An Investigation of the Relationship Between Teachers' Participation in 4MAT Fundamentals Training and Teachers' Perception of Teacher Efficacy
The relationship between teachers' participation in 4MAT learning style training and their perception of teacher efficacy was investigated three ways. Teachers who participated in 4MAT Fundamentals training were surveyed, observed, and interviewed. The Gusky and Passaro (1994) teacher efficacy scale was given to 120, K-12 teachers at 4MAT training sites. The survey was administered three times: before the workshop, immediately after the workshop and one month after the teachers had returned to their classrooms. The scale measured two teacher efficacy factors: (a) internal teacher efficacy -- perception of personal influence and impact on teaching and learning situations; and (b) external teacher efficacy -- perception of the influence and impact of elements that lie outside the classroom on teaching and learning situations. In addition, the teachers at one learning style training site were observed to determine how readily they adopted learning style terminology. Finally, six teachers were interviewed three times each to determine if factors found by Ashton (1984) to be associated with a high level of teacher efficacy were present.
Perceptions of internal teacher efficacy increased significantly from pre- to post workshop administrations. After the teachers had been in the classroom for one month, internal teacher efficacy scores were lower than immediately after the workshop but still significantly higher than before the workshop. The training had no significant impact on external teacher efficacy scores. An interaction was found between teachers' level of previous knowledge and the reported gain in internal teacher efficacy. Those teachers with little previous knowledge of learning style theory and methodology showed higher levels of gain in internal teacher efficacy immediately after the workshop and on the one-month follow-up survey.
The teachers' discourse during interviews and behavior during the workshops reflected all the elements Ashton outlined as associated with teacher efficacy: a belief in students' potential to learn and develop, awareness of the classroom as a social setting, and use of reflective behavior. These data also suggested that the maintenance of a high level of efficacy was influenced by the support of colleagues, modeling of instructional techniques, and validation of teachers' ideas concerning practice. It was also noted that teachers adapted 4MAT methodology idiosyncratically.
These findings suggest that knowledge of learning style theory and practice can be valuable to teachers. It appears that examining the impact of learning style training on teachers' attitudes and behaviors may provide meaningful insights into why interest in learning style concepts continues despite an inconclusive research base.