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Friday, June 20 • 9:30am - 10:00am
CON10.03 - Transformation and Disciplinary Differences: How Students Respond to Instructional Innovations (Room A333)

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Current higher education research literature encourages faculty members to transform their teaching and assessment methods as a means of improving student learning, but these methods have not been widely adopted, making them instructional innovations (Christensen Hughes & Mighty, 2010).  These innovative methods are typically learner-centred, requiring students to be more involved in and responsible for their learning than in traditional lecture-and-exam courses.  Given that these methods are often new or not expected for students, not all students willingly engage with them (Pepper, 2010).  Students’ resistance to engagement can discourage faculty members from trying new ways of teaching and may detract from educational developers’ credibility with their clients when their recommended methods that are not well received by students.

An exploratory, qualitative research study was conducted to investigate why students may resist engaging with instructional innovations as a first step in determining how such resistance may be mitigated.  An embedded case study design was employed (Yin, 2009), with questionnaires (n=229) being used in two sections of one course and follow-up interviews with 17 students serving as individual cases.  Classroom observations, document analyses, and interviews with the course instructor were also data sources.  The course employed four instructional methods that were innovative for second-year Economics courses:  interactive lectures, extensive group work (80% of course grade), choice of group assignments, and random attendance checks.  It also had large enrolments of students from different years of study and programs and had an experienced faculty member who had witnessed student resistance to the instructional methods over the past few years.  Data were coded according to an initial codex based on an extensive literature review, and the codex was modified as needed to better represent the data collected.  The findings revealed eight thematic barriers on what discourages students from engaging with innovative instructional methods.      

One key barrier involved students’ conceptions about instruction.  One variable that appeared to affect this theme was the academic discipline of a course.  Students were asked in the interviews whether the innovative methods would work in courses in their own discipline.  Overwhelmingly, students from “hard” disciplines (Biglan, 1973) indicated that one or more of the methods would not work in their discipline.  In this conference session, the data and analyses behind this finding will be shared and connected to existing literature after a brief overview of the research study.  Time will be left to discuss the possible implications of this finding on transforming students into active learners in different types of disciplines.


Friday June 20, 2014 9:30am - 10:00am EDT
A333 McArthur Hall

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