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Researchers investigate studentsí opinions on effective teaching

by Kristine Hamlyn

Four investigators at Memorial are letting students know that their opinions on what makes effective teaching really do matter. A study entitled Students' Perceptions of Effective Teaching in Higher Education will provide students with a voice on the topic.

Drs. Jerome Delaney, Trudi Johnson, and Dennis Treslan, members of the Faculty of Education, and Albert Johnson, senior instructional designer with Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT), say they have a unique approach that will allow them to identify, with greater certainty, the beliefs of participants.

The prescriptive nature of other research and questionnaires can often leave students feeling frustrated, the group explained. The approach they have taken gives the students an opportunity to set the standard, without the influence of preconceived notions of researchers.

In addition, the survey takes into account the opinions of students studying both on-campus and at a distance via the web, an environment which continues to grow in popularity and in which the characteristics of teaching can be very different.

The primary goal of the survey, currently available online at until March 31, 2008, is to contribute to instructors’ awareness of and appreciation for the students’ expectations of their teaching.

“We were quite impressed with the idea and the enthusiasm for this project, and we were proud to be able to provide the funding to make it happen,” said Ann Marie Vaughan, director, DELT. “Each member of the group brings extensive experience in effective teaching at a number of levels in the education sector. I have no doubt this will be of direct benefit for students studying at Memorial, and also raise the university’s profile in the area of effective teaching.”

The four are hoping for a significant return rate to the online survey. They have focused on attracting students with incentives for participation and marketing the study with print ads in student-read Memorial publications, trade show displays located on each of Memorial’s in-province campuses and a large draping banner displayed in a high traffic area in the University Centre on Memorial’s St. John’s campus.

The group predicts they will gather very valuable information to be used in guiding the delivery of both on campus and distance courses.

Results are expected to be available in September 2008 and will be disseminated via the web, presentations to various faculty groups across Memorial’s campuses, articles in peer reviewed journals, possible conference presentations and other professional gatherings.