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Faculty approaches to improving teaching: A mixed methods case study

Jeremy D Penn, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed methods case study was to address faculty members' approaches to improving teaching. In the first phase, a quantitative application of Blackburn and Lawrence's (1995) theory on faculty work, a survey on approaches to improving teaching was given to a stratified random sample of faculty members (N = 577, response rate = 53%) at a large Midwestern university. Analysis of variance revealed significant differences by tenure status on ten scales and by gender on one scale. A multiple regression analysis identified significant predictors of effort to improve teaching at the course, department, and institutional levels. ^ In the second phase a qualitative multicase study was performed with 5 faculty teaching award winners to explore different approaches to improving teaching and to explain the quantitative results. Participants enjoyed teaching and were interested in teaching, took an indirect path into teaching, found identifying criteria for high quality universities difficult, were highly involved in assessment and used assessment as a teaching tool, learned student names, changed their teaching frequently, were committed to student success, and desired to do a good job. ^ A second purpose of this study was to use the "practice perspective" (Creswell & Tashakkori, 2007) to explore the use of mixed methods within a traditional case study approach. Benefits for viewing mixed methods as a means for conducting a study included heightened focus on research questions, ability to use a familiar structure, and increased flexibility. The case study framework lent itself naturally to the use of mixed methods and is an excellent entry point for beginning mixed methods researchers. Challenges in limiting the size and scope, keeping on schedule, and integrating qualitative and quantitative data were experienced. ^ The study recommends institutions select good teachers at the hiring point, use a variety of different teaching measures, be intentional about improvement efforts, and increase the proportion of tenured and tenure-track faculty members. Implications for improvement models at the course, department, and institutional levels are discussed.^

Subject Area

Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Penn, Jeremy D, "Faculty approaches to improving teaching: A mixed methods case study" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3331438.