Knowledge, Attitudes, and Instructional Practices of Michigan CommunityCollege Math Instructors: The Search for a KAP Gap in Collegiate Math

Maria Haverhals Andersen, Western Michigan University


Numerous efforts in math education have attempted to convince instructors to shift their instructional practices from lecture to alternative student-centered practices, but these have not been successful on a large scale, despite professional development that focuses on increasing awareness and improving instructor attitudes about studentcentered instructional practices. This may be due to a knowledge-attitude-practice gap (KAP Gap), which exists when knowledge and favorable attitude do not lead toward adoption of a practice. This study uses a quantitative approach (author-created electronic survey, response rate 21.2%) to measure knowledge, attitudes, and instructional practices of Michigan community college mathematics faculty, with the purpose of identifying the existence of a possible KAP Gap and the factors that might be influencing its existence.

The analysis includes a breakdown about how community college math faculty acquire their knowledge of instructional practices and their level of participation in a variety of formal and non-formal professional development activities. General faculty attitudes about teaching and the teaching environment are measured using survey instruments developed by Trigwell and Prosser (2004, 2008). Attitudes towards three instructional practices (collaborative learning, inquiry-based learning, and the lecture method) are examined in depth, especially with regard to the influence of the environment, the enabling characteristics of students, and the time requirements for using the method. Finally, instructors are asked to report about their level of use of each of the three practices (allowing the use of more than one practice) using a scale developed by Henderson & Dancy (2009).

This study is one of the first to directly identify a KAP Gap for instructional practices in mathematics and to explore the variables that influence the instructional practices of college math instructors. The results suggest that knowledge plus a favorable instructor attitude is not enough to predict an instructor's use of a student-centered instructional practice (although an unfavorable attitude will predict non-use). This study also illuminated significant difference between adjunct and full-time faculty in the level of professional engagement, breadth of teaching experiences, and use of student-centered instructional practices.