Teachers' and researchers' normative values about teaching and learning in higher education: an international Delfi survey

  • Elias Schwieler, Centre for Learning and Teaching (UPC), Stockholm University, Sweden

    Stefan Ekecrantz, Centre for Learning and Teaching (UPC), Stockholm University, Sweden

    This four year project consists of two separate studies; one concluded interview study and one initiated quantitative survey. In the former, eight scholars from the fields of History and English literature from two different Swedish research universities were interviewed using naturalistic 90 minutes interviews, which were recorded and transcribed. The interviews were analyzed at length through argumentation analysis, reconstructing underlying normative and descriptive premises alongside explicit arguments. The first study, “Normative values in teachers’ conceptions of teaching and learning in higher education: a belief system approach,” was published in 2011 inInternational Journal for Academic Development.

    Teachers’/researchers’ implicit and unreflected values - sometimes at odds with current educational discourses - are an intangible object of study, with many methodological challenges. The lengthy interviews with a select few described above made it possible to identify a series of existing values within a local and limited sample. To get further with the issue of generalizability we are conducting a survey among a large number (100+) of experienced educational developers from higher education institutions in Australia, United States, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. These informants are asked about their experiences from discussing teaching, research and students with faculty during teaching and learning courses, workshops, and consultations, in which the individual’s values are often expressed openly or can be found implicit as normative premises in, e.g., a line of argument. The survey informants are presented with nine cases that each describes a specific normative value. The informants are then asked if they have met such a teacher, how common the normative value is among teachers, and how they would rate the impact the normative value has on teaching and learning. The survey concludes with a question about teachers’ “general outlook” and asks the informants to rate what percentage of the teachers they have met hold either a “moralistic” or a “non-moralistic” view of teaching.

    This quantitative survey is conducted through a one round Delphi study, a method often used to study empirically elusive realities. (Landeta, 2005; Shadrick et al, 2005; Skulmosky, 2007) In short, the theoretical foundation for this method is to use the collected knowledge of experienced experts in a field where a more direct route is not feasible. So called classical Delphi studies (Delkey, 1963) were used to create expert based prognoses about future events through repeated rounds of surveys, where follow up questions narrow down the analyses in order to create an informed expert consensus. Such a consensus is not our research aim; thus only one survey round will be used. In line with the demands of this method, the informants identified are all educational developers with experience of discussing these issues with a large number of teachers/researchers.