The relationship between teacher thinking styles and student evaluations at a local polytechnic in Singapore : a surprise journey

  • Eugene Yau Kay Cheong

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Globalisation has intensified economic competition both within countries and internationally. Many countries have introduced educational reforms to equip their workforce with the knowledge and skills that will enable their human capital to compete, and to engage in what is known as knowledge-based economies (Riley,2004). Although strategically located, because Singapore lacks natural resources, the country relies totally on its human capital. Certain thinking styles, especially creativity are crucial in Singapore’s knowledge-based economy, with an explicit understanding that students are more likely to become creative professionals if they are taught by creative teachers (Horng, Hong, ChanLin, Chang,& Chu,2005). Another major educational change emerging globally has been a shift away from teaching to learning, with new emphasis on the role of student evaluations in the development of teachers (Sahlberg,2006). Against this backdrop, this research study investigated the relationship between teacher thinking styles and student evaluations at a local polytechnic school in Singapore. The study initially investigated the influence of teacher thinking styles (TS) and behavioural attributes (BA) on student evaluations (SE). Eighty-two teachers in a Singaporean Polytechnic responded to a profiling tool that measured individual thinking styles and behaviors. This data was compared with the responses of over one thousand student evaluations of these teachers. Quantitative results using Structural Equation Model (SEM) tests of reliability and validity failed to confirm the hypothesised relationships among the three constructs. Further readings suggested the possibility of an alternative paradigm that involved the theory of reasoned action, and concepts of moderating and mediating effects. Now armed with a different approach, the exploratory, hypotheses-building quantitative tool, Partial Least Squares (PLS) was used to analyse this same data. Analysis of data revealed that thinking styles and student evaluations influenced teaching behaviours, rather than what had originally been proposed. Thus, what began as a simple confirmatory research study to further explore the correlation among these three constructs metamorphosed into a surprise journey with a very unexpected set of outcomes. The quantitative results of the Singapore study revealed a completely different paradigm than that which was originally proposed in this study, e.g., teacher thinking styles (TS) (personalities) along with teacher behavioural attributes (BA) affect student evaluations (SE): (TS + BA→SE). The Singapore findings indicate that the three constructs of TS,BA and SE interact quite differently than one might expect. The empirical evidence in this study seems to indicate a quite different result: student evaluations (SE) and thinking styles (TS) affect teachers’ behavioural attributes (BA). Visually, the new findings can be portrayed as SE + TS→BA. The Kirkpatrick model of educational outcomes was included in the discussion of the consequences of these new findings as an improvement process for future classroom teaching. These findings add a new dimension to understanding the interactions among teacher thinking styles, teacher behaviours, and student evaluations as these relate to teaching effectiveness. With further research, perhaps this research may lead to new approaches to the conceptualisation of these constructs.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorMonica Kennedy (Supervisor), Sharon Eng (Supervisor), Doug Davies (Supervisor), Graham Durant-Law (Supervisor), Byron Keating (Supervisor) & Deborah Blackman (Supervisor)

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