The Relationship Between Implicit Theories of Intelligence, Epistemological Beliefs, and the Teaching Practices of In-service Teachers: A Mixed Methods Study
The intent of this two-phase, sequential explanatory mixed methods study was to examine the role teachers' beliefs play when making instructional decisions. The population included in-service teachers representing four Career and Technical Education disciplines located within the commonwealth of Virginia. Using a stratified random sample, 622 teachers were selected for the quantitative strand, and employing a system of four contacts, quantitative data were collected from 292 participants. Dweck's Theories of Intelligence scale assessed the nature of in-service teachers' beliefs about intelligence, and the Epistemic Belief Inventory was used to measure their epistemological beliefs. Finally, the participants rated their use of teacher-centered and student-centered teaching methods. In the second phase, qualitative data were collected from nine participants to further understand how in-service teachers' beliefs are related to the teaching practices they use. The quantitative and qualitative data were combined to determine if the descriptions of teaching method used, beliefs about intelligence, and epistemological beliefs aligned with the outcomes of the quantitative questionnaire.
Significant correlations existed between the Theories of Intelligence scale and the Epistemic Belief Inventory. A significant positive relationship existed between the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory and the overall teaching practices score, indicating in-service teachers' advanced epistemological beliefs are related to the use of student-centered teaching practices. A regression analysis indicated that teaching discipline, epistemological beliefs, teaching experience, and highest level of education completed predicted the teaching practices in-service teachers' select. The qualitative data supported the claim that beliefs about intelligence and epistemological beliefs influence teaching practices. Six themes emerged from the qualitative data, and the themes were used as a framework for organizing the findings.
The researcher acknowledges that teachers possess a variety of beliefs, and those beliefs influence how teachers teach. The researcher recommends that teacher educators attempt to identify the beliefs pre-service teachers hold, and if modifications of beliefs are needed, facilitate interventions to modify those beliefs. While some have labeled the direct relationship between teacher beliefs and teaching practices as "messy", the evidence indicates the two, are in fact, related.