Academic journal article College Student Journal

Teaching Faculty Participation in College/ University-Wide Institutional Research Projects

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Teaching Faculty Participation in College/ University-Wide Institutional Research Projects

Article excerpt

Recent research conducted by Brandt (1998) indicates that a large number of Texas institutional research offices are understaffed to carry out all of the activities required to support the school's planning and evaluation efforts, Given the critical importance of the institutional research function and the current understaffing situation, this study was designed to determine if full-time instructional faculty were serving as primary investigators in college/university-wide institutional research projects. Fourteen out of the sixty-one surveyed institutions reported that at least one full-time instructional faculty member had recently spearheaded a college/university-wide institutional research project. Instructional faculty investigated a number of topics, including student satisfaction and student retention issues. Course load reductions were the most often cited form of participation incentive.

The standard criteria for faculty tenure is typically composed of three elements: a) teaching, b) scholarship and research, and c) service. Rickland, Kronenfeld, and Strickland (1993) provide a good description of the criteria and supporting evidence for criteria achievement. Evaluation of the teaching element frequently involves student evaluations of instruction, achievement of teaching awards, instructional evaluations from peers, letters from former students, and graduate student success indicators. Evidence of faculty involvement in scholarship and research activities often relates to external grant support generated; academic books written, peer-reviewed publications, scholarly presentations, and publication citations. The service element is typically measured by faculty participation in activities benefiting the academic discipline, the university, the department, student associations, and the local community. Criteria for faculty tenure may also include attainment of professional credentials and collegiality.

The relative importance of each of the three elements often depends upon the mission of the institution. Primary emphasis is usually placed upon the teaching or scholarship components. Based upon interviews with more than 300 faculty members at twelve universities, Tierney and Bensimon (1996) report that the service component is not formally rewarded, but is "often considered symbolically important."

During the past fifteen years, a number of studies have been conducted examining faculty workload. Meyer (1998) summarizes many recent studies. The author notes a shortage of recent studies examining productivity in faculty teaching and service.

Recent research conducted by Brandt (1998) indicates that a large number of Texas institutional research offices are understaffed to carry out all of the activities required to support the school's planning and evaluation efforts. This finding comes at a time when external demands for institutional research related information are on the increase.

Given the critical importance of the institutional research function and the current understaffing situation, this study was designed to determine if full-time instructional faculty were serving as primary investigators in college/university-wide institutional research projects. It is believed that participation in such projects would likely qualify as a university service activity. The study also examined research project types and incentives for faculty participation.

Survey Instrument and Survey Method

During the fall of 1999, personalized letters and survey instruments were sent to sixty-two junior/community college chief academic officers and to thirty-three university-level chief academic leaders, all within the State of Texas. Survey instruments sought information concerning the level and nature of full-time instructional faculty participation in college/university-wide institutional research projects; the types of faculty participation incentives; and the following institutional characteristics: student enrollment, institutional type, tenure granting status, and if formal institutional research/effectiveness offices had been established. …

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