University of Michigan

     National Center for Postsecondary Improvement

        Project 5.3 on Student Learning and Assessment  



Faculty and Student Issues that Impact Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Project 5.3 built on information from Project 5.1 and Project 5.2 to discover the areas of interest and ways in which institutions are committed to improvement as part of their undergraduate educational mission. The scope of the project encompassed multi-institutional analyses of longitudinal and cross-sectional data on current practices linked with student and faculty survey data as well as individual campus case studies and focus groups.

Project 5.3 focused primarily on faculty and student experiences as they relate to teaching and learning activity within academic programs on college campuses. During the first two years of 5.3 activity, two projects were carried out simultaneously. First, a review of existing data resources for understanding faculty and students in relation to teaching and learning activity was conducted. This resulted in a handbook on national data sets and a review of their utility in facilitating what we know. Three studies focused on faculty teaching, student satisfaction, and long-term outcomes resulted from analysis of the national data in 1998. Second, a review of innovations developed since the mid 1980s served to document the extent to which higher education has responded to criticisms of undergraduate education. Since much of the literature on these innovations is still absent from publications, national conversations about teaching, learning, and assessment change were monitored through conference programs, newsletters, and some of the disciplinary and professional association publications. We developed a web-based template of the innovations that updates higher education activity in this area for public use.

5.3 Pilot Project

In 1997-98, three sites were selected to serve as a pilot for the projects that were carried out in the subsequent years. Institutions within a single accreditation region were selected within three varying state policy environments. The institutions were selected primarily because they were designated as campuses that were involved in significant innovation activity as it related to teaching, learning, and assessment based on conferences and national opinion leaders familiar with these innovations. These campuses include Land-grant Flagship University, Urban University, and National University. A goal of the pilot project was to understand changing practices on college campuses and the role of assessment in this process. We spoke with campus administrators who had an overview of these changes, faculty involved in innovative activity, and students who were experiencing these changes. Information gleaned from the pilot was used to document how higher education has responded to calls for improvement in undergraduate education, motivations and rewards for individuals engaged in this activity, and perhaps new approaches to assessing the impact on students. The pilot project helped to shape student and faculty data collection in 1998-99 and resulted in a report about teaching and learning activity on campuses concerned about undergraduate education.

5.3 Case Studies

Although innovations in teaching and learning were occurring across the country within postsecondary education, we selected a few institutions whose strategies hold promise for broad adoption across the diversity of institutions in higher education. This study of current undergraduate improvement efforts provided information on how the many aspects of teaching, learning, and assessment work in tandem to produce results.

During academic year 1998-99, seven campuses were selected in various policy environments with a goal of creating a range of institutional types from various accrediting regions, in order to understand institutional and individual activity in relation to the improvement of teaching, learning, and assessment. Our intent was to develop case studies (including in-depth interviews and focus groups) of these key institutions that exemplify current reform movements and report details of these promising practices including recommended indicators of monitoring student progress. These indicators reflect institutional efforts to gauge the impact of changing educational practices in higher education

Numerous reports and research papers resulted from this multi-level study and activities with campuses that were geared toward improving teaching and learning during the fourth and fifth years of the project.

5.3 Survey Research

Two survey instruments, one each for students and faculty, were developed in conjunction with Project 5.2: Institutional Studies, based on results obtained from the analysis of both existing data and the pilot and case-study collections. The faculty survey delved into several key areas to gain knowledge of the level of faculty participation in teaching and learning practices, individual participation in innovative practices or in teaching improvement, the environment for support of teaching, learning and assessment activity at the institution, and the role of motivators in determining faculty behavior.

Similarly, the student survey…

Numerous reports and research papers resulted from analysis of the survey data.

These qualitative and quantitative data on students and faculty are linked with information from Project 5.1 and Project 5.2 to present a coherent portrait of our knowledge base and changing practices in teaching, learning, and assessment that affects students, faculty and academic programs.

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