Informing and improving instructional quality
Popham, Heidi Kathyrn
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The increased focus on accountability in higher education reinforces the importance of instructional quality. This study used an action research approach as a means to explore, inform, assess, and improve instructional quality. Four research questions guided this study: 1. How is instructional quality defined by college stakeholders? 2. What essential competencies are necessary to ensure instructional quality? 3. What elements should be included on an observation performance evaluation instrument that measures instruction quality? 4. In what ways does the development of a performance evaluation process, through an action research approach at a community college, inform and improve instructional quality? Utilizing action research methodology, the internal consultant/participant researcher worked collaboratively with administrators and faculty within a community college setting for nearly three years in exploring performance evaluation as a process to inform and improve instructional quality. Data were collected through the review of documents and literature, an internal questionnaire, observations, team meetings, interviews, and memos. The study’s findings produced the definition of instructional quality, determined the competencies necessary for ensuring instructional quality, adapted and piloted an observation evaluation instrument, and realized the impact of performance evaluation in informing and improving instructional quality. Three conclusions were drawn from an analysis of the findings. These conclusions included: 1. The development of an institution-specific performance evaluation process is essential for the assessment of instructional quality. 2. Instructional quality is a broad and complex construct therefore multiple assessments are needed for evaluation. 3. Action research as a method of organizational development utilizes the expertise and knowledge among college faculty and academic administrators, strengthens collaboration, and cultivates system change. Implications include: The necessity for continuous assessment of the evaluation system; the alignment of the evaluation system with the expectations of the college; providing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff; and the implementation of policy associated with performance evaluation. The recommendations for future research include the replication of this work in other areas of evaluation; further validity and reliability of the evaluation instrument; the exploration of alternative ways for assessing instructional quality; and conducting a longitudinal study focusing on the institutional type.