November 18th, 2014

New Faculty Survey Finds More Learner-Centered Teaching, Less Lecturing

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A survey of undergraduate teaching faculty has identified a shift toward more learner-centered teaching practices and a corresponding move away from lectures and other teacher-centered styles.

“The Undergraduate Teaching Faculty: The 2013–2014 HERI Faculty Survey,” produced by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, highlights findings from a triennial national survey of college and university faculty by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

The report, which was released on Nov. 13, noted that during the past 25 years there’s been a steady shift in pedagogical styles toward creating a more collaborative learning environment that more actively involves students in their learning.

For example, in HERI’s latest research, 82.8 percent of faculty reported using class discussions in all or most of their courses, up from 69.6 percent in 1989–90. The proportion of faculty who use student evaluations of each other’s work in all or most of their courses increased as well, to 28 percent in 2013–14 from 10 percent in 1989–90; and more teachers incorporating student-selected topics for course content increased to 26.3 percent from 8.5 percent during the same period.

At the same time, the percentage of faculty using lectures in all or most of their courses was just 50.6 percent in the new survey, down from 55.7 percent in 1989–90.

2013–2014 HERI Faculty Survey
2013–2014 HERI Faculty Survey

Online teaching

Another component of the 2013-14 survey asked faculty about their experiences with online teaching. There was a slight increase in the percentage of full-time undergraduate faculty who taught at least one course exclusively online; 17.4 percent compared to 14 percent in 2010-11, when the question was first asked.
The increases varied by institution type, however, with just 8.5 percent of faculty at private universities having taught a course exclusively online and 27.2 percent of faculty at public four-year colleges having done so.

“Although many higher education leaders have placed greater emphasis on creating more online courses to expand access, provide flexibility in teaching, and increase revenue, faculty have proven to be cautious in deciding to teach courses exclusively online,” Kevin Eagan, director of UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program and the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

“Faculty understand the time and planning required to develop and successfully implement an exclusively web-based course. But they seem more focused on integrating more opportunities for class discussions and group learning into their courses.”

About the survey

Results were based on responses from 16,112 full-time undergraduate teaching faculty members at 269 four-year colleges and universities. The survey also questioned faculty about their perceptions of institutional climate, expectations for course assignments (broken down by discipline in the report), experiences and perceptions with regards to campus diversity, and support for part-time faculty.

The full report is available on the HERI website: http://heri.ucla.edu/pr-display.php?prQry=151


  • Perry Shaw

    In general most of these figures are certainly encouraging.
    However, the drop in the percentage of faculty using lectures from 55.7% to 50.6% statistically is probably only barely significant – if at all – and points to a long journey yet to go. Considering the amount of research and literature produced in the last 40 years or more that points to the weaknesses inherent in lecture as a methodology I was disappointed that the drop in the use of lecture was not substantially more.

  • 7 Generation Games

    Upon further review, the HERI report also mentions how diversity has increased in faculty and student population; however, they feel as if they must work harder to earn the scholastic respect of their peers. Additionally, a good proportion of students felt that their campuses would not be able to address diversity-related conflicts in the classroom. Especially with more professors teaching online courses, how will this affect the healthy communication between varying students?

    We have seen online bullying in newspaper headlines, is it benighted to thrust aside undergraduate students that may bring up conflicts relating to diversity?