At a conference presentation recently, a colleague shared the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) and discussed how the inventory really formed the cornerstone of much of her work. It was the first time I had encountered the TPI so I furiously wrote down notes and asked questions to better understand its significance and utility. The TPI was first introduced in the Five Perspectives on Teaching in Adult and Higher Education written by Daniel Pratt (1998). To create the TPI, Pratt and his colleagues studied over 250 different educators across five different countries and identified five discrete teaching perspectives. The perspectives include:
- A transmission perspective: delivering content
- An apprenticeship perspective: modeling ways of being
- A developmental perspective: cultivating ways of thinking
- A nurturing perspective: facilitating personal agency
- A social reform perspective: seeking a better society
Reading across the descriptions on the TPI website, I honestly struggled with how I would classify myself. While I don’t necessarily lecture, I do feel it’s important for instructors to have mastery of their content. Would this mean I’m lean towards a transmission perspective? I believe in the power of scaffolding, Vygostky’s concept of the zone of proximal development and Lave and Wenger’s construct of communities of practice. Maybe this made me lean more towards the apprenticeship perspective? Then again, I believe its important to see teaching from the “learner’s perspective” and to tailor learning activities to support their learning and development. I’ve also been embracing the importance of concepts like mindset, motivation and grit on student learning, which falls more in the nurturing perspective. Lastly, I’m trying to educate “agents of change” who are going out to innovate in schools and work to make differences. Wouldn’t that be more of a social reform perspective? I was torn.
Luckily, the TPI is available online. Educators (and others) can answer a series of questions broken up into three main categories and the website will show their “dominant” and “recessive” perspectives. The first category of questions has instructors examining their beliefs of teaching and learning. The second category of questions asks instructors to reflect on what they try to accomplish during their lessons. The third category asks instructors to analyze what they do during class. After a series of 30 Likert scale questions, my personal TPI was displayed showing my perspectives and my ratings on the beliefs, intentions and actions related to that perspective. My report is shown below.
Looking at the report, my initial self-assessments were confirmed. While I’m strongest in the developmental perspective, I’m also “dominant” in the apprenticeship and nurturing perspectives. I wasn’t that surprised to find that I was “recessive” in the transmission and social reform teaching perspectives. I don’t lecture that often and I don’t have many opportunities to discuss larger societal aspects in my classroom. Examining the report in more detail, I think it’s a fair representation of my teaching.
Like the Myers-Briggs, the TPI offers a unique way for individuals to do some self-examination. While I can’t really argue with my personal results, I worry how others can use the TI results. While I see some usefulness in having colleagues take the TPI and discussing their results, I worry that some people may misuse the tool or over-emphasize the results. For instance, could the TPI be used to inform hiring decisions? Could it be used for student evaluation purposes? Could it be used to assign classes? Ultimately, I doubt any of these will happen. The tool has been around for a while and these misuses haven’t occurred. But the TPI may be a powerful tool for those of us working in professional development arenas. Could the TPI be used to help capture the overall impact of professional development on campus? It’s an idea that I’m like to examine down the road. Then again, that might just be my developmental teaching perspective talking.