Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Professional Development as a Catalyst for Change in the Community College Science Classroom: How Active Learning Pedagogy Impacts Teaching Practices as Well as Faculty and Student Perceptions of Learning
by Harmon, Melissa Cameron, Ed.D., Wingate University, 2017, 172; 10607893
Abstract (Summary)

Active learning, an engaging, student-centered, evidence-based pedagogy, has been shown to improve student satisfaction, engagement, and achievement in college classrooms. There have been numerous calls to reform teaching practices, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); however, the utilization of active learning is still underwhelming. The lack of implementation points to a scarcity of effective professional development. While the majority of studies have focused on four-year colleges and universities, this study examined the impact of active learning professional development at a community college. Community colleges, which have open admissions policies, serve nearly 13 million students annually. Many community college students are first generation or underprepared students, many of whom have been shown to benefit from the use of active learning.

This study sought to determine the impact that active learning professional development has on the pedagogical values and practices of science faculty, and its subsequent impact on student perceptions and achievement at a community college. Through the use of faculty surveys, teaching practices and perceptions were analyzed pre-workshop and post-workshop. Student focus groups provided further insight. Student achievement was measured by means of test scores on common final exams pre-workshop and post-workshop. Faculty surveys showed that faculty do have a favorable opinion of active learning; however, lecture remained the dominant teaching method even after the training. Post-workshop, faculty felt active learning could increase student motivation and retention of material. Both faculty and students agreed that more class time should be devoted to active learning. The main barrier to active learning identified by faculty was the lack of time, both in terms of class time and time to develop materials. Students identified fearfulness, being accustomed to lecture, and lack of time as possible barriers. Students overwhelmingly agreed that active learning increased their engagement, interest, and achievement in the classroom. Two courses showed increased student achievement based on exam scores; however, other classes saw a decline in scores post-workshop. The findings suggest that a single professional development may not be enough to create a complete reform. However, faculty were interested in learning more, which could open the door to sustainable approaches.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McKay, John
Commitee: Brand, David, Staat, Darrel
School: Wingate University
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Pedagogy, Teacher education, Science education
Keywords: Active learning, Community college, Professional development
Publication Number: 10607893
ISBN: 978-0-355-13903-7
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