Date of Award

10-2017

Culminating Project Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: M.S.

Department

Educational Administration and Higher Education

College

School of Education

First Advisor

Christine Imbra

Second Advisor

Gabriela Silvestre

Third Advisor

Frances Kayona

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Abstract

The attitudes of faculty members regarding the assessment of student learning is a topic that has garnered much attention in recent years, predominantly since the ‘assessment movement’ (Walvoord, 2004) gained strength in the 1990s. While much research has been conducted to investigate attitudinal trends, relatively little investigation has uncovered what factors contribute to varying attitudes among faculty members, especially when it comes to assessment. This study investigated the relationship between personal, demographic, and professional characteristics of individual faculty members and their attitudes regarding student assessment. Specifically, teaching faculty members at a private, undergraduate, liberal arts institution in the Midwestern United States were surveyed to record demographic and professional characteristics and assess their attitudes about the assessment of student learning.

The theoretical concept for this study was based on the idea of assessment as an innovation (Hall, Loucks, Rutherford, & Newlove, 1975). According to researchers, the adoption process of an innovation is a personal experience involving developmental growth and change in several areas (Gray & Banta, 1997). Both early adopters and resistors of innovation often share demographic and professional characteristics (Moore, 1991).

While no research to date has examined the relationship between personal characteristics of faculty members and their attitudes regarding assessment, research has been conducted that investigates overall job satisfaction levels using personal, demographic and professional traits as independent variables (Grunwald & Peterson, 2003).

Using Grunwald and Peterson’s study as a guide, the explanatory variables chosen for this study included three demographic traits (age, race, and gender), five professional characteristics (educational level, years of teaching experience, years at current institution, academic rank, divisional affiliation), and seven personal life events (transfer to another institution, change in academic rank, birth of a child, death of a close friend or family member, marriage, divorce, and serious illness). The dependent variable for this study was comprised of fifteen attitudinal responses to positive statements regarding assessment of student learning.

Relationships were found between each of the demographic and professional characteristics of the faculty members and their attitudinal responses, with the strongest correlations reported in the categories of gender, academic rank, divisional affiliation, and years at institution. Personal life events did not contribute significantly to attitudinal differences. Based on the findings, it is important for educational leaders to: 1) expose faculty members to assessment opportunities early in their academic careers; 2) attempt to integrate instruction on assessment into graduate-level curricula; and 3) identify those faculty members more amenable to the practice of assessment as well as those more hesitant to adopt the innovation, and adjust resource allocations accordingly.

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