A Supportive Environment for Better Teaching Practices

A Supportive Environment for Better Teaching Practices

Joe Strickland – Traditionally, faculty working in higher education have experienced pedagogical isolation stemming from a lack of community and collegiality in teaching. While many colleges and universities have recently shown support for teaching and learning centers, substantive institutional and environmental support for good teaching may still be considered as an institutional shortcoming. Analysts at the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) used data from an extended item set pertaining to faculty perceptions of departmental, collegial, and institutional support for teaching to further explore how levels of teaching support vary across faculty characteristics and relate to the use of effective pedagogical practices. Over 3,000 faculty members across 30 institutions served as the sample respondents for an analysis of the following questions:

  1. How do faculty demographics and characteristics vary by levels of support for teaching?
  2. How do institutional characteristics vary by levels of support for teaching?
  3. How do teaching practices vary by levels of support for teaching?

Results of the study indicate that faculty members who teach within doctoral granting universities of high research activity (AR = 2.6, p <.01), or hold the academic rank of assistant professor (AR = 4.4, p < .01) are overrepresented as those that receive a low level of support for teaching. These findings are of particular interest as faculty members receiving a high level of support for teaching were also identified as being more likely to engage in the use of pedagogical practices across all 11 FSSE scales of good educational practice. Furthermore, faculty receiving low levels of support for teaching were more likely to have lower scores on FSSE Scales aligned with items of effective teaching (B = -.183, p <.01) and quality of student interactions with faculty, staff, and other students (B = -.415, p < .001). Findings such as these strengthen the argument for conducting further research on how institutions can form and maintain more positive and supportive cultures for teaching.

For more details about this study, see the presentation and handout presented at the annual Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Conference.