U.S. Postsecondary Faculty in 2015 | Gates Foundation | Research

U.S. Postsecondary Faculty in 2015

Diversity In People, Goals And Methods, But Focused On Students

Strategic Communications

February 10, 2015

Graduates with caps

A confluence of social, technical, economic, and other factors have created the demand for improvement and change in U.S. postsecondary education. Many of the drivers for change are quite prominent, and include access to postsecondary education, cost, and students’ success, especially among the new majority of students including first-time college goers, low income students and working adults. At the same time, many innovations are taking place, including numerous new modes of delivery, access, and instruction.

However, education outcomes are influenced at the micro level, which includes incredible variation among advisors, teachers, students, and methods. In this environment, it is crucial to understand faculty members, as stakeholders, as potential creators and drivers of innovation, as adopters of new methods, and as the direct, front-line drivers of student success.

While faculty have been studied in the past, starting with Boyer in 1989, and continuing with studies sponsored by NCES and others through 2004 and later, we believe that a truly comprehensive perspective within the rapidly changing postsecondary landscape does not exist. This is especially so with respect to in-class behaviors and adoption of new pedagogical methods.

In fall 2014, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with FTI Consulting to conduct a research study to gather data from over 4,000 U.S. higher education faculty members via surveys, focus groups, and interviews. The goal of this research is to better understand influences on faculty members’ willingness to learn about and adopt new pedagogical methods, especially courseware and other digital tools, to incorporate new ideas in their work, and to share new ideas regarding teaching and learning with peers and campus leaders.

The research findings indicate that the primary determinant of faculty’s perspective revolves around how they view students, and how they view their institutions, and their network of colleagues.

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