This shift in
terminology would take ones thinking in an entirely different direction, but the
business community, sympathetic politicians, and the media have repeatedly used
the former set of words to describe what is wrong with schools and how to fix them.
This intentional and strategic use of conceptual framing (Lakoff, 2004) trains the
public to think about education in a certain way, a way that happens to fits very
well the agenda that the business community and some politicians have articulated
for education and America. As Lakoff noted, it is the acceptance of particular frames
and the rejection or neglect of others that establishes the boundaries of our thinking:
Rigorous academics and whole-child education simply frame educational
solutions in very different ways.

Significantly, while the business leaders and politicians involved in educational

policymaking are usually aware of how framing works, many educators,
researchers, and the public at large are not. Thus, and quite ironically, many
educators and parents who strongly oppose test-driven, factory-style schooling
have gone along with the recent re-framing of educational debates, and now
regularly use the very language that was designed to market the ideas they oppose.

Lakoff noted that to counter misleading framing, one must stop using the
problematic frames entirely, and design new frames for critiquing the ideas you
oppose and promoting the ideas you favor. To give some sense of just how much
new framing can influence our views on education, imagine if instead of referring to
test-based accountability as being about raising standards, everyone talked about
test-based accountability as being about lowering standardsgiven the tendency
of standardized tests to emphasize lower level knowledge and skills (Madaus,

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Russell, & Higgins, 2009). Its difficult to imagine test-based accountability gaining
traction with the public if it were widely viewed as being about lowering
standards. Whatever language they choose, to be successfully in their advocacy
efforts, those who oppose traditional test-driven schooling would need to replace
the current language of educational policy and practice with an entirely new
vocabulary that concisely communicates their values

Bureaucratic Tendencies
One of humans basic psychological needs is to feel a sense of control (Ryan & Deci,
2002). Reflecting that, many teachers feel a need to control their students, and many
bureaucrats also feel a need to control teachers, and educational policy often reflects
bureaucrats need to control educators (Ravitch, 2010). Meanwhile, one of the most
familiar complaints about bureaucracies is that they tend to respond to mundane
problems with an ever-growing list of rules and regulations. Although
understandable, a growing mountain of rules and regulations can become more
problematic than the problems those rules were written to solve. Many believe that
we have already reached that point with test-based accountability.

Of course, in cases like regulating pollution, substantial regulation may be

warranted, because the profit motive doesnt naturally motivate corporations to
ensure they are not releasing toxic chemicals into the environment. However,
humans and hard-wired to learn, and the primary motive for teachers to go into
teaching is to help students learn and make a positive difference in students lives.
Thus, if policymakers recognized these distinctive features of education, perhaps
they would be more willing to reduce the controlling pressures and regulations that
have ramped up during the accountability movement. However, it would first be
necessary to persuade policymakers that no broad failure or malfeasance by
educators has occurred, because as long as the aura of general educational crisis and
failure persist, bureaucrats can be expected to respond with tight oversight, which
would most likely mean a continuation of test-based accountability.

Profit Motive
Another powerful factor sustaining test-driven, factory style schooling is the profit
motive. As documented a decade ago, (Emery & Ohanian, 2004), the business
community played a major role in the accountability movement. Significantly, test-
based accountability transformed education in a way that is more profitable for
corporations, because it restructures curricula, teaching, and assessment in ways
that are much more heavily dependent upon corporate products than was true
before. Standardized tests and related test preparation materials have made
corporations hundreds of billions of dollars over the last decadebut to do things
that teachers used to do for free.

Significantly, and in terms of political gain, current reforms have remade education
in the image of corporations. We see this shift in the way in which education, which

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used to be about developing strong individuals, and citizens, and workers, is now
frequently discussed by policymakers as only being about training for jobs so that
America can be more economically competitive. We also see this shift in the way in
which business language has displaced education terminology, including the
language of benchmarks, performance incentives, and even calling
superintendents CEOs, while calling students customers. Making schools more
market-oriented benefits corporations politically because schools have traditionally
been a source of ideas that pose challenges to the corporate worldview of the
purpose of life and the proper organization of society. By increasingly taking over
education, market forces are essentially removing one competitor. As Slouka (2009)
commented regarding market-oriented, test-driven schooling:

That education policy reflects the zeitgeist shouldn't surprise us; capitalism
has a wonderful knack for marginalizing (or co-opting) systems of value that
might pose an alternative to its own. Still, capitalism's success in this case is
particularly elegant: by bringing education to heel, by forcing it to meet its
criteria for 'success,' the market is well on the way to controlling a majority
share of the one business that might offer a competing product, that might
question its assumptions. (p. 33)

Just as they successfully sell so many things, the business community persuaded the
public that the type of reform education that America needed was based on market
ideals, factory-style organization, commercial testing and test preparation materials,
and an emphasis on job training and economic competitiveness (but not
citizenship). It seems unlikely that this was a coincidence. Thus, for those who
believe that test-driven, factory-style schooling is counterproductive, high-stakes
tests are not merely an isolated practice to change. High-stakes tests and other main
features of current accountability policies are part of an overall reconceptualization
of education, a strongly market-based reconceptualization that has also taken over
substantial control of our politics (Hacker & Pierson, 2010) and our economy
(Stiglitz, 2012). Thus, while there is growing opposition to current education
policies, challenging current policies can be expected to elicit considerable and well-
financed political pushback. Furthermore, successfully challenging test-driven,
factory-style schooling may require a more comprehensive overall challenge to the
idea that market-based thinking is an appropriate basis for education reform. Sachs
(2012) has begun this discussion, documenting extensively how the heavy reliance
on market thinking in the U.S. has created vast inequality, economic stagnation, and
social dysfunction, while countries that have avoided being taken over by market-
based thinking have fared much better. However, educators opposed to the
application of market-based thinking to education would need to make a parallel
case regarding the deleterious effects of market thinking in education.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Regarding Motivation

Just as the human body has an internal drive to keep itself healthy, given
appropriate sleep, exercise, and diet, the human mind is hard-wired to learn, to

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make sense of experience, and to master challenges (Hirsch-Pasek & Golinkoff,

2003). However, just as unhealthy eating and lack of sleep or exercise short-circuits
the bodys healthy-promoting capacities, an unhealthy psychological environment
and failure to meet basic psychological needs can short-circuit individuals natural
motivation to learn. Unfortunately, traditional schooling is not usually based on
intrinsic motivation, but rather, assumes that motivation is something teachers do to
children through rewards and punishments. Research reveals that when
educational systems are based upon the assumption that children have this innate
motivation, then students intrinsic motivation and positive attitudes are sustained
(Walberg, 1986). However, research is also quite clear that under conditions of
traditional schooling, there is a steady erosion of childrens intrinsic motivation
(Lepper, Corpus, & Iyengar 2005; Walberg, 1986; Wheatley, 2012). Recent
experimental research also confirms that, compared to more student centered
approaches to learning, traditional teaching yields reductions in childrens curiosity,
creativity, independence, and initiative (Bonawitz, et al., 2011; Buchsbaum, Gopnik,
Giffiths, & Shafto, 2011).

Because very traditional schooling creates conditions in which initiative, intrinsic

motivation, creativity, and healthy independence are unlikely to be observed,
teachers in such schools understandable claim that these children arent
motivated. Once childrens natural motivation for learning has been squelched and
is no longer a viable driving force for education, it is quite understandable that
educators think they should arrange the learning in a logical order, set up
inducements to motivate children to learn it, and set out to directly teach it to them.
Of course, this teacher-directed and one-size fits all approach often fails to elicit
much student engagement (as documented above), and even engenders some
student resistance, and thus the assumptions of traditional schooling seem to be
confirmed to teachers following that approach. This is especially true at the upper
grades, whose teachers may see students so long after most apparent passion for
learning has been dimmed that claims of innate motivation to learn may seem like
fiction. However, having taught children of all ages in a variety of settings, and
without using rewards or punishments, I have experienced a very different self-
fulfilling prophecy, one that reveals that children have enormous motivation to
learnmotivation that can be a driving force for education. Nevertheless, to tap
into this powerful force, educators must first take a leap of faith and design and
implement education based on the assumption that this underlying wellspring of
healthy student motivation exists just beneath the surface.

Traditional Academic Objectives and Linear Curricular Sequences

Just like the subdivision of larger tasks into discrete steps in factories, traditional,
factory style schooling divides life into subjects, divides those subjects into
hundreds of objectives, determines one sequence for learning those objectives, and
then assumes that better learning is indicated by faster learning of the prescribed
sequence of target objectives. All of this is simply assumed, but once one defines
education as being about mastering discrete academic objectives in a pre-

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determined order, accepting traditional factory-style schooling may be inevitable.

Why? Even the most intrinsically motivated learners, under optimal conditions,
would not learn school subjects in the pre-specified order found in American
textbooks or academic content standards. Those learning to read in a more interest-
based way will still learn to read, and are more likely to love reading, but their
learning will not follow a standardized and prescribed skills sequence. Indeed, I
know children who learned to read without any formal reading instruction at all
(Wheatley, 2013), and they love reading and read very well, but they did not learn
in the order specified by our reading content standards. In fact, I discovered upon
closer examination that two of these skilled and passionate readers (at ages 10 & 12)
had learned to read without ever learning some of the grade-level targets that
Americas new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) claim are essential reading
knowledge for kindergartners! Of course, learning in such non-standardized and
learner-initiated ways direct conflicts with the assembly-line logic of academic
standards, textbooks, and high-stakes tests. Thus, education organized around pre-
determined learning sequences and high-stakes tests (as in the Common Core
initiative), typically fosters a factory-style organization of schooling, one that is
tightly focused on the academic objectives that appear on the tests.

Significantly, the assumption that educators need to tightly focus instruction on

linear learning sequences does not hold up well when viewed from the perspective
of broad, long-term educational effectiveness. For example, effectiveness is defined
as faster short-term acquisition of testable reading subskills, linear, factory-style
direct instruction targeted to the reading skills on reading tests is clearly superior
(Institute of Educational Sciences, 2008). However, if the research question is what
works best in the long run for simultaneously achieving reading comprehension,
love of reading, writing, positive conduct, and cross-curricular learning, then the
answer appears to be progressive and non-linear approaches such as whole
language and free voluntary reading (Coles, 2003; Krashen, 2004, Wheatley, 2015a).
Similarly, if we compare academic and play-based kindergartens, of course
academic kindergartens targeted at a list of pre-specific objectives do better at
boosting test scores on those objectives than do play-based kindergartens that reject
the very idea of traditional objectives and linear, standardized instruction.
However, if we research what happens overall in the long run, we get a different
answer, as Germany discovered in the 1970s. Contemplating a switch from play-
based to academic kindergartens, two sets of German researchers studied the long-
term effects of the contrasting approaches on similar children. Interestingly, the
children from the play-based kindergartens did better than the children from
academic kindergartens on every single indicator by age 10social outcomes,
cognitive outcomes, language outcomes, and industriousness and creativity (see
Tietze, 1987). This is a pattern observable across studies of comparative
effectiveness, with traditional linear instruction appearing superior when
effectiveness is defined narrowly in terms of short-term test scores, but progressive
education approaches appearing superior when effectiveness is defined in terms of
broad and long term effectiveness, (see, for example, Chamberlin, Chamberlin,

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Drought, & Scott, 1942; Walberg, 1986). In sum, the very acceptance of traditional
objectives and learning sequences sets in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy that
pressures educators to adopt a linear, factory style organization of schooling
arranged in to mirror those objectives, a tendency that is amplified by high-stakes
testing. However, once we abandon the idea that we must have such numerous and
carefully sequenced learning targets, the perceived need for such linear instruction
may be reduced sharply or even eliminated.

Misleading Educational Research

Significantly, as is also true of traditional, factory-style schooling, most educational
research assumes that faster short-term learning of testable pre-specific academic
objectives proves greater educational effectiveness. The criteria for scientific
education research focus overwhelmingly on technical details of studies (sample
size, validity of research tools, acceptable statistical analysis), but are silent on the
issue of broad and long-term developmental systems effects. This steers educational
research in the direction of a reductionist stance in which educational methods can
be judged to be evidence-based if they reliably make one testable academic skills
better in the short run, even though they might make many other valued
educational outcomes worse in the long run. That is, methods can be judged to be
effective even if there is good evidence that, overall, they do more harm than good
in the long run. As noted earlier, traditional teaching methods are better suited to
achieve narrow, short-term academic test score gains, while progressive alternatives
appear better suited to achieve broad and long-term educational effectiveness. Thus,
current definitions of scientific education research implicitly but unintentionally
bias educational research to overestimating the true effectiveness of traditional
instruction and underestimating the overall effectiveness of progressive
alternatives. Given this intellectual context, there is a vast array of research findings
that appears to support traditional, factory-oriented, test-driven instruction, and
thus, the phrase research says has reinforced the American tendency to organize
schooling along factory lines.

Discussion and Implications

What happened in American education over recent decades is a perfect illustration

of the shock doctrine. That is, as Klein (2007) documented, in many countries in
recent decades, free market advocates and sympathetic political leaders used real
crises or manufactured crises as a pretext for pushing through a series of
controversial and sometimes exploitative policies. Distracted by the emotions or
demands of the crisis, people were too busy, uninformed, or too weary to mount
any opposition to such policies. Companies and wealthy individuals have clearly
learned how to profit financially and benefit politically from these real or imposed
crises (Freeland, 2012).

In the case of education, the educational accountability movement can be viewed as

a systemic political initiativean initiative that simultaneously achieves multiple

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political and organizational goals valued by the business community. Specifically,

the accountability movement has been profitable for education corporations, has
weakened the teachers unions that are one of the biggest supporters of Democratic
candidates, and has re-made education more in the corporate image. Perhaps most
significant for the wealthy and powerful, claims of failing schools and a skills
gap have been used as a pretext for a weak economy, high unemployment, weak
wages, high and growing economic inequality, outsourcing jobs, and a sharp
reduction in social mobility in America. Thus, the mantra of failing schools has
been employed strategically and frequently as a rhetorical tool that distracts many
citizens from the real causes of Americas current political and economic struggles.
Specifically, as documented by political scientists (Hacker & Pierson, 2010) and
economists (Sachs, 2012; Stiglitz, 2012), the specific problems above result directly
from policies that the rich and powerful have pursued and achieved over recent
decades, including lower taxes; weaker regulations, unions, and worker protections;
and liberal policies governing globalization. Reflecting its harmful effects on
workers, nations, and the environment, Sachs (2012) simply referred to this cluster
of policies as a race to the bottom. However, these policy changes have made the
super-wealthy far richer and more economically powerful, as illustrated by the
Oxfam report that the 80 richest people on the planet (who could squeeze onto a
single school bus) have as much wealth as do the 3,500,000,000 poorest people on
the planet (a group that, if holding hands, could stretch around the earth roughly
100 times). What would happen if the public as a whole were to conclude, as many
researchers have, that it is not the quality of education, but rather public policy that
is the overriding cause of these negative changes in most Americans life
circumstances? One distinct possibility is that the public would come to see
substantially raising taxes on the wealthy and more strictly regulating corporations
as the most likely route to improving the economy and social mobility in America.

If that were to happen, the rationale for current accountability policies might
evaporate. However, given all of the foregoing factors that promote test-driven,
factory-style schooling, one can imagine that teachers and administrators would still
feel enormous pressure to continue using a factory model of schooling. Educators
language, types of objectives, research results, and view of motivation all steer the
field in that direction. Also, the framing of education debates and their lack of
awareness of alternatives seemingly leave them without viable alternatives to test-
driven schooling, and pressure from the media and business sector also strongly
pressure education in that direction.

If, as was argued here, progressive education models are broadly superior in the
long run for the range of goals parents, society, and employers value, then what
might be done about all these factors that pressure educators and the public to
think, talk, and act in ways that perpetuate test-driven, factory-style schooling?
Having taught over 2000 teachers and prospective teachers, I have studied the
factors that seem to facilitate or obstruct change in my students, and have
experimented extensively with trying to educate them about progressive

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


alternatives to factory schooling. In my experience, there are eight main factors that
promote such changes in thinking and actions: 1) challenging the failing schools
mantra, 2) re-framing the problems with American schools as one of being on the
wrong mission, 3) grasping the impact of out-of-school factors on students, 4)
embracing broad, long-term effectiveness as the standard for judging quality
education, 5) observing and experiencing progressive alternatives, 6) learning a new
language for framing educational discussions, 7) learning to let go of control and
share control with leaners, and 8) studying and documenting the long-term, whole-
child benefits of progressive education.

Thoroughly discussing each of these factors is beyond the scope of this article, but I
provide here a quick snapshot of each. First, when my students learn that U.S. K-12
pupils are doing pretty well in terms of test score outcomes once our much higher
rates of child poverty are taken into account, they stop believing media claims that
U.S. public schools are generally failing at their assigned mission, Second, my
students know that schools often arent very impressive, but when they understand
how factory-style schooling creates learning and development problems, they re-
interpret many of the disappointments they observe in schools as resulting from
schools pursuing the wrong mission. Third, once students realize that out-of-school
factors can account for 60-100% of the variance in test scores, and that tests are not
real measurements of what matters most in education, they stop taking tests so
seriously as indicators of quality learning and teaching. Fourth, once people think
about it, and when they understand how methods that work in the short term often
backfire in the long run, they agree that teachers, research, and policy should focus
on broad, long-term effectiveness. Fifth, seeing videos, hearing stories, and
observing progressive classrooms helps my students understand the practices and
possibilities of progressive education, and also unearths misconceptions and details
that need to be cleared up in order for them to be persuaded. Sixth, when people
stop using accountability language such as measurable objectives, sanctions, and
greater accountability, and start using progressive language such as meaningful
outcomes, healthy motivation, and mutual responsibility, an entirely new
discussion emerges. Seventh, teachers and parents new to progressive methods
need to practice and become comfortable with letting go of control and sharing
control with leaners, and discovering that everything will still be OK. Eighth, by
studying broad and long-term research and documenting the healthy progress their
own children and pupils make when progressive approaches are used, my students
become persuaded in the most important and powerful way.

The challenges in overcoming factory schooling are psychological, social, political,

economic, linguistic, emotional, and experiential. Even our stress and lack of time
make new learning that is needed more challenging. However, just as America is
rapidly learning that the best foods are natural ones that are not made in factories,
we might also realize something that I repeatedly tell the future teachers I teach,
Kids are not cars, and learning is not manufacturing, and great education is only
possible if we dont get confused about that.

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.



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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 18-31, February 2015

Teachers Perspective of their Role and Student

Autonomy in the PBL Context in China

Huichun Li and Xiangyun Du

Department of Learning and Philosophy
Aalborg University, Denmark

Abstract. The traditional role of the teacher confronts many challenges by an

increasing number of educational initiatives that highlight student-centered
learning in China, since the teachers role is in great need of transformation
from instructor to facilitator. Therefore, it is quite necessary to examine how
teachers perceive their role within a context in the process of making
educational innovations. This study relies on two Chinese universities which
are changing their educational approach from lecture-based learning to
Problem Based Learning (PBL). We examine how the teachers perceive their
role in a PBL context. In particular, we are mainly concerned with teachers
attitudes towards student learning autonomy in PBL contexts. The data is
mainly relied upon in-depth interviews of the teachers who participate in PBL
practice from the two cases. When focusing on how teachers perceive student
learning autonomy, we can note three major patterns. In general, Chinese
teachers have a tendency to maintain high interference in student learning
process even though they admit the value of giving student learning
autonomy. This study further indicates a dilemma between teachers intention
to encourage students to learn on their own and their tendency to maintain
their directive role in the educational processes.
Keywords: Teachers role; PBL; student autonomy; Chinese context

Many educational initiatives worldwide have emerged in recent years in order to
enhance student learning motivation, facilitate student engagement in learning
process, and produce more competent graduates (De Graaff & Cowdroy, 1997; Bowe,
2007; Wang, 2008). One major characteristic of these initiatives is the use of more
student-centered educational approaches, such as Problem Based Learning (PBL). At
the institutional level, many educational institutions in China are currently in the
process of implementing PBL, which are widely considered as a student-centered
educational approach. On one side, these initiatives are concerned with student
learning outcome rather than teacher instruction. That is to say, education should set
its focus on learning rather than teaching (Barr & Tagg, 1995). On the other side,
education is becoming increasingly concerned with learning process. Within PBL
context, student-directed (participant directed) learning is highlighted (Barrows, 1986;
De Graaff & Kolmos, 2003). Students are expected to direct the learning process on
their own; teachers are expected to act as facilitators to provide support when
necessary, rather than as instructors giving them direct guidance. In general, student-

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centered learning indicates to give students more learning autonomy. Student

autonomy is important since it is conducive for student learning motivation and
learning achievement (Stefanou et al., 2004).
Student learning autonomy is closely linked to how teachers perceive their role. By
examining PBL implementation in real educational context, many studies show that it
is rather difficult to transform teachers role from traditional instructors to facilitators
(Barrett & Moore, 2011). Teachers are so accustomed to traditional educational
approach that they are rarely willing to lose their high control over education. A
general recognition is that teachers sense of security is more likely to be challenged in
a student-centered learning context (Li &Du, 2013). The emphasis on knowledge
acquisition may also enable teachers to maintain their traditional role. Most
importantly, the difficulty to restructure teacher-student relationship can be attributed
to teachers perception of their roles. Although many studies suggest that teachers
should act as facilitators in a PBL context, the term of facilitator has not been clearly
defined. Moreover, since teachers perceptions of their roles will impose considerable
impact upon their teaching practice, their perceptions of their roles in a PBL context
deserve much research attention, which is far from being sufficient. Currently, though
there are many discussions on the role of the teacher in a PBL context, student
autonomy, teacher-student relationship (Savin-Baden, 2003; Stefanou, Perencevich,
DiCintio, & Turner, 2004; Li & Du, 2013), little has been studied on the teachers voices
regarding these issues (Jiang, 2013). That means, there is a lack of teachers perspective
of how to be a teacher or a facilitator, how much freedom students should have in a
PBL context, and so on. Teachers perceptions are quite essential in understanding the
challenges of making educational innovation since their perceptions have a significant
influence upon their educational practice.
Therefore, our research questions are thus formulated as below:
1. How do Chinese teachers perceive their role of being a teacher in a PBL setting
compared to their traditional role?
2. What are the challenges that the Chinese teachers meet in the transformation
towards PBL?
This paper is based on a study on the change to PBL in China in various different
aspects such as curriculum innovation, leadership and management change, students
perceptions, learning processes and performance, among others. In this paper we
focus on teachers perspectives in the change process-what do they think of the role of
being a teacher in a PBL context and what do they think of student autonomy in the
Chinese context. Empirically, this paper draws upon two Chinese universities which
are in the process of introducing PBL elements into their own curriculum system.

Concepts and Issues Related to Problem Based Learning

1. Teachers perception on their roles in learning/educational research
Teachers perceptions of their role have a considerable impact upon the educational
practice field in terms of teacher-student interaction, quality of teaching, or even
teacher identity. Teachers who hold a traditional view of teachers role are likely to
adopt a teacher dominated educational approach whereas those who support a
student centered notion are more likely to grant more freedom to students. Therefore,
the overall transformation from a teacher centered educational approach to a student

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centered educational approach calls for a conceptual change of the teachers. It is

widely suggested that the transformation from teacher-centered teaching to student-
centered learning will eventually lead to a conceptual change of the entire
organization (Kolmos & De Graaff, 2007). A radical educational change merely
focusing on technical dimension rather than value (such as teachers perception of
how to be a good teacher) is more likely to lose momentum in the long run. Teachers
reluctance for the conceptual change may be accounted by many factors, such as their
loss of authority and security, old educational beliefs, institutional support. The
perception of teachers regarding the role of the teacher and the teacher-student
relationship is heavily affected by various factors. Tradition comprises the basic
context which largely conditions the perception of the human being (Gallagher, 1992),
in particular, the teacher. How teachers perceive their role is also influenced by the
institutional factors such as the evaluation policy. A critical factor affecting teachers
perception is teacher education, or the staff development, and therefore significant
implications have been made on teacher professional development.

2. Teacher role within PBL context

As a newly developed educational approach with a history of over four decades in
higher education, Problem Based Learning (PBL) emerged in the
medical field at Mac Master University Medical School in Canada in the late 1960th as
an alternative to the traditional education approach (Savin-Baden & Major, 2004). One
major characteristic of PBL is that within a PBL context, students play a direct role in
the learning process. They have much more right to design learning objectives, select
learning materials, and choose learning activities, and so on. In other words, students
have high learning autonomy when they learn in a PBL context. This is in contrast to
traditional lecture based learning that students have little learning autonomy and they
should conform to their teachers instructions. It is documented that PBL approach can
produce high learning motivation and high learning achievements in terms of
problem solving skills, group work skills and self-study skills (Dolmans & Schmidt,
1996; Bowe & Cowan, 2004; Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009), compared with non-PBL
Within the context of PBL, teachers are not instructors; rather, they are expected to
become facilitators to offer supportive learning atmosphere and to scaffolding
students learning process. From the organizational perspective, many educational
institutions, such as Aalborg University in Denmark, Victoria University in Australia,
or China Medical University in China, have abolished some lectures and replaced
them with problem/project work which is mainly directed by students. Teachers are
not always at presence in problem/project work. At a more micro level, researchers
have developed many techniques to enable teachers to better act as a facilitator while
supervising students (Savin-Baden, 2003). For example, teachers should not offer
direct answer but illuminate students when they have questions; or teachers should
know how to manage group dynamics when facilitating group work. Although these
techniques are quite diverse, they share a commonality, that is, as a facilitator, the role
of teacher should be changed which has further implication for a conceptual change of
the teacher.

3. Student Autonomy in PBL

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When facilitating students, teachers always deal with the issue of student autonomy.
For many researchers, autonomy can be conducive for student learning attitude and
academic achievement (Stefanou et al., 2010). Students are more motivated to learn
when having more autonomy than those who having less autonomy. Stefanou et al.
(2010) clarify three types of student autonomies: organizational autonomy, procedural
autonomy and cognitive autonomy. Organizational autonomy is more concerned with
student choices over environmental procedures, such as negotiating deadline,
selecting group member, and so on. Procedural autonomy refers to student choice
over the media to present ideas such as how to make a picture to illustrate a concept.
Cognitive autonomy is concerned with cognitive processes such as justifying an idea.
Stefanou et al. (2010) further argue that although organizational and procedural
autonomy are necessary for students to have ownership of their learning process,
cognitive autonomy is more likely to facilitate student learning motivation and
Student autonomy varies within a PBL context. In general, PBL encourages student
autonomy in all three types. Participant directed learning is highlighted to provide
students with the right to make decisions over learning objectives, procedures,
activities, or even assessment. However, Teachers attitudes towards student learning
autonomy are highly influenced by their perceptions of their role. A teacher who
positions himself as a traditional instructor tends to reduce student learning
autonomy, while a teacher who sees himself as a facilitator is more willing to grant
students more freedom to learn on their own. Currently, though student learning
autonomy has been well studied (Barillaro, 2011), teachers attitudes towards student
learning autonomy are still in great need of research.

4. Teachers role in Chinese context

The role of teachers is high relying upon its context, in particular, the national context,
as indicated by Hofstede (1986). In China, the role of the teacher is largely affected by
Confucius tradition that highlights teacher dignity and superiority. Traditionally,
teacher lies in the center of the whole pedagogical practice. The teacher is seen as
having multiple functions: he is a carrier of ultimate truth to illuminate students, a
moral model that student should emulate, and a father that students should treat (Li &
Du, 2013). Students are expected to respect and conform to their teachers guidance.
Respecting teachers and conforming to them is widely regarded as beneficial not only
for education, but also for the maintenance of societal order.
Currently, although tradition has been weakening, its influence on the role of the
teacher can still be recognized from several different perspectives. Firstly, teachers
play a dominant role in defining educational objectives, learning content, learning
activities as well as the assessment method. Students are encouraged to conform to
their teachers guidance, since their teachers are believed to know more and better
about the learning process. Further, there is still a moral dimension of education
which requires students to act in the proper path (Shim, 2008). This dimension can
only be secured by following the instructions of their teachers. Teachers are expected
to act as moral models which can be emulated by students. The moral dimension also
has implications for pedagogical practice in general. The moral dimension requires
teachers to be a good learner, who know more and better than students, and therefore
they are worthwhile to be emulated by students. Thirdly, teachers are expected to
fulfill a parental responsibility which indicates that teachers should not only focus on

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teaching tasks, but also need to concern the whole development of the student.
Commitment, dedication, and sacrifice are wide societal expectation for the role of
teacher (Zhou, 2009). In pedagogical practice, this means that a teacher is expected to
treat student affair as his own business to some extent.
Within this context, the teacher-student relationship in China is highly hierarchical. A
cross national study (Hofstede, 1986) on the teacher-student relationship notices the
large power distance between the teacher and the student in some East Asian
countries including China.
stress on personal wisdom which is transferred in the relationship with a
particular teacher (guru)
a teacher merits the respect of his/her students
teacher-centered education (premium on order)
students expect teachers to initiate communication
students expect teachers to outline paths to follow
students speak up in class only when invited by the teacher
a teacher is never contradicted nor publicly criticized
effectiveness of learning related to excellence of the teacher
respect for teachers is also shown outside class
in teacher/student conflicts, parents are expected to side with the teacher
Due to the recognition of teachers role and the hierarchical teacher-student
relationship, student learning autonomy in Chinese context is quite limited. Students
are expected to follow their teachers guidance rather than to learn on their own.
However, with the societal development, there is a growing awareness of the
importance of the student subjectivity, and therefore many educational theorists and
practitioners suggest that student learning autonomy should be respected. However,
they are not without disputes. Although some researchers support to establish a
student-centered learning approach, others maintain that a student-centered learning
approach should also be directed by teachers (Wu, 2010). The value of maintaining
teachers directive position is to secure the order and the effectiveness of the
educational process (Zhao, 2011). Without the instruction and guidance from the
teacher, students are believed to be not able to grasp the correct learning methods.
Many researchers insist that in a student centered learning environment, teacher
authority should still be maintained (Shao, 2007). The authority of the teacher should
also be transformed: the teacher authority is conventionally relied upon tradition and
institution; however, in future, it should be more relied upon teachers professional
expertise and charisma. In mainland China, although there are a great many
discussions on the role of the teacher, little has been conducted regarding how
teachers perceive their roles and student learning autonomy at the empirical level.


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1. Research sites
Empirical study for this paper was conducted at two universities in China. University
C, a medical university located in northern China, and University G, a technical
university located in southern China. Both universities are traditionally teaching
universities bearing a long history of traditional lecture-based learning, or teacher-
centered teaching. In recent years, both universities have introduced PBL into their
educational system as an alternative approach to learning. At University C, the top
manager level initiated an institutional wide plan to introduce PBL in a number of its
faculties and departments. Meanwhile, the staff members had the freedom to make
their own explorations of what PBL is under the umbrella of PBL concept. At
University C, PBL was also initiated by the managers who are enthusiastic of
implementing PBL. In general, they are using cased-based PBL, which is commonly
used in medical education. A group of around 10 teaching staff were sent to a medical
school in U.S to learn how to tutor in a PBL setting for a few months. And this group
of teachers taught their peers after their return.
University G is a comparatively young university in China with around 50 years
history. Situated in an industrialized region in southern China, the university has the
mission of providing graduates that can meet the needs of regional industry. Being a
key provincial university, university G has received sufficient support from the
provincial government to develop educational innovation. Since 2008 the university
leaders have started different approaches to implementing innovative pedagogy
methods in order to increase the quality of teaching and graduates. As one of the
major efforts for making educational innovation, PBL (mainly project based learning)
was introduced to this university in the late 2008. In the past years, PBL development
at this university has been carried out in diverse methods: inviting international
experts to organize PBL seminars and share experiences, sending staff to observe PBL
practices by visiting two PBL universities (Aalborg University in Denmark and
Victoria University in Australia), and supporting interested staff to implement
localized PBL methods with the university teaching practice. Until 2013, around 100
teaching staff have participated in PBL workshops, 5 delegation short visits were paid
to Aalborg University (each consisting of a vice president and 4-5 deans) to learn
about PBL experiences, 8 teaching staff paid one month visit to Aalborg University for
PBL related pedagogy development.

2. Research methods
This study is conducted in a qualitative manner. This study is mainly concerned with
the perception of the teachers at two Chinese universities which, in the past few years,
have been in the process of introducing PBL. The use of two cases is not intended to
make comparisons but to complement each other to produce a more validate claim.
Interviews are employed as the major method to collect data. The interview is
essentially powerful when researchers explore the humans experience and their
understanding of a particular event or phenomenon. Semi structured interviews are
conducted in this research to explore in-depth, the interviewees insight of a particular
phenomenon or process, as opposed to the closed-end interview (Cohen, Manion &
Morrison, 2007: 353). Further, observation is conducted as complementary means to
triangulate the validity of the data. The use of observation is to cross-validate the
teachers perception by offering evidence of how they act in real classroom situation.

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According to the principle of triangulation (Creswell, 2009: 191-192), the validity of an

argument can be further increased when it is confirmed by difference data sources.
The interviewees are the teaching staff at both universities. Each interview is
conducted between 45 and 60 minutes. The interviews are centered on several general
themes such as teachers background, their understanding of PBL, how they conduct
PBL in their own courses or classes, how they deal with students, their conceptual
change of being a teacher after introducing PBL, the challenges for them to conduct
PBL, and their reflections on their practice.
In total, this study is composed of 32 interviews (22 from University C and 10 from
University G). Since not all the teachers at the two universities are involving in PBL
implementation, we require two universities to provide a list of those who
participating in PBL practice. Afterwards, we randomly choose one interviewee from
each department at each university. Mostly, the interviewees are PBL participants who
during the past years have experienced in developing PBL courses and supervising
PBL groups.
After data collection, all interviews are transcribed and manually coded. After several
reviewing rounds, the comments and quotations are categorized into different themes
and translated into English. Afterwards, the key conceptions are highlighted in each
category and correspond with each teachers perception of the teacher-student
relationship. Further, by making a cross-category and cross-case analysis, we are able
to identify the patterns across interviews.


Our interviews are centered on how teachers perceive their role in the educational
processes in the PBL context, particularly, how they support student learning
autonomy. Three major patterned are emerged based on our data as below:
Table 1: Patterns of teachers attitudes toward student learning autonomy
University C University G

Support large student autonomy 2 1

Support limited student autonomy 14 6
while maintaining strong instruction
Support teacher-centered approach 6 3

The number indicates the number of the teacher

1. Supporting giving students large autonomy

Although PBL highlights the value of student autonomy, quite a few teachers support
giving students too much freedom. As one a young teacher commented,
Chinese students are highly dependent on their teachers, and it is only by giving them
freedom that they learn how to learn on their own.
Of course, the ultimate goal of education is to cultivate students, propel them to grow
and develop, let student to learn on their own is indispensable

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Give them the space and let them develop, that is the best way to make students
independent and self-responsible, that was the way I developed myself, I believe that it is
the best way.
Considering the objective of the education, the value of giving student freedom to
learn is partly recognized by teachers. However, as expected in the next section, rather
few teachers support giving student high autonomy from both universities, since the
majority of teachers have other considerations in education.

2. Insisting giving students limited autonomy and maintaining instruction

A lot of teachers acknowledge the value of giving students freedom to make their own
explorations while still maintaining the value of strong instruction. Maintaining strong
teacher instruction comes from various motives.
Some teachers highlight the value of the knowledge contents for student development.
Some teachers maintain that teachers guidance could help students to learning more
efficiently. They suggest that teachers, since they have many years of teaching and
learning experience, know the learning methods better than students do. They suggest
that it is better for students to follow teachers instructions since students might learn
in a rather slow manner if they make their own explorations.
Students could avoid being trapped in the winding course if they follow our teachers
They (students) are young and immature. They do not know much about the medical
field. They do not know how to learn the medicine in an efficient way. If we allow them to
learn on their own, they may waste a huge amount of time on the non-important things.
In this sense, teachers instruction can be a faster way to help them to learn.
Some knowledge content is quite difficult to understand or to learn by oneself, especially
for the students who have no medical experience in real life. But we teachers can, we know
the meaning of the knowledge content as well as it relevance to real life. We can make it
quite explicitly in, maybe half an hour. If students learn on their own, it may take them a
whole day, or, forever.
Many of us engineering teachers are working very close with industry, so we know what
is happening there, but students dont. if we dont tell them how they shall behave, they
will risk failing from the beginning. Therefore, experiences from us can be a shortcut for
their future development in companies
In some occasions, students may expect their teachers to give them instructions.
There are some students coming to me after the class, saying that sometimes we can
learn on our own, but sometimes we would like to see some powerful guidance from
teachers, to make it explicitly about what knowledge contents are important for us. If
teachers leave us alone, we cannot learn quite well
In this sense, teachers instruction can serve as a means to secure that students could
learn in a correct manner. The reason is that teachers have gathered many years of
learning experience, so they believe that they know the right path of learning, the
possible mistakes happening in the learning process, as well as how to avoid
mistakes. By following teacher instruction, students could learn in a more efficient
way. In many cases, teacher instruction may also meet student expectation. If there is a
lack of instruction, students may feel insecure.

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Further, teachers have a sense of responsibility to motivate students to learn, and

safeguard students to learn in the right manner, as stated,
As a teacher, I always have a sense of responsibility for students. We cannot totally
leave them alone, that is too risky, they may not learn, or they may not learn correctly. As
a teacher, you have to make them to learn
They are still young and inexperienced; following good experiences can save their time
winding around in the troubles
Although as teachers we, the ones who would really like to make a difference in teaching
practice, want the students to be independent in conducting research and be responsible
for their own learning, it is rather difficult to give them full freedom since our students
grew up in China, as you know, they were used to being protected by parents at home and
being guided by teachers in schools, unlike those western students who grow up with

A few teachers suggest a strong interference in the group work process. As a teacher
Chinese students are not quite used to learn on their own. You can see that in many
groups, students cannot raise questions, or formulate their own problems, or share with
other students. In this case, teachers have to force them a little bit. In my class, I
sometimes ask students questions to stimulate students to learn or to maintain the

Another teacher, who is highly enthusiastic of PBL, describes how she conduct the
group work,
The design of a problem really costs me a lot of time and energy since I need to include
all the knowledge points that students need to mention in their discussion. When they
discuss a medical problem in the class, firstly I let them discuss on their own. If their
discussion has covered all the knowledge points, that is good. But normally, students
are not able to cover all the points. In this situation, I will illuminate them to identify all
the prescribed knowledge points by asking them questions.
In this sense, although the teacher does support student freedom in the learning
process, she maintains a control of the learning outcome. That is, student learning
outcome should be corresponding to her prescriptions.
Many teachers mention the concern of the assessment method as influencing the
relationship between the teacher and the student. They noted that the current
assessment method is mainly concerned with the acquisition of the knowledge in the
textbooks or from the lectures, teachers have to direct the educational process to help
student perform in the assessment procedure. As some teachers expressed,
We know the importance of giving students freedom and encouraging them to make their
own explorations, but what can we do if the assessment is confined by the knowledge-
dominated test? We have to make sure that the students could memorize all the needed
knowledge content and that they can get a good score in the examination.

3. In favor of teacher-centered approach

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Some teachers think that it is better to use a teacher-centered educational approach in

some particular courses, such as the fundamental course. In their minds, which type of
educational approach is used is largely dependent on the educational objectives of a
particular course or a discipline.
Definitely, PBL is more proper to be employed in the clinical course. You know, students
have a lot of opportunities to work at the hospital in the clinical course. They have the
chance to meet the real life situation there at the hospital. however, for our fundamental
courses, we are primarily concerned with equipped students with medical knowledge
content, and therefore it is better for us to use lecture based learning here.
In the field of chemical engineering, no matter PBL or not, students are demanded to
master many basic knowledge before they are able to apply them in doing project work. For
the knowledge master part, teacher can play an important role to instruct them, since it is
not just memorizing things as they are. There are techniques to do things.
The teachers who insist strong guidance in the educational processes are more likely
to stick to traditional educational objectives such as the acquisition of knowledge
content. Of all three categories, most teachers belong to the second category: they
acknowledge the value of student autonomy; however, they have a tendency to
maintain high interference in student learning process.


PBL requires a transformation of teachers role from a traditional instructor to a

facilitator, and thus encourages teacher to give student more learning autonomy
(Barrows, 1986; De Graaff & Kolmos, 2003). However, it is not easy to do so, as
suggested by Barrett & Moore (2011), Li &Du (2013). Based on our empirical work, it
can be noted that teachers perceptions of their role and the range of student
autonomy supported by teacher vary significantly. A few teachers are supporting
giving student sufficient freedom to learn. Within the Chinese context, although most
of the teachers have realized the value of student-centered learning, they still prefer
teachers strong direct and guidance in the educational process. Teachers have
different perceptions of student learning autonomy. A few teachers realize the value
of student learning autonomy for student growth; however, most teachers are more
conservative of student autonomy.
Teachers conservative attitudes towards student learning autonomy can be attributed
by many practical considerations. In general, they insist to maintain high interference
in student learning because they are attempting to help student avoid mistakes, avoid
learning irrelevant content, save time, and grasp the right learning method. They are
concerned with both learning outcome and learning process. On one side, high
student learning autonomy cannot secure the learning outcome. The teachers are
afraid that the students may not learn the needed knowledge content as the
educational objective is still concerned with the acquisition of the knowledge content.
On the other side, the teachers worry students, who learn on their own, may learn
rather slow, or may be more likely to make mistakes. Therefore, teacher interference is
regarded as necessary. Here, the effectiveness is a major concern for the majority of the
teachers. Many teachers hold that self-directed learning is not an efficient learning
method in a medical context where students have quite limited medical working
experience. However, we argue that although effectiveness should be taken into

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account in educational practice, how effectiveness is interpreted needs further

exploration. In our empirical work, the notion of effectiveness seems to be closely
linking to knowledge acquisition. However, learning objectives cannot be reduced to
mere knowledge acquisition since it also involves students skill development, attitude
change, and so on. In particular, if we are willing to encourage students to become
independent learners, to develop self-learning abilities, and to cultivate their critical
thinking, sacrificing effectiveness is a necessary cost to a certain degree.
Further, Chinese teachers reluctance to offer students more learning autonomy is
highly influenced by Chinese particular social and moral tradition. Li & Du (2013)
argue that in Chinese tradition, teachers are generally expected to fulfil parental
obligation. Hence, teachers have the tendency to protect their students since many
teachers see their students as immature and inexperienced. Therefore, in some
occasions, they are more likely to give students direct guidance in order to avoid
mistakes, irrelevance, or low-effectiveness, rather than let them make explorations on
their own. However, to respect student autonomy, we should not only give students
freedom to make their own progress, but also respect their right to make mistakes, or
to learn in their own way (even if it is low efficient). In this sense, the focal point is
not whether learning is better or faster, but who takes responsibility of the learning
process. Learning is not emulating the teacher; rather, it is a self-directed growing
process. Within the Chinese context, teachers have a strong tendency to view students
learning as their own business, and therefore they are likely to secure the learning
outcomes by making students follow their instructions. To facilitate student-directed
learning, teachers should be detached from the view that they are completely
responsible for students learning outcomes, since students should be responsible for
Here, a paradox emerges in teachers perception of their role and student learning
autonomy. On one side, teachers are hoping students to develop a set of skills (e.g.
self-learning skills) and become independent learners in a PBL context, as shown in
many studies(De Graaff & Kolmos, 2003; Savin-Baden, 2003). In order to do this,
students should be given sufficient freedom to make their own explorations. One the
other side, however, due to many considerations, such as their recognition of
educational objectives, alongside many other institutional factors, teachers tend to
view that student self-learning should be directed by them. To put it in another way,
teachers intention of facilitate students to grow and learn, and maintaining their
dominance in education, are in a paradox. Partly, the paradox is formulated since the
teachers have to struggle between a set of conflicted educational intentions. On one
hand these teachers are willing to participate in teaching innovation and make a
difference for students. On the other hand, they feel responsible to ensure that
students should master the knowledge content in the text book in order to build up a
solid knowledge foundation or prepare for the examination. They also need to
encourage students to construct their own knowledge. This dilemma can also be
manifested in many Chinese studies (Song, 2009) which attempt to maintain teachers
authority while creating a student-directed learning atmosphere. Therefore, change of
teachers beliefs takes longer time than the curricula change. It involves challenges and
identity struggling for these groups of teachers. In order to facilitate the establishment
of PBL, it is necessary to facilitate these teachers who are actively involved in teaching
innovation with continual reflection upon their experiences and how to further
develop their innovations.

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To introduce PBL, the change of the teachers perception of their role is indispensable.
However, this transformation is fairly challenging since their perception is influenced
by many factors. The first one is their preference for the effectiveness for educational
practice. The concern to education effectiveness leads teachers to highlight the
importance of the knowledge acquisition rather than the development of the students
self-learning abilities, since self-learning might be time-wasting and low-efficient.
Therefore, to establish PBL, theorists and practitioners need to make reflection on their
basic education motives.
Confucius tradition highlights teachers moral modeling function and their
responsibility for students (Wu, 2010; Li &Du, 2013), and it imposes significant
impacts upon teachers perception. A moral modeling function of the teacher (Li &
Du, 2013) has implications for both teachers and students. It requires a teacher to
endeavor to be a good learner in terms of both knowledge content and learning
process. Students therefore should obey the instruction of their teachers and emulate
them, since they are good learners that worth modeled. In this sense, teachers
intention of instructing students is not simply based on their intention of pouring
knowledge content to students, but also because these teachers expect that their
instruction can serve as an exemplary practice of what good learning is. They believe
that if students do not follow their instructions, students do not only have problem in
memorizing the knowledge content, but, most importantly, are likely to have
difficulties in developing the right learning approach.
A student-centered approach does not only mean giving students more freedom to
learn but also mean giving students opportunities to take responsibilities on their
own. However in China, due to the social expectation of teachers as having parental
responsibility (Li &Du, 2013), the student affair is not only the students business but
also the responsibility of the educational institution and the teacher. Therefore,
teachers should take the responsibility of student whole development. Teachers do not
only need to convey the knowledge content to students, but also need to assure
students to learn in an appropriate and efficient manner. Given this consideration,
teachers are quite reluctant to give student too much freedom; rather, they would
prefer to direct student learning process, not only because they want to secure the
educational process but also because they want to be more committed. In this sense, a
transformation of teacher perception should also induce a reflection on the
identification of the teachers responsibility.
Many studies suggest that the relationship between the teacher and the student should
be transformed in an equal, democratic, or even dialogical manner in the Chinese
educational context (Shao, 2007). However, for many researchers, the goal of this
transformation is not to establish a democratic teacher-student relationship, but only
to respect student subjectivity while maintaining teacher authority. The value of
maintaining teacher authority is to secure the educational order and process, since for
many educational theorists, the loss of teacher authority will inevitably lead to the
increase of educational disorder (Song, 2009; Zhao, 2011). However, we should admit
that there is an internal conflict between the intention of respecting student
subjectivity and maintaining teacher authority. To some extent, they cannot coexist.
Respecting student subjectivity needs the weakening of teacher guidance and teacher
authority while maintaining teacher authority is more likely to result in student
conformation to their teachers. Therefore, how to deal with the tensions of these
conflicted educational initiatives needs further investigation.

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This study depicts teachers perceptions of their roles and student learning autonomy
at two Chinese universities. In general, in the process of implementing PBL, the two
cases had high efficiency in implementing PBL curriculum, however, the change of
teachers perceptions of their roles take longer time. Most researched Chinese teachers
still maintain that they should play a directive role in the educational process,
although some of them support the idea of establishing a student-direct PBL learning
approach. Maintaining high interference in student learning can be accounted by
various reasons: teachers are mainly concerned with the effectiveness of the
educational practice, and therefore they attempt to direct students to secure it. Further,
Chinese teachers have the tendency to play a parental role to take care of students and
thus they are likely to help students reduce possible mistakes and low efficiency in
learning processes. The empirical work also discloses a dilemma between teachers
intention to encourage students to learn on their own, and their tendency to maintain
their directive role in the learning process.
Moreover, the importance of the context is essential for understanding the teachers
perception. Some teachers develop different ways of conducting PBL due to the
context: year of students, subject, learning and teaching objectives. Therefore to what
extent teachers should give students learning autonomy is dependent on the context.
It is also an issue where teachers take the challenges of their identity and negotiating
with the context. Therefore, to build up a student-centered learning approach such as
PBL, educational practitioners do not only need to transform teachers perceptions of
their role and student learning autonomy but also need to confront cultural issues in

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 32-45, February 2015

Is a Rubric Worth the Time and Effort?

Conditions for Success

Hiroshi Ito
Nagoya University of Commerce and Business
4-4 Sagamine, Nisshin-shi, Aichi, Japan

Abstract. Education scholars have developed rubrics for decades. However,

do instructors (supposedly principle stakeholders) actually use rubrics at
universities in the way, and to the extent, that scholars expect? Through a
focus group and series of semi-structured interviews, this paper examines how
Japanese university instructors use or do not use rubrics. This study is divided
into three stages: 1) a pilot interview with seven faculty members at the
Nagoya University of Commerce and Business (NUCB); 2) a focus group with
six faculty members at NUCB; and 3) further exploratory interviews with 13
faculty members at seven universities in the Tokai area of Japan. The findings
show that many Japanese instructors do not know about rubrics, and even
those who do will not necessarily use them. The current research suggests that
rubrics could be instrumental and effective assessment tools if certain
conditions are met. Factors influencing rubric use include: 1) instructors
understanding of and engagement in using rubrics; 2) examining and
understanding the contexts in which rubrics are used; and 3) placing political
pressure on instructors to use rubrics at the institutional level.

Keywords: Higher education; Learning assessment; Rubric.

Wilson (2006), a writing teacher and formerly a strong advocate of rubrics, noted:

Rubrics position as the latest sacred cow of writing assessment is no

accident; rubrics make powerful promises. They promise to save time.
They promise to boil a messy process down to four to six rows of nice,
neat, organized little boxes. Who can resist their wiles? They seduce us
with their appearance of simplicity and objectivity and then secure their
place in our repertoire of assessment techniques with their claim to help
us clarify our goals and guide students through the difficult and
complex task of writing. (p. 2)

Then Wilson encountered a paper written by a student named Krystal. Her paper did
not meet the criteria of the rubric that Krystal used and should have been poorly
scored. Wilson, however, found the paper moving. She checked another rubric: the
2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.

students paper would receive a worse grade according to the criteria of that rubric for
inconsistent paragraphing, full of unintended fragments, unclear transitions, and rife
with spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure errors (p. 4). Wilson found
Krystals writing more exciting than many of the other, more polished papers.
Nothing in these rubrics reflected her excitement about Krystals paper. For ideas, her
paper earned the lowest score because:

The paper has no clear sense of purpose or central theme. To extract

meaning from the text, the reader must make inferences based on
sketchy or missing details.

For organization, a score of 1 applied again because:

[t]he writing lacks a clear sense of direction. Ideas, details, or events

seem strung together in a loose or random fashion; there is no
identifiable internal structure. (p. 6)

This episode does not necessarily indicate that rubrics have no value in the assessment
of student work. Knowing and understanding the concept of rubrics may be important
for teachers to assess writing or presentations. Indeed, many educational assessment
scholars have been developing rubrics for effective formative and summative
assessments (Brookhart, 2013; McTighe, 2000). There are, however, at least two
questions to be answered: 1) whether rubrics can adequately measure students
performances; and more importantly, and 2) whether teachers are willing to use
rubrics as intended. This paper will address these issues through literature review
followed by semi-structured interviews with faculty members at several Japanese
universities participating in the national project Improving Higher Education for
Industrial Needs funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports,
Science, and Technology (MEXT). This study may also be significant in terms of
adding an international perspective to rubric research. As Reddy and Andrade (2010)
noted, research on rubrics has been limited almost entirely to the United States. The
differences in educational theories and instructional approaches in different cultures
necessitates international studies of rubric use in order to establish its utility in diverse
contexts (p. 446).

Definitions of rubrics

According to Panadero and Romero (2014), rubrics are assessment tools that articulate
specific expectations for assignments by listing the criteria for what is particularly
important and by describing levels of quality on a scale from excellent to poor (p.135).

Wolf and Stevens (2007) define a rubric as a scoring tool used to evaluate a
performance in a given outcome area based on a list of criteria describing the
characteristics of products or performances at varying levels of accomplishment (p.
4). Rochford and Borchert (2011) also define a rubric as a scoring tool, a method of
identifying the criteria for evaluating a piece of work (p. 259)

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Steven and Levi (2013) explain that a rubric works in a number of different ways to
advance student learning (p. 3). This statement may indicate that rubrics are
formative as well as summative assessment tools, though rubrics are often used
merely as a tool to assign a final grade that is justified in the eyes of the professor
(Czaplewski, 2009, p. 30). In order to analyze the reality of how rubrics are used (or
not used) by instructors, the next section will examine positive and negative aspects of

Rubrics typically follow a similar format. Stevens and Levi (2013), for example,
illustrate a standard type of rubric with three scale levels and dimensions (i.e., items
such as originality and succinctness as cited by Cicchetti, 1991) (Figure 1).

Title / Task Description

Scale level 1 Scale level 2 Scale level 3
Dimension 1
Dimension 2
Dimension 3
Dimension 4

Figure 1: Standard Model by Stevens and Levi (2013)

The ICE model, which has recently drawn attention in Japan (Ito, 2014), follows the
standard form with the three scale levels represented by ideas, connections, and
extensions (Figure 2).

Title / Task Description

Idea Connection Extension
Dimension 1
Dimension 2
Dimension 3
Dimension 4

Figure 2: ICE Model by Young and Wilson (1995)

However, some scholars argue that teachers do not have and/or do not use rubrics at
all or use them only partially to supplement grading that they have already
determined in their minds (Elton and Johnson, 2002; Grainger et al., 2008). Bloxham et
al. (2011), for example, argue that the majority of teachers do not use written rubrics in
their marking. In their study on the use of rubrics, one respondent claimed:

Thinking about the marking and reviewing it briefly in my head before I

make any comments and just deciding into which ballpark area it fits. Is
it the first, upper second, lower second, third, fail its not a fail because
it does some of the things it says on the tin but on the other hand its not
a scholarly essay from a Year 2 student. Its something which is
satisfactory and it does provide a rationale and it is quite practical but

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that is as far as it goes so its probably in the 40s rather than in the 50s
and thats probably what I think. Upper 40s rather than the lower 40s
but Im still thinking about that. (Bloxham et al., 2011, p. 664)

The study by Bloxham et al. (2011) may indicate that teachers ignore criteria, choose
not to adopt criteria or use implicit standards in their heads. This is, they argue, a
reasonable response to the acknowledged difficulty of working with predetermined
criteria and statements of standards (p. 664). Steven and Levi (2013) also point out
that while they may not use written rubrics, teachers always have criteria in mind
when they evaluate students work.

The literature review suggests that instructors do not use written rubrics but rather
mental grading mechanisms. Teachers may use multiple levels (first, upper second,
lower second, third, fail / in the 50s, upper 40s, lower 40s / A, B, C, F), or alternatively
use only one dimension (see Figure 3). For instance, the respondent in the study by
Bloxham et al., whose response is detailed above, did not mention any dimension.


Figure 3: Mental grading mechanisms

Overall, evidence suggests that when grading assignments, instructors have a mental
notion in mind such as very good, good, fair (enough to pass), and fail in a
holistic or overall sense.

Positive and negative aspects of rubrics

Reddy and Andrade (2010) report that although both students and teachers in general
have positive attitudes toward rubrics, some resist using them. Steven and Levi (2013)
explain that despite their usefulness, rubrics have largely been ignored in higher
education as instructors did not fully understand what they were or how they can
improve the teaching experience (p. xxi). This section reviews positive and negative
aspects associated with rubrics.

Positive aspects

Scholars have described the positive aspects of rubrics as follows:

Rubrics clarify learning targets/goals (Reddy and Andrade, 2010; Steven and
Levi, 2013; Wolf and Stevens, 2007)
Rubrics guide instructional design and delivery (Jonsson and Svingby, 2007;
Reddy and Andrade, 2010; Steven and Levi, 2013; Wolf and Stevens, 2007)

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Rubrics make assessment processes consistent, objective, and fair (Bloxham et

al., 2011; Czaplewski, 2009; Helvoort, 2010; Jonsson and Svingby, 2007;
Mansilla et al., 2009; Lovorn and Rezaei, 2011; Panadero and Romero, 2014;
Peat, 2006; Sadler, 2009; Timmerman et al., 2011; Wolf and Stevens, 2007)
Rubrics provide students with a self-assessment and peer feedback tool
(Lovorn and Rezaei, 2011; Reddy and Andrade, 2010; Steven and Levi, 2013;
Wolf and Stevens, 2007)
Rubrics encourage meaningful feedback (Helvoort, 2010; Lovorn and Rezaei,
2011; Steven and Levi, 2013; Wolf and Stevens, 2007)
Rubrics save time on assessment (Czaplewski, 2009; Lovorn and Rezaei, 2011;
Reynolds-Keefer, 2010; Steven and Levi, 2013)

Clarifying learning targets/goals

As Reddy and Andrade (2010) explain, rubrics help students (as well as teachers)
understand learning goals by:

identifying critical issues in an assignment and, thereby, reducing

uncertainty and doing more meaningful work, determining the amount
of effort needed for an assignment, evaluating their own performances
in order to get immediate feedback, especially on weaknesses,
estimating their grades prior to the submission of assignments and
focusing their efforts so as to improve performance on subsequent
assignments. (p. 438)

Panadero and Romero (2014) support Reddy and Andrades (2010) statement:
Students using rubrics will have clearer goals for the task, will be able to design a
conceptual map using the rubric assessment criteria and therefore activate more
learning strategies (p. 137).

If students know learning targets/goals, they are more likely to achieve them
(Stiggins, 2001). As Wolf and Stevens (2007) state, students who know in advance
what the criteria are for assessing their performance will be better able to construct
models or select photographs that demonstrate their skills in those areas (p. 12).

Guiding instructional design and delivery

Reddy and Andrade (2010, p. 439) note that rubrics benefit instructional design and
delivery: Researchers stress the instructional value of rubrics and urge instructors to
use them as instructional guides, not just grading tools. When teachers have carefully
articulated their expectations for student learning in the form of a rubric, they are
better able to understand learning targets and more likely to achieve these outcomes
(Arter and McTigue, 2001).

Making assessment more consistent, objective, and fair

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The use of rubrics has a beneficial effect on teachers by helping them clarify their
assessment criteria and leads to scoring more fairly (Panadero and Romero, 2014).
With a rubric, a teacher is more likely to be consistent in his or her judgments (Jonsson
and Svingby, 2007; Lovorn and Rezaei, 2011; Wolf and Stevens, 2007). Jonsson and
Svingby (2007), for example, explain, One widely cited effect of rubric use is the
increased consistency of judgment when assessing performance and authentic tasks.
Rubrics are assumed to enhance the consistency of scoring across students,
assignments, as well as between different raters (p. 132). Rubrics thus can provide
higher degrees of consistency, objectivity, uniformity, and fairness.

Encouraging meaningful feedback

Rubrics can promote student learning as formative as well as summative assessment

tools (Reddy and Andrade, 2010). According to Crisp (2012), formative assessment is
designed primarily to improve learning and summative assessment to judge
learning [final evaluation] (p. 33). Torrance (2012) also explains that formative
assessment is the pedagogic process and the informal ways in which teachers come to
understand student work and seek to assist their learning (p. 325). Some scholars
believe that rubrics constitute formative feedback (Black and Wiliam, 1998; Panadero
and Romero, 2014; Yorke, 2003) and enable students to use feedback to improve their
learning (Engbers, 2009; Gallavan and Kottler, 2009; Jonsson and Svingby, 2007). For
instance, Reddy and Andrade (2010) state that the potential role of rubrics [is] in
channeling students motivation and effort towards enhancing learning (p. 443). Wolf
and Stevens (2007) also state that rubrics can be used by classmates to give each other
specific feedback on their performance (p. 12-13). The figure below is an example of
the relationships between rubrics serving as formative and summative assessments.

Purpose: student learning

assessment Condition: student involvement in
creating, understanding, and using rubrics
Purpose: assessment consistency
assessment Condition: teacher training in creating,
understanding, and using rubrics

Figure 4: Rubrics for formative and summative assessments by the author

At the same time, Panadero and Romero (2014) aver that one of the problems with
rubrics is that they are not always used for formative assessment purposes, which
clearly reduces its learning impact (p. 135).

Saving time on assessment

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Several scholars argue that rubrics save time (Beyreli and Ari, 2009; Lovorn and
Rezaei, 2011; Spandel, 2006). In Reynolds-Keefers (2010) study, respondents reported
that rubrics shorten grading time.

Negative aspects

Some scholars have pointed out negative aspects of rubrics, some of which contradict
the positive aspects already detailed.

Rubrics make assessment inconsistent and subjective (Bloxham et al., 2011;

Czaplewski, 2009; Popham, 1997; Robin and Simon, 2004)
Rubrics are time-consuming (Elton and Johnson, 2002; Helvoort, 2010;
Rochford and Borchert, 2011; Thaler et al., 2009; Wolf and Stevens, 2007)
Rubrics can undermine creativity (Wolf and Stevens, 2007, p. 13)

Shay (2004) argues that assessment, including rubrics use, is a context-dependent,

experience-based and situational judgment. For example, students (like Krystal as
cited in Wilson, 2006) may write essays in very different but equally effective ways.
Written assessment requires instructors to use their own judgment, based on their
tacit knowledge, in order to allocate grades. Such judgment is subjective and
inconsistent in marking (Bloxham et al., 2011, p. 657). Robin and Simon (2004) echo
Bloxam et al. (2011): Many rubrics are still not instructionally useful because of
inconsistencies in the descriptions of performance criteria across their scale levels.
Therefore, eventhe best rubrics are just not entirely self-explanatory to students.
Without this agreement between what the student sees and what the professor says,
students will not perceive that they have been graded fairly (Czaplewski, 2009, p.29).

Rubrics are time-consuming

Some scholars argue that rubrics are time-consuming. Wolf and Stevens (2007) state
that creating rubrics, especially writing the descriptions of performances at each
level is time-consuming and thus should be developed for only the most important
and complex assignments (p. 13).

In Reynolds-Keefers (2010) study, one respondent reported that making and/or using
rubrics seems really complicatedyou have to know too much stuff ahead of time. It
is easier to just grade (p. 1). Another simply said, I think it would take too much
time, and I dont know how I decide how many points everything is worth (p. 1).
This time-consuming process can be stressful for both instructors and students.

Rubrics can undermine creativity

Some scholars are concerned that rubrics could undermine, constrain, and diminish
creativity (Wolf and Stevens, 2007). Linda Mabry (2013), for example, argues that
rubrics may help students obtain higher scores but may also produce vacuous
writing (p. 678). Bloxham et al. (2011) warn that rubrics can mislead students (and
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teachers) that there is something fixed, accessible and rational that they can use to
guide work (p. 663).

These statements contradict those made in the previous section and raise some
questions: are rubrics time-saving or time-consuming? Likewise, do they improve
assessment consistency while being context-dependent? Do rubrics help instructors be
objective about students work? Do rubrics undermine creativity?

In Japan, rubrics have attracted considerable attention since the mid-2000s, but are still
a relatively novel concept. Japanese universities have focused more attention on
rubrics or rubric-like tools following the revision of standards for establishment of
universities set by MEXT in 2011. These standards require universities to clearly
indicate the criteria for assessment of students learning (Oki, 2014). This paper
attempts to answer the following question: Do Japanese university instructors know
and/or use rubrics? If so, how do they use them?



This study collected qualitative data using two different methods: a focus group and
two semi-structured interviews. According to Tanggaard (2011), focus groups provide
a research setting for creative dialog and are relevant when searching for empirical
data on how social groups understand and interpret a particular topic [rubrics] (p.
223). Semi-structured interviews were also used to provide further in-depth data as
they are well suited to exploratory research (Shensul, Schensul, and LeCompte,1999).
This study was divided into three different stages.

Pilot Study

First, pilot semi-structured interviews took place with seven Nagoya University of
Commerce and Business (NUCB) faculty members who do not belong to assessment
related committees. These pilot participants are general instructors, not biased against
rubrics but who are more likely to not be knowledgeable about them. For the pilot
study, convenience sampling was used. Participants were individually interviewed
regarding whether they know and/or use rubrics, how and when they use them (e.g.,
types of assignments or exams), and what they think are the positive and negative
aspects of using such assessment tools. The same interview questions were used for all
three studies in the current research and developed based on pilot participants
responses to these questions.

Focus Group

Next, a group was conducted with seven NUCB faculty members from the Student
Advisory Committee (SAC). The committee members were selected for this study as
they are partially responsible for the first-year student learning assessment at NUCB.

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Another committee called the Assurance of Learning (AOL) Committee is in charge of

assessing second to fourth year students. AOL members had been tasked with
developing rubrics for NUCB faculty to assess seminar students work. Given that the
AOL members had been involved with rubrics as part of their duties, they may not
have been the most appropriate participants for the current research that examines
whether university instructors know about rubrics. The focus group with NUCB
faculty members from SAC was conducted in one of their annual meetings in May
2014 and lasted 100 minutes.

Semi-structured Interviews

Finally, semi-structured interviews were carried out with 13 members of the Tokai A
team, the seven universities participating in the national project Improving Higher
Education for Industrial Needs funded by MEXT. For this project, 146 two- and four-
year institutions have been selected with a view to improve the quality of higher
education by developing students employment prospects and meeting industry
needs. These 146 institutions have been divided into eight regional groups. One of the
eight groups is Chubu, the central part of Japan where 23 of the 146 institutions are
located. Within the Chubu area, seven universities (i.e., Aichi Sangyo University,
Chubu University, Mie University, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business,
Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Toyohashi Sozo University, and Toyohashi Sozo
Junior College) have formed a group called the Tokai A Team (TAT), which focuses on
addressing issues of student learning. Semi-structured interviews with individual TAT
members were carried out, rather than a focus group. This was done for logistical
reasons: a discussion on rubrics was not considered a priority for a group meeting
involving members drawn from wide-ranging geographical areas and time for a focus
group was not allocated. However, some individual members agreed to be
interviewed before or after these meetings. In total, 13 TAT members were
interviewed April and December 2014.

Pilot study

All seven respondents except one assistant professor, whose major is education,
reported that they did not know what rubrics were. The most common response was:
What is it? I dont know about it. One professor noted with a grim look, A
rubric? Is such a thing popular now? After my explanation, the concept of a rubric
appeared to be understood.

Examples of other responses include the following: An associate professor said:

I would not say we dont need rubrics to improve the quality of

education. In reality, however, it is difficult to use them, given the time
and effort that might be required.

An assistant professor noted:

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I find it troublesome to use such a thing. My criteria of assessing student

work are simpler. Students score poorly if their reports do not follow the
instructed topic theme or do not have references. I would give zero to
copied and pasted reports for plagiarism. I would give extra points to
reports with concrete examples to support their arguments. I would like
to use [written] rubrics, but I have not seen rubrics that suit my courses.

A professor claimed:

I have to evaluate 800 reports for one course. To do so, I use keywords.
For instance, a student includes eight out of the 10 key words necessary
in an organized way; he or she then receives 80% of a maximum grade.
Even using this method, it takes me 10 minutes to grade each report,
which comes in total to 8,000 minutes [or over 133 hours]. Therefore, I
find it infeasible to use rubrics.

Another assistant professor observed:

I don't think we need it [a rubric]. In the case of a bachelors thesis, for

example, once I look at it, I know how well students do. I assume
nobody will look at a rubric even if someone makes it for him/her.

The assistant professor whose major is education echoed the opinions of those who
were less familiar with rubrics:

Using rubrics made by others is troublesome. First and foremost, it takes

a lot of effort and time for instructors to understand them. I believe that
instructors unconsciously use mental rubrics in mind. We probably
would not use a hard rubric even if we were given one.

An associate professor added:

In order for us all to use the same rubric, we need to address political as
well as technical issues. That is, without political pressures from the
management level, no one would bother to use it.

Focus Group

Faculty members belonging to the SAC were not familiar with rubrics, either. After my
explanation about rubrics, one member asked, How does this rubric help? For
instructors to be accountable and show that they make efforts in teaching and
assessment? One professor said, I thought a rubric has a universal format to be used
all over the world. I am surprised to hear that it varies across institutions.

Another professor claimed:

Although rubrics appear to be objective, the processes to check them are

indeed subjective. Rubrics cannot help being subjective because some items

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(e.g., awareness of problems) are hard to be assessed by rubrics and thus

instructors have to use their own judgment.

The NUCB faculty members interviewed in this study had not used written rubrics.
Many of them did not know what they were. As the literature review indicated,
however, some of them seem to use mental grading mechanisms. In order to further
and more broadly explore how rubrics are used, semi-structured interviews with 13
faculty members from seven universities in the Tokai area were conducted.

Semi-structured Interviews

In this study, semi-structured interviews with 13 faculty members from seven

universities in the TAT were conducted in order to examine whether they use rubrics,
and if so, how they use them. Five participants claimed that they did not use rubrics.
One professor reported that he had started using rubrics to see how they worked, but
had not used one for assessment yet.

One third of respondents reported difficulties in making and using rubrics: I find it
difficult to make rubrics, It is troublesome to make and use rubrics, and Even if
we have a rubric at hand, it is difficult to use it. For instance, what would be the
difference between level 3 and level 4 of a certain item? We need to make a subjective
judgment anyway to decide what is fairly good, what is very good, and so forth.

A lecturer commented that she has used the rubric made by the Ministry of Economy,
Trade, and Industry (METI) to measure fundamental competencies for professionals.
She reported three positive aspects of using rubrics that fit well with those reported in
the literature. They include the following: 1) Since the criteria for evaluation are
standardized, there may be less inconsistency in grading among instructors; 2) By
showing students the criteria for grading, students may find the assessment fairer; and
3) By showing students what instructors expect them to do, rubrics may help students
understand what they need to learn.

This lecturer also raised some issues about rubrics: 1) It is difficult to make a rubric
that can be widely used by instructors because it may be difficult for all instructors to
come to an agreement on format, items, languages, and so forth; 2) It is also uncertain
whether it is possible to set the same criteria across different subjects; and 3) Even if a
rubric is created, instructors might not use rubrics without pressures from authorities
because it is troublesome to use them. She concluded that rubrics could be useful for a
small group, long-term assessment. However, it is very difficult for instructors to
agree on assessment items and criteria. They have to compromise to some extent;
otherwise they cannot use rubrics.

Some respondents reported reasons that they did not use rubrics. One professor
reported: Rubrics may set limitations for students; they may just make enough efforts
to meet the criteria of rubrics and do no more than that.

Another lecturer claimed:

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The objective of my course is to enable students to be proactive; the outcome of

student work is not important. I dont think student pro-activeness can be
quantified. Therefore, I do not use rubrics. I assess students from a clinical
psychologist point of view. I believe education psychologists tend to use
rubrics. Clinical psychologists like myself would rather intend to fill the gap
between what is shown in rubrics and what students really are able to dothe
real value of student work.

An associate professor said that while he understood the significance of

understanding the concepts of rubrics, he finds it infeasible to use the same rubrics
across different instructors, subjects, and disciplines:

Suppose you are replacing a teacher to teach something. Even if the

teacher gave you all the instructions about how he or she graded
students, would you follow that? We are not pure, innocent graduate
students that simply follow what they are told to do.

Discussion and Conclusion

The current research examined whether Japanese university instructors are familiar
with rubrics, and if so, how they use or do not use them. The findings show that many
of the instructors in the sample were unfamiliar with rubrics. Some of those who knew
about rubrics did not use them for specific reasons. These included that they require
too much time and effort. As one respondent claimed, some instructors teach large
numbers of students and grade hundreds of reports at a time. Also, rubrics are
technically difficult to use. One respondent reported, for example, that the difference
between level 3 and 4 of a certain item is often judged subjectively and thus
inconsistently. These issues coincide with the negative aspects of rubrics mentioned in
the literature review. Given these issues, rubrics may be effectively used only when
they meet certain conditions, summarized below:

1. Instructors understanding of and engagement in using rubrics: the current research

shows that many instructors do not know or understand rubrics and some of those
who know and understand rubrics do not use them because they are unconvinced of
the benefits of using them.

2. Examining and understanding the contexts in which rubrics are used: it is difficult
to use the same rubric in different contexts because the content of rubrics should differ
according to the context. For instance, the criteria for assessing academic writing and
creative writing may be different.

3. Political pressures on instructors to use rubrics: making and using written rubrics
requires time and effort. Unless instructors are institutionally required to use rubrics
and provide evidence of using them, they will not use them.

Is it feasible to meet these conditions? The current research does not provide a positive
response to this question. While rubrics may be useful for young teachers who are
beginning to develop their grading skills, this research suggests that rubrics are
2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.

unlikely to become more widely used as a practical assessment tool in the context of
Japanese higher education.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 46-59, February 2015

The Art of Teaching: Instructive,

Authoritative and Motivational

Diana Martinez, PhD

Stamford International University
Bangkok, Thailand

Abstract. What is more important for a teacher, to cover all the materials or to
teach fewer units and get students to fully understand the information? This is a
dilemma many teachers, educators, and professors face every day around the
world. Matching teaching and learning styles is not an easy job; nevertheless, it
is not impossible. This case study examines the role of teachers in several
linguistic classes and how their performance greatly influences the students
outcomes. Scenario one shows the importance of lesson plans and instructions,
scenario two discusses the role of authority exercised by the educator and
scenario three shows the motivational strategies of a passionate teacher. The art
of teaching is something that cannot be performed by everyone but by those
who are passionate about sharing ideas and knowledge.

Keywords: teachers; motivational; educational powers; pedagogy; classroom


The education field involves not only the art of teaching and learning but many other
things implicit in these two acts: students, subjects, areas of study, classrooms, schools,
universities, languages, and teachers and educators. Many books can and have been
written, about the components of education; however, this case study is focused on the
people that make the art of education possible: teachers, educators and professors and
the ideal way of teaching a class.

There is not a single way to give a class. There are many characteristics to take into
account when it comes to teaching and learning. Nevertheless, literature and personal
experience have proven that there are a few tips and rules to follow in order to make
a class successful. Many areas need to be taken into consideration when analyzing the
performance of a particular teacher/educator. It is very important to observe the
audience (the students), the number of students, the subject taught, the language in
which the class is given, the teachers mother tongue and the students native
language, the time when the class is given, the classrooms design, the materials used,
and the teacher/professors behavior.

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This paper analyzes three different scenarios where a linguistic class is given. Two of
these circumstances are focused on foreign language classes while the last one is a
literature class. The area of study is one aspect analyzed; however, it is not be the main
subject. The teachers actions and attitudes are observed and analyzed to support the
ideas explained in the literature review. These examples are intended to show that a
structured lesson along with an approachable authoritative teacher who is passionate
about sharing knowledge and ideas is what is necessary to deliver an effective class.

Literature Review
Before getting deep into the main characteristics a person should possess to become a
good teacher, it is necessary to discuss whoa teacher is. It looks like a simple question;
however, it is not. To define an English teacher is a different task than describing a
science professor. The audience and the subject taught play a very important role
when it comes to the definition of a teacher/professor/educator. It influences the
rhythm of the class; however, this is not the only aspect to notice.

While reviewing literature written about teachers and good performance when giving
a lesson, there was an author that did not pay attention to the subject or the area of
study, but to the performance itself and how the output conveyed by the educator is
received as an input by the studentsSally J. Zepeda. She came up with a list of
characteristics every person that teaches should master. Teachers, in general, spend
many hours of a day with students and become their mentors and role models in a
way. Everything they do, directly or indirectly, has an impact on their students.

Teachers touch lives. In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a days work. It is
invisible and remains so, maybe for 20 years. Nonetheless, educators do touch lives in
countless ways on a daily basis (Zepeda, 2008). Students usually spend between four
and six hours per day in class. Their teachers act as mentors for them. They are not
only receiving input related to a specific subject (mathematics, language, science, etc.)
but also receive moral values including the art of sharing ideas. The relationship
between a teacher and a student is always circular. Both participants can learn many
things from each other, not only the student from the teacher. Educators are, in some
ways, examples to follow, especially in the first stages of the academic life. The
influence they have on students can be invisible as Zepeda states; however, its fruit
will grow with time.

Teachers nurture the souls of their students. Excellent teachers abound in schools,
but the truly exceptional teachers are the ones held in the memories and emotions of
children long after the school year ends (Zepeda, 2008). Every teacher is different.
Still, there is no more rewarding feeling than to receive some news from a former
student a long time after he/she was actually a student, talking about his/her life,
showing he/she still remembers the teacher and moreover, something he/she was
taught helped a little bit in a particular moment of his/her life. There are not words to
describe that feeling. Teachers are difference makers. Teaching was not about
making the world a better place, it was about making their world better, day by day
(Zepeda, 2008). Pryce (2010) reaffirmed I utilize authentic approaches which
provoke students to consider their own values and ethics and reflect on the extent of
CSR and ideology of the triple bottom line. Mahatma Gandhi once said, Be the
change you want to see in the world. It is not possible to change the whole world,
but it is possible to influence a small portion of it every time a teacher is in front of the

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students. An idea kept for ones self will always be a small poor idea, but an idea
shared with others will become bigger and make some parts of the world different.

Teachers are believers. I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the
conditions in which they can learn (Zepeda, 2008). A teacher cannot control the
input that is received by the students and in which way it will be learnt. Depending
on the students backgrounds, the same input can be taken in many different ways.
The only controllable thing for an educator is the way that input is conveyed. The
words used, the facial expressions, the tone of voice are just some of the verbal and
non-verbal communication used in class. Through practice an educator becomes an
expert in those aspects and sees the effect that a simple look or a smile may have on
the learners. When a teacher shares knowledge, he/she hopes for his/her students to
understand that piece of information and transform it into something greater for their
future. A key aspect of my teaching is to help students develop awareness of
analytical thought processes so they can learn to reflect on contemporary issues,
critically evaluate them and engage in intelligent and informed dialogue (Pryce,

Teachers work on behalf of students and work purposefully with parents and the
community. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they
have never failed to imitate them (Zepeda, 2008). Somehow teachers and parents are
closely related. Half of the day children and teenagers are at school with the teachers,
and the other half at home with their parents. Teachers should supply what parents
do not; and the other way around. Kyle and Rogien (2004) suggested that teachers
should somehow involve parents creating a team-work environment with the final
purpose of achieving a common goal: the successful future of the students. Both of
them are educators who will have a great impact on the students future. Their
performance in and out of the classroom will be essential and influential on the
youngsters behavior.
Teachers go to extraordinary lengths to affirm and to serve unselfishly. At times our
own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has
cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us
(Zepeda, 2008). As previously mentioned, teachers act as mentors and role models for
students. The teachers actions should be for the better of their students without
asking for anything in return. The impact of each action might be invisible, but will
always have its influence on someone. There should not be such a thing as a selfish
teacher. An educator is a person who gives, who shares, and who enjoys when
knowledge is the rope that unites him/her with the class.

Teachers should bring humility to the classroom. Ive learn that people will forget
what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you
made them feel. (Zepeda, 2008) In a classroom there is some kind of hierarchy where
the teacher stands and he/she is seen is the person in power; however, this hierarchy
should be fair and students never treated as inferior to anyone else. The teacher might
know more about one particular subject, but that does not make him/her smarter that
the students. Acting humbly generates a better response from the audience. It is
important to create a good environment within the walls of a classroom, one where
students feel comfortable and know they can count on their teachers. By creating this
atmosphere, the possibilities of giving and receiving a great class are almost ensured.
Students learn from observing what teachers do and how they interact with their

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students, leading to an effective discipline system. The more teachers share with
students the discipline strategies and their purpose and rationale, the more effectively
the students will learn responsible behavior (Kyle & Rogien, 2004).

Teachers provide a safety net for each other. If we take the time, we can preserve
many Kodak moments of teaching. The artifacts of a scrapbook can serve as a very
visible reminder of the joys of teaching, even on the days when the classroom is
daunting. (Zepeda, 2008) Many students think that when a teacher enters a
classroom he/she is very sure of him/herself, with no fears and very determined.
Still, this is not the case most of the time, especially for first-time teachers. As Kyle
and Rogien (2004) stated, The feelings of our class and the learning community
are created through class building activities. [] When the students perceive that
they are valued by the teachers and other students, included in classroom activities,
accepted in their classroom and school, have a sense of belonging to cooperative
groups and are listened to and encouraged by the adults in their lives, they develop
respect for themselves and the authority figures in their lives. They need to be able
to create their own culture and safety net for the students and for themselves in order
to feel comfortable and make others feel relaxed as well.

Teachers embrace hope. A school is at its best when teachers support each other and
focus on their strengths. (Zepeda, 2008) Not only with the students, but also with
their colleagues, teachers need to create an environment where they can rely on each
other. It is important not to forget, teachers are humans as well. They have the same
faults and strengths as everyone else. Feeling part of a group is essential when
pursuing a career that includes being surrounded by people at all times.

Teachers build personal connections with their students. No one has yet fully
realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness, and generosity hidden in the soul of a
child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. (Zepeda,
2008) The job of a teacher is not entering a classroom, delivering the lesson prepared
for that day, and leaving. The teachers job is much more than that. The connections
established with the students are much more important than the subject given or the
grades the students get after a test. With some students, creating a good relationship
will be easier than with others; however, the key is found in not giving up. As
mentioned before, teachers rely on hope. They never give up on their students. Trust
is most effectively taught when it is lived. [] Trust is nurtured when students turn
to their teachers because they know they will be listened to when they are struggling
with interpersonal relationships, academic issues or personal problems (Lumpkin,
2008). (Teachers are psychologists that need to read their students minds in order to
perform well in their classes. It is the only way to match teaching and learning styles
seeking success.

The teacher is the one that commands and leads the lessons and the students are the
ones who follow the instructions and do as commanded. How this hierarchy is
performed depends on the teachers decision; however, an educator will always have
some power over the students. To develop them correctly, he/she will have to find the
right balance, as with everything in life.

French and Raven (1959) stated, According to the social psychologists it is very
necessary for an effective leader to gain the trust and respect of his students. You will

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have to earn it (as cited in Shah & Inamullah, 2011). They named them the five social

- Expert power: This power refers to the expertise in the subject they are
teaching. Teachers should master the topic and be able to show this to the
students. If the students observe the teacher has not mastered what he or she is
teaching, they will lose respect. They want to see an expert, who they can rely
on every time they have a doubt about that particular subject, knowing that
he/she will always have an accurate answer to give.
- Referent power: The teacher should command respect of, but also care about
the pupils. When talking about exercising power over students, it refers to
establishing order. The teacher has to behave as a reference for the students, as
an example to follow. He/she should develop an approachable attitude
without crossing the line. It is believed that more flies are caught with honey
than with vinegar. Still, learners need to keep in mind that being friendly does
not mean they can lose respect or do whatever they want.
- Legitimate power: The teacher acts like the manager in a company. The
meaning behind the word teacher carries an intrinsic power, so the students
know they must obey what the teacher says. Yet, this power should be earned.
Educators will only be in control as long as the students see them as the person
in charge. Otherwise, they will lose this power immediately.
- Reward power: Everyone wants to receive a compliment when they do
something right. The same happens, more than in any other job, when it comes
to students. They are generally seeking good grades and to pass their classes.
By receiving good feedback they are encouraged to keep working well. The
teacher has this power to award his/her students when their answers are
correct or when they behave well in class. Motivational strategies should be
used in a balance way. By giving too many positive appraisals, an educator
may create the opposite effect the students relaxes, loses interests and does
not think he/she has to work as hard as before.
- Coercive power: When a student behaves badly or do not answer properly,
he/she needs to be penalized for it so they do not do it again. Students need to
learn what is wrong and what is right, and their teacher should not only
inform them about it, but also show them the way to do things the right way.

The authority exercised by educators is a challenging task that requires precision and
balance. Teachers who are very authoritarian might be seen as arrogant and careless
about their students. Teachers who are very friendly might lose the respect of the
learners. When looking for the balance, there is a line that combines authority with
charisma. The figure of the teacher will be portrayed as the leader of a class, however,
that does not necessarily mean that he/she might not be friendly and supportive of
his/her students. Sociologists have ascribed charismatic authority to qualities that
encourage people to obey and follow a leader. A charismatic authority stems from the
subject-area knowledge, experience, and professional expertise as both a writer and
teacher of writing. Some charismatic authority may also derive from humor,
gentleness, and friendly demeanor. [] The classes are markedly student centered.
The teacher encourages students to ask questions of each other before turning to him,
and he makes frequent use of peer work, peer response, and peer editing
(VanderStaay, 2009).

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The passion for teaching, learning, sharing ideas and conveying knowledge are
characteristics that come from within a person; a passion cannot be learnt or acquired
through practice. A teacher can always improve his/her performance, and this is
possible through years of experience and educational strategies; however, it is
essential to have a base, an innate component to start with: this would be the passion
and love for teaching in a humble and enlightening way.

The present paper is a case study that analyses three teaching scenarios where the
theories explained above are shown. Three videos of different linguistic classes
(English as a second language and poetry) in diverse parts of the world (Thailand, the
USA and Italy) have been chosen to prove that through clear instructions,
authoritative approach and motivational strategies, students are more encouraged not
only to pay attention and learn, but also to appreciate the valuable knowledge every
class they receive can bring to their futures.

After analyzing how a teacher/educator should be without taking into account the
subject taught, the next sections of this paper analyzes different scenarios in which
teachers give linguistic lessons. The first two videos are focused on the teaching of
English as a second language. The last video is a poetry class that shows the passion of
a teacher. All of them give some pieces of advice about how to become a good teacher,
showing some strategies that may help some educators in their classes. Improving as a
teacher is always possible; however the passion of any teacher needs to be innate and
dwells, always, in a teachers heart.

First scenario: British Council teaching speaking techniques (John Kay)

The class shown on this video takes place in Thailand where the teachers are giving an
English speaking class to children. This video was broadcast by The British Council a
charity that promotes education and cultural understanding around the world.
Founded in 1934, this organization is present in over 100 countries nowadays (British
Council, 2015). Teaching English worldwide is one of its main projects. Its high-
standards of education are renowned around the globe. The speaker in this video is
John Kay, from the British association. In it, he gives some general tips about how to
perform well in a foreign language class.

John starts talking about the organization of a class. A teacher needs to have the ideas
clear on his/her mind about how the class is going to be structured and about what
the main purposes of that particular lesson are. Teachers need to find themselves
relaxed and prepared in front of the class. This can only be achieved when an educator
feels comfortable with what she or he is teaching and feels he/she masters the subject.
Consequently, the educator will act more confident. It is very important not to show
doubt or weakness to the students since they will surely take advantage of that by
losing respect and not paying attention, especially when the students are children.

The first scene of this video shows a game where the teacher has some cards and
students have to say the name of the drawing that is on them. When teaching children
during the early stages of language learning, it is very important to make sure all of
them learn and get the correct answers. In the case of the game played on the video, a

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good suggestion would be to write the results on the blackboard so everyone can see
how to spell it so they avoid making spelling mistakes. The English language is
different in pronunciation and spelling. It is necessary to be very careful with that. On
the video, the teacher makes sure everyone knows how to spell the word so students
do not fossilize any mistake and make it in the future. How she decides to do that is by
putting the names of the drawings on the blackboard afterwards, next to their
correspondent picture. She does not correct one by one but all together.

Continuing with the video, at 01:32 another good teaching tip is explained. When
working in groups, the teacher should organize and divide the class. In order to avoid
group of friends or putting bad and good ones together, an effective strategy is to do it
randomly. Assigning a different number to each student (as many as groups should be
formed) the groups will be different each time depending on the students seats. This
idea promotes meeting new people, team work, understanding and getting out the
comfort zone. This is partly what the video shows: the teacher promotes help among
the pupils by saying, You can help her. Another great idea from this scene is the
approachable behavior of the teacher. While the students are working in group, the
teacher goes around the class, stopping randomly close to a pair of students and
asking how the exercise is going and how they feel. By doing this, students can
observe they can count on their teacher and they lose any fear they may have of asking
any doubt.

In the minute 02:04, John states, When giving instructions, let them know: Here it
comes. [] Look around, make sure they can all see you, and then, go for it. Students
should understand what they have to do in order to do it right. This is the reason why
instructions, sometimes, should be repeated several times and using different words.
The teacher in this scene makes sure everyone has understood what they have to do
by not only repeating the instructions himself, but also, by asking a student to repeat
them with her/his words. The teacher can also learn if the students have understood
the instructions by observing what they are doing. If he/she sees confusing faces or
learners looking around, then something is not going the way it should. In this case,
the teacher should go to that particular student and explain the exercise again in
private. As Pryce (2010) stated, I believe in providing structured approaches to enable
learning and determinedly encourage students to promote their own learning through
active participation.

Another tip John gives on this video is about the language to use with the kids: simple.
Students, especially children, like and understand better when the language is direct
and formed by simple words they are able to comprehend. When things get difficult,
they do not want to make the effort of understanding most of the time. Also, it is very
important not to talk when the students talk. They must hear what the teacher is
saying and the teacher ought to listen to the comments the pupils are making.. The
teacher needs to know when to talk and when to be silent, so the students can learn to
respect their turn.

In the last scenes of the video, another class is shown. This time it is a primary class
where kids are practicing vocabulary related to clothes. John goes back to the field of
instructions and he says, If you want the students to practice particular language, it is
often important that you control oral practice of the target language before they start
to practice in groups. It is essential to practice some examples with the students so

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they feel more confident about what they have to do next. The teacher can use
creativity here by asking a student to perform the activity with him in front of the
class. This way, he promotes interaction and creates a comfortable environment in the
classroom. Also, the teacher can make use of extra material as the one used on the
video, like pictures where the students can practice the activity with the teacher. One
of the last pieces of advice John gives is For any task, it is obviously extremely useful
for the students to see the useful language; so, you can have this on the walls, or on the
table so they are surrounded by the language and all together encourage the use of
English in the classroom.

Once the students start to do the activity the teacher has explained, another strategy
the educator may take is to extend that activity by adding new vocabulary or new
mini activities inside of it so students can practice what they studied in previous
classes. It is very important to see the possibilities every class brings with it since there
are a million things a teacher can do with the children to keep the interest and the
rhythm of the class in a fun way.

The main pieces of advice taken from this video can be summarized as such: master
the class by having ideas organized and clear before the lesson begins and make sure
the activities are corrected in front of the whole class so students learn the language
properly without fossilizing mistakes. The language learnt during the first stages of
life is very important in their future performance since their power of acquisition is so
much bigger when they are young than when they grow up. It happens like acquiring
a mother tongue. This is the reason it is said that learning a new language as a kid is
always easier than as an adult.

The next lesson from the video is related to the approachable behavior of the teacher,
always available to help the students and answer all their questions. In addition to
this, the use of simple language when giving instructions will make the rhythm of the
class smoother and the output from the students will always be more satisfactory. And
finally, it is essential to improvise a bit while giving a lesson. It is not always good to
get stuck to the lesson plan. A good teacher the opportunities of introducing a new
activity, a new area of study, a new game that allows her/him keep practicing the
language, always according to the rhythm of her/his students.

The next scenario shows a language class where it is possible to observe these five
powers performed by the teacher.

Second scenario: An English class plays Bingo using words with short vowels

This video was recorded in 2010 in Santa Clara, California, USA, at Mission College.
Founded in 1967, this educational site has a clear purpose. Mission College's first
priorities are students, their learning and their success. Our College serves the diverse
educational, economic and cultural needs of the student population of Santa Clara, the
Silicon Valley and our global community by providing associate degrees, transferable,
career and basic-skills courses and programs, as well as opportunities for life-long
learning (Mission College, 2015).

The teacher, Marsha Chan, is giving a beginner level English class. The lesson starts
with the teacher talking to the whole class explaining how to play a game. The

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students are adults and the class is formed by more than 20 of them, divided into
groups of 4-5 to play the game. The first good thing about this class is the explanation
given by the teacher. She is using interactive and very high-technology materials. She
has a screen on the blackboard that projects what she has on her desk; this way,
students can follow her explanations perfectly.

Once the explanation is given and she makes sure that everyone has understood, the
game starts. The teacher says a word, and they have to spell it and find it on the word
sheet they have. The game continues until a student gets 5 words in a row and spells
them all right.

On the minute 01:25 there is a student that does not know how to ask a question. The
teacher asks him, May I borrow your Bingo markers? and she makes this student to
repeat it six times. Thanks to the technique of repetition he learns it. She makes him
repeat it out loud this way she gets the whole class to learn this question. After the
student is able to ask the question on his own, without the teachers help, she rewards
him by saying, Very good. By saying these nice words she encourages the student to
do things right since he will receive very good comments and another award a good
grade. Here it is possible to perceive the reward of power described by Jehangir Shah

When the class is formed by a great number of students like in this case, it is very
difficult to get everyones attention constantly; however, the performance of this
teacher is admirable, judging from her attitude toward the students. Every time the
camera shows a different student, it is possible to see they are very attentive not only
to the exercise they are doing but also to the teachers reactions. It is splendid. It is
necessary to say that when it comes to adult students, it is easier than when teaching
kids since their will to learn new things is greater. Adults go to class voluntarily most
times whereas going to school is the childrens obligation. The teacher in this video
uses a great strategy to catch her students attention. When monotony arrives, things
do not go well and pupils start to get bored and get distracted. This is not the case
here. The teacher breaks the monotony by interacting with random students one a
time. For example, on the minute 02:47 a student asks a question and she says, Listen
to your classmate, addressing the question to everyone. She is interrupting the course
of the class and catches everyones attention. Also, she is exercising two powers at the
same time: the reference power and the legitimate power. She commands and the
students obey. She develops the role of manager and teacher very nicely and achieves
her goal: her students learn how to spell new words. She uses another strategy here.
She does not only answer the students question, (Can you repeat that word?) but
also makes the rest of the class to repeat the same question to learn it. Furthermore,
she gives a synonymous question so she teaches another way of asking the same thing,
but with other words (Can you say that word again?).

A good teachers performance is also seen on his/her spontaneity. Her expert power
allows her to see the opportunities that arise in every class. When an educator is an
expert in his/her field, it is very easy for him/her to divert the main topic and/or
lesson plan, taking advantage of new possibilities to teach the same thing but in
different ways addressing all the learning styles. If a section of the lesson plan allows
improvisation and also catches the interest of the students, the teacher is succeeding.
An educator should be spontaneous. This is a very good strategy in a large class.

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Continuing with the class shown on this video, another good example of a good
teachers performance is correcting an exercise in front of everyone. In order to make
sure her pupils have understood the meaning of lips right, she asks a student to
create a sentence where this word is included. By doing so, the students will not only
get the meaning, but they will also practice sentence structure and grammar.

In general, competitive games are the favorite ones among students. When the
students are trying to be the first ones in completing an activity, they pay more
attention in order to be faster than the rest and win. This is the case of this videos
game, bingo. At the end of the video, a female student shouts, Bingo! and it is
possible to see how happy she is. It is a pity than when she has to spell her five words,
she does not spell them right and we can see the teacher exercising her fifth power,
coercive power. This is very important since most of the time, people learn more by
making mistakes and correcting them than by not making any since this would mean
they do not interact a lot or try their best.

After this girl, another student announces, Bingo! This time he spells his five words
perfectly! He deserves an award not only from the teacher but also from his
classmates. Everyone claps and smiles. This is a very good moment when the good
environment between teacher and pupils is observed. The teacher mingles with the
class; she claps and laughs, she is another one of them for a moment. This shows the
students she is a fun and friendly teacher. Here we can see the social power discussed
previously. As Zepeda (2008) said, teachers nurture the soul of their students.

As analyzed on this video, the five powers can be perfectly shown in one class. They
are compatible with each other. It is the teachers responsibility to perform them the
best way possible to create a well-organized and fair hierarchical class. The right
balance is known as character education.

This term is used in the broadest sense to encompass the wide range of
approaches used by educators to foster good values and character traits in young
people. The intention in using this term is not to be prescriptive, but rather to
allow character education to be interpreted according to the respondents own
definitions and opinions about the realm of values and schooling. While character
education is often used interchangeably with such terms as: moral education,
moral development, moral reasoning, values education, values clarification, ethics,
etc. (Jones, 1998).

The experience, age, and personality of the teacher are very important factors when it
comes to the analysis of a teachers performance in front of a class. An educator who
has years of experience will always be more able to see the possibilities available to
lead the class one way or the other and how to treat the students and interact with
them. However, this does not mean this teacher will be better than a less experienced
one. The art of teaching comes from the inside, not from the outside. It cannot be
learnt as a mathematic law. As stated by Gardner (2005) We know that students learn
more when teachers are more experienced. School districts that keep hiring teachers
on emergency credentials create their own revolving door. This is a statement that
has been argued throughout history. Going deep into how a good teacher should be,
the first section of this paper discussed the fact that a teacher should create a personal
connection with his/her students, should become a mentor to them. They should see
him/her as a person they can rely on not only when it comes to an academic matter

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but also to any other issue related to their personal life. When talking about more
experienced teachers as Gardner (2005) states, It is inevitable not to think of an old
teacher. Students, children and youngsters will feel closer to younger teachers than to
an old one. More experienced teachers are less likely to change their way of giving
class, not paying that much attention to the students trends or daily lives. Although a
younger teacher may not be as expert as an adult one, the young educator will have
the social skills that enable him/her to understand their students better since both
groups usually share the same technological and social environments. Most of the
time, it is more important that the personal bond exists between teacher and students
than the expertise of the subject itself to conduct a successful class. It is just a matter of
finding the right balance. One thing is true though; the practice always allows a
person to become better in every field of life. A key element is student or practice
teaching in the field, for learning through supervised practice from a qualified,
experience, supportive teacher before taking on the responsibility of a classroom
(Gardner 2005).

Teachers need to learn self-reliance. To achieve this, they need breathing room,
and space to try new things and give form to the uniqueness that is their distinct
gift to teaching. Teachers need monitoring, but that is best done by those able to
put teachers before programs, and to think outside the program box. When
teaching is viewed as a process that the teachers themselves must take
responsibility for, real teachers come forward and pretenders fall by the wayside
(The Clearing House, 2006).

Third scenario: Scene from the Movie The Tiger and the Snow Roberto Benigni

The third and most important aspect found in a teacher besides performance and
power, is the passion he/she has about teaching. The last video analyzed in this paper
is a scene from the movie The Tiger and the Snow by Roberto Benigni, released in
2005 (IMDB, 2015). This Italian dramas main character, Roberto Benigni, is an
inveterate romantic poetry teacher who has to fight against all odds for his love. His
romanticism and pure passion is reflected in the classes he gives. He is the clearest
example of a passionate teacher. He is so inspirational that there is not a single student
that does not pay attention to him. He talks so fast about a million ideas in a single
minute that students need to keep up with his rhythm. The irony he uses is such a
marvelous thing to observe. It is not possible to imitate it though. Being a comedian at
the same time as being a teacher is something that cannot be learnt through years of
experience because it is innate; it is a personality trait. He loves teaching, he loves
inspiring his students and he finds happiness by just doing what he does best:
teaching poetry.

Classroom environment imprints an everlasting effect on the minds of the young

learners. The more this environment remains congenial and friendly the more
learning is expected. How to make classroom an excellent learning place is the
duty of the teacher and the taught. [] Teacher performs the role of a manager
and leader in the classroom so he requires power in another form which is known
as social power of teacher. It is the power by which he influences the attitude and
behavior of his students (Shah, 2011).

The appendix of this paper shows the transcript of the scene analyzed in this third

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


At 0:36 in the video, Nacopiero (2011) Roberto Benigni says the following sentence to
his class: Poetry isnt outside; it is inside, within. The same happens to the art of
teaching. This art does not come from the outside; it cannot be learnt. This art dwells
in every passionate teacher as it is in the character played by Roberto Benigni. He can
improve his techniques of giving a class or investigating about new educational
strategies with his students; however, his love for teaching is in his soul and heart, as
every other great educator.

When a person is passionate about something, he/she does not even need to think
about it. Roberto does not even think of the words he uses. He does not measure them.
He is more interested in making students happy, in making them see the value of the
subject, in matching what happens inside his class to the external world they live in.
From the minute 01:09 onwards, Fall in love and everything will come to life again!
Squander your joy! Dissipate your cheerfulness! Be sad and silent, but with
enthusiasm. He places himself in their shoes, he laughs, he makes jokes and he is
empathetic asking and answering questions to himself as it he was a student. All this
is passion. He is energetic. He uses different tones of voice to show enthusiasm and he
passes this passion on to every single student of the class. From the minute 01:37
onwards he states, To convey happiness you must be happy. To convey sadness, you
must be happy. To be happy, you must suffer! Dont be scared of suffering! The whole
world suffers! If you dont have the means, dont worry. Only one thing is necessary to
make poetry: everything, and everyone laughs.

There is an idea clear throughout the video that can serve as an essential tip for every
educator: if you are not interested in your own subject, your students will not be.
Learners look up to teachers who are not only experts in their fields but who enjoy
sharing their knowledge with them. Creating a positive learning environment
involves, empowers and transforms students through their learning of management
theories and practice. It shows that through such sustained effort and enthusiasm and
a teaching approach which revolves around provocation and evocation of different
styles of thinking and learning, students can be encouraged to acquire the knowledge
and skills to equip them to become management professional and lifelong learners
(Pryce, 2010). If a person does something, they should give 100%. To do something
half way will not lead to anything but failure.

Every teacher is unique and every class is a different world. Everywhere we go and
every class we assist, no matter the subject taught, we will be able to observe good
characteristics and bad ones. As with everything in life, it depends on the person. It is
very difficult to set up the patterns and to write a guideline that summarizes the
qualities the best teacher should have. Not only the subject, but also the language
inwhich the class is taught, the socio-cultural environment of both teacher and
students, the number of students, the teachers personality and experience, and the
students background have a great influence on the success of a particular classroom.

In this paper, some general tips about how to become a great educator have been
given. How the lesson is structured, delivered, and conveyed to students has an
important influence on the outcome as does the authoritative role of the educator. Five
powers can and should be exercised in every class in the most balanced way possible.
Authoritarianism is very different from being authoritative. Social skills are essential

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when interacting with the students since it is important to create a bond between the
teacher and the pupils. Above all, the field of education must be formed by those who
have a passion for teaching and learning. The spirit of a great teacher is full of
enthusiasm and joy, characteristics that are contagious and students pick up very
quickly. The art of teaching is found in the soul and the heart of each particular teacher
and educator.

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Orlich, Donald C., Harder, Robert J. Callahan, Richard C., Trevisan, Michael S.,
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Voltz, Deborah L., Sims, Michele Jean, Nelson, Betty Palmer, 2010 Connecting Teachers,
students and Standards, Strategies for Success and Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms -
AIU Virtual Campus
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on Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

A scene from the movie The Tiger and the Snow by Roberto Benigni (2005),
translated from Italian by the author of this paper.

Dont start writing love poetry. It is the hardest. Wait till you are 80. Write
about something else: the sea, the wind, a radiator, a train running late nothing
is more poetic than any other thing. Poetry isnt outside; it is inside, within. Dont
ask what poetry is; look in the mirror cause poetry is you. Dress your poems up.
Choose your words carefully. Be selective; you may need eight months to find one
word. Beauty was born when people started to choose; since Adam and Eve. Do
you know how long Eve took to choose the right fig leaf? How about this one?
How about that one? She stripped bare all the fig trees of the Paradise. Fall in love!
If you dont love, everything is dead. Fall in love and everything will come to life
again! Squander your joy! Dissipate your cheerfulness! Be sad and silent, but with
enthusiasm. Hurl your happiness into peoples faces. And how? Let me look at my
notes; Ive forgotten. Thats what you should do; I cant read them. (and everyone
laughs) To convey happiness you must be happy. To convey sadness, you must be
happy. To be happy, you must suffer! Dont be scared of suffering! The whole
world suffers! If you dont have the means, dont worry. Only one thing is
necessary to make poetry: everything. (and everyone laughs) Dont try to be
modern; its the most old-fashioned thing! If a line doesnt come up to you in this
position, try another position, or this other position. Lay on the ground like this!
(and all of a sudden, he lays on the ground). Lying down like this, you can see the
sky! What a beauty! What didnt I do this before? What are you looking at? Please
dont look! They see! Make words obey you! If the word wall doesnt bring you
any idea, dont use it again in 8 years! Whats that? (pointing at the wall). No
idea! Thats the beauty; like those lines there! (pointing at the blackboard). I want
to leave them there forever Erase it all! Weve got to start! The lessons over! See
you on Wednesday or Thursday. Goodbye!

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 60-71, February 2015

Intercultural Understanding in the New Mobile

Learning Environment

Daniel Chun
University of Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton, England

Abstract. The proliferation of mobile learning technologies, wireless

devices and cloud-based applications had been attracting a school of
researchers and educators worldwide in developing new programs or
extending their current programs. This growing phenomenon can be
explained as part of many higher education institutions strategy to meet
the growing demand from offshore students who domicile in another
country, speak another language and have a different culture. A desk
based study into recent academic research in mobile learning and
distance learning has been conducted with particular emphasis in
evaluating competence in intercultural understanding. It is in this
context that we review the current practices by higher education which
is by and large still using teacher-led pedagogical model with their own
cultural orientation, values and actions of how they perceive as
beneficial for the learners and whether specific design strategy can be
used to enhance intercultural understanding and competence for both
the institution and learners alike.

Keywords: Intercultural understanding, mobile learning, cultural

competence, transnational education.

A promotional video posted in YouTube (YouTube, 2015) with the presenter
prompting Have you ever imagined a university program in which learning
takes place at your own backyard ? and the scene shows an Asian man holding
a tablet computer in the comfortable setting of a backyard (Informatics
Education, 2012). As mobile technologies advance, many educational institutes
attempt to take advantage of the extra reach and the new access to global
learners with mobile learning technologies as an addition to their existing
portfolio of learning technologies. In this case, the higher educational institute is
called Informatics Education, a private concern in Singapore that offers UK
degree programs in regional Asia with the use of mobile and e-learning platform
called Global Campus. Meanwhile back in United Kingdom, Middlesex
University had led a research effort back in 2004, which by coincidence is also
called the Global Campus project - had received funding from the European
Commission to study the use of m-learning in higher education in Southeast
Asian nations (Murphy, 2004). Besides the above two chosen cases, which was

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carefully selected to stage the phenomenon, there is an increasing body of

evidence that educational enterprises are all gravitating towards the use of
mobile learning technologies. There are amongst these institutions some well-
established universities based in the west and higher educational (HE)
enterprises based in the east and provides local recruitment and tutoring
support. All of these enterprises are tapping the use of latest mobile
technologies, learning management system and its applications to support its
organizational goals in growing the student enrolments (Clothey, 2010) and
adoption of its degree-awarding curriculum programs whether these are local
classroom and tutor supported, distance learning (Spronk, 2004) or blended
online e-learning (Latchem & Jung, 2010). From reviewing various literatures, it
is found that the current body of knowledge in the use of the mobile learning
studies have been mostly focusing in the effectiveness and system design of
projects and very much falls into the state described by Pachler et al (2010) as
technological fetishisation and very few cover the social-cultural and cultural
dimensions of learning and the impact of the intercultural understanding with
the current state of the art in mobile learning.

Objectives of the Study

This study intends to evaluate the current state of intercultural understanding in
mobile learning research projects and formulate suggestions for its progression
for mobile learning researchers.

Methodology of the Study

In this study, a desk-based study of existing literature in mobile learning projects
was carried out. In particular two major studies by Frohberg et al (2009) and Wu
et al (2012) was compared and this covers a large body of literature related to
mobile learning projects conducted in primary, secondary, higher education and
informal learning.

Theories of mobile learning and intercultural understanding

For the purpose of our study, this section will explain the theoretical framework
of our research questions, defining the meaning of various terms that is used in
this study and the implications it has as a desk-based research on the current
body of knowledge.

Mobile learning as an extension of online education and e-learning

Mobile Learning was identified early on as an extension to e-learning that can be

realized by the use of mobile computing devices (Quin, 2000). Today, this
definition is still supported by many. Traxler (2009) simply refers mobile
learning as mobile e-learning and is not adjoining of the two buzz words
mobile and learning. The field of studying mobile learning is still nascent
and will continue to develop itself into newer identity (Traxler, 2009), which is
similarly described as only an evolutionary phase (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009).
Traxler (2009) further supported the notion that mobile learning still has a
blurred definition, one which may differ across different geographies, culture

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and in particular amongst the two distinct groups of developed and

developing countries. The concepts of mobile learning therefore can be
elucidated based on culture and affordances of mobile technologies. In this
paper, the focus is on the use of mobile learning technologies as a means to
extend the reach of otherwise traditional classroom-based, face-to-face, or
tethered e-learning pedagogy in higher education.

While many mobile learning projects, research and articles had evaluated the
success based on technology and pedagogy, Traxler (2009) supports the
argument that implementing mobile learning should put more attention to
social, cultural and organizational attributes in order to gain sustainability
within higher education. Mobile learning solution by its technical definition
(Traxler, 2009) could expand the learners ability to participate at will, with more
ways to make contact and with little geographical limitation or time space

Intercultural Understanding and Competence

While many authors have written about intercultural issues, cultural diversity,
cultural understanding in distance learning and e-learning programs, and a
limited few actually have extended beyond online learning to mobile learning
and explore extra dimension related to socio-cultural conditions (Pachler et al,

One of the widely used research framework in studying cross-cultural

communications is from the original work by Hofstede (1986) who developed
the four dimensions of cultural differences Power Distance, Individualism
Collectivism, Uncertainty Avoidance and Masculinity. Liu et al (2010) recent
paper titled Cultural Differences in Online Learning : International Student
Perceptions is one that adopts Hofstedes model.

Intercultural contact (Leask, 2004) is often seen as one of the key driver to
increase intercultural learning opportunities and competence in transnational
education and individual higher education (HE) institutes desire to
internationalize. Similar to the Singapore educational enterprise introduced
earlier in the opening paragraph, many of these HE institutes in Canada, United
States, United Kingdom , Australia, New Zealand, also referred to as settler
countries (Spronk, 2004) are all expanding and promoting their courses and
programs in Asia - often as distance learning programs, or blended learning
programs with the support of local tutors. This internationalization effort in
higher education is not unique (Leask, 2004; Mercando et al, 2004) and is
observed in many Asian countries. The terms used in this sector such as
offshore, transnational, transborder, distance learning are all very common. It is
almost always assumed by the consumers at large that when any programs are
offered in Asia by a local educational enterprise, it will have a partnership of
some sort with a western university. Since 1990s, these western universities or
higher educational institutes had been starting to develop these exportable
programs and crossing the cultural barrier (Mason, 1998).

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Global educators are perceived as the new colonizers (Mason, 1998) and often
labeled as insensitive by the way they teach. Wang (2006) describes this
discourse of online learning which emphasizes individual development and
student autonomy, active learning and mutual communications and the
teacher-dominated, passive and silent way of learning for Asian students.

According to Leask (2004), these global educators will face many risk factors
when comes to developing the understanding of intercultural practices like
how the language and cultures influence their thoughts, values, actions and
feelings. It is clear that when any learning takes place, it can differ
significantly from one country to another - Spronk (2004) describes this as
differ profoundly from one culture to another and attributes these digital
learners culture into hierarchy, style, orientation and language.

Indeed, researchers have found that language is the most common learning
barrier to successful teaching and learning. According to the analysis from the
ADEPT m-learning research project led by Middlesex University, 60% of the
respondents cited that language problems was the key barrier inhibiting m-
learning in cross cultural settings while 36% of the respondents see non-
language related communications problems as an inhibiting factor (Murhpy,
2006) suggesting that learners in these Asian countries receiving western
education clearly indicates that there are cultural differences stemming from the
use of language in communication and non-language communication. This set
of statistics supports Spronks view of an academic culture familiar to only the
first language learners, and labeling other second language learners as aliens
(Spronk, 2004)

It is often true that it is necessary to learn more about a culture through the lens
of learning the new language (Kukulska, 2009). However, attaining better
understanding of a culture is by no means the only outcome of learning a
cultures own languages, values and actions; but often learning a language,
gaining contact, with another culture can achieve this goal (Leask, 2004). Many
cross-cultural studies have found many differences between eastern and western
cultures. And for educational institutes in West to offer their program
courseware in the East, it will be more than just recognizing the difference
between the two distinct cultures. In the concept of teaching and learning, Wang
(2006) posits that Asian students have a totally different understanding, beliefs
and hence expectation of the learning culture from Western educational
institutes. The roles of the teacher or tutor who furnished as the contact medium
to the text instructions are also different from the viewpoint of Asian students;
the type of quiet communication pattern inside a classroom, and also inside
an online learning environment are observed.

Blisle (2008) supports the viewpoint that intercultural competence as a capacity

to understand more than just a words used in spoken or written form for a
language, perhaps more to do with the actual process of communication and
further proposed the cultural embeddedness of e-learning environment and
she further supports the notion that intercultural competence is demanding
often requiring the teachers to come up with innovative pedagogical models to
reach students irrespective of what medium used. Intercultural understanding

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and intercultural competence can be obtained by provisioning more local

support and more contacts according to Murphy (2004).

Mobile Learning a new path to intercultural understanding and

In this study, I have conducted a review of two major literature that analyze the
state of the mobile learning projects and a synthesis from various literatures in
mobile learning and e-learning that incorporates the use of mobile computing
devices to find out and ascertain if there is some knowledge gap. There are very
few literatures that cover the interplay area of intercultural issues and mobile
learning. Although referring to online transnational education in general, Liu et
al (2010) points out that the growth of cultural concerns in regards to online
learning has not been accompanied by a growing number of studies in the field.

And scanning the various literature on mobile learning, it is found that quite a
large number of mobile learning projects discuss about a specific use or instance
of adopting a wireless technology like the development of a SMS based system
(So, 2009), and some offers a conceptual framework (Chun & Tsui, 2010) or a
task model mobile learning theory (Sharples et al, 2006) or pedagogical
framework (Khaddage et al, 2009; Laurillard, 2007) and some study the
perceptions of the use of mobile learning (Al-Fahad, 2009)

The two studies by Frohberg et al (2009) and Wu et al (2012) provide an holistic

view of type of mobile learning projects that researchers and practitioners had
been focusing on thus far - effectiveness, system design, language learning
initiatives - covering education initiatives from primary education to higher
education and informal learning.

i) Mobile Learning projects a critical analysis of the state of the art (Frohberg
et al, 2009) which covers 102 Mobile learning projects that were
published before the end of 2007 out of the initial screening of 1468
publications. In this report, the selection is focused on six criteria
context, tools, control, communication, subject and objective. Although
not directly related to cultural implications, the report recognizes that
learning is not an exclusively individual process and the increased use of
mobile technologies amongst learners can lead to more contact. There is
no reported studies on the intercultural and social-cultural implications
in this report.

ii) Review of trends from mobile learning studies: A meta-analysis (Wu et al,
2012) provides a good synthesis of 164 studies between 2003-2010. In this
report, the authors had been able to categorise the type of research by
methodology, educational context by mobile device, academic
disciplines, level of mobile learners. Particularly relevant to our interest
in the context of higher education, the report shows 92 studies in the
higher education sector representing 52%. 58% of the studies evaluates
on effectiveness as the primary research aim and 32% focus on the
mobile learning system design, with 86% of the studies showing positive

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outcome. There is no reported studies on the subject of intercultural and

social-cultural implications in this report.

Frohberg et al (2009) in his critical analysis paper has adopted a systematic

framework to analyse many different kinds of mobile learning projects and by
presenting the discussion according to the task models for analyzing mobile
learning (Sharples et al, 2007) which analyse six key factors - context, tools,
control, communication, subject and objectives of the mobile learning projects.
Although the domain of intercultural understanding and cultural issues were
not explicitly measured in the model itself, the area for which context and
communication covers in the model in part relates to the common space for
which the learning and the teaching cultures meet which Frohberg et al (2009)
refers as dialectic nature of the technological and pedagogical space for
educational processes. One of the factors measured is communication and in e-
learning and mobile learning, participants and teachers are important to the
learning process and mobile technologies could improve the communication and
interaction and being an isolated learner or learners in loose pair are
significantly different.

Drawing from the findings from these two literature, and the lack of concrete
evidence of research conducted in the area of intercultural implications with
mobile learning, it can be argued that that the theory of mobile learning is
indeed very nascent it has not caught on with the amount of research emphasis
on intercultural issues on traditional classroom and online learning. Mobile
learning was suggested by many authors to be evolving and taking new shape
(Traxler, 2009) and still evolving (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009). The following figure
1 shown below is synthesized from the present study that posit as new
technologies are being introduced to the teaching and learning arena, it is
generally intention is to gain more access as described by Mason (1998) as
global curriculum. On the vertical axis, it shows the level of understanding in
intercultural issues, and on the horizontal axis, it shows the level of accessibility
and mobility. Both axes shows a level of high and low level as in high or low
understanding, high or low mobility. There are quite a few authors and
researchers investigating the topic of intercultural understanding in teaching
and learning, distance education and online learning and these authors often
making comparative studies (Robinson, 2007; Wang, 2006; Mercado et al, 2004;
Liu et al, 2010) through the lens of various authorial sources such as the
Hofstedes cultural dimensions theory (Hofstede, 1986). By providing more
access and more mobility supported by technology environment, it is presented
in this paper that the new technology as adopted lately by many projects to
study and evaluate mobile learning, they have show a general lack of
intercultural understanding and our review of various literature supports this

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Figure 1: Intercultural Understanding, Accessibility and Mobility

Knowledge gap

Online Recommended
Learning & Learning direction through
Pedagogy extension of
Mobile existing design
Learning guidelines

Low Accessibility and Mobility High

There are some parallels observed in many studies in online education and
studies in mobile learning, both of which have seen a large body of knowledge
focusing mostly on technological and instructional aspects (Wang, 2006;
Fronberg et al, 2009; Traxler, 2009; Cobcroft et al, 2006). This similarity can be
explained that the advent of todays internet and mobile technologies probably
share a similar pattern of trajectory growth. It is argued by many authors that
mobile learning will become so popular that learning as an activity will be
personal, situated and immersive to our everyday living environment, and
therefore see no need to study further as a separate discipline. The growth of
the use of mobile devices in learning had been traditionally with smaller
handheld devices and this trend is clearly moving away with tablet PCs and the
use of mobile learning is seen as inching closer to reach tipping point (Liu et al,
2010). However, this positive identification of the use of technology as applied
learning has been criticized; Paliwal & Sharma (2009) believes mobile learning is
not quite ready for the mainstream giving the lack of support from the

Since many distance learning program, internationalization effort on the part of

western higher education institutes have started way back before todays
landscape of todays mobile learning pedagogy from mail order study guide,
CDs, computer-mediated learning courseware, many have also focused on the
need for attaining intercultural understanding. Since then, many online learning
and World Wide Web based learning design principles such as those presented
by other authors (Collis, 1999; Lally et al 2006; Spronk, 2004; Latchem & Jung,
2010) have supported the need for course developers to look at the profound
impact of intercultural competence of the host education institutes to design
their courseware for a diversified cultural audience. Spronk (2004) called these
settler countries naming Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

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She further posits that the advent of online learning seems to put the neglect to
cultural diversity in distance education to an end (Spronk, 2004).

As discussed, gaining access to the global marketplace through the deployment

of new educational technology is proven to be a trend as the cost of technology
becomes affordable for mass consumption. Computer, internet and mobile
technologies are the new high tech media that provides ubiquitous access and
hence enabling D-Learning, E-learning and M-Learning at lower cost (Paliwal &
Sharma, 2009) often providing convenience, expediency and immediacy.

Despite the lack of interest from researchers to study the conjuncture of

intercultural understanding with the new mobile learning environment, authors
like Khadage et al (2009) believes that researchers should consider blending the
mobile learning technologies into the existing use of blended learning, which
already uses a mix of classroom, asynchronous and synchronous online learning
to study and incorporate the existing knowledge related to intercultural
understanding and cultural studies in blended learning. A review of literature in
the mobile learning domain shows that despite that advancement in mobile
technologies user interfaces, devices and connectivity, it is still often seen as
only an extension of the existing online learning environment (Traxler, 2009;
Paliwal & Sharma, 2009) and hasnt deviate much from the original
interpretation of mobile learning (Quin, 2000) of using mobile computational
devices to connect to traditional online learning.

If the past history is a good indicator of what the future will hold; and in the case
of the knowledge and understanding in intercultural issues in offering
education to a global audience (Mason, 1998; Robinson, 1999) ; and also in using
various online e-Learning pedagogies and design techniques encompassing
WWW (Collis, 1999), it is quite clear that the use of advance mobile technologies
will continue to extend the reach of e-Learning (Traxler, 2009) and therefore the
level of intercultural understanding should increase over time as these new
disruptive technologies becomes a settler and adopted by the mass.

Design implications for mobile learners

In our review of the state of mobile learning, despite being nascent and evolving
nature of mobile learning as described by many authors (Traxler, 2009;
Kukulska-Hulme,2009), the design principles and needs for intercultural
understanding in mobile learning is still very much needed.

Goodfellow et al (2009) pointed out that the research efforts focus in the cultural
diversity in transnational online learning is growing and supporting the distance
learners and what Hodgson (1997) described as distributed telegraphic
culture in new technology-supported learning environment which also
supports educational dialogue. Mercado et al (2004) also suggested almost ten
years ago that there is future need for universities to customize their online
programs to satisfy cross-cultural needs - for todays learners who are
customers of transnational university education. Several authors had been

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advocating the needs for pedagogical frameworks when extending the use of the
new mobile learning environment. Specific design to support the process of self-
awareness and critical reflection are also needed (Hodgson, 1997).

The new mobile learning environment will present itself as a great opportunity
for educators in the next decade as the level of intercultural understanding
amongst us as educators, as learners and as practitioners increase. Although it is
a challenge to deal with a myriad of mobile learning capable devices,
applications and connectivity options (Paliwal & Sharma, 2009), it is critical for
educators to be fully aware of and make use of the current best practice in online
learning and distance education when designing learning activities and courses,
learning from the past experiences, critical reflections and knowledge.

Collis (1999) had proposed a set of design principles which is general enough to
apply to the current state of the technology for e-learning as well as mobile
learning as discussed in this paper. In summary, the course designer has to look
for areas for which cultural flexibility can be applied and summarized in the
following table.

Table 1. Intercultural design guidelines for WWW courses

Plan for flexibility

Design for a variety of roles for both instructors and learners
Do not assume the course-support site as the primary
Use the course-support site as supplementary
Make use of a variety of media and resources
Minimal technical levels
Test fixed on screen to a minimum
Deal with different communications
Different communication configuration / exam add
Be realistic of what instructors can and will do

Source: Collis, 1999. Designing for difference: cultural issues in the design
of www-based course support sites.

The Global Campus project led by MiddleSex University (Murphy, 2004) is of

paramount importance as it clearly highlights the phenomenon that the teaching
model of the western Socratic pedagogical model, and the learners being in Asia
as Confucian - is indeed a form of cultural difference and fundamentally calls
for recognition of design implications. Course designers, educators, learners as
a result is encouraged to follow the proposed design principles that are
recommended for online learning today (Collis, 1999; Lally et al 2006; Spronk,
2004; Latchem & Jung, 2010) as a starting point for any future mobile learning
projects. It is also this paper finding that future mobile learning projects need to
take a deeper and holistic approach to recognize intercultural understanding.

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As a desk based study, this report provides a selective snapshot of the most
recent studies in mobile learning. In the review of the two major meta-analysis
of existing mobile learning projects, some of these reports have pre-determined
criteria for selection and a defined period in time (Wu et al, 2012; Fronberg et al,
2009) for selection and may therefore not able to provide coverage to all journals
and papers related to the topic, and this study may also have overlooked studies
and projects that may not have been easily found.

With the proliferation of mobile technologies, new devices, high-speed
connectivity and ubiquitous computing, cloud-based applications and web 2.0
technologies, educators in the higher education sector are upgrading their
knowledge within their professional practice and deploying the use of mobile
and Internet technologies in teaching and learning. What used to be seen as
barriers to effective adoption of technology-supported learning environment
such as slow or intermittent internet connectivity, expensive software licenses,
device limitations and limited content can now all be eliminated by open source
software (e.g. moodle), free software as a service (e.g. YouTube, Google
document), free content (e.g. Wikipedia) and free Wi-Fi. In some cases, the
learners are more sophisticated and use other web 2.0 technologies (del Val et al,
2010) to augment their learning, to demand better solution or they outgrow the
technology supplied by the institution. In the HE sector, the competence of
learners from different culture over time had acquired skills in using technology
to communicate, to interact and to participate in the learning process with new
mobile learning environment. As new disruptive innovation in educational
technologies start to unfold in front of us (Christensen et al, 2011), both
educators and learners will be led to leap over the old paradigm of learning with
time and space constraints.

The level of intercultural understanding, related issues pertaining to the need

itself, design implications in the context of mobile learning initiatives has been
largely explored through reviewing existing mobile learning projects in this
study. Through this study and literature review, it is argued and presented that
very few mobile learning studies have focused on intercultural issues
competence, understanding, design by both the learning communities and the
educational institutions. This gap in knowledge presents a tremendous
opportunity for future studies for practitioners and new researchers. There is no
doubt that there will be many challenges in designing effective technology-
supported learning projects with an intercultural approach (Lally et al, 2007).
This paper conclude with the findings and recommendations that when comes
to designing future mobile learning initiatives and projects, practitioners and
researchers should adopt the current design guidelines recommended by many
authors and follow their existing best practice of e-learning and blended
learning projects. This study also recommends that a deep approach is much
needed for educators and researchers to plan and reflect on issues related to
intercultural understanding and its implications when implementing mobile
learning projects.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 72-83, February 2015

How Home Economics Teachers in

Norwegian Lower Secondary Schools
Implement Sustainability in their Teaching?

Else Marie vreb

University of Troms,
The Arctic University of Norway, Norway

Abstract. Sustainability is an aim in the curriculum for Home Economics and

the concept should be familiar to teachers of the subject. The objective of this
study was to investigate how Home Economics teachers in lower secondary
school implement sustainability in their teaching. Secondary school teachers
(n= 30) were interviewed about teaching sustainability in their schools. The
teachers carried out some degree of theoretical teaching about sustainable
development. In the course of practical cookery lessons, their focus on the
sustainability of resources was minimal. Although several teachers wanted to
buy more sustainable products, the budget did not allow it. The majority of
teachers exhibited a relatively low degree of awareness pertaining to the
concept of sustainable food production. Practical application of this concept
was most probably neglected in Home Economics for economic reasons.

Keywords: Sustainability, Home Economics, teaching, secondary school.

In the Western world, everyday consumption of the Earths natural resources exceeds
the rate at which these resources can be renewed. Production within the food sector is
responsible for a substantial part of our greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002, the United
Nations declared that, during the decade 2005-2014, schools and higher education
institutions should directly focus on the promotion of sustainable development
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2002) In 2006, the concept of sustainable development
was incorporated into the aims of the primary and secondary school curriculum in the
subject area of Home Economics in Norway (Ministry of Education, 2006) The greater
diversity of foodstuffs available on the market requires an increasing awareness, on
the part of the consumer, regarding insight into whether or not various foods are
produced in a sustainable manner. Pupils in the Norwegian school systems should be
provided with more knowledge in this area, through the subject of Home Economics,
with the aim of encouraging them to make more sustainable (educated) decisions,
which will be reflected in the choice of foodstuffs that facilitate the renewal of the
Earths natural resources (Joa, 2011).

In the curriculum plan for Home Economics, sustainable consumption is mainly

covered in the theme, Food and Consumption (Ministry of Education, 2006). The
pupils learn about a critical and responsible lifestyle, showing consideration for people
and the environment. They should develop consumer competence so that they can
make choices with awareness of what will benefit both their health and the

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environment. One of the competence aims after year seven (7) is to assess, choose and
shop with environmental awareness, and after year 10 the pupils should be able to
assess and choose foodstuffs based on ethical and sustainable criteria (Ministry of
Education, 2006).

In the curriculum for Home Economics instigated in 2006, the focus to a greater extent
than previously was on the environment. Home Economics in Norway is a practical
subject that has traditionally driven training in line with the socio-cultural learning,
where learning through experience is central (vreb, 2008). All competency aims in
the curriculum should be reviewed at the end of teaching in Home Economics, but it is
up to each teacher to decide how much time it takes to reach each individual
competence. How extensively aims were treated, depended on the teachers` ideology
on teaching (Pettersen , 2007; Caldwell, 1997).

To achieve these aims in an optimal way, the teacher's confidence and competence in
the subject are particularly important in the practical- arts such as Home Economics.
This is, because a lot is demanded of the teacher, as practical tasks can be difficult to
organize and implement (Report No. 22, 2011). At present, 70 percent of Home
Economics teachers in primary schools in Norway lack education in the subject (Olsen,

In the subject of Home Economics, school management has great significance when it
comes to the provision of good equipment and materials, such as food and cleaning
supplies (vreb, 2008; Mller, 2009). Some researchers in Norway claim, however,
that the subject is not prioritized, and that it lacks the resources to buy both food and
textbooks (Olsen, 2010; vreb, 2011). An area that appears to be discouraged, while
lacking teaching skills, will probably to a greater extent be a discipline in which the
teacher affects the pupil learning outcomes and the teacher's ideological vision will be
crucial for what pupils learn (Joa, 2011).

A great many teaching materials for education for sustainable development are
available in Norway (Perl, 2011; Kleppang, 2009). The textbook, Matlyst (Food and
Health for Lower Secondary Schools) contains a chapter about ethical and sustainable
food consumption (Ask, Bjerketvedt & Jensen, 2006a). Another textbook, Takk for Mat
(Food and Health for Lower Secondary Schools), discusses many of the same issues as
Matlyst (Thommessen, Arsky & Borschenius, 2006).

A study of Home Economics teachers (Job, 2011) in an urban community in eastern

Norway have indicated that curriculum in Home Economics was already so extensive
that it proved difficult to include explicit teaching in this area. In addition, the majority
of the teachers thought that organic food would prove too expensive in relation to the
schools budget for practical cookery lessons. Most teachers carried out some degree of
theoretical teaching about sustainable development, but there was significant variation
between schools with regard to both the time allotted and the priority given to this
area. Most teachers said that in the course of practical cookery lessons, their focus on
sustainability of resources was minimal (Joa, 2011).

A sustainable school kitchen within Home Economics classes will primarily pay
attention to what is sustainable within the food sector. Sustainability can be
operationalized through the following proposed criteria for a sustainable diet:

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Use the minimum power during cooking

Use organic food
Use fairly produced goods
Use local producetion
Eat low on the food chain, eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat
Eat seasonal products
Choose fish from sustainable stocks
Do not eat more than you need
Throw away as little as possible
Use drinking fountains that are drinkable

Furthermore, it will be important to sort all waste, including food waste, and use eco-
labeled products (Nymoen, Bere, Haugen, & Meltzer, 2009). To obtain an awareness of
these products, the pupils need to gain knowledge and experience in how to run a
sustainable school kitchen. One can therefore assume that the teacher's knowledge of
sustainability, and the way in which it is practiced in the kitchen, will have an impact
on pupils' overall learning outcomes (vreb, 2008). The aim of this study is to
investigate how Home Economics teachers in lower secondary schools implement
sustainability in their teaching.

A letter was sent to the principals of 34 secondary schools from all 19 counties in
Norway, inviting them to participate in the survey. Of these 34 schools, 30 responded
positively to the request, and in-depth interviews were carried out involving 30 Home
Economics teachers at 30 of these schools.

Table 1 Sample Characteristics

Variables N= 30 %
North Norway 8 26.7
Middle of Norway 8 26.7
South Norway 7 23.3
West Norway 7 23.3

Urban 16 53.3
Rural 14 46.7

Women 25 83.3
Men 5 16.7

Years of teaching
1-4 years 6 20.0
5-10 years 8 26.6
11-15 years 10 33.3
16-20 years 4 13.3
21 years and more 2 6.6

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Characteristics of the respondents (n= 30) are presented in Table 1. The responses
came from all four Norwegian provinces. Responses from urban and rural areas were
equal in number (Table1). Approximatly half (53.2%) of the respondents had been
teaching for over 11years and the other half for between one and 11 years (Table 1).
Chi-square analysis revealed no statistical difference between years of teaching in
rural and urban areas or in the provinces.

In this study, two Home Economics teachers at two of the schools in the municipality
were used in the pilot test. The aim of the test was to determine how the interview
guide worked. After pilot testing the interview guide, the information was reviewed in
consultation with the pilot informants. The interview guide was semi-structured, with
the main questions being formulated. It was possible to change the order in which the
questions were posed, and there was allowance made for the spontaneous formulation
of follow-up questions. The study was in accordance with the requirements of the
Privacy Ombudsman for Research at the Norwegian Social Science Services.

Table 2 shows the interview guide with questions that informants did. Subsequent
questions are not shown here.

4. Planning for Home Economics hours.

Can you tell how you plan what to be made in Home Economics class?

5. What do you mean about the term "sustainability" in Home Economics?

What do you think when I say a sustainable diet in relation to food and health?

6. How are you teaching in skills aims on ethical and sustainability criteria?

How being students taught in competency aims of Sustainability?

How do you practice sustainability in the schoolkitchen?

Are sustainable and ethical criteria in the teaching of Home Economics

important to you?

Do you spend long time on this competency aim in relation to the other aims?

Background for teaching in Home Economics.

Number of years as a Home Economics teacher

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The interviews were conducted in the winter of 2013. They took place during teachers'
working day, and each of the interviews lasted 30 minutes. All teachers were informed
about the purpose of the study and that they could stop the interview at any point
without giving a reason. Written informed consent and an agreement that quotes from
the interviews could be used anonymously were obtained from all teachers. All
interviews are included in the analysis. In the process of analyzing the interviews, a
branded Apple iPod was used as a recording machine. Each interview was transcribed
on the day it was made, to ensure a description of the context of implementation.
Respondents were also informed that they could speak freely and that follow-up
questions would be asked if necessary. Follow-up questions were usually asked to
keep the interview on track in terms of obtaining answers to research questions and
issues. The experience came-intolanguage in an open and transformative dialogue
between the interviewer and interviewee. The researcher made an effort not to affect
the dialogue`s outcome according to her own perceptions and experiences, but to
allow the response of the interviewee to emerge. The respondents were relaxed,
inspired by the questions, and capable of talking about their teaching about
sustainability in Home Economics. In the presentation of the results, key points from
the analysis are pointed out. In the interests of anonymity, respondents are referred to
as Teacher 1, Teacher 2 etc.

Data analysis
All 30 interviews were transcribed verbatim. The transcribed data were read through
several times and a coding frame for the analysis was developed. The analysis was
performed as a phenomenological process with systematic text condensation inspired
by Giorgi (1985) and (Malterud 2003) and meaning condensation (Kvale 1996). The
analysis followed four steps: a) Reading all the material to get an overall impression,
b) identifying units of meaning representing different experiences and coding these
units, c) condensing and summarizing the contents of the coded groups, and d)
generalizing descriptions and concepts. Quotes from the interviews were translated
from Norwegian to English by the author in the process of writing this article.

The following will be addressed in this section: What the term sustainability means
to teachers, teachers attitudes to sustainability, teaching pupils to achieve the
competence aim of sustainability, theoretical approaches to sustainability,
sustainability in practical work in the school kitchen and energy use and reuse.

What the term sustainability means to teachers

None of the teachers expressed the same definition of sustainability, but many
presented exemplary perceptions of the concept of sustainability. Most frequently
mentioned was "local food". "Low on the food chain", "organic" and "fair trade" were
also among the phrases mentioned, as the following quotation shows:
I think fair trade and organic food. (Teacher 1)
A few (3) teachers, however, had no specific, subject-related perceptions of the concept
of sustainability.

Sustainability, I wonder about it. One of the most difficult competence aims. I have not dwelled
on it-very much. I have no sustainability plan for the pupils. (Teacher 2)

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Teachers attitudes to sustainability

One third of the teachers believed that practicing sustainability in the kitchen may
make pupils more confident.

It is important that pupils learn to practice sustainability. We made a vegetable wok, where we
used organic and ethically sourced foods. (Teacher 30)

Some of the teachers emphasized that, in order to become competent consumers, it is

not enough to hear about it, you have to do it. Half of the teachers indicated that they
had a personal interest in sustainability and want to practice sustainability in the
kitchen. Two thirds of the teachers indicated that sustainability should be included in
the teaching of Home Economics, but it was still not significantly stressed when it
came down to it:

We make very little use of it, because we have to think about economics. (Teacher 20)
Two-thirds of the teachers expressed the opinion that sustainable actions are carried
out in the classroom, but only because it is required by the curriculum, not because the
teachers have a special desire to prioritize the teaching of this subject.

Cooking and nutrition are favored, but sustainability is in the curriculum and should perhaps
have been embedded in the lessons. The pupils we get from primary level, are much less
knowledgeable than previous pupils on nutrition in general. (Teacher 11)

Most teachers think that the curriculum in Home Economics is comprehensive and
that many pupils lack knowledge when they come to the Home Economics lessons in
lower secondary schools. The majority of teachers believe, therefore, that there is little
time for sustainability because a lot needs to be repeated, and practical cooking takes
priority over theory. In addition, nutrition takes priority over sustainability in the
number of hours allocated. Many also believe that the number of hours is too low in
relation to the curriculum's scope.
One third of the teachers said that the sustainability concept is not something they
have given much thought to as they have been teaching Home Economics:

It is a competence aim that is not subject to any importance. In relation to the number of hours,
we would have to cut out some competence aims. (Teacher 10)

Theoretical approach to sustainability

Most teachers used theory lessons for this subject. Energy use and reuse was also
taken up by many teachers without sustainability being the target of the practical
lessons in the kitchen. Of the 30 schools, 25 have some kind of theoretical teaching
about sustainability. Within the "some" teaching, there is great variation in terms of
how much time is spent on it. Some mention sustainability in the context of checking
the "labeling" of food, while others have a session of about two hours on the topic.

We've been on the subject of local food and what kind of food is being made in different parts of
the world. Pupils had homework, in which they used textbooks that address the sustainability
theme.(Teacher 25)

Sustainability in practical work in the school kitchen

Most of the teachers say that it is too expensive to implement sustainability in the
school kitchen: the procurement budget is too tight.

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It is a pity that we cannot use organic food and fair trade products, but the budget decides. We
do not buy groceries from a basis of sustainability. Almost always it is lowest price. The pupils
themselves are very aware of lowest price. (Teacher 27)

Some teachers weave sustainability into something called home day. Pupils have
one home day a year during their schooling.

We take up this issue when the pupils have home day. We merge this theme in the tasks pupils
have in their home day. Home day is a day when pupils are at home and make a three-course
dinner with appetizer, main course and dessert. The pupils can buy organic foods because it's
the parents who pay for the food. (Teacher 28)

Each of the 30 schools that the 30 teachers represent say that they do not have the
finances to buy organic or fair trade products for Home Economics classes, but two of
the teachers say that they try some products once to show the pupils some of these

Much of the time in the school kitchen is spent on cooking; techniques and nutritious food are
central. (Teacher 22)

The topic of local and long distance food is usually tackled theoretically in Home
Economics. Only three of the teachers say that they are conscious of using local food if
the price is almost the same.

We talk about choosing local produce in relation to what eggs to buy. A farm near here sells
eggs, but we do not buy eggs from there because it's too expensive. (Teacher 5)

Several teachers want to buy Norwegian local products and look for those in the
stores, but this happens in the autumn when it's time for Norwegian vegetables. All
schools in the study say they buy food according to the season. The reasons for using
the vegetables in the fall were commonly explained by nutrition and economics. Here
is a sample:

We use food according to the season. We follow the seasons. We begin the year with the autumn
harvest because we have vegetable wok. (Teacher 11)

Most of those interviewed were of the opinion that there was no dish which they ate
which was low on the food chain, with the exception of vegetables in autumn.

Low on the food chain is not something that we think of when we teach Home Economics. We
do not think that some kind of meat is more sustainable than others, we must think about
economics. The same applies to the fish. (Teacher 14)

Beef is the most used type of meat, with chicken mentioned as the second most
popular. Many of the teachers reasoned that chicken was chosen because they had
Muslims in the class, and, for that reason, they could not use pork in cooking.
When it comes to fish they use cod and saithe.

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We have fish in the winter when the fishing is at its best. We teach pupils to make fish burgers
of haddock, saithe and cod. We do not think about sustainability, but what fish is best for
making a fish burger. (Teacher 18)

Energy use and reuse

Many teachers were aware of the extent to which they used water and electricity.

Washing under running water is not necessary. We use cold water to pre-rinse and soapy
water when we were in hot water. Then we have a stopper in the sink. Pupils are not allowed to
leave the hot water to run. (Teacher 21)

There is great awareness about the use of water and electricity, but none of the
teachers related this to sustainability. To the extent that it was explained, it was in
relation to the economy, hygiene or that it was "learned" that this is the way we do it.

The pot must match the electric ring size. If you have a small pot, then also use a small ring,
which we emphasize in teaching and turn the oven, so it does not appear on any longer than
necessary. In addition, we use a small amount of water when we cook eggs and potatoes. This
has to do with economics. (Teacher 23)

When it comes to leftovers, the teachers are good at calculating the portion sizes and
how much should be brought in for each lesson. Experience and time spent on it will
also be important for precise purchases.

Nothing goes in the garbage. The remains of food are packed up and put in the freezer. The
residue of milk is frozen and may be used in baking. The remains of pre-cooked food are passed
down to the teachers in the staffroom or the pupils take leftovers home with them. (Teacher 22)

There was not one of the teachers that had a lesson dealing with the leftovers.

We always take care of the leftovers. We do not have any particular lesson dealing with
leftovers, but maybe we should have. (Teacher 12)

A number of teachers instruct pupils that foods can be used for several dishes and not
discarded. This can be illustrated as follows:

We teach pupils to buy what we need, not large quantities to be disposed of. Pupils
receive training in portion sizes. We also teach pupils that they can make different meals from
a pack of fishballs. (Teacher 13)

Many municipalities offer recycling of paper for schools. Of those surveyed, two
thirds of teachers said that they did not sort or even collate paper, while one third of
the teachers explained that they had recycling where waste was included.

At this school we have recycling of glass, plastic and food waste. It's nice that the pupils get to
practice this in Home Economics. (Teacher 15)

After a review of all interview data, a picture can be drawn, which I summarize in the
following. Most of the teachers came with examples of associated perceptions to
explain the concept of sustainability. Their attitudes to sustainability ranged from
thinking that it was very important to teach it, to believing that the secondary aims in

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the curriculum were far more important, and therefore they did little or no teaching on
this. Many teachers have some kind of theoretical training about sustainability.
However, this is not practiced to any great extent in the school kitchen because it is too
expensive for the procurement budget.

A number of sustainability initiatives have been made in the Home Economics-

discipline, especially when it comes to using vegetables in the fall, eating low on the
food chain, using of water and electricity, and the utilizing leftovers. There are many
who cannot communicate to pupils, or who do not have a focus on, these
sustainability initiatives. When it comes to using local food, some try to practice this.
No one mentioned what kinds of fish and meat are sustainable.

Sustainability is an aim in the curriculum for Home Economics and the concept should
be familiar to teachers of the subject. In addition, there are two textbooks in lower
secondary schools which define the term sustainability (Ask, Bjerketvedt & Jensen,
2006a; Thommessen, Arsky & Borschenius, 2006). These are good teaching materials
available to teachers. Many schools in Norway have not secured these textbooks,
because they are using a free book that do not define the term sustainability. Despite
the fact that most teachers had training in the subject of Home Economics, it did not
impact on what they could do about sustainability or how much time they spent on
the topic, which suggests that the issue may also have an ideological dimension.
Previous studies show that however "green" a teacher is ideologically is consistent
with how much time he or she spend on sustainability in their teaching (Raabs, 2010).

For all teachers, sustainability was implemented as block tuition (at a maximum of
half a day per year) instead of it becoming a recurring theme in the classroom, even
though they said that this topic was important to them. This is consistent with
previous studies (Haapala, Biggs, Cederberg & Kosonen, 2012; Joa, 2011).
Sustainability is a part of the learning outcomes when teachers write their syllabus in
the beginning of the term. Several hours should have been dedicated to that topic.
None of the schools organized so-called environmental days, where food had a central
place. According to Gough (2005), sustainable measures in which the whole school is
involved will have a greater impact on student learning. Many teachers had some kind
of theoretical teaching about sustainability: however, this is not practiced to any great
extent in the school kitchen. As justification for this, the teachers say that it is too
expensive to implement sustainability in the school kitchen: the procurement budget is
too tight. This is consistent with previous studies (Aarek & Ask, 2012; Joa, 2011).

In some schools, an attempt is made to have some practical teaching on this, with
lessons on sustainable development. Teachers then argue that they use foods low on
the food chain or they buy organic products. Local produce is too expensive for the
procurement budget. Several teachers introduce the theme of sustainability in the
autumn, so that they can use the associated seasonal vegetables. Sustainability has a
certain timeslot in the school kitchen in the autumn but is rarely practiced during the
rest of the year.

In practical cooking, a very small number use organic food and fair trade products.
Regarding the nutritional content of organic foods, there are currently no good
controlled studies that confirm that these foods are more beneficial to health than
conventional foods (Holmboe- Ottesen, 2004). On the other hand, an organic diet is

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


considered to be less energy- intensive than a conventional diet. When purchasing

fair trade products, consumers should in principle be assured that the workers who
produce these products work under decent conditions; this is something that is
perceived by consumers as the right thing to do (Milford; 2009).

When it comes to selecting the meat and fish species that teachers use in cooking, these
are not associated with sustainability. Many teachers justify the choice of fish and meat
types with economic limitations. It may also be that there are Muslims in the class.
Beef is the meat product that is used most in Norway, while cod is the most commonly
used fish. Public nutrition consultations in Norway want to reduce red meat and
recommend that the diet is mainly based on fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grain
products, which is considered to be a sustainable diet (Directorate of Health, 2011).

Several factors may affect whether sustainability is woven into teaching or not. Pupils
beginning lower secondary school has currently less knowledge in Home Economics
than previous pupils. Many secondary teachers see this lack of training in the pupils
and teach techniques and nutrition rather than sustainability. There are currently no
textbooks in Home Economics at the primary level. A Norwegian website called The
Natural Rucksack is focusing on nature, environment and sustainable development in
the primary education. The website is meant as resource base for teachers. Many
primary school teachers do not have education in Home Economics. Home Economics
in Norway has had little attention and low status (Husjord, 2001; vreb, 2008).

Another aspect of sustainability, and whether or not it is executed, is the scope of the
curriculum in Home Economics. Most teachers find that the curriculum in Home
Economics in Norway is too extensive and that it is difficult to get through the entire
plan during a school year. When a subject is too wide to cover in a term, teachers
usually pay attention to learning outcomes or objectives of the class, but sustainability
is not part of those. Many teachers do not consider sustainability to be as important as
the other subjects in Home Economics. The socio-cultural learning system has always
been strong in the teaching of Home Economics (vreb, 2011; Holthe, 2009). When
several teachers believe that basic techniques are more important than whether the
fish has traveled a long or short distance, this tells something about the informant's
ideological views on sustainability (Pettersen, 2007; Caldwell, 1997). The teacher's own
personal attitude towards sustainability is likely to be picked up by the students and
may then affect their attitude to the subject (Joa, 2011; Raabs, 2010). Teachers need not
only to teach sustainability, but also to be seen to practice it if they are to educate
competent and thoughtful consumers.

In addition to the curriculum, the teachers and principals ideological vision most
likely put their stamp on education in classrooms (Mller, 2009; Solheim, 2009;
vreb, 2008). The majority of teachers believed that, in order to consistently
implement sustainable ideology in Home Economics, there is a need for more
facilitation by governing agencies. In practical Home Economics, teachers were forced
to buy the cheapest products. There were several teachers who had wanted to buy
more sustainable products, but the budget did not allow it.

Care in the use of energy use and leftovers is evident throughout the year in many
schools. This is consistent with the results from another study (Joa,2011), but no
teachers mentioned these conservation measures specifically as sustainability
measures. Teachers are careful with the use of electricity and water in the school

2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


kitchen and take care of the leftovers. They have their own rules for this, as pupils
must learn. Saving water and electricity is something we have been focusing on since
Home Economics was introduced in schools. At that time, however, the motivation
was probably far more related to economy than to sustainability (vreb, 2008).
During and after the interviews, there were factors that could affect the study's
validity. There was considerable work on the questions in the interview guide in
advance, while follow-up questions were devised as the interview progressed. To a
greater extent than the questions in the interview guide, follow-up questions could
have influenced the informants statements, as these questions were posed more
spontaneously. The researcher`s understanding will not only affect the interview
situation, but also the other parts of the project, from the selection of the problem to
the finished result. After all the interviews were completed, the researcher had
extensive material to be processed and analyzed, which could possibly have made the
analysis less clear and thus weakened the reliability. In the analysis phase, it may be
an advantage when more people are involved in the work (Knizek, 1998).

A teacher`s approach to sustainability can affect the next generations of attitudes and
practices in relation to this concept. The majority of interviewees in the study
exhibited a relatively low degree of awareness pertaining to the concept of sustainable
food production. Most of the education provided on sustainability seems to be
theoretical. The practical application of this concept was most probably neglected in
the Home Economics syllabus. Governing bodies should be on track with initiatives
that support sustainability in Home Economics. Therefore, a shift in emphasis in the
Home Economics curriculum is required, in order to accommodate the need for
education in the practice of sustainable development in food production. Not only in
the curriculum, but in the syllabus of the subject itself so it can homogeneous
throughout the schools. Learning outcomes and objectives are essential. The teachers
may feel that they do not have relevant knowledge in this area, and, when it comes to
foodstuffs for practical teaching, they may be forced by the school`s budget to buy the
cheapest option.

The authors thank the study participants for sharing their thoughts and experience.

Aarek, I., & Ask, A. (2012). Sustainable in Home Economics/Food and Health in Norway.
Paper presented at the International Federation for Home Economics World Congress,
Ask, A.M., Bjerketvedt, N.M., & Jensen, I.L. (2006a). Matlyst: Mat og Helse for Ungdomstrinnet.
[Appetite: Food and Health for lower secondary schools; in Norwegian].Oslo:
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Giorgi A. (1985). Sketch of a psychological phenomenological method. In: Giorgi A, ed.
Phenomenology and Psychological Research (pp. 822). Pittsburgh, Pa: Duquesne
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Gough, A. (2005). Sustainable schools: renovating educational processes. Applied
Environmental Education and Communication, 4, 339-351.

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Holmboe-Ottesen, G. (2004). Bedre helse med kologisk mat. Tidsskrift for Den norske
legeforeningen, 124(11), 1529-1531.
Holthe, A. (2009). Fra sentral plan til lokale planer i mat og helse. In: A. Holthe, & B.U.
Wilhelmsen (Eds). Mat og Helse i Skolen (pp.23-35). Bergen: Fagbokforlaget
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Haapala, I., Biggs, S., Cederberg, R., & Kosonen, A.L. (2012). Home Economics teachers
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Joa, B.K. (2011). A Sustainable School Kitchen? A Study of Food - and Health Teachers in
Secondary Schools Teaching Strategies about the Theme "Project be Truly Sustainable"
[Master in Food, Nutrition and Health]. University of Oslo and Akershus.
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natural schoolbag; in Norwegian].
Knizek, B.L. (1998). Inerview design og persektiv. In: Lorensen M, ed. The Question
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[Qualitative Methods in Medical Research: An Introduction. 2.nd.rev. ed.; in
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Helse i Skolen (pp: 144-156). Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.
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'alternative' food movement. Pp.156-175 in M. Harvey, A. McMeekin and A.Warde
(eds.) Qualities of Food. Manchester: University of Manchester Press.
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Norwegian). Oslo, Norway: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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June 2006, Oslo: Gyldendal Publishing Co.
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Nymoen, L., Bere, E., Haugen, M., & Meltzer, H. (2009). Diet and sustainable evolution - how
can we as professionals contribute that people eat more green? Norwegian Journal of
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Thommessen, M., Arsky, G.H., & Borschenius, C (2006). Takk for Mat!: Mat og Helse for
Ungdomstrinnet. [Thanks for the food!: Food and Health for lower secondary schools;
in Norwegian]. Oslo: Damm.
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Norwegian]. Kristiansand: Hyskoleforlaget.
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2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 84-103, February 2015

WelWel: Proposal for a Collaborative/Cooperative

Learning Model in the Cloud

Luis Garcia and Maria Joo Ferreira

Universidade Portucalense,
Porto, Portugal

Abstract. In the context of the network thought, a change induced by the

teacher potentially leads to the formation of social clusterings or to
swarming, which can be triggered by what is usually called in the context of
the Chaos Theory, by butterfly effect. The teacher as a precursor of this
effect distances himself from the traditional approach of key player in the
teaching/learning process to become an enhancer of the possibility of
learning, thus making it possible for students to make connections within
what is apparently chaotic.

Keywords: Chaos, Learning, Conectivism, Cloud, Collaboration

Connectivism (SIEMENS, 2004) and the Chaos Theory (LORENZ, 1963) can become
tools to be used by teachers in the context of their classes, with gains for students, who
encouraged to build their own personal, extrinsic and updatable library, in the form of
a network that will allow them to learn without constraints of space or time. In this
sense knowledge advances at an unprecedented pace, driven by a "Darwinian
Collective Intelligence" (SANTOS, 2012) which is fully visible in the start of the so
called Generation Z (HIETBRINK, 2012) (see section 2). In this investigation, a
collaborative/cooperative learning model was conceptualized and developed, it was
named WelWel (We Link We Learn) and it can be used, regardless of software, by
teachers and students in the classroom but also in a virtual environment. This model is
intended to a learning that will be, more and more, done by combining classroom and
virtual teaching methods which should become part of education in the next two to
three years(UE, 2014) with a focus on b-learning environments which, we believe, will
support our appropriation of Murphy's law (KIRILENKO & LO, 2013) what the
Digital Generations can learn will learn. In this sense the model will allow the teacher
to encourage, directly and indirectly, the building of connections by the students,
allow operationalizing the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Before the
changing of the current paradigma in the classroom (UE, 2014) we believe that the
image of the Teacher should also be updated so as to allow it to keep track of the
evolution that the school environment is knowing, for example, in what concerns the
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) (TAURION, 2012), the teacher should also be
prepared to manage the implementation of an environment conducive to the
teaching/learning process of Generations X, Y and Z (see section 2), using the Cloud,
more specifically Facebook, YouTube, Calendar and GDrive, as a space for
Collaborative/Cooperative learning designed to respond to immediacy (NORRIS &

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SOLOWAY, 2011) and mobility (QUARESMA & GONALVES, 2013) inherent to the
current generations of students and teachers who, in the context of our investigation,
will be named teachers/collaborators.

General conception of the model

The WelWel model incorporates, in each stage, the main tasks to be performed and
adds elements to the dynamics and flexibility needed to constantly adjust to emerging
and specific needs requiring each process of mixed training (classroom and distance),
intending to offer a response to predictions which state that within four to five years,
there will be virtual and remote laboratories in schools (UE, 2014). The model
proposed in this work should be understood as a generic tool, able to maintain its
operationality regardless of the tools and resources used provided that they fall within
the parameters defined in its preparation. As such, it is understood that the model
should provide properties to ensure its scarcity in different scenarios (PERES &
PIMENTA, 2011).

The Welwel model is characterized by being universal, independent and

understandable, as shown in Table 1, which contains the properties of that, we believe,
should be considered a pillars of the model.

Table 1 Properties of the WelWel model (adapted from [PERES & PIMENTA, 2011])

Properties Description
Universal Should be used regardless of the specific field of education or
educational context.
Independent Should maintain its operationality regardless of the
perspective adopted in implementation.
Understandable Should keep an eminently practical perspective that allows
users to be motivated to spontaneous participation.

In addition to collaborative/cooperative learning (RAMOS & CARVALHO, 2007), b-
Learning (PERES & PIMENTA, 2011) (see section 3) can be an added value, as
intervener in the teaching/learning process, taking advantage of the potentialities
offered by the Web, as well as the tools made available by it (AMARO, RAMOS, &
OSRIO, 2009). In this sense the WelWel model is designed to be a relevant offer, to be
operationalized in b-learning environment, enhancing the collaboration/cooperation
to happen.

The actors involved, i.e., teacher and student, can, in principle, seem to keep the
traditional roles in the teaching/learning process. The teacher, however, emerges as a
teacher/collaborator, someone we want to be focused on the word us as being much
more powerful than the word I (GALLO, 2014). It's up to this one to help students
find the knowledge they lack and to actualize their own connections. To help students,
the Teacher/Collaborator must, first of all, learn to listen to them, in order to better
respond to and meet those which are their fears and expectations (GALLO, 2014).

According to Cubeiro & Gallardo (2011) we learn every day (CUBEIRO &
GALLARDO, 2011). Therefore, it is important to better know the figure of the one who

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


can teach us, in the operationalization of the teaching/learning process, in the School
context. We know different teachers, who use different approaches towards the same
goals, to send a message to the student, change behavior, cause the student to gain and
develop new skills. All styles are good (CUBEIRO & GALLARDO, 2011), thus we
think teaching is, first of all, to convince others of what we feel because without that
we cannot teach (CUBEIRO & GALLARDO, 2011). The teacher should show his
students the passion (GALLO, 2014) for what he does, leading the students to
visualize in the figure of the teacher the motivation needed to learn and acquire new

The Teacher/Collaborator should have a teachable point of view (TPV) (CUBEIRO &
GALLARDO, 2011), a tool to understand the process and not just the result of his
action (LANA, 2013). A teacher who only masters his scientific area cannot be a
Teacher/Collaborator. There are other areas that can help him in his action and not
just the technical skills, the hard-skills (PERES & PIMENTA, 2011), which are
nonetheless essential for proper performance of his educational role.

Personal skills, soft-skills (PERES & PIMENTA, 2011) ) are essential for the
implementation of the action of the Teacher/Collaborator, since collaborating does not
mean, in the context of the model, a total lack of autonomy, on the contrary, it is
understood as the achieving of an individual and collective autonomy, as it is shown
by a simple story (WHITMORE, 1995):

When I was a child, my parents told me what to do and punished me when I did not
obey. When I went to school, my teachers told me what to do and punished me when I
did not obey. When I enlisted in the army, the sergeant told me what to do. When I
had my first job, my boss told me what to do. So when I reached a position with some
authority, what did I do? I told people what to do, because that's what all my models
had done.

Collaborating, although it may be thought of as a joint effort of several individuals, it

makes sense if the teacher, starts by valuing the soft-skills (PERES & PIMENTA, 2011)
worrying about the individual since each student requires differentiated time and
distinct additional work too. In a perspective of inclusion but also differentiation
regarding the students, the teacher/collaborator may turn to a GROW strategy
(LANA, 2013):

Goals, setting objectives for the teaching learning process, tools, actions and
skills to be acquired;

Reality, check and analyze the reality to be able to explore and enhance each

Options, strategies and possible and alternative scenarios;

What should be done or will be done, when, by whom and the will to do it.

The concern for the individual within the group should consider the fact that the
group itself be as strong as the weakest of its elements (URBEA & ORO, 2012). This
means that connections to create between students will be better and more reliable if
the teacher/collaborator has the concern of working the group from the perspective of
each individuality, scanning an evolution (STRATHERN, 2001) we intend to sum up
with a proposal that defines the scope we want with the model:

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C=(E x L)N
In which C means collaboration, E student, L connections and N the teachers
influence. The student will benefit from the added value if the connections performed
with other students, have a mediation/influence of the teacher either in a scientific
level or as resourcing to the Chaos Theory (LORENZ, 1963), in order to trigger events
that the teacher expects, to help students achieving the goals. For this, it is not enough
knowing how to teach, the teacher/collaborator has to know how to do it (LANA,

Experts agree that there are two major upcoming trends: the changing role of teachers
(UE, 2014), with the emergence of the Teacher/Collaborator and the impact of social
networks like Facebook, which is already finding its way into the classroom (UE,
2014). In fact as we intend to operationalize with WelWel model, researchers (UE,
2014) draw attention to the fact that social networks provide, in schools, feedback and
suggestions, allowing the dialogue between students, teachers, parents and the
institution in a less formal way.

To enhance the connections that can be created by students in the teaching / learning,
decisive part of the proposal C = (E x L) N and following the analysis of b-learning
platforms we set out to study the operationalization of the WelWel model, will be
performed taking into account the use of Facebook as a collaborative/cooperative
learning environment. The choice of this particular social network assumes its
widespread use worldwide as can be assessed by the analysis of Figure 1, which can
facilitate adaptation to the environment of the proposed model, either by teachers or
by students.








0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00%

Figure 1 The 7 worldwide most used social sites (STATCOUNTER, 2014)

This phenomenon inherent to the selection of Facebook as a social environment, is also

recurrent when analyzing users' choice in Portugal, as shown in Figure 2.

2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.









0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00%

Figure 2 The 7 most used social sites in Portugal (STATCOUNTER, 2014)

Facebook, created in February 2004 in Palo Alto, California, by Mark Zuckerberg,

Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, was initially a social network only accessible to
students of Harvard University (COUSIN, 2008). Since 2006, it has become a social
network, open to any user, with the purpose of helping to communicate more
efficiently with friends, family and coworkers. Facebook began by developing a
technology aimed at facilitating the sharing of information across the network by
performing a digital mapping of the relationships of users in real life (CERD &
PLANAS, 2011).

Facebook's native tools are the only required immediately to begin creating a
community of friends which is based on a sharing concept (CERD & PLANAS, 2011).
To use this social network you need to register, which is quite simple, being accessible
to any user who wants it, to interact with people you know, not necessarily in a secure
environment (FACEBOOK, 2004). In fact, one of the positive aspects of this social
network is the initial simplicity of the platform for new users. So from a purely
functional point of view, and despite having evolved significantly since its launch,
Facebook has not lost its main feature based on its main objective consisting of virtual
communication more specifically to share texts, photos and videos links (CERD &
PLANAS, 2011).

Tools and resources

As mentioned early we consider Facebook as an environment to the WelWel model,
however, we selected what we named as Google ecosystem so as to make use of the
tools and resources provided by this search engine. The selection of Google to join the
WelWel model is justified when analyzing its widespread worldwide use, as can be
assessed by the analysis of figure 3.

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Ask Jeeves





0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00%100.00%

Figure 3 The 5 most used search engines worldwide (STATCOUNTER, 2014)

The massive use of this search engine is also visible when we analyze the choice of
users in Portugal, as we can see in Figure 4.


Ask Jeeves




0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00%100.00%

Figure 4 The 5 most used search engines in Portugal (STATCOUNTER, 2014)

Google is, first of all, a search engine, although currently it is characterized as being
combined with a wide range of tools and resources. Several experts point out Google
as the most used search engine in the world (STATCOUNTER, 2014), but Google is not
only a solution to perform Web searches, it is rather a tool, a method or a tool
(MACHADO, 2009). Google tools and resources, in the context of our investigation,
intend to enhance the educational possibilities for the construction of a
collaborative/cooperative learning environment, favoring interaction, ideas Exchange

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and collective text production, contributing to the development of the

teaching/learning process. The exchanges can be established in a positive way,
allowing for the creativity, critical thinking, responsibility and collaboration, among
other features that are intended to be developed in the students (MACHADO, 2009)
and that will promote the creation of connections between students, students and
teachers, and between them and third parties. In this sense we consider the following


In 2004, three webmail services dominated the market, Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo Mail
(SENA, 2010). After an intense period of testing Google decides to become more than a
research service and launches Gmail. Initially the new service was not considered a
serious proposal, in part by offering 1Gb of space for their users, when the average of
competition in the market, was only 100Mb. In a decision which did not indicate
robustness of the service, this was only available to beta users, which later received
the ability to invite friends and acquaintances to try Gmail through a system of
invitations. This has led, however, to a great interest around the Google mail service,
which is currently a top service (SENA, 2010);

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is a web application that lets you create a personal agenda as well as
share it with family and friends, you can simultaneously view schedules that others
share with us (BUSBY, 2004);

Google Drive (Google Docs)

Google Docs currently integrated into Google Drive cloud solution, is an online
application suite, very similar to Microsoft Office. This suite features word processor,
spreadsheet, presentation graphics editor and also an application for creating forms
(BUSBY, 2004). It was developed from existing applications, but now gathered in an
environment provided by Google which allows the construction together, and the
socialization of production between users. The Portuguese version was released in
2007 (MACHADO, 2009).

The main potential of this tool is the storage and online editing of files in real-time
collaboration with other users and access through the browser, without limitation of
platform and cost (free in this case). In addition, it does not require knowledge to
install software, since this is not a requirement (MACHADO, 2009).

According to Franklin et al. (2007), this tool has a huge potential when placed in the
context of collaborative work on the Web. For example, they refer to the creation of a
sales flyer by students of Architecture and Interior Design attending different
universities (FRANKLIN & VAN HARNELEN, 2007).


The vdeo delivery platform Youtube was created in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen
e Jawed Karim, and was subsequently acquired by Youtube to quickly become an
important element of contemporary culture (BURGESS & GREEN, 2009). The site is
crucial to observe and understand important issues, for example, with discussions
about the reconfiguration of the role of information communication technologies in

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society and about problems such as copyright and copyright in the era of new

In part, Youtube also repositioned the music industry, given the videoclips role in
contemporary culture and the loss of its TV exclusive status, on the increased
participation of the audience in the process of creating media content and the
popularization of new social phenomena, such as viral videos and flash mobs
(BURGESS & GREEN, 2009).

In the context of the proposed model Youtube enables the transmission of knowledge
through image and audio, reinforcing the subjects taught in the classroom
environment, or b-Learning based on text. However we must point out that the
platform does not offer features that prioritize the relationship between its users.
Although the service is presented as a Community platform, we cannot help but to
notice that it favors individual participation at the expense of collective (BURGESS &
GREEN, 2009).

There is nothing more inspiring than hearing a great communicator defend an
innovative idea (GALLO, 2014). The WelWel model should be constituted as an area
for the birth and maturation of the ideas of students, which properly filtered by the
teacher can instill in the first, the certainty of also contributing to their learning
process. With the movement of individual learning action focus to
collaborative/cooperative learning process (GONZALEZ, 2005) the whole group
consisting of students and teacher should provide a greater value than the sum of the
respective parts.

We do not intend to create a platform that is a complement or an alternative to LMS's

already available on the market, but rather to offer those involved in the
teaching/learning process, inter alia, teachers and students, an environment that
favors the occurrence of potentially collaborative/cooperative learning.

With the WelWel model we intend to make it possible for the student to consider Im
a learning machine and this is the right place to learn (ROBINS, 2006), referring to
himself to fellow students and teachers as well as to the enriched school space, we
hope, by the operationalization of the proposed model. Figure 5 shows the overall
structure of the model as well as the interactions that occur in its instantiation.

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Figure 5 Stages of the WelWel Model

The influence of social networks has grown, from 2007, among educators and students
(LAI & TURBAN, 2008), using the potential of Web 2.0 applications for
communication, collaboration, cooperation and creation. In this sense, the use of
Facebook in the context of the proposed model is beneficial to users forming a
privileged space for communication and information gathering, allowing students and
teachers to connect with others who share similar interests, creating communities of
people with common interests and values (MANGOLD & J., 2009), the so-called online

In this sense the use of Facebook intends to provide users with an environment suitable
for collaboration, involving the actors in a space of common interests sharing. Firstly,
the model proposes platform preparation activities, having as its start point the
environment, the tools and resources available in Facebook and Google. These
activities fall under stage 1 and are operated by the Teacher, and its implementation is
only required at the beginning of the training period of a new class.

This stage is characterized essentially by the preparation of the environment which

students and teachers will share. This will be the complement to the regular classes and
should work as a support to the activities to be carried out at distance, thereby
enhancing learning that is to be collaborative/cooperative, characterized by a freedom
of choice by students, which may increase their motivation to learn. This freedom does
not mean, however, the decrease in the teacher's role, on the contrary, it will force a
repositioning by this intervener in the teaching / learning process in order to respond
to events that happen to the rhythm of Nowism (SPIVACK, 2013).

Stage 1 will still be characterized by the construction of an environment that aims to

provide a comfortable space for three distinct generations: Generation X (GRAIL, 2011),

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Generation Y (WILLIAM, 2008) and Generation Z (HIETBRINK, 2012) however, the

main actor, as can be verified by the analysis of Figure 6 will be the teacher.

Figure 6 Stage 1 of the WelWel Model

Stage 2 may eventually become stage 1, if there is only a change of themes and/or
work to be done, and not class or group training itself. This stage is characterized by
the assignment proposal carried out by the teacher, as well as by its presence

Robert Greene (GREENE, 2013) argues that we all have the ability to expand the limits
of human potential. Power, intelligence and creativity are forces that we can free if we
have the mentality and appropriate skills. People who assume themselves as a
reference in their area of expertise have a different way of seeing the world. Greene
(GREENE, 2013) believes that the word genius must be demystified because we have
access to information and knowledge with which the masters of the past wouldn't
dare to dream. Using the metaphor of the Library of Alexandria, the ancient
knowledge repository, we can consider the Internet, and more specifically the Cloud
(TAURION, 2009) in the context of stage 2 of the WelWel model, a set of resources and
tools that students and teachers can use in a relationship that should increase the
motivational levels of stakeholders in the teaching/learning process (KIAN &
YUSOFF, 2012).

Robbins (ROBINS, 2006) states that effective leaders have the ability to mobilize
themselves and those around them because they understand the invisible forces that
shape us. A new approach to solve an old problem (GALLO, 2014). Creating this
moment, captivating students belonging to different generations, digital natives or not,
immersed in a world of technology is a challenge that the teacher cannot escape from.
Following the thought of Robbins (ROBINS, 2006) the teacher should mobilize himself
and the students and involve them in this invisible force that should be collaboration
between all in view of their own learning.

Gmail is used to enhance the communication skills already provided by Facebook, and
Google Calendar will allow the timing of tasks proposed by the teacher. Google Drive

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and YouTube allow the provision of educational materials, organized by the teacher,
who remains, as we can see in Figure 7, the main actor involved in stage 2 of the
WelWel model.

Figure 7 Stage 2 of the WelWel Model

Although it doesnt truly contain the first task to be performed by students, stage 3 is
the one that requires from them a first approach to the assignment proposed by the
teacher. In this sense, it provides an environment in which, by establishing connections
to the inherent Theory of Connectivism (SIEMENS, 2004) students can discuss within
the Group with the participation of all as well as with the mediation of the teacher. It is
during this stage that the space for the exchange of ideas among the users of the
environment emerges as a socialization feature among students and between students
and teachers, allowing to potentially acquire new knowledge and skills by students
through the appropriation of Chaos Theory concepts (LORENZ, 1963).

The ability to create connections should be a competence of the students which can
certainly lead to a relevant doubt as to whether or not the teacher should step aside
from the teaching/learning process. Nothing more clear, the teacher remains the
reference in particular assuming the role of guide in the path students follow for the
construction of their learning (SIEMENS, 2010).

Having humans to relate themselves with other human beings directly and almost
vulnerably (GALLO, 2014) is, in our view, a breakthrough in the search for a
collaborative/cooperative learning, where censorship or fear of it, shouldnt exist. All
opinions are important and should constitute a brainstorming from which to emerge
information to be retained by the students, information which should always count on
the teachers support to ensure its scientific value.

The use of the Group and the Chat inherent to Facebook, aims to build connections that
will enable students to acquire new knowledge and skills. Stage 3, as shown in Figure 8
assumes the interaction between teacher and students and it also makes a reference to
BYOD (TAURION, 2012), as those involved in the teaching/learning process by

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participating in a b-learning environment (PERES & PIMENTA, 2011) can use devices
beyond the computer to have access to discussion groups.

Figure 8 Stage 3 of the WelWel Model

Stages 4 and 5 are characterized by an enabling freedom of new solutions that students
can use in order to make an evolution (STRATHERN, 2001) to build an answer (or
several) for the assignment that has been proposed in the stage 2. The space for the
exchange of ideas between environment users continues to hold great importance in
the execution of these tasks so as to provide an environment prone to the collaboration
between stakeholders. So it will be expected that what students can learn will really
learn, that is, this is the appropriation of the concepts of Murphy's Law (KIRILENKO &
LO, 2013). From stage 5 results a publication the Groups space which is a private space
only accessible to the Groups members (only students and teacher).

Originality is the most effective attribute to capture someone's attention (GALLO,

2014). Only those who are truly unique and can stand out because the brain is unable
to ignore uniqueness (GALLO, 2014). Stage 4 should enhance the emergence of
proposals for the resolution of the activities which should privilege the creative ability
of the whole, composed by the students, instead the mere reproduction of the
information taught in the classroom.

To facilitate the subsequent holding of information by the students, we can make use of
an image or word that tends to prepare the subsequent information. This helps them to
more easily access related concepts (KONNIKOVA, 2013).In other words, these
concepts become more available and characterized by easier access.

The simultaneous use of Facebook and Google Drive will allow the construction of a
document, editable, which can be changed by each of the students, fostering the
creation of a collaborative document. As you can see from the analysis of figures 9 and
10, the actors involved will mainly be students, the teacher should refrain from directly
intervening at the moment of the operationalization of the WelWel model, so as not to
detract from the learning that is being built from the collaboration/cooperation among
students. However, this does not mean that the teacher should completely move away

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from the process, but must instead show interest and supervisory ability regarding the
path chosen by students to solve the proposed activities.

Figure 9 Stage 4 of the WelWel Model

Figure 10 Stage 5 of the WelWel Model

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Finally in stage 6 the solution is published in public repository, i.e. on the page created
for this purpose during stage 1. This publication can be done either by the teacher or by
the students, it is the teachers responsibility to ensure the scientific value of all
publications. Stage 6 is characterized by an absence of privacy as far as the publication
is concerned which will allow for the spreading of information published there offering
third parties the possibility of criticizing and/or collaborating.

In stage 6 we witness a congregation of connectivist theories and Chaos and Murphy's

Law that have represented the map that have guided students to this point. The
teacher, who has been attentive throughout the whole process, has the duty to ensure
the scientific value of the information that emerges from the collaborative/cooperative
learning operated.

This stage intends to represent, following Darwins theory, (STRATHERN, 2001), the
emergency of an environment that configures part of the digital evolutionism, in the
sense that it represents an environment that we intend to survive to the LMSs
evolution (DE FRANCO & LESSA, 2012), constituting an useful answer, potentiating
creativity and motivation as well as a collaborative/cooperative learning.

The ability to create pages in Facebook allows the creation of a docking place by the
students and teachers, which can be used as a repository. As you can infer from figure
11, stage 6 is characterized by the intervention and interaction between students and
teacher that should converge to the publication of the solution found for the activity
proposed by the teacher and developed in collaborative interaction between students
and teacher.

Figure 11 Stage 6 of the WelWel Model

The structure of the WelWel model implies that the individual knowledge is, in a way,
saved on the collective knowledge, as postulated by Siemens (2004) on the network
concept in the context of the theory of Connectivism (SIEMENS, 2004). In this sense the
WelWel model makes an appropriation of some concepts of the collectivist theory, as
we can verify from the observation of Table 2.

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Table 2 Comparison between the Connectivist Theory and the WelWel model

Connectivism WelWel
The learning and knowledge are based on Interventions of students and teacher are
the diversity of opinions. fundamental to the operationalization of
the model.
Learning is a process of connecting The participants in the model use and
sources of information. connect different information sources.
Learning can exist in nonhuman The environment is the focus of learning.
The ability to learn becomes more One learns in real time (stream-learning).
important than what we currently know.
Promote and maintain connections is The mobility offered by the cloud, allows
critical to aid continuous learning. a permanent connection to the learning
The ability to see connections between The SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile) allows
areas of knowledge, ideas and concepts; you to view connections between
students, in particular in relation to their
online behavior.
The updated and accurate knowledge is The BYOD enables a connection to the
the objective of all the connectivist learning environment, which frees
learning activities; students and teachers from using
predefined equipment.
Making decisions is itself a learning Nowism leads to the acceleration of the
process. decision-making process by the teacher.

The introduction of the WelWel model in pedagogical practices aims to make

teaching/learning more collaborative and interactive, stimulating the relationship
between teacher and students, as well as between them and the knowledge.

Implementation of the model

The WelWel model will be implemented through tools and resources that will be
adapted to incorporate the new collaborative learning environmnent based on
Facebook. We intend to contribute to boosting innovation and digital skills in schools
and universities, as 63% of children with nine years old (UE, 2014), in the European
Union are in schools that are not yet digitally equipped. Considering that schools and
universities should be prepared to give an education that responds to the digital skills
that 90% of jobs will require by 2020, we think the WelWel model can be an asset to the
school space. Thus, for the operationalization of this model the following resources
were identified:

1. Content, will allow environmental management at the level of organization of

information in files and folders, as well as their availability in internal and
external links, through the use of Facebook as well as Google Docs and

2. Tools, facilitate group work by using the blog which would be adapted through
the use of a Facebook page, the wiki and glossary, supported by Google Drive

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(Google Docs), and for better management of time available for the proposed
tasks by an optimized schedule by Google Calendar;

3. Test/Questionnaire, will operationalize the evaluation process through the use

of Google Docs;

4. Communication, will provide for interaction among students and between

students and teacher, chat and forum, through the use of Facebook and email
using Gmail;

5. Course, will function as the course management center itself, integrating once
again Google Docs on Facebook, while acting as private and public repository;

6. User: will provide the students or teachers profile.

Each of the features required by the model is provided by the integrated environment
or from an external application that enhances the collaborative/cooperative teaching as
can be seen from the analysis shown in table 3.

Table 3 Description of the functionalities of the WelWel


Use of internal links

FACEBOOK Use of external links
Upload files
Creation / file management
Creation / folder management
Use of internal links
Use of external links
Upload files
Use of audio files
Use of video files
FACEBOOK Creation/Management of Blog
GOOGLE DRIVE Creation/management of Wiki
Tools (GOOGLE DOCS) Use of Glossary
Schedule management

GOOGLE DRIVE Create tests/questionnaires

Test / Questionnaire
(GOOGLE DOCS) Import/export of tests/questionnaires

Creation/management of forum
Communication Chat Use
GMAIL Use of mail
Posting ads
Creation/management of groups and pages
GOOGLE DRIVE Use of reports
(GOOGLE DOCS) Assessment center
User FACEBOOK Profile creation / management

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To sum up, the Welwel model consists of six resource base that intend to support a
collaborative/cooperative learning with the use of the social network Facebook.

Considering the options that should be integrated into Facebook, the resource Content
will provide the homepage for the environment that is intended to support the
collaborative/cooperative teaching. This web space will provide quick access to all the
features of the WelWel model.

In order to give Facebook a greater number of tools, the resource to the potentialities
made available by Google will contribute to a greater robustness of the
collaborative/cooperative teaching tool, allowing the scheduling of the activities to be
developed through the potentialities of Google Calendar.

In this sense the integration of Google Drive (Google Docs) will not only provide
information to students, through manuals, exercises and other documents, but also
save the result of work done by the students in what we can call repository.

Via the personalization provided by the Facebook platform, the Forum tool will enable
the promotion of discussions in a conducive environment for the development of
brainstorming in group. In addition, the Chat tool will provide a space for discussion
in smaller groups. Finally the announcement tool will allow, the teacher, the creation of
events that can function as time-bound goals, in order to assist the management of the
rhythms of student learning.

Implications of the proposed model in the collaborative/cooperative learning

The implications of the WelWel model in the operationalization of the
collaborative/cooperative learning revises the image of the teacher who will have to
undergo some adjustments to better meet the needs/demands of the implementation
of the model and who can win consistency by adding leader characteristics, when in
most situations, the teacher is merely seen, by the students, as a chief. According to
Farrache (2008) the chief has ten characteristics that can inhibit the smooth running of
the projects to which they have proposed, so the chief (FARRACHE, 2008):

Does not decide, does not command; Commands, but does not lead; Is a boastful;
Hears but does not listen; Loses control; Places the results above all; Does not release
harmful employees; Does not first think of the client; Is afraid; Is unfair.

We consider the WelWel environment, an environment in which the teacher will also
have tools that, in addition to propitiating students learning, will also challenge the
training of each of these individuals. So we believe appropriate to consider qualities we
find in some of the currently most successful coaches (URBEA & ORO, 2012), in order
to characterize the teacher/collaborator:

a) Knowledge of himself;
b) Knowledge of the group;
c) Communication;
d) Emotional intelligence;
e) Goals and objectives;
f) Global and personalized planning ability;
g) Innovation and creativity;
h) Generosity;
i) Ability to manage conflicts;
j) Mental strength; Motivation.

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We will carry out an adaptation of the ten characteristics (FARRACHE, 2008) of the
chief with the eleven qualities (URBEA & ORO, 2012) of a successful coach creating the
soft skills we believe essential for the teacher/collaborator in the context of the WelWel
a) Leadership, knowledge of self.
b) Credibility, communication.
c) Empathy, knowledge of the group.
d) Serenity, emotional intelligence.
e) Humanity, generosity.
f) Overview, ability to outline goals and set objectives with innovation and
g) Frontness, comprehensive and personalized planning ability.
h) Focus, mental strength.
i) Motivation, fundamental ability.
j) Moderation, ability to manage conflicts.

The figure of the teacher/collaborator implies considering the teacher's responsibility

to provide students with skills that allow them to create and validate their own
connections, culminating in the construction of a social network, personal, enabling
them to learn and maintain a learning that is intended to be continued. In this sense it
is also important to stress the Chaos Theory since i tis from a sort of chaotic start that
the student will begin to create his own learning, in collaboration with other students,
always under a non-interventional supervision but interactive with the teacher.

The WelWel model, aims to be more effective in explaining concepts, using methods of
diverse sensory stimulus - auditory, visual and kinesthetic (GALLO, 2014). In an
investigation (GALLO, 2014) conducted by Richard Mayer at the University of
California, students were exposed to multisensory environments - text, images,
animation, video - and had, always, not just occasionally, but always, a much more
accurate information retention than students who had only had the opportunity to
read or hear the same information. When it allows the brain to build two
representations of the same explanation, a verbal model and other visual, mental
connections are not just a little stronger, they are much stronger (GALLO, 2014).

The use of tools that compose the WelWel enables students to retain concepts via, for
example, words and images, rather than just through words, thereby increasing
retention ability of those concepts. Excluding video tool, also available in WelWel, the
use of an image helps to retain six times more information than only through recourse
to words (GALLO, 2014). According to Paivio (1990), visual information and verbal
information is stored separately in our memory. Thus they can be stored as words,
images, or both (PAIVIO, 1990). In a more general perspective, the images are recorded
in our brain more clearly, which makes it easier to retrieve the inherent information.

The WelWel model enhances a strong relationship between the mind and the habit,
being this a know-how that is acquired in action. If the teacher really wants his
students to act in a certain way, he needs to enhance these behaviors through the
teaching/learning process. Tasks undertaken through the WelWel model will be the
most effective way to get a strong relationship between the mind and the habit
(AZEVEDO, 2011).

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In 2013, for the first time in history, the number of mobile devices with internet access -
most of which are smartphones - topped the world's population (UNESCO, 2013).
However, despite its scope and special types of learning that they can support with
these technologies are often banned or ignored in the formal education systems. In the
context of the initiative Opening up Education (UE, 2014), the European Commission
notes that most of the teachers in primary and secondary education do not consider
themselves digitally competent or able to teach digital skills effectively. The application
of the WelWel model will thus entail first of all a change in the teachers role, into a
teacher/collaborator. The teacher/collaborator will act in the context of Connectivism
relying on the Chaos Theory and Darwins Theory to operationalize the
teaching/learning process in students. In this sense he will act with a focus on
emotional aspects and natural (teach something new and memorable and present the
content in an unforgettable way). The teacher should therefore: (a) getting to know
yourself and your environment; (b) have a capacity of careful and thoughtful
observation; (c) imagine, remembering to use spaces which you do not think you need;
(d) deduct only from that observed and (e) nothing else and Learn from your mistakes
and your successes. Shall also have as a fundamental goal, teaching students to be
thinkers and no information repeaters (CURY, 2004), i.e. equip them with the skills so
they can use the tools provided by the WelWel model to create their own connections
(SIEMENS, 2010) and so they can learn on their own initiative and in collaboration. We
intend, with the operationalization of the WelWel model, use the Facebook / Google
combination as collaborative/cooperative learning environment, hoping to increase the
At the same time we intend to also involve students and teacher in a highly
connectivist space (SIEMENS, 2008) that enables the learning to happen, regardless of
the area of education, as well as from the perspective of its implementation, to be
eminently practical, to motivate users to spontaneous participation.

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2015 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 104-113, February 2014

User Behaviour on Google Search Engine

Bartomeu Riutord Fe
Stamford International University
Bangkok, Thailand

Abstract. The objectives of this study are (1) to analyse the

relationship between the users knowledge about Google search
engine and the position of the websites that they visit on it, and (2)
to learn how the user access to Pay Per Click links according to
their knowledge about them. Research methodology: The sample
consisted of 120 Spanish people from Palma de Mallorca who have
been evaluated through a questionnaire to define their knowledge
about Google search engine and then with an analysis of the
position of the websites visited on 4 different searches using it.
Research findings were as follows: (1) Users with low Google
search engine knowledge tend to click on links in top positions in
the organic search results (Pearson r=0,706) (2) and on Pay Per
Click links (Pearson r=-0,358) with more incidence than users with
high knowledge.

Keywords: search engine, SEO, SEM; Google, user.

Our society is changing very fast. The way people live is getting hardly influenced by
Internet and specifically by the search engines that we find on it. On the other hand,
every business and organization wants a presence on the web and they use the search
engines to bring traffic to them. Rehman and Naeem (2013) define the search engine as
the process based on different strategies with the main goal to organize the
information from the Internet and give it to the users. We consider them useful and
efficient if they give us the correct information and within a short period of time.
Googles mission statement from the outset was "to organize the world's information
and make it universally accessible and useful" (Tung & Wu, 2013) and they start
working with the Google web search, which is the basis of the company and the most
used search engine on the World Wide Web (WWW), handling more than three billion
searches each day (Schuster 2010). The information about search engines users
activities is very difficult to find, because it is stored at the search engine servers and is
not public. There are different ways to analyse those activities. One of them is using an
eye tracker like Tobii T120 how Marcos & Gonzlez-Care (2010) had used in their
study borrowed by Alt 64 Company. Their research was about the behaviour of the
user when using the search engine and recording the data in a processor, but it is a
very expensive and complex way to work.

@2015 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


On the other hand Yamin (2013) had studied more than 1000 users through an
interface framework to study the Google search engine. The results he got were from a
huge data but very general. He was only able to draw conclusions about the
dimensions of the user search behaviour. After analysing those precedents, we
decided to investigate Google search engine users behaviour in a manual way, which
would involve an interview and analysing their searches, face to face.

The focal point of the research is to analyse the relationship between the users
knowledge about Google search engine and the position of the websites that they visit
on it. We can divide the position of the websites in 2 different groups. The websites
which link are located in the Pay Per Click (PPC) areas and the websites that have
their link in the organic search results area. There are 3 different areas for Pay Per
Click links and between 1 and 3 positions on each area. On the other hand, we can find
10 different positions in each page for the websites that have their link on the organic
searches area, and the number of pages we can find only depend on the search (figure

We suspect that according to their knowledge, the users will differ on the links they
will click. The user with better knowledge should use few links on PPC position and
links in positions closer to the bottom of the page on the organic search areas. If we
can prove it, and understand in what proportion they are acting, it would be very
helpful for webmasters and they could act according to the target group of people of
their websites. The website administrator has the important duty to attract users from
search engines, and because of this they use two different techniques: Search Engine
Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (Jain, Iyengar & Arora, 2013).
Using those techniques they will receive more visitors from search engines, because
they are improving the position on it and also the visibility from the users, as we can
see described on Figure 1.

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework

Each technique has a different goal. When a search engine returns its results, it gives
us two types of links: organic and Pay Per Click (PPC). Organic search results are also

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called natural search results, and improving their position on it is what SEO is all
about. SEM is to improve the relation between how much you pay for click to Google
and how much money you get from each click from the users (Orense & Rojas, 2010).
So we can summarize that SEO is about free positioning on the search engine, SEM
about paying positioning.

Speaking about the Google search engines user; the connection between them and
Google can be studied according to how they act on it. Marcos and Gonzlez-Caro
(2010) or Yamin and Ramayah (2011) had studied the relationship between their
knowledge about the search engine and search satisfaction of them, concluding that
users with higher knowledge got better results on the search engine.

- Research Objectives
1) To analyse the relationship between the users knowledge about Google search
engine and the position of the websites that they visit on it.
2) To learn how the user access to Pay Per Click links according to their knowledge
about them.

- Research Hypotheses
H1: Users with different Google search engine knowledge are different when using it.
H2: Users with low Google search engine knowledge visit more Pay Per Click links on
Google search engine in percentage than users with high knowledge.
H3: Users with low Google search engine knowledge visit more websites in top
positions on the Organic results of Google search engine than users with low

Materials and methods

- Population and Sample Size
The population of this research project will be Spanish people who are living in
Mallorca. We can consider them representative of the Google search engine users who
are using Spanish in their searches around the world and in a lower relation of the all
the Google search engine users in the planet. We will not contemplate the gender of
the study because according to Loringo et al. (2008) who did three different studies
using eye tracking to study the online search, gender was considered but without
influence in the behaviours. The behaviour on Google search engine will be studied
from people chosen by using a simple random choice and following the study of
Agresti (2010), where he says that a sample of 20-30 people for each group is enough
to reach saturation in our results, we will study 120 people, because we will divide
them in 4 different groups, according to their knowledge about the search engine.
Therefore, we will analyse 30 people from each group.

- Data Collecting Procedure

In order to collect the data to do the study, we will use structured survey
questionnaires for face-to-face interviews, and in that way understand what
relationship has the interviewee with Google search engine.

After that, we will proceed to take the real data from them. For that reason we will ask
them to do 4 different searches using Google search engine with the aim to prove that
the search behaviour is influenced by the user knowledge like Shih et al. (2013) have
shown in their study about user satisfaction.

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The conditions of the research will be a limited time of two minutes for each search,
and they may not use the name of any website, program or software. There are four
main kinds of searches: informational, navigational, transactional or multimedia tasks.
Doing informational searches, users try to gain information, with the navigational,
they want to go to some specific website, with the transactional, the user wants to do
some action and finally using multimedia searches they will be focus in try to watch
some specific image or video (Marcos & Gonzlez-Caro, 2010). We will propose 2
informational searches because 50% of the searches are like this and 1 navigational and
1 transactional search because 20% of the searches are in this purpose.

Only a minority of the searches are multimedia, or with other aims like use Google
search engine like spellcheck or a search bar, and for that reason we will leave out of
account this kind of searches.

The Googles searches that we are going to propose will be:

1- How high (m) is the 18th tallest skyscraper in the world? (Informational search)

We formulate this first question, because it is an informational search which no one

knows and requires a lot of research through Google search engine because it needs
actual data to answer it correctly.

2- How many Spanish male professional tennis players are included in the top 100
players in the world? (Informational search)

Like the first question, in Spain, even tennis fans are unaware of how many Spanish
players are in the top 100. This is because this information is something that changes
each month, as players receive points from each tournament they take part in;
therefore their ranking moves up and down. This informational search will also need a
deep research, the same as the first question.

3- Watch a specific football match (live) (Navigational search)

This is one of the most common action or search in Google search engine in Spain. It is
a navigational search because the user will be trying to find a website where he/she
can watch the match online.
4- Book without prepayment a hotel in New York for tomorrow on the 8th Avenue for
3 people and for less than 100 Dollar (Transactional search)

For this transactional search, the user needs to book a hotel in New York for the next
day. The search is very complicated, because it has different conditions. First of all the
hotel need to be in one of the most important streets in Manhattan, for three people
and for less than 100 Dollars, which is almost impossible, but in this way, we can see
how he/she use the Google search engine with this purpose. This question is also very
useful for us, because its easy to get PPC links on the results of the searches about
booking hotels, and it will help us to study the percentage of incidence on this kind of
links by the users. For each search, we are going to write all the links that the users
will visit, differentiating them if they are PPC or Organic links and their position as we
can see on Figure 2.

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Figure 2. Links position

- Quantitative Data Analysis

We will do quantitative data analysis because the data collected will be numeric in
form and we will use statistical techniques to draw conclusions about participant

The analysis will be made using correlation analysis with a Data Analysis Program in
order to test the relationship between the percentage of PPC and Organic links visited,
each group of Google search engine knowledge, and the average position of the
websites visited on Organic searches from each group. The analysis of the data
collected will be studied through Pearson Correlation and Linear Regression to
determine how hard is the relation between variables.

- Test Hypothesis 2
H2: Users with low Google search engine knowledge visit more Pay Per Click links on
Google search engine in percentage than users with high knowledge.

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For the second Hypothesis, we have two variables. On one hand we have the test
mark, obtained from the questionnaire, and the values of the marks are between 0 and
40, which is the higher punctuation. On the other hand, we have the percentage of Pay
Per Click links visited on Google search engine. Theoretically, we have divided the
two variables of this Hypothesis in dependent and independent. In this case, my
independent variable is the test punctuation, like we can see in the conceptual
framework of the study, and my dependent variable is the percentage of PPC links

To test this second hypothesis, the first step that we did was to study the Pearson
Correlation between variables. For that reason firstly we studied its graphic relation,
where we could see that there is a negative correlation, therefore, my prediction is
fulfilled, because how higher is the knowledge about Google, lower is percentage of
Pay Per Click Links visited. We can also observe how the points are diverse, but it is
because a big percentage of users didnt click any time on the PPC links, and it means
that his percentage of PPC links visited is 0%.

After the graphic relation, we had studied the numeric relation through Pearson
bivariate correlation. The results of the correlation are the following:

Table 1. Hypothesis 2 Correlation Coefficient

Test PPC (%)
Test Pearson 1 -,358**
Punctuation Correlation
(0-40) Sig. (2- ,000
Sum of
squares 15281,967 -
and Cross- 4145,800
Covariance 128,420 -34,839
N 120 120
PPC (%) Pearson -,358** 1
Sig. (2- ,000
Sum of
squares -4145,800 8776,800
and Cross-
Covariance -34,839 73,755
N 120 120
**. Correlation is significant at the 0,01 level (2-tailed).

We can see in the Table 1 how the correlation is negative and r=-0,358. This value
means that the relation between variables is weak-medium, because we can consider
weak relation with the total value of 0,25 and medium of 0,5. Anyway, the relation
exists and it is significant between Pay Per Click percentage of visits and the test
punctuation about Google Knowledge.

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Based on Pearson Correlation at 95% confidence interval, the result of the test indicates
that significant value of 0,00, which is less than 0,05. It means then, that the null
hypothesis should be rejected. The figure interprets that there is significant
relationship between the result in the test and the percentage of PPC links visited.

To find the influence of the percentage of PPC links visited and the knowledge about
Google, we used a linear regression between variables. In this case we also use the test
punctuation like independent variable and percentage of PPC websites visited as
previous with the dependent variable.

On the other hand, as we can see on the Table 2 obtained from the linear regression,
the value of R is 0,358 and means that 36% of PPC websites visited that are influenced
by the punctuation of the test we did in the interview, equals 36%. It is not a very hard
relation, but enough to say a linkage exists.

Table 2. Hypothesis 2 Model Summary

Model R R Square Adjusted R Square Std. Error of the
1 ,358a ,128 ,121 8,05284
a. Predictors: (Constant), Test Punctuation (0-40)

- Test Hypothesis 3
H3: Users with low Google search engine knowledge visit more websites in top
positions on the Organic results of Google search engine than users with low

For this third Hypothesis, we also have two different variables; on one hand the
independent one, the same in the test for the Hypothesis 2: the test punctuation about
Google search engine knowledge, and the dependent one is the average of the organic
links visited during the four searches analysed.

Firstly, to study this Hypothesis 3, we looked at the Pearson Correlation between both
variables. The dependent one is going to the Y Axis, the independent to the X Axis,
and we had a positive correlation like we had predicted. It means that experimented
users use lower links on the Google search engine, and for that reason the average of
the position of the websites visited is lower than non experimented users with less
knowledge about the search engine.

Secondly, we got the following results with Pearson Correlation:

Table 3. Hypothesis 3 Correlation Coefficient

Test Punctuation (0- PPC (%)
Average Organic Pearson Correlation 1 -,706**
Searches Sig. (2-tailed) ,000
Sum of squares and
Cross- products 230,210 1324,891
Covariance 1,935 11,134
N 120 120
Test Punctuation (0-40) Pearson Correlation ,706** 1
Sig. (2-tailed) ,000
Sum of squares and
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Cross- products 1324,891 15281,967

Covariance 11,134 128,420
N 120 120
**. Correlation is significant at the 0,01 level (2-tailed).

Based on Pearson Correlation at 95% confidence interval, the result of the test indicates
a significant value of 0,000, which is less than 0,05 and it means that the null
hypothesis should be rejected. The figure interprets that there is significant
relationship between the result in the test and the average of Organic links visited.
On the other hand, based on Pearson Correlation Coefficient, the relation between
variable is strong and positive, because is: 0,706, like we can see on the table 3. We
consider the relation medium-high, because from 0 to 1, we can say that 0,5 is medium
and 0,75 high.

Secondly, using linear regression with the same variables, we will be able to know
how influenced are both variables, the table 4 show us how the influence of a 49,9%,
on the average of the Organic links visited and the punctuation on the test about
Google knowledge, which is a high result.

Table 4. Hypothesis 3 Model Summary

Model R R Square Adjusted R Square Std. Error of the
1 ,706a ,499 ,495 ,98869
a. Predictors: (Constant), Test Punctuation (0-40)

- Test Hypothesis 1
H1: Users with different Google search engine knowledge are different when using it.

This Hypothesis is like a summary of the second and third Hypothesis. The results we
took from the Hypothesis 2 is that the correlation is significant (0,00 lower than 0,05)
and the relation between variables is weak-medium (r=-0,358). On the other hand,
from the Hypothesis 3, we got the results that the correlation is also significant (0,00
lower than 0,05) and the relation between variables is medium-high (r=0,706).

So, we can conclude that the users with different Google search engine knowledge act
differently when they are using it.

H2 and H3 are not enough to disprove H1, because there are other aspects where users
can act differently using the search engine. If the result would be negative for H2 and
H3 We couldnt say that H1 is not true, but in my case both results are positive, and
we can also prove H1.

Saying that users act in a different way is not very difficult and complex. It is obvious
that with different experience and knowledge about some application, program,
website they will act different, because they know its performance better. In my
case, it is easy to know that there are differences using the search engine, but it is
difficult to prove it and the most important, to take advantage from these differences
and to improve the SEO and SEM techniques.

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Now, referring to the H2 and speaking about Pay Per click links, say that the result of
the correlation is significant and the relation between variables is just weak or
medium. But if we divide the results of the four different groups, we can see clear
differences between them, even if the relation between variables is weak. 25/30 users
from group 1 were using PPC links, 22/30 from group 2 were using them, and only
15/30 from group 3 and 7/30 for group 4. In my opinion, from the four different
searches that we have proposed to the users, just the last one, the transactional search:
(Book without prepayment an hotel in New York for tomorrow at the 8th Avenue for
3 people and less than 100 Dollar), is the unique proposition to tend to do searches
where there are a lot of PPC links, and it is not enough to analyse the incidence to click
on them. Just 59 from 120 people interviewed visited websites with PPC, and for that
reason are very difficult to get meaningful conclusions. One solution could be to
increase the number of searches with higher percentage of PPC or do a specific study
about this kind of links.

The differences between users have sense. The users who dont know how PPC links
are working, and why they are at the top of the websites and in an square with
different colour, tend to click on them, but those who know that the webmasters of
those websites have to pay for each click on its links, already know that it has a high
cost and they need to get an average of money for each click higher than the money
that they pay to Google for each click, so usually the services that they offer in those
websites are exchange for money transferences, so many expert and usual users try to
skip them, depending on the kind of searches that they are doing. For example if they
only need information or some applications that should be free, they will not use PPC
links, but if they want to buy something they could use them, even this is not very

Finally, speaking about the H3 about Organic searches, the result of the correlation is
also significant and in this case, the relation between variables is high with r=0,706.
There was a big difference in the average of the position of the links visited by the
users. Using the correlation equation, and using the values of the lowest punctuation
in the test in the higher, we can predict how a user with a mark of 1/40 should have
an average of 1,57, when a user with 40/40 an average of 4,96. This difference is very
high, because it is almost 4 positions on the Google page.

The explication about the difference of the average of the websites visited is that a user
with experience and high knowledge knows how to select better a website according
to the information visible in the preview of the website in Google. On the other hand
he/she also knows that in the top positions are websites with good SEO techniques,
and it doesnt mean that they have better quality of contents. Everyday Google is
getting better, and through their algorithm, they try to ensure the best websites are at
the top, with the most reliable information and quality, but webmasters have some
tricks to get these first positions, and some users know it, and they can even identify
and skip them.

A better understanding of the behaviour of the users of Google will help the
webmasters to improve their techniques, and for this reason this research used a
quantitative study to explore it and in order to solve the objectives of the study.

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We can conclude that a relation exists between the knowledge of Google search engine
and the links of the websites visited by the users according to their position on the
result page of the search engine.

On one hand, exist a weak-medium negative relation (Pearsons r= -0,358) between the
knowledge about the search engine and the percentage of Pay per Click websites
visited by the users. It means that how higher the knowledge about the search engine,
lower is the incidence from them on PPC links.

On the other hand, the relation between their knowledge and average of the position
of the links visited from the organic results is medium-high (Pearsons r= 0,706) and
positive. It means that users with good knowledge about the search engine tend to
click on links with higher positions on the Organic results, and it means that those
links are closer to the bottom of the page.

For that reason, we consider that the experimented users, and therefore with better
knowledge, can identify the websites with better information and benefits according to
their searches, and usually exclude PPC links and websites in top positions of the
organic results.

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