Evidence-Based Practice in Teacher Education: The Mediating Role of Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Practical Knowledge

Published: 
December 3, 2020

Source: Frontiers in Education, Volume 5:559192

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study attempts to understand whether increased research exposure can reinforce and strengthen the frequency of evidence-based teaching (EBT) implementation in university classrooms.
The authors also aim to understand whether teacher educators’ practical knowledge and self-efficacy can be relevant mediators in the interplay between research exposure and EBT use.
In addition, they seek to understand teacher educators’ views regarding the biggest challenges and facilitators to increasing EBT practices in universities.
Thus, they propose the following research questions:
1. Are practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs mediators of the relationship between teacher educators’ research experience and frequency of EBT use?
2. What are the views of teacher educators about the biggest challenges and incentives to increase the frequency of EBT use in university?
Are there any differences based on teacher educators’ research exposure?

Method

Participants
A total sample of N = 243 teacher educators (60% female) completed the study, with ages ranging from 23 to 68.
The sample included teacher educators from Germany (n = 152), the German-speaking part of Switzerland (n = 40), Austria (n =22), and the United Kingdom (n = 28).
Teacher educators were recruited into the study via e-mail or through an institutional research subject pool.
A total of 691 teacher educators entered the survey and 243 completed it (35% response rate).
Research exposure was measured based on teacher educators’ university position, and the authors identified the five following groups: school mentors (group 1: n = 33), teaching associates (group 2: n =17), PhD candidates with teaching obligations (group 3: n = 80), postdoctoral candidates with teaching obligations (group 4: n = 23), and professors (group 5: n = 90).

Study Design
The authors used a correlational design and survey methods to quantitively investigate the role of research experience, practical knowledge, and self-efficacy beliefs of teacher educators toward the use of evidence-based teaching practice.
In addition, they explored teacher educators’ views about the challenges and incentives to the use of EBT.
As teacher education contexts, they chose German-speaking cultures (Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland) and the United Kingdom, all of which have long histories of teacher education.

The Evidence-Based Teaching Scale
The scales and subscales used in this study were taken out of a newly developed instrument named Evidence-Based Teaching Scale (EBTS) measuring teacher educators’ practical knowledge, self-efficacy beliefs, and attitudes toward Evidence-based teaching (Georgiou, 2020).

Findings and discussion
Based on the findings of this study, teacher educators generally reported high practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs. Research in medicine (e.g., Johnston et al., 2003) and in teacher education (e.g., Reddy et al., 2017) shows that personal factors (e.g., knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes) are related to professionals’ use of evidence in practice.
This study expands research by investigating the role of two personal factors for teacher educators, namely practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs.
In order to enrich the literature, the authors further aimed to explore the mediating role of both practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs in the relationship between teacher educators’ research exposure and frequency of EBT implementation.
A significant direct association was found between teacher educators’ research exposure and practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs, respectively.
The authors also identified a significant indirect relationship between teacher educators’ research exposure and frequency of EBT use.
Their results suggest a mediating effect of teacher educators’ self-efficacy beliefs on the frequency of use of EBT practices.
Thus, teacher educators’ self-efficacy beliefs may be an important indicator of how frequently teacher educators decide to implement EBT practices in their own teaching practice.
In this study, practical knowledge seemed to be a mediator in the relationship between teacher educators’ research exposure and frequency of EBT use.
However, when practical knowledge was entered together with self-efficacy beliefs as mediators in the same model, practical knowledge’s mediating role was not strong enough to be significant.
This finding indicates that, in this interplay, self-efficacy beliefs play the most important role in the implementation of EBT strategies; knowledge or practical knowledge may be insufficient. This research suggests that teacher educators need to feel able to apply their knowledge in order to implement EBT in their classrooms.
The fact that teacher educators know how to apply basic EBT strategies does not necessarily mean that they feel able to do it.
Thus, higher institutions and professional development initiatives might consider strengthening their focus on fostering teacher educators’ self-efficacy beliefs.
Regarding the second research question, teacher educators reported struggling both with resource-related and knowledge-related challenges.
Evaluation of the quality of evidence, staying up to date with the newest literature, and the need for evidence-based teaching training to bridge the gap between research and teaching practice were identified as the biggest challenges.
These findings are in line with previous research in teacher education (Brown and Zhang, 2016; Diery et al., 2020), where environmental context and resources, skills, social influence, and professional role and identity are considered as relevant to change professionals’ use of evidence into practice.
Time pressure in combination with training needs and evidence evaluation seemed to be significantly more prevalent for professors than for teaching associates and school mentors.
This is because professors have a multifaceted role in academia since they have to work as researchers, publish their work, and teach at the same time.
In addition, they can spend a great amount of time working on administrative tasks, and thus they do not have enough time for teaching (Lunenberg et al., 2007), let alone keeping up with implementing evidence-based teaching.
In order to tackle teacher educators’ needs for EBT professional development, the authors also asked them about potential facilitators that could support them to use EBT practices more frequently.
Their findings show that access to evidence-based databases, research exposure, critical appraisal skills, and better communication among teacher educators of all levels could facilitate the use of EBT and bridge the gap between research and practice.
Similar results were reported in previous research in teacher education (Langley et al., 2010).
Another major finding of this study concerns the differences between teacher educators with different levels of research exposure.
Although research exposure may be subject to further parameters like educators’ commitment to research or self-regulation in this study the authors investigate educators’ research experience based on their academic rank.
Descriptive differences were identified among the different groups of teacher educators.
Teacher educators with higher research exposure, in general, reported higher practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs as well as higher frequency of use of evidence into their teaching practice.
This is because teacher educators who are already involved in both research and teaching are required to know how to use evidence and how to interpret it in their daily practice.
On the contrary, teacher educators at the university who only teach are less exposed to ongoing research, and thus they report lower practical knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs as well as lower use of EBT practices.
Teaching associates, young researchers, and school mentors would benefit from professional development trainings to foster their research skills, such as trainings on evaluation of research studies and understanding of basic statistical methods (Lunenberg and Willemse, 2006).
University professors and highly research-exposed teacher educators who might be knowledgeable about new research evidence would benefit from trainings targeting time management skills and metacognitive processes of reflection in order to be able to make evidence-based decisions to modify teaching actions.
Commitment to research and educators’ professional development training alone cannot be sufficient if policymakers and university structures provide no changes.
University structures might foster collaborations between low and high research-exposed teacher educators in order to advance young educators’ self-efficacy beliefs and EBT implementation (Cochran-Smith, 2003).
Policymakers, on the other hand, may consider the workload of highly research-exposed teacher educators and provide further support by hiring lecturers with high research exposure who have the knowledge and skills to implement evidence-informed teaching practices.
Therefore, future research may focus on the development of EBT professional trainings tailored to the needs of less research-exposed teacher educators.

References
Brown, C., and Zhang, D. (2016). Is engaging in evidence-informed practice in education rational? What accounts for discrepancies in teachers’ attitudes towards evidence use and actual instances of evidence use in schools? Br. Educ. Res. J. 42, 780–801
Cochran-Smith, M. (2003). Learning and unlearning: the education of teacher educators. Teach. Teach. Educ. 19, 5–28
Diery, A., Vogel, F., Knogler, M., Seidel, T. (2020). Evidence-based practice in higher education: teacher educators’ attitudes, challenges, and uses. Front. Educ. 5:62
Georgiou, D. (2020). The research-practice gap in teacher education: Beliefs, evidence and practice of university-based teacher educators. (Doctoral thesis, LMU München). Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Johnston, J. M., Leung, G. M., Fielding, R., Tin, K. Y. K., and Ho, L.- M. (2003). The development and validation of a knowledge, attitude and behaviour questionnaire to assess undergraduate evidence-based practice teaching and learning. Med. Educ. 37, 992–1000
Langley, A. K., Nadeem, E., Kataoka, S. H., Stein, B. D., and Jaycox, L. H. (2010). Evidence-based mental health programs in schools: barriers and facilitators of successful implementation. School Ment. Health 2, 105–113
Lunenberg, M., Korthagen, F., and Swennen, A. (2007). The teacher educator as a role model. Teach. Teach. Educ. 23, 586–601
Lunenberg, M., and Willemse, M. (2006). Research and professional development of teacher educators. Eur. J. Teach. Educ. 29, 81–98
Reddy, L. A., Forman, S. G., Stoiber, K. C., and Gonzalez, J. E. (2017). A national investigation of school psychology trainers’ attitudes and beliefs about evidence-based practices. Psychol. Sch. 54, 261–278

Updated: Jul. 29, 2021
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