Carolin Kreber

  • Exploring teacher authenticity in relation to student learning

    Carolin Kreber
    University of Edinburgh

    Session 5c

    Wednesday 5 September 2007, 09.30-10.30

    Research seminar

    Themes: Global citizenship, Lifelong learning, Employability, Better understanding of the discipline

    Recent North American literature in adult and higher education has identified authenticity in teaching as an important but under-researched phenomenon (e.g., Cranton & Carusetta, 2004; Palmer, 1998. Chickering et al, 2006; Dirkx, 2006; Tisdell, 2003). The research is grounded in the widely cited need for universities to promote generic graduate attributes necessary to contribute effectively to civic life in the local and global community, work environments and learning throughout life (DfES, 2003; Baxter Magolda & Terenzini, 1999; WCHE, 1998). The study seeks to uncover possible connections between authenticity in teaching and student learning as well as their development of ‘self-authorship’ (Baxter Magolda 1992, 1999). Baxter Magolda describes self-authorship as the intellectual and intra- as well as inter-personal complexity that undergirds students’ readiness to deal effectively with the challenges they encounter in their later personal, professional and civic lives.

    The study is exploratory employing primarily qualitative methodology but also relying on some quantitative measures. In order to explore ‘authenticity in teaching’, we carried out in-depth semi-structured interviews with a sample of academic staff (N=9) from departments of Physics, English Literature and Law at a research-intensive university. Next to ‘authenticity’, the interview also addressed various issues of academic identity, educational goals, teaching practices, values and more. These same staff members also completed repertory grids on their implicit conceptions of authenticity and were observed twice in their teaching of a particular undergraduate course. A total of fourteen focus group interviews, with two to four participants each, were carried out with students from these undergraduate courses. Focus group questions addressed students’ conceptions of authenticity in teaching, their sense of whether authenticity in teaching matters, the extent to which they perceived their teacher to be authentic, and their perception of the extent to which their teacher employed teaching practices that were compatible with constructive developmental pedagogy (Baxter Magolda, 1999). All students participating in the focus groups also completed repertory grids on conceptions of teaching effectiveness and authenticity in teaching (N=46). As well, a comprehensive comparative analysis of conceptions of authenticity underlying the educational and philosophical literature on ‘authenticity’ was conducted, and the results of this conceptual study, now in press, provided the theoretical basis for the interpretation of empirical data.

    This paper focuses on ‘authenticity’ specifically, drawing on interview data with staff and students and, in particular, on data collected through repertory grids. The presentation shows how groups of repertory grids, rather than just individual grids, can be analysed both effectively and efficiently using differential content analysis (Jankowicz, 2004) . The paper reports on academics’ and students’ conceptions of authenticity and how they see authenticity to relate to student learning. Interview data with staff shows the extent to which they perceive authenticity to matter in their own teaching, whether they perceive their level of authenticity to have changed since they started their academic careers and the factors that enable their authenticity. The study also looked at disciplinary differences in conceptions of teaching effectiveness and ‘authenticity in teaching’ and these results will be reported also.