Quality in Higher Education: Perspectives from Front-Line Faculty in the United States
Author(s)Hall, Molly Reas
Contributor(s)Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Burge, Penny L.
Skaggs, Gary E.
Kniola, David John
Welfare, Laura Everhart
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of front-line faculty members in the United States related to quality and quality management in higher education. The study's three research questions were: (1) How do front-line faculty members in the United States define quality in higher education? (2) How do front-line faculty members in the United States describe how quality in higher education should be measured? and (3) Assuming that quality management activities will continue to be mandated by external and internal entities, what do front-line faculty members in the United States believe could be done to make quality management activities more meaningful to front-line faculty members? The research design for this study was a basic qualitative study with a constructivist interpretive framework. Maximum variation sampling was utilized and data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews with 20 front-line faculty members who worked at three different types of higher education institutions located in Virginia: (1) a public, research-extensive university; (2) a public, comprehensive university; and (3) a private, liberal arts college. The constant comparative method was utilized throughout the data analysis process and served as the basis for the study's thematic analysis. The primary finding for Research Question 1 was all 20 faculty participants defined quality in higher education either partially or solely in terms of student outcomes. These outcomes included student learning outcomes, vocational outcomes, and contribution to society outcomes. In regards to Research Question 2, many participants believed that student growth should be a primary indicator of quality in higher education; measuring quality in higher education is difficult; and measuring quality in higher education is necessary or important. Multiple participants expressed dissatisfaction with the indicators currently used to measure quality in higher education. For Research Question 3, participants shared 24 specific barriers they believed prevented quality management activities from being meaningful to front-line faculty members. Participants also shared 24 specific implementation strategies for how quality management activities could be more meaningful to front-line faculty members. These results have multiple implications for future quality management policy, practice, and research.