Faculty Increasing Use of Learner-Centered Education Practices

Faculty have steadily increased their use of Learner-Centered Pedagogies according to a comparison of faculty reported teaching and learning methods deployed in their classrooms. “The Undergraduate Teaching Faculty: The 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey,” a triennial national survey of college and university faculty has been conducted since 1989 by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Learner-Centered Pedagogy

The concept of Learner-Centered pedagogy has deep historic roots in the work of Dewey, Piaget, Rogers’ Gardner and Bloom (and many others) as well as the innovative models of Maria Montessori and the Reggio Emilia approach. Faculty in higher education have begun to adopt and adapt Learner-Centered pedagogies in such efforts as the flipped classroom and a host of in class and in course methods. The HERI Faculty Survey has been tracking progress in the use of these pedagogies since 1989-1990.

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014

 

Class Discussions

In 1989-90 69.6% of faculty reported using class discussions in “all” or “most” of their courses increasing to 88.2% in 2008 and leveling off at just over 82% in 2011 and 2014.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the use of small groups through which students work together to accomplish shared goals and to maximize their own and others’ potential.” – Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (ASCD 1994)

In 1989-90 20.6% of faculty reported using cooperative learning strategies increasing to a peak of 73.2% in 2008-2009 and settling to 60.7% in 2013–2014.

Group Projects

The use of group projects was reported by 15.7% in 1989-1990 growing to just under half (45.5%) in 2013-2014.

Student-Selected Topics

Incorporating the use of student-selected topics within a course has increased 8.5% in 1989–1990 to 26.3% in 2013–2014

Student Evaluations of each others work

The use student evaluations of each other’s work in “all” or “most” of their courses has nearly tripled from 10% in 1989–1990 to 28% in 2013–2014.

Table 1: Faculty Reported Teaching and Learning Methods 1990 to 2014

Comparing the reported use of specific pedagogies over a period of fifteen years.

Method 1990 1993 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008 2011 2014
Class discussions 69.6 69.8 67.7 68.4 72.3 81.8 82.2 82.2 82.8
Community service as optional part of course 0.0 0.0 2.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Community service as part of coursework 0.0 0.0 2.5 0.0 5.1 7.1 8.1 5.9 8.9
Competency-based grading 52.4 55.7 48.4 48.4 49.3 0.0 53.0 47.6 0.0
Computer or machine-aided instruction 13.2 16.0 18.5 21.5 29.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Cooperative learning (small groups) 26.0 32.5 35.0 37.1 41.3 47.8 59.1 56.7 60.7
Electronic quizzes with immediate feedback in class 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.8 7.4 15.2
Essay exams 40.6 41.7 40.1 40.9 42.2 57.6 44.3 41.3 0.0
Experiential learning/Field studies 18.8 19.8 19.3 19.3 22.3 0.0 30.0 25.6 31.0
Extensive lecturing 55.7 53.6 48.5 47.2 46.9 55.2 46.4 45.0 50.6
Grading on a curve 22.9 18.2 18.5 17.5 16.8 19.1 16.8 17.3 21.2
Graduate Teaching
Assistants
8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Group projects 15.7 20.9 22.8 23.4 26.8 33.3 35.8 32.0 45.5
Independent Projects 34.1 37.1 33.1 33.1 35.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
“Learn before lecture” through multimedia tools (e.g., flipping the classroom) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 21.8
Multiple drafts of written work 12.4 14.1 15.5 16.8 18.5 0.0 24.9 23.9 34.2
Multiple-choice exams 33.7 35.4 30.8 30.8 32.5 32.3 33.1 29.3 0.0
Multiple-choice quizzes 16.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
On-line instruction 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Performance/Demonstrations 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.8
Quizzes 0.0 40.9 36.1 36.7 38.7 0.0 39.8 38.9 0.0
Readings on racial and ethnic issues 11.1 15.2 15.6 16.7 18.6 19.9 23.9 0.0 26.1
Readings on women and gender issues 10.6 14.2 15.0 15.9 17.4 18.2 21.1 0.0 22.3
Recitals/Demonstrations 0.0 20.1 19.2 18.0 18.4 21.4 21.9 19.0 0.0
Reflective writing/journaling 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 18.1 21.7 17.6 25.2
Rubric-based assessment 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.9
Short-answer exams 34.0 36.7 32.9 33.8 36.4 36.9 45.5 44.9 0.0
Short-answer quizzes 24.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Starting class with a question that engages students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 49.5
Student evaluations of each other’s work 10.0 12.0 12.9 13.1 14.6 19.4 23.5 21.0 28.0
Student evaluations of teaching 83.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Student presentations 25.5 29.8 30.9 32.7 36.0 44.7 46.7 43.8 52.4
Student-developed activities (assignments, exams, etc) 15.3 17.1 13.1 13.3 14.4 0.0 26.7 0.0 0.0
Student-selected topics for course content 8.5 9.8 8.0 8.6 10.2 15.0 17.0 19.8 26.3
Supplemental instruction that is outside of class and office hours 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 36.1
Teaching assistants 0.0 7.9 9.5 9.4 9.2 10.1 11.8 12.7 0.0
Techniques to create an inclusive classroom environment for diverse students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 56.5
Term/research papers 31.9 32.1 32.8 34.7 36.7 34.7 44.3 43.3 0.0
Undergraduate Teaching Assistants 2.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Using real-life problems 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.7 55.4 69.8
Using student inquiry to drive learning 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 47.1 45.8 56.4
Weekly essay assignments 14.2 17.6 15.9 17.9 19.0 0.0 21.7 20.2 0.0

While the advances in the use of learner-centered pedagogies maybe laudable, faculty efforts tell only part of the story of the transformation of the learning ecosystem. While faculty are engineering and re-engineering their curricula, courses, teaching and classroom instructional methods, students are busy optimizing their access to the emerging global digital learning ecosystem. These are not competing efforts but transformations on parallel development tracks and trajectories. They are neither integrated with each other nor cohesive in a unifying purposeful design but rather opportunistic initiatives.

A Parallel Universe: Technology Enabled, Global Digital Learning Ecosystem

So where are the learners in their quest to nurture and support their own learning. Students tend not to classify technology as a learning approach but rather the use of digital tools to assist in their quest to master their course material. For students, the technology is largely taken for granted and not seen as either innovative nor at the expense of other methods and tools. Increasingly, being Learner-Centered means integrating the use of technology and the realities of the emerging Global Digital Learning Ecosystem into the curriculum and learner experiences. For a thorough understanding of the current technology status examine the Global Information Technology Report 2014.

EDUCAUSE 2014 Student and Faculty Technology Research Studies, October 2014

In 2014, ECAR collaborated with 151 institutions to collect responses from 17,451 faculty respondents across 13 countries about their technology experiences. ECAR also collaborated with 213 institutions to collect responses from 75,306 undergraduate students about their technology experiences. The research found:

  • Technology is embedded into students’ lives, and students are generally inclined to use and to have favorable attitudes toward technology. However, technology has only a moderate influence on students’ active involvement in particular courses or as a connector with other students and faculty.
  • Students’ academic use of technology is widespread but not deep. They are particularly interested in expanding the use of a few specific technologies.
  • Many students use mobile devices for academic purposes. Their in-class use is more likely when instructors encourage such use; however, both faculty and students are concerned about their potential for distraction.
  • More students than ever have experienced a digital learning environment. The majority say they learn best with a blend of online and face-to-face work.
  • Most students support institutional use of their data to advise them on academic progress in courses and programs. Many of the analytic functions students seek already exist in contemporary LMSs

Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning, September 2014

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) founded in 2008 to address issues of educational opportunity, access, equity, and diversity in the United States and internationally published a report titled Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning. It concluded:

  • Technology access policies should aim for one-to-one computer access.
  • Technology access policies should ensure that speedy internet connections are available to prevent user issues when implementing digital learning.
  • At-risk students benefit most from technology that is designed to promote high levels of interactivity and engagement with data and information in multiple forms.
  • Curriculum and instructional plans should enable students to use technology to create content as well as to learn material.
  • Policymakers and educators should plan for blended learning environments, characterized by significant levels of teacher support and opportunities for interactions among students, as companions to technology use.

Campus Technology: Report: Digital Use Up Among College Students, May 2012

Way back on May 25, 2012,  Campus Technology , in a story written by Tim Sohn, reported on a survey, conducted that year, by CourseSmart and fielded by Wakefield Research regarding the use of technology and social media by college students. Five-hundred college students between the ages 18 to 23 participated in an online survey. The survey found:

  • 96 Percent had taken traditional courses that included online elements.
  • 79 Percent had handed in assignments online.
  • 71 Percent had taken Web-based tests and quizzes.
  • 40 Percent used digital technology at least every 10 minutes, and
  • 67 Percent said they use technology at least every hour.
  • 68 Percent said they saved two or more hours daily, and 14 percent said they saved at least five hours using technology in their learning process.
  • 51 Percent said they were more likely to complete reading assignments on time if they used digital devices instead of print.
  • 79 Percent searched for information on a mobile device immediately before an exam.
  • 78 Percent said they had received updates from professors via learning management systems or student portals.
  • 84 Percent said they had access to their class syllabi online.

In Closing

Learning is the point. Technology, as enabling and essential as it is, is not the point. Neither is ‘On-Line.’ Faculty, generally, are not Luddites, but rather careful explorers and experimenters searching for effective pedagogical practices. Technology innovations and their application by scholars, educators and innovators, to building a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem are enabling learners, to transform their educational experience. The industrial model of the 20th century, while an extraordinarily powerful system then, does not align with either the power of, nor the potential of, the new 21st century constantly and rapidly evolving Ecosystem. We cannot ‘fix’ this fundamental misalignment by enhancing the efficiency or effectiveness of existing models. The elements of a comprehensive and cohesive new academic model are emerging. Higher education leaders, scholars, and policy makers must come together to shape the educational systems of the future that optimize the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem and its impact on learning.

In our continuing effort to support our clients managing the transitions through turbulent times, MGDA is offering a full schedule of Transformational Strategies Institutes for 2015. The curricula are focused on the development of academic strategies to cope with the rapid transitions and fundamental transformations now underway.

These topics and sessions are also available as workshops:

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