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Student perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes.

Educating a student to think and behave in a positive way is not an easy task. It is not easy, because the inner workings of a student consist of a complex array. To deal with the complexity of this array one can analyze the mind's contents into more easily viewable parts. These parts can be studied in two interrelated dimensions, namely the cognitive and the affective. Students have both thoughts and feelings. Such things as beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions produce the actions in which students engage and the environments in which students work. That is, students' inner workings affect their actions, which affect their environment. This also works in the opposite direction, such that environments impact inner workings, which impact actions, or actions impact the environment that impact inner workings. These three things (i.e., inner workings, actions, and environments) work in unison to produce a person's inner thoughts and feelings, as well as their actions and the environments they choose and alter. Given the complexity of this relationship, it is important to understand the beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of students, as these things will impact their learning and behaviors in school and elsewhere.

Students hold beliefs and attitudes toward a huge variety of things, such as each other, their teachers, their parents, and the learning environment. The perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes of students will impact their interactions with each of these entities. Consider that the students mind set is the framework in which each of these things is interpreted. Therefore, the meaning derived from interactions with other students, teachers, parents, and the various contents of the learning environment will be largely based on the beliefs and attitudes formed by the students through prior experiences. This is important to teachers and parents, as well as others who may be attempting to influence a student's thoughts and actions. To have maximal impact on a student's thinking and behavior one must have a thorough understanding of the mental framework (e.g., beliefs and attitudes) the student holds prior to any given interaction.

In the present journal volume in the special section on Students Perceptions, Beliefs, and Attitudes the contributing authors explore the inner workings of students to better understand how the students cognitions and affect impact a student's academic and social lives. The authors investigate students' perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding such things as the future, democracy, community, group work, social goals, and variations in the learning environment. Each study helps to further our cumulative understanding of students' inner workings, which helps us better be able to have a positive and meaningful impact on students academic engagement and learning. Generally, educators and parents alike wish to promote positive outcomes in students' cognitive, emotional, and social lives. Through studying such topics as a student's sense of community, social goals, and civic engagement we can better understand the mental lives of students, which allow us to promote more positive attitudes and beliefs regarding such things as the school community and learning.

Daniel L. McCollum, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor--Educational Foundations, University of Houston--Clear Lake
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Article Details
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Author:McCollum, Daniel L.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Previous Article:Teaching leadership and teaching leaders.
Next Article:Democracy in the classroom?

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