A snapshot of faculty teaching in 2014

What do we know about how American college and university faculty are teaching undergraduates?  The new HERI study (pdf) offers some fascinating insights into instructors’ practices.

Caveats: the report covers full-time faculty, not part-timers*.  It’s also based on self-reporting.

In the digital realm, the majority of faculty (circa 83%) have not taught an online class.  But that number is declining, and is unevenly spread across institutional type:

Faculty teaching online

Generally speaking, academic rank is a useful indicator of online teaching.  The lower one’s rank, the likelier to have used videos in class, taught entirely online, and used discussion boards.

For example,

faculty teaching online by rank to 2014_HERI


Regardless of their technological habits, college and university instructors are increasingly using student-centered practices, especially in historical context:

faculty teaching diverse methods to 2014_HERI

Note the “extensive lecturing” line, which decline over the 90s and after 2004, it seems.

Group work is on the rise, including assigning students to work together outside of class:

faculty requiring student group work out of class HERI

Note the disciplinary distribution, with the humanities on the low end.

Most faculty consider students central to the academic enterprise.  They don’t see student community as important, unless they’re at private (often smaller) institutions.  There’s a big argument for student life offices right there.

The HERI report examines another aspect of the faculty-student relationship, and finds a large gender difference.  Female instructors report far more and varied activities in advising than do their male colleagues, especially for  “inform[ing] students about academic support options”, “reviewing transcripts with advisees and taking action to help students with academic problems”.

There’s also a technological item of note for advising.  The most commonly used communication channel is email, as opposed to office hours and other face-to-face meetings.

The report addresses several non-teaching-related topics, including faculty attitudes towards campus administration, diversity in hiring policies and curriculum, experiences of discrimination, and graduate student mentoring.  I recommend looking into the document for those issues.

Overall, the HERI report depicts a faculty in several forms of transition.  We can see the increasing use of technology, from advising to teaching online.  Rank and presumably age have large impacts on tech use.  The adjunctification of the professoriate appears sharply in the form of second-class support.  Faculty interaction with students is deeply marked by gender and academic discipline.

*The report does turn to address adjuncts (17-19), but only in terms of support, not teaching per se.  This is clearly important, just not the specific topic of my post.

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