Lecturers' self-perception of change in their teaching approaches: Reflections on a qualitative study

Donnelly, R. (2008) Lecturers' self-perception of change in their teaching approaches: Reflections on a qualitative study. pp. 207-222. ISSN 00131881 (ISSN)


Background: Within the realm of teaching in higher education (HE), in this new millennium, there is currently no professional training requirement for teachers in Ireland; as a result, the majority of teachers in Irish higher education do not have any teaching qualifications, and essentially are required to learn on the job, oftentimes relying on how they were taught themselves. However, there is growing recognition within the sector for the need for training for lecturers and other academic staff who have a teaching component to their work. Purpose: The principal aim of this study is to explore the self-perception of change in teaching approaches by lecturers who have graduated from a Postgraduate Certificate in Third-level Learning and Teaching Programme. Programme description: This is an evaluation study investigating the experiences of the graduates of the programme over a period extending from its inception in 2000 until 2003. The programme runs in an academic year, and has two modules: learning and teaching in higher education, and designing curricula and assessment strategies. Sample: The study involved 45 successful graduates of the programme, who were teachers in a variety of higher education institutions around Ireland. These programme participants had a variety of experiences in HE teaching ranging from 1 year to 25 years, and hailed from a diverse mix of subject disciplines, encompassing apprentice, undergraduate and postgraduate education. Design and methods: A qualitative questionnaire was distributed to the 45 participants to establish the difference that the programme has made on these lecturers' professional practice. The initial qualitative study was conducted in 2005, with a second stage completed in 2007. Results: For this study, 25 lecturers returned completed questionnaires; all indicated that change had been made in their teaching approaches, and a number of alterations had taken place. Some of these claims lacked evidence and others provided evidence to support it. The most significant changes identified were increased reflection on current teaching approaches, the introduction of new teaching strategies, increased focus on the design and delivery of classes, more work taking place on course teams, an increase in confidence about learning and teaching and a more student-centred approach towards teaching. Conclusions: The changes in teaching approaches for these individuals has been multidimensional and includes the design of new instructional strategies, the use of new teaching approaches and the alteration of beliefs (pedagogical assumptions and learning theories) about learning and teaching in higher education. These findings are significant for the programme team and future participants, in that they can be used to support this model and the teaching strategies and format of the programme as it presently stands. In a wider frame, they are important to allow academic staff to realise opportunities to join forces with others in their departments, and show them that they are part of a larger movement to develop a learning society through their work with students.

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