Towards Evidence-Based Policy and Strategic Planning in Higher Education:

MacLabhrainn, Iain (2008) Towards Evidence-Based Policy and Strategic Planning in Higher Education:. [Conference Proceedings]


An institutional survey of approaches to teaching, perspectives on academic practice and values held by academic staff. A major survey/audit of experience, attitudes and perspectives of academic staff in all faculties across a single institution was undertaken over the period of an academic year, with a response rate of approximately 40-50% of permanent academic staff. The survey instrument combined tools developed by groups at UCLA, Oxford, Sydney and from other published (and statistically validated) work and consisted of a detailed set of Likert scale inventories and other question types, requiring some 45-50 minutes for completion and hence yielding considered and reflective responses.The data provide a rich source of detailed information regarding approaches to teaching, perspectives on the teaching environment, the perceived challenges of contemporary academic practice (including the tensions between teaching and research demands), attitudes regarding technology use and opinions on the broader purposes of higher education.The results show that there is a diversity of opinion and approaches, including those which are shaped by disciplinary, gender and age aspects, but even within such categories there is evidence for distinct sub-groupings in terms of approaches to teaching, for example. They also reveal a high level of commitment to teaching which in some cases is challenged by the pressures of large enrolment classes, levels of student engagement and the complexities of negotiating a career path in a time of rapid change in the sector nationally and internationally.This project has provided a fascinating insight into both the values held by and the lived professional experience of academics across the institution and will make an invaluable contribution towards the shaping of institutional strategy as well as raising fundamental questions regarding the nature of academic practice.

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