This study sought to address the challenge of interesting university professors in adopting more deliberate and integrated approaches to course design through a multi-case study of five professors in the liberal arts at a top-tier research university. Professors watched video-recorded interviews with five of their own past students who were graduates of the university. The researcher interviewed the professors before and after they viewed the alumni feedback. Professors were asked to reflect on what most surprised and concerned them in the interviews and if and how they were inclined or disinclined to alter their courses. Professors were also asked to compare feedback from alumni to feedback from students. Central findings related to the research questions were that: (a) professors’ views of their course and course design changed after receiving feedback from their alumni; (b) professors perceived a need to alter their course design when they received surprising and concerning feedback from alumni; (c) but, feedback needed to be sufficiently concerning for professors to be inclined to alter their course designs, and (d) even then, several factors disinclined professors to follow through on changes. These factors opposing change include professors’ recollections of their college experiences, lack of pedagogical and course design knowledge, and university disincentives to focus on teaching. Professors appreciated hearing from the alumni because alumni had longer-term and more real world perspective than current students and were unconcerned about grades. Professors uniformly disliked, and to a great extent disregarded, student feedback from course evaluations because surveys are anonymous and lack context about who is making a comment and why. In contrast, the alumni interviews allowed professors to see and hear personalized feedback that provided context for which individual said what. Several additional findings emerged from the research. These were: (a) professors developed courses based on limited understanding of what students retained in a course; (b) professors relied considerably on their own educational experiences and on trial and error in creating courses and in their teaching; and (c) professors’ dislike of course evaluations made them skeptical of student feedback. These findings have potential significance for professors, faculty developers, universities, and students because they suggest an avenue for impacting faculty attitudes about their course design by planting seeds of curiosity about the link between design and course impact. Findings also support the use of alumni interviews as a tool for collecting feedback and existing evidence that faculty development efforts are best when they are personal, context-specific, and endure over time. Because this was a small exploratory study, repeating the alumni interview approach with more faculty and alumni is recommended.
|Commitee:||Green, Colin, Tate, Patricia|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|Department:||Curriculum & Instruction|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational evaluation, Curriculum development, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Alumni, Course design, Faculty development, Feedback, Interviews, Professors|
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