Across the Divide: Parents’ and Teachers’ Beliefs about Learning and Teaching

Bruce Torff


Teachers’ beliefs have been shown to exert substantial impact on educational practices, but it has remained unclear the extent to which teachers’ beliefs differ from those of parents, who typically lack professional training in education. Two survey-research studies were conducted to compare parents’ and teachers’ beliefs about learning and teaching. In the first study (n = 140), an eight-item, two-factor survey instrument was developed and evaluated, producing satisfactory psychometric characteristics. In the second study (n = 410), controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and educational attainment, (a) parents demonstrated strong preferences for the survey’s curriculum-centered items while teachers preferred the student-centered ones, (b) parents produced markedly higher ratings for curriculum-centered items than did teachers, while teachers produced higher ratings for student-centered items than did parents, and (c) parents preferred a curriculum-centered pedagogical blend while teachers favored a student-centered blend. The results support the theory that our culture’s folk psychology manifests pedagogical beliefs that are remote from beliefs held by professional educators, especially concerning curriculum-centered pedagogy, potentially making communication difficult among stakeholders in schools.

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