Instructional renovation : integrating a "good idea" in undergraduate classes
Mills, Sheryl Dianne
The integration of an instructional “good idea” in undergraduate classes through the natural and evolutionary process of instruction renovation was the focus of this study. More specifically, the question “What personal, contextual, and innovation-related forces act on the integration of active learning into the traditional signature pedagogies of university tenured faculty?” was addressed in an extensive research agenda spanning seven years. In the mixed methods study central to this research portfolio, self-nominating faculty who were proponents of active learning at the University of Saskatchewan shared their stories and perceptions about integrating active learning in their undergraduate classes through written data, surveys, questionnaires, focus group meetings, and individual interviews. The study revealed that the integration of active learning, and the development of unique personal signature pedagogies, took place naturally in a benignly neutral environment, when desire met with combinations of perceived needs and timely, resonating active learning solutions. Rather than “change,” instructional methods were gently “renovated” as participants experimented with solutions to address student learning needs. Active learning was fit together with personal and professional beliefs about student capabilities and effective instruction, and college signature pedagogies. Participants indicated that supportive faculty development, student enthusiasm and engagement, policy that neither encouraged nor discouraged active learning, and the benefits of active learning were driving forces. Restraining forces included unsupportive or negative students and peers, a lack of alignment between stated organizational values and enacted values regarding rewards, and time. Active learning was thought to be effective, but was also perceived to be complex, difficult to try and assess, and too dissimilar from other instructional methods to integrate easily. Findings from the central study and experiences associated larger doctoral research agenda activities suggest that faculty development could be expanded to provide coaching and suggest instructional methods which are clearly linked with signature pedagogies and instructional problems, and that small manageable ways in which active learning can be easily and comfortably integrated in undergraduate classes are showcased. In addition, students could be encouraged to interact with faculty as often as possible, that student stories of engaging instructional activities be prominently profiled, and that stated organizational values be clearly aligned with enacted values and the formal reward structure. Future studies might focus on the effects of “planting” highly-regarded teaching enthusiasts, the relationship between student and faculty enthusiasm and engagement, the effects of external rewards on the inclusion of active learning, the role of collegial support in the integration of active learning, and the process of integrating other “good ideas.” Research might also be conducted on removing identified barriers and increasing driving forces identified in this study. An extension and elaboration of this study might create communities of practice on campus and encourage positive conversations about teaching as well as reveal additional driving and restraining forces that act on the integration of “good ideas” in undergraduate classes.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorWalker, Keith D.
driving and restraining forces