University faculty members' perceptions of the need for accountability and/or improvement of teaching as a result of student evaluations : a case study
The increasing demand for quality in institutions of higher education in Israel prompted this qualitative case study of university teachers' attitudes to towards accountability and improvement of teaching. The direct catalyst was the widely used student evaluation of faculty. The respondents in this case study were faculty members from one teaching unit in an Israeli university. Questionnaires completed by all of the teachers in the unit provided the researcher with preliminary data concerning demographic details of the faculty members and an impression of attitudes and perceptions. Subsequently, 19 faculty members were selected and questioned in depth by the researcher in individual semi-structured interviews on topics concerning, accountability, evaluation and appraisal, student evaluation of faculty and improving teaching. The interview tapes were transcribed and the data coded, sorted, and categorized to enable efficient use of large quantities of material. Emerging themes and sub-themes from each of the four areas mentioned above were thus located, analyzed and interpreted by the researcher in order to 'tell the story' of this particular teaching unit and answer the research questions. The findings reflect the following perceptions among the faculty members. First, the respondents feel accountable to their students, their profession and their institution albeit their accountability does not reflect the current market attitude of accountability present in higher education throughout the world. Second, teachers have voiced the desire to receive more direction in the area of staff development from the department chairperson even though they are not particularly involved in it at present. Third, teachers do not generally value the feedback from the official university student ratings and fourth, they do not use the results of these ratings as a basis for improving their teaching. Finally, teachers' responses indicate a desire for more direction in the areas of evaluation and improving teaching.