Investigating student perceptions of Instructor Talk: Alignment with researchers’ categorizations and analysis of remembered language


Instructor Talk—the noncontent language used by an instructor during class time—is likely to influence learning environments in science classrooms from the student perspective. Despite Instructor Talk being found in every science course thus far, investigations into student perceptions and memories of it are limited. We investigated to what extent undergraduate biology students 1) were aligned with researchers in their perceptions of Instructor Talk as Positively Phrased or Negatively Phrased and 2) remembered Instructor Talk. To test these ideas, we engaged 90 biology students in a multipart assessment. First, students were given randomly selected Instructor Talk quotes, half Positively Phrased and half Negatively Phrased, and were asked to evaluate each quote as promoting a positive or negative learning environment. Overall, students evaluated the Instructor Talk quotes similarly to researchers’ categorizations (p < 0.0001). Second, students were asked to provide examples of remembered instructor language from their biology courses that they felt promoted a positive or negative learning environment. Most students shared multiple memories, and ∼75% of these memories could be coded with the Instructor Talk frameworks. Given that students perceive and remember Instructor Talk as impacting the learning environment, Instructor Talk may be an explanatory variable for differential student outcomes across studies of active learning.

CBE—Life Sciences Education, 20(4)