experience) in step 1 (F2, 5 = 0.364, P = 0.712, R2 = 0.127), though
this fit was not significant (Table 2). None of the variables of interest
contributed uniquely to explaining syllabus rubric scores (Table 2),
though our low sample size of eight instructors limited our statistical
power in detecting an effect of these factors on syllabus scores.
Learning Objectives Link to Learner-Centeredness
We were not surprised that RTOP scores were highly related to total
syllabus scores, specifically the Learning Goals and Objectives syllabus
scale, because one RTOP scale describes lesson design and implementation (Sawada et al., 2002). For a lesson to be implemented effectively, classroom activities should be based on learning goals and
objectives for the course ( i.e., backward design; Wiggins & Mc Tighe,
1998). High syllabus rubric scores, via the Learning Goals and Objectives scale, are achieved through using a range of Fink’s taxonomic
verbs (Fink, 2013a, 2013b). Three of the top four syllabus score earners in our sample included learning objectives incorporating both
affective and cognitive domains, and these same three instructors also
received the highest RTOP scores from experts. Inclusion of objectives
from the affective domain, while uncommon in our sample, is important for student learning in the sciences (Shephard, 2008) and should
be integrated into introductory science course syllabi. Further, Wright
(2011) proposed that a blending of these learning domains contributes to overall classroom effectiveness.
Learner-centered instructors develop learning objectives framed
around what the student should be able to do after instruction, both
cognitively and affectively, rather than what content the teacher
expects to cover (Gibbs, 1995; Donnelly & Fitzmaurice, 2005). Our
findings further support that careful construction and dissemination
of diverse learning objectives to students on the first day, through a
syllabus, contributes to more learner-centered classes. Additionally,
although there may be other effective ways to disseminate learning
objectives in a classroom, in the present study we investigated only
dissemination via syllabi.
Measures of Classroom Environment Differ
Instructors who focused on conceptual change within their students
( i.e., high CCSF) also tended to construct more learner-centered syllabi
Figure 1. Relationship between mean RTOP score for each
instructor and total syllabus rubric score. Shading clarifies cutoff
values for each scale, ranging from teacher-centered (white
shading, RTOP level I), through transitional (light gray, RTOP level
II), to learner-centered (dark gray, RTOP level III or above). RTOP
level cutoffs are adapted from Ebert-May et al. (2011). Note that a
truly learner-centered class, in both classroom practice and as
depicted in the syllabus, would be indicated as pure black
shading in the upper right corner but is lacking from our sample.
The dashed line represents the approximate 1:1 line between
scales (matching the low values, 0 and 0, to the high values, 100
and 46, for RTOP and the syllabus rubric, respectively).
Table 1. Correlations between total syllabus scores
or syllabus scale scores and variables of interest.
Numbers represent Pearson correlation coefficients.
Asterisk denotes correlations with P < 0.05.
RTOP ITTF CCSF
Total Syllabus Score 0.593 −0.065 0.664
Learning Goals and Objectives 0.655 −0.211 *0.855
Assessment Activities 0.473 −0.293 0.086
Schedule 0.05 *0.713 0.135
Overall Learning Environment 0.233 −0.167 0.514
Table 2. Summary of hierarchical regression analysis for variables predicting total syllabus rubric score.
Models/Steps B SE B Β P
1. Demographic variables 21.000 (constant) 11.465 (constant) 0.712
Gender −1.500 4.869 −0.135 0.770
Years of teaching experience −2.500 2.936 −0.373 0.433
2. Independent variables of interest −32.699 (constant) 13.705 (constant) 0.164
Gender −10.031 3.061 −0.903 0.082
Years of teaching experience −0.465 1.523 −0.069 0.789
RTOP 0.004 0.205 0.005 0.988
ITTF 0.332 0.223 0.315 0.275
CCSF 2.039 0.539 1.361 0.063