April 1, 2009

Survey of College Faculty Reveals Increases in Student-Centered Teaching and Evaluation Methods

By: in EdTech News and Trends, Teaching and Learning

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Helping students develop critical-thinking skills and discipline-specific knowledge remain at the forefront of faculty goals for undergraduate education, with 99.6 percent of faculty indicating that critical-thinking skills are “very important” or “essential” and 95.1 percent saying the same of discipline-specific knowledge. Other top goals include helping students to evaluate the quality and reliability of information (97.2 percent) and promoting the ability to write more effectively (96.4 percent).

These and other findings are detailed the report, “The American College Teacher: National Norms for the 2007–08 HERI Faculty Survey,” which is issued triennially by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA.

According to the report on teaching faculty at the nation’s colleges and universities, 72.8 percent indicate that instilling in students an appreciation for the liberal arts is an important goal. In addition, increases were evident in faculty support of students’ personal and psychosocial development as important goals for undergraduate education, including efforts to “help students develop personal values” (66.1 percent, an increase of 15.3 percentage points over 2004–05), “enhance students’ self-understanding” (71.8 percent, a 13.4 percentage-point increase), “develop moral character” (70.2 percent, a 13.1 percentage-point increase) and “provide for students’ emotional development” (48.1 percent, a 12.9 percentage-point increase).

Student-centered or inquiry-based evaluation methods in teaching showed gains. Although today’s faculty are just as likely as those in 2004–05 to use multiple-choice exams (33.1 and 32.3 percent, respectively), they are 8.6 percentage points more likely to use short-answer questions (45.5 percent vs. 36.9 percent) and 9.6 percentage points more likely to use term/research papers (44.3 percent vs. 34.7 percent) to assess learning.

“The increased trend evident in faculty using student-centered teaching and evaluation methods is very positive,” said Linda DeAngelo, assistant director for research at CIRP and a report co-author. “By using these methods, faculty are putting the emphasis in their classrooms on what they want students to learn rather than the material that faculty want to teach. This is not only making college classrooms more interactive, collaborative and engaging, it is also improving student learning and degree attainment.”

The results detailed in the new report are based on the responses of 22,562 full-time college and university faculty members at 372 four-year colleges and universities nationwide. The responses are weighted to provide a normative profile of the American faculty population.

More information on “The American College Teacher: National Norms for the 2007–08 HERI Faculty Survey,” is available here.

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