22 SES 06 C, (Mis)perceptions and Reflections on Teaching and Learning
Education has a major impact on social, economic and technological growth in many countries. Large investments are therefore justified for preschool through higher education. Turkey, as one of these countries that have focused on improving education at all levels, has given a special importance to establishing at least one university in all cities around the country (Arap, 2010). This led to a sudden increase in the number of universities in Turkey in the last two decades. A large number of universities means more quotas for students who would like to pursue higher education, but at the same time, it has brought many challenges ranging from insufficient infrastructure to staffing and providing quality higher education particularly in newly established ones.
The literature indicates that quality of student learning largely depends on the qualifications of the instructor in relation to subject area, methodology, curriculum, student development and similar other aspects of teaching and learning processes. Although there seems to be a good emphasis on the quality of teachers at school levels, universities typically ignore the significance of the teacher quality in creating a quality learning process for students. University instructors are typically assumed to be “good teachers” as long as they have expertise in their subject areas. Students are expected to make use of this expertise by carefully attending to the class lectures and make use of the relevant textbooks and materials. On the other hand, learning at higher education can be greatly influenced by varied qualities of teaching. Then the question of what makes one a good teacher at the university becomes a valuable one for higher education as well. Some of these characteristics might be similar to teacher qualities at school level but one expects there would be other areas of expertise needed to be a good university teacher.
There are many studies in the literature in relation to characteristics of an effective teaching and effective teacher based on the perceptions of students (Kulik & McKeachie, 1975; Minor, Onwuegbuzie, Witcher & James, 2002; Stronge; 2007; Walls, Nardi, von Minden, & Hoffman, 2002): These studies reveal out many characteristics of an effective teacher; some of which highlights personal characteristics such as being friendly, happy, caring and supportive while others indicate instructional skills like using various teaching strategies and skills. However, the research in relation to the characteristics of an effective university teacher has been limited particularly in different social and cultural contexts (Al-Busaidi, Aldhafri & Büyükyavuz, 2016; Alemu, 2014; Helterbran, 2008; Tunca, Şahin, Oğuz & Güner, 2015). Furthermore, as Tunca et. al (2015) highlights there is limited research, especially in-depth descriptions of good teaching at university level. In addition, most of the studies in the literature focus on perceptions of instructors and students rather than focusing those university teachers who have been determined as good or effective teachers by certain standards. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the perceptions and experiences of university teachers who have been determined as “good teachers” through student surveys carried out in their courses. More specifically, the following research questions will be studied:
- How do university teachers define good teaching at higher education?
- How do good teachers plan, implement and assess teaching and learning?
- What type of climate is established in good teachers´ classrooms?
A phenomenological design was utilized in this research to investigate “the essence or structure of an experience” (Merriam, 2002, p.7) and the shared meaning of an experience (Creswell, 2013) of university teachers. Within this perspective, “being a good teacher at university level” as a phenomenon is examined from the experiences of the university teachers determined to be “good teachers” through in-depth and observations. Criterion sampling (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007), as a way of selecting participants who meet the criteria of “good university teachers” (awarded as an effective teacher), was used while choosing the participants. This award is given by the university to the instructors who get a high score from students’ evaluations. Considering the criterion, seven participants from social sciences participated in this research and the courses given by these instructors were observed more than once. This research was conducted at a well-established and prestigious university located in Ankara, Turkey. The university has been using faculty staff course evaluations for more than 20 years. The main purpose of these evaluations is to provide information for both faculty members and university and to ensure more effective teaching at university level. In order to collect data, both interviews and observations were utilized. The interview form developed by the researchers consists of four parts; background questions, planning, teaching process and reflection part. Observation form mainly includes four parts as follows; purpose, six observation questions, data collection, and observation dimensions such as context, the structure of the course, classroom climate and teaching process. During the observation, the stream of behavior records was used. Content analysis approach was used to identify main concepts and categories shaping the perceptions and experiences of the teachers (Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2016). First, the observation and interview data were organized for close reading in line with the research questions. Second, codes were identified to index the data. Third, the initial codes were grouped under larger codes to synthesize the perceptions and experiences of the teachers. Finally, the initial codes were used to describe the teachers´ experiences in line with the research questions. As for validity, triangulation was used by supporting interviews with observations. For descriptive validity, the interviews were recorded and they were transcribed verbatim. As for interpretative validity, member checks were used, and multiple coders were used for providing peer debriefing for which two faculty members evaluated the data. Thick description and purposive sampling were utilized for transferability.
Seven themes emerged in relation to effective faculty staff characteristics are as follows: personal traits, teaching process, teaching style, classroom climate, classroom management skills, assessment techniques and professional development. Considering personal traits, both personal such as being respectful, caring, emphatic, and teaching-based such as organized and nurturing are listed as characteristics of effective faculty. Regarding these characteristics, one of the participants defined effective faculty as “organized person” and remarked that s/he is the one “who approached teaching matter in a systematic way”(P1). During a teaching process, effective faculty serves as a facilitator; they direct students’ learning process by providing examples from real life and they care for students’ profiles, needs, and skills. Six codes emerged for teaching style: case and practice-based, individualized teaching process, holistic teaching, associated teaching, using various activities and strategies. Effective faculty staff creates a classroom climate defined as “flexible, student-centered and democratic”. One participant states that his classroom is like a “coffee class” in which students feel comfortable and they are flexible. Effective faculty staff creates learning community by using multiple interaction channels in which they enable interaction with and among students by creating social groups. Moreover, they benefit from certain classroom management skills such as getting to know students and using eye contact. As for assessment techniques, they use summative and formative assessment. Lastly, they give importance to professional development for which they are being reflective on what they have done and kept their content up to date. Overall, the results show that effective faculty staff can be described as caring, respectful, organized, and good communicator. They use various teaching styles, strategies and assessment techniques. While they structure their courses, they consider their students’ skills, and needs. They are constantly being reflective about the outcomes of their practices and change their practices regarding the evaluations.
Al-Busaidi, S., Aldhafri, S., & Büyükyavuz, O. (2016). Effective university instructors as perceived by Turkish and Omani university teachers. Sage Open, 1-8. Alemu, B. M. (2014). Enhancing the quality and relevance of higher education through effective teaching practices and instructors’ characteristics. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2(9), 632-647. Arap, S. K. (2010). Türkiye yeni üniversitelerine kavuşurken: Türkiye’de yeni üniversiteler ve kuruluş gerekçeleri. Ankara Üniversitesi SBF Dergisi, 65(01), 001-029. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education. New York: Routledge. Helterbran, V. R. (2008). The ideal professor: Student perceptions of effective instructor practices, attitutes and skills. Education, 129(1), 125-138. Kulik, J. A., & McKeachie, W. J. (1975). The evaluations of teachers in higher education. Review of Research in Education, 3, 210-240. Merriam, S. (2002). Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Stronge, J. H. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. ASCD. Tunca, N., Şahin, A. S., Oğuz, A., & Güner, H. Ö. B. (2015). Qualities of ideal teacher educators. Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, 6(2), 122-148. Yıldırım, A.& Şimşek, H. (2016). Sosyal bilimlerde nitel araştırma yöntemleri. Ankra: Seçkin Yayıncılık. Walls, R. T., Nardi, A. H., von Minden, A. M., & Hoffman, N. (2002). The characteristics of effective and ineffective teachers. Teacher education quarterly, 29(1), 39-48.
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