An instrumental case study analysis of faculty engagement and its effects on undergraduate student success in and out of the classroom
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It is known that students and faculty must build relationships with each other in order to increase the success of undergraduate students. However, research finds that this is often not the case in many institutions across the United States. There is plenty of research that explores the perceptions held by students that affect interactions with faculty; yet the amount of research that explores the perceptions of faculty on this subject is limited. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of undergraduate students and faculty that contribute to student-faculty interaction and engagement and the impact these perceptions and relationships have on student success. This qualitative study utilized an instrumental case study approach and was guided by three research questions. The study was framed by a conceptual framework based on research literature that provides seven principles for institutions to implement in order to encourage and improve undergraduate student success. The participants were two undergraduate students and one faculty member from a large, public research university in the Southwestern region of the U.S. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and document analyses of course syllabi. The data collected was analyzed using the open coding method. Trustworthiness of the study was addressed throughout the research process. The findings of this study suggest that undergraduate students value feedback on coursework from the faculty, interest from the faculty member on the subject at hand, classroom discussion, and dedication to the use of office hours the most in relation to the students' academic success. The findings also discovered that many faculty do take explicit interest in student success and tend to value similar principles as the student participants expressed. Supporting these values, student participants did not value or feel valued by faculty that did not encourage classroom engagement, outside interactions, and faculty that were not flexible or understanding with students. All participants perceived that student-faculty interaction and engagement was critical to achieving academic success with undergraduate students. The results of this study revealed that these values and perceptions held by the participants aligned with the recommended principles from the research and show how important student-faculty interaction in and out of the classroom. Student-faculty interaction in and out of the classroom consists of two parties, and because of this, both parties must take actives roles in achieving positive interactions and experiences. Students must actively seek engagement outside of the classroom, and faculty must be genuine in their encouragement to students seeking interaction. The recommendation for institutions of higher education is to encourage faculty to take active roles in undergraduate engagement and academic success. This includes showing an interest in each student through the course syllabus, through classroom lectures, and in utilizing scheduled office hours. Additionally, faculty who are not willing to become engaged as professors will have a negative impact on the undergraduate student experience, causing the student to lose interest in the subject material and risk a decreased chance for success in the classroom and therefore the institution.