Campbell, A., Künnemeyer, R. & Prinsep, M. R. (2008). Staff perceptions of higher education science and engineering learning communities. Research in Science & Technological Education, 26(3), 279-294.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/3213
This paper presents staff perceptions of higher education science and engineering learning communities derived from a cross-case analysis of four case studies across the New Zealand university and polytechnic sectors. First we report staff expectations and experiences in terms of infrastructure and resources, and their own careers. Staff perceptions of the diversity and differences in learning styles of their students are next, followed by the importance of practical skill development, pedagogies employed and their rationale, along with scaffolding and supporting of learning. The paper concludes by considering the nature of science (NoS) and engineering, and what messages about the NoS are presented by higher education staff. The research findings suggest that staff face conflicting demands on their time, with requirements for research and administration affecting their teaching roles. Lecturers report considerable diversity and students often ill-prepared for higher education study, and consider that students are required to learn a huge amount of information. While some staff attended courses in teaching, they feel unable to apply their learning in order to enhance student learning because of concerns that time spent doing so would reduce the amount of time available to deliver content. Class sizes were identified as having considerable impact on student learning and lectures offer little opportunity for active student engagement. Practical classes are highly valued, being seen as crucial for learning practical techniques and problem-solving. Small classes and practical classes provide opportunities to develop good working relationships with students. Lecturers felt that students need to become more independent and self-reliant in their learning, and that they needed to be supported in this process at the institutional level.