Enabling behaviors exhibited by selected Virginia postsecondary vocational technical instructors

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Critical thinking is a chief focal point in all areas of education today. Teachers can create an environment that is conducive to critical thinking through behaviors practiced in the classroom. Knowledge and use of these teacher behaviors by teachers are basic for development and enhancement of critical thinking in students. The purpose of this research was to determine the enabling behaviors used by a selected group of Virginia postsecondary vocational educators that stimulate critical thinking in students.

The primary subjects for this study were postsecondary vocational technical educators randomly selected from five community colleges in Virginia. A total of 30 instructors were identified. In addition, 328 community college students participated in the study.

Selected conclusions drawn from the findings were:

  1. The postsecondary vocational technical instructors of the five community colleges selected for this study are not using the enabling behavior of questioning that"best" stimulates critical thinking or modeling the behaviors found in the literature that will enhance a student's ability to think critically.

  2. The amount of pedagogical training (course work) taken by the postsecondary vocational technical instructors, of the five community colleges selected for this study, does not seem to influence the instructor's use of enabling behaviors related to critical thinking.

  3. The community college students in this study perceived their instructors to be exhibiting behaviors and possessing characteristics that will stimulate critical thinking.

Selected recommendations drawn from the findings and conclusions are:

  1. Additional research is needed to determine if the findings of this study are typical of vocational technical community college instructors statewide.

  2. Research similar to this study needs to be conducted on faculty other than vocational technical instructors of the community colleges to assess their use of enabling behaviors.

  3. Community college instructors need to be exposed to instructors in formal course work or in informal workshops that embody and exhibit enabling behaviors, especially questioning and modeling.