Actual and preferred classroom interpersonal dynamics in law enforcement education
Oliva, Janet Rose
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Rarely are students in law enforcement education consulted about their classroom environmental preferences, which may limit learner satisfaction and achievement and therefore result in inadequate training. The present study sought to identify these preferences by examining the actual and preferred interpersonal dynamics of law enforcement classrooms. The study sample consisted of 362 certified law enforcement officers attending classroom instruction at the centralized public safety training facility in a southeastern state of the United States. Data were collected in nine classrooms at the training site using a self-completion, forced-choice survey instrument, the Classroom Dynamics Questionnaire (Valentine, Oliva, & Thomas, 2002). The instrument was designed to measure interpersonal classroom relationships between the teacher and students and among the students themselves. The instrument measured four dimensions of these classroom interpersonal dynamics, Teacher Respect for Learners, Confidence in Teacher Ability, Learner Cohesiveness, and Learner Voice. Two versions of the instrument were produced: Version R (Real) and Version I (Ideal). Version R was used to measure students’ actual classroom dynamics in relation to the four dimensions, and Version I was used to measure students’ preferred classroom dynamics in relation to these four dimensions. Simple correlational analyses were used to calculate bivariate relationships between selected predictor variables (personal characteristics and classroom size) and outcome variables (subscale measures), and stepwise multiple regression analyses were used to calculate multivariate relationships between these predictor and outcome variables. Analyses revealed that with respect to their actual classroom perceptions and their classroom preferences, students rated all subscale items highly. Students’ ratings for the four dimensions on both the Real and Ideal measures revealed marked similarities; in both measures, students rated items pertaining to teacher-student relationships (Respect and Confidence) more highly than they rated items pertaining to student-student relationships (Cohesiveness and Voice). However, the predictor variables used in the study illustrated limited power to explain both the actual and preferred dimensions. These findings render practical implications for adult educators who seek to improve their practice by considering the classroom experiences valued by students. These findings also provide a foundation for further research examining interpersonal relationships in law enforcement and other adult classrooms.