Community college faculty experiences with outcomes assessment and its perceived influence on teaching and learning
Arreazola, David V.
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ABSTRACT The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore community college faculty experiences and perceptions of outcomes assessment and its perceived influence on teaching and learning. Of specific focus in this study was ho0w community college faculty perceived whether external accountability demands and the resulting institutional pressures to assess outcomes facilitated the improvement of faculty and student performance. This study was conducted through the lens of the constructivist paradigm. The conceptual framework that framed this study was based on prior research confirming an increase in assessment activity at institutions of higher education, an increase in external accountability, an increase in institutional commitment to understanding student learning, faculty perception of assessment as time taken from their students, and low faculty engagement in assessment. The study institution was a large, rural-serving community college located in the Southern region of Texas. Participants in the study included 12 purposefully selected faculty, six each from academic areas and occupational education programs. Data collection occurred through the lens of the researcher, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and field notes. Data analysis was conducted through the constant comparative method, as well as open and axial coding techniques. Trustworthiness in this study was addressed by detailing the procedures and decisions made throughout the research process; as well as rich, thick descriptions of the interview subjects and their responses to address transferability issues. Dependability of the study was addressed during the data analysis phase by coding data initially then recoding the data several weeks later. Finally, by implicitly stating assumptions and their influence on the research, confirmability of the study was addressed. The findings of the study indicated that institutions of higher education and their faculty engage in assessment primarily to satisfy accreditation and state coordinating board mandates. In addition, faculty use several assessment methods to collect evidence of student learning in addition to sharing results internally and externally. Other findings included that the participants perceived that faculty experience benefits and challenges when engaging in outcomes assessment, that assessment influences student success and teacher performance, and that there is a lack of time, value, and institutional support to engage in assessment. The findings of this study lead to several implications and recommendations for higher education practice. The implications for higher education practice included that institutions must continue to enhance current assessment practices to meet changing accountability demands and use external accountability to engage internal constituencies such as administrators and trustees in assessment for improvement. Other implications for higher education practice was that colleges and universities to engage faculty in assessment for improvement and to provide institutional support for assessment. Finally, faculty needs to gain a better understanding of the value of assessment and identify groups of faculty that have better-developed assessment practices. Recommendations for higher education practice is that community colleges must use external accountability demands to foster a culture of assessment and engage faculty assessment focused on improving student learning and teacher performance. Other recommendations for higher education practice included that community colleges must provide institutional support for professional development of faculty in assessment focused on faculty understanding the value of assessment. Finally, colleges must build a mutual understanding of assessment and assessment results to communicate the value of postsecondary learning.