The Role of Teachers in Facilitating Situational Interest in an Active-Learning Classroom

Jan. 10, 2011

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 37-42.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explored the extent to which interpersonal and cognitive teacher characteristics influenced the level of students’ situational interest.

In this case, the classroom was an active-learning, problem-based classroom.
In such a problem-based learning (PBL) environment teaches assume a less dominant role in the sense that they do not engage in direct instruction, but guide the students through conversation and questioning (Barrows, 1985).

Research findings have demonstrated that certain teacher characteristics are particularly conducive to student learning in PBL. Three distinct teacher characteristics have been identified that seem to influence the effectiveness of student learning and achievement:
(1) social congruence, which refers to a teacher’s personal interest in or concern for his/her students ( [Grave et al., 1998] and [Schmidt and Moust, 2000]);
(2) subject-matter expertise. Research has shown that the degree of knowledge a teacher has positively affects student achievement in the active-learning classroom ( [Schmidt and Moust, 1995] and [Schmidt et al., 1993] ); and
(3) cognitive congruence, which refers to the teacher's ability to express oneself in a language students can understand, using concepts they use and explaining concepts in ways easily grasped by students (Schmidt & Moust, 1995).

With the present study the authors hypothesized that the three distinct PBL teacher characteristics would contribute to increased students’ situational interest in the active-learning classroom.

Data from a regular program evaluation, which measured teachers’ scores on the three characteristics were extracted. A month later, the authors administered a short situational interest self-report questionnaire to 498 students.


The sample consisted of 498 participants (52% female and 48% male).
The participants were enrolled in various diploma programs (37 classes) at a polytechnic in Singapore.


The results revealed that social congruence and subject-matter expertise are not directly related to situational interest, but are antecedent variables of a teacher’s cognitive congruence. The findings imply that being friendly, socially and emotionally connected with the students as well as having a large body of knowledge about a topic are highly predictive of how cognitively congruent a teacher is. Being cognitively congruent was a significant factor in predicting students’ level of situational interest in the classroom.
The findings lead to the conclusion that teacher characteristics and in particular teacher’s cognitive congruence have a significant influence on students’ situational interest.

Barrows, 1985 H.S. Barrows, How to design a problem-based curriculum for the preclinical years, Springer Publishing, New York (1985).
Grave et al., 1998 W.S.D. Grave, D. Dolmans and C.P.M. Vleuten, Tutor intervention profile: reliability and validity. Medical Education, 32 3 (1998), pp. 262–268.
Schmidt, 1993 H.G. Schmidt, Foundations of problem-based learning: some explanatory notes. Medical Education, 27 5 (1993), pp. 422–432.
Schmidt and Moust, 1995 H.G. Schmidt and J.H.C. Moust, What makes a tutor effective? A structural equations modelling approach to learning in problem-based curricula. Academic Medicine, 70 1 (1995), pp. 708–714.
Schmidt and Moust, 2000 H.G. Schmidt and J.H.C. Moust, Factors affecting small-group tutorial learning: a review of research, D.H. Evensen, C.E. Hmelo-Silver, Editors , Problem-based learning: A research perspective in learning interactions, Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ (2000), pp. 19–52.

Updated: Oct. 04, 2011