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GOOD TEACHING: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF THE ATTITUDES

AND TEACHING METHODOLOGIES OF EFFECTIVE


COMMUNITY COLLEGE HISTORY INSTRUCTORS
by
REBECCA LOLLAR REEVES
A DISSERTATION
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Education
in the Department of Educational Leadership,
Policy, and Technology Studies
in the Graduate School of
The University of Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA
2007
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UMI Number: 3270502
Copyright 2007 by
Reeves, Rebecca Lollar
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Copyright Rebecca Lollar Reeves 2007
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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Submitted by Rebecca Lollar Reeves in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Education specializing in Higher Education Administration.
Accepted on behalf of the Faculty of the Graduate School by the dissertation
committee:
Nathaniel
B^verlyC byer, Ed.D.
Michael Harris, Ed.D.
Date
<2, /
Joshua Rothman, Ph.D
Claire Major, P
Chairperson
fephen Tomlinson, Ph.D.
Department Chairperson
David A. Francko, Ph.D.
Dean of the Graduate School
Date
11
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The completion of this doctorate is the culmination of a lifelong goal. I wish to
express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Claire Major, Dr. Michael Harris, Dr. Beverly Dyer,
Dr. Nathaniel Bray, and Dr. Josh Rothman for serving as my dissertation committee. Dr.
Major, as chairperson of my committee, provided constant encouragement, direction, and
advice throughout the dissertation process. Her high expectations and wise insights gave
me the motivation to realize my goal. Dr. Beverly Dyer has been a source of
encouragement and inspiration from the beginning step of this long doctoral journey. Her
wit and wisdom, as both instructor and program advisor, were guiding lights throughout
the doctoral process. I would also like to thank Dr. Michael Harris for helping me
transform a nebulous idea into to a viable dissertation topic and for providing me with the
tools to begin a qualitative study. Dr. Nathaniel Brays incisive comments and
observations offered important insights throughout my research. As a historian, Dr. Josh
Rothmans comments and observations were invaluable in helping me shape the direction
of my study. I deeply appreciate his kind words and advice.
I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to my family for their
unwavering support over the last several years. To my husband, Richard, and our
daughters, Rebecca and Sarah, thank you for your love, faith, and patience. This is as
much your accomplishment as mine. I deeply appreciate my parents, Jean and Charles
Lollar, for their unwavering support throughout my life and for always encouraging me to
persevere and accomplish my goals.
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I would like to thank Mary Barnes, Lance Boyd, Kathy Buckelew, and Glynice
Crow-my dear friends and dissertation cheerleadersfor their advice, support, and
humor throughout the doctoral program. I would not have finished this degree without
my Wallace Gang. I also deeply appreciate the support and encouragement of two very
special dissertation cohorts and friends, Susie Humphries and Deborah Carpenter. Thanks
to Susan Beck and Susan ORear for the constant, kind words of supportand good luck
to you both as you begin your own dissertation journey.
Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude and admiration to the talented,
dedicated, and wonderfully articulate history instructors who participated in this study.
Their amazing generosity of time and wisdom was truly an inspiration.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...................................................................................................... iii
I INTRODUCTION AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM......................................1
Purpose of the Study.................................................................................................... 2
Background and Rationale for the Study....................................................................3
Significance of the Study............................................................................................. 4
Summary....................................................................................................................... 5
II LITERATURE REVIEW.................................................................................................. 6
Introduction................................................................................................................... 6
Community Colleges................................................................................................... 6
The History of Community Colleges....................................................................7
The Community College Today............................................................................ 9
Current Educational Trends.................................................................................11
Community College Students.................................................................................... 15
First Generation College Students...................................................................... 18
Community College Faculty......................................................................................20
Community College History Instructors............................................................ 22
Community College History Curriculum..................................................................24
Assignments......................................................................................................... 27
Assessments......................................................................................................... 28
Pacing the History Curriculum........................................................................... 29
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College History Textbooks................................................................................. 31
The Relevance of Learning History.......................................................................... 31
Effective College Instruction.....................................................................................33
Instructional Methodologies......................................................................................39
Lecture Method.................................................................................................... 39
Active and Experiential Learning.......................................................................41
Technology.......................................................................................................... 46
Distance Learning................................................................................................ 48
Media Enhanced Instruction............................................................................... 50
Classroom Management............................................................................................. 51
Student Evaluations of Faculty................................................................................. 54
Summary..................................................................................................................... 55
III METHODOLOGY...........................................................................................................57
Introduction................................................................................................................. 57
Setting......................................................................................................................... 58
Alabama Community College History Curriculum...........................................59
Theoretical Framework.............................................................................................. 60
Comprehension.................................................................................................... 61
T ransformation..................................................................................................... 62
Instruction.............................................................................................................62
Evaluation.............................................................................................................62
Reflection..............................................................................................................63
Community of Practice........................................................................................63
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Study Design and Questions......................................................................................64
Research Questions.............................................................................................. 66
Research Perspective: Rationale for Qualitative Research..................................... 68
Participants.................................................................................................................. 68
Data Collection and Analysis.................................................................................... 69
Trustworthiness...........................................................................................................71
Researcher Perceptions.............................................................................................. 72
Limitations and Assumptions of the Study...............................................................73
Preliminary Protocol Research................................................................................. 73
Summary..................................................................................................................... 75
IV RESULTS OF THE STUDY........................................................................................... 76
Narrative Case Studies............................................................................................... 76
Lesley.................................................................................................................... 77
Tom....................................................................................................................... 79
Stephen.................................................................................................................. 82
Jane....................................................................................................................... 86
Jim......................................................................................................................... 88
Ann........................................................................................................................ 91
Greg....................................................................................................................... 95
Scott...................................................................................................................... 96
Vince..................................................................................................................... 98
Cross-Case Analysis................................................................................................ 100
Theme 1: A Passion for the Discipline................................................................... 100
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Theme 2: The Historian as a Storyteller................................................................. 104
Theme 3: The Importance of Autonomy in Teaching College History............... 107
Theme 4: Sharing Wisdom and Experience............................................................113
Summary................................................................................................................... 116
V DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, AND CONCLUSIONS........................................118
Discussion................................................................................................................. 119
Discussion of Research Question 1................................................................... 120
Discussion of Research Question 2................................................................... 123
Discussion of Research Question 3................................................................... 127
Discussion of Research Question 4................................................................... 129
Instructional Methodologies............................................................................. 129
Lecture Method...................................................................................................130
Collaborative Learning...................................................................................... 131
Distance Education............................................................................................ 132
Textbooks............................................................................................................ 133
Classroom Management..................................................................................... 134
Discussion of Research Question 5................................................................... 135
Discussion of Research Question 6................................................................... 137
Assessments........................................................................................................137
Assignments........................................................................................................138
Discussion of Research Question 7................................................................... 140
Student Evaluations........................................................................................... 141
Discussion of the Overarching Question..........................................................142
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Implications............................................................................................................... 146
Recommendations for Future Study....................................................................... 147
Recommendations for Practice................................................................................150
Conclusion................................................................................................................ 153
REFERENCES......................................................................................................................154
APPENDICES:
A OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS OF TERMS.................................................... 167
B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR HISTORY INSTRUCTORS......................... 170
C REVISED INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR COLLEGE HISTORY
INSTRUCTORS.......................................................................................................172
D PERMISSION TO CONDUCT RESEARCH STUDY DOCUMENTS............ 175
IX
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CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Good teaching cannot be equated with just technique. It comes from the integrity of the
teacher, from his o f her relation to subject and students, from the capricious chemistry of
it all. (Palmer, 2003, p. 10)
Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. I t s about not only
motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner
that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. I t s about caring for your craft, having a
passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your
students. (LeBlanc, 2002, p. 1)
By the end of the first day of registration, Dr. Rosemary Adamss survey history
courses at Southern Community College are always full. Students stand in line for hours
to register for Dr. Adamss classes, and those students who are too late to grab a slot
often call the Registrars Office to plead for an override. The walls of Dr. Adamss office
are lined with awards and commendations for excellent teaching, and the academic dean
of the college often worries that another institution will steal Dr. Adams away from
Southern Community College. What are the personal and professional characteristics that
make Dr. Adamsand other exemplary instructors on college campuses around the world
and across timeinspiring and powerful teachers? Both educators and students have
pondered this question for centuries, creating an impressive body of literature and a broad
range of opinions and ideas about what constitutes effective college teaching (Hativa,
Barak, & Semhi, 2001).
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The pursuit of excellence in higher education instruction has become an
increasingly important goal for colleges and universities (Ovando, 1989). Colleges are
now under pressure to provide an educational climate that incorporates the best practices
of teaching and learning (Bryant, 2001; Campbell & Evans, 2001; Cohen & Brawer,
2003; OBanion, 1997; Roueche, Ely, & Roueche, 2001). In response to the demands on
colleges to enhance effective instruction (see Appendix A), many institutions are
questioning the value of traditional teaching methodologies and exploring ways to use
technology and incorporate innovative practices, such as problem-based learning (see
Appendix A) and collaborative learning techniques, into the classroom. Institutions of
higher education, particularly 2-year community colleges (see Appendix A), also face the
challenge of meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population who enter
college with a wide spectrum of abilities and backgrounds (OBanion, 1997). Instructors,
students, and administrators have begun to question what pedagogical practices, theories,
and innovations actually comprise good teaching in the 21st century college environment.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the attitudes, techniques, strategies,
teaching behaviors and teaching theories that have been found to be effective in teaching
history in the community college setting. An excellent way to understand what actually
works in a college classroom is to ascertain from effective instructors how they teach and
how they view the craft of teaching (Hativa et al., 2001). Currently, effective college
instructors are most often determined by student evaluations (Chen & Howshower, 2003;
Nolan & Seigrist, 2004; Okpala & Ellis, 2006) and established departmental or divisional
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evaluations of an instructors knowledge and teaching behaviors (Hativa et al., 2001;
Johnson, 2006). Gentry and Pratt (2001) proposed that characteristic benchmarks for
exemplary teachersspecific good instructional practices that can be identified to help
other teachersshould be studied and incorporated into the professional development of
colleges and universities. Given the fact that most university and community college
instructors have little or no training in the methodologies, theories, and techniques of
teaching, the experiences of a successful college instructor could be a beneficial guide in
developing teaching skills (Hativa et al., 2001).
Background and Rationale for the Study
Although past research (Ediger, 1999; Oitzinger & Kallgren, 2004) has examined
the strategies and a methodology used by community college instructors, more research is
needed on how history instructors create a positive learning environment for students.
College history instructors have the vital responsibility of providing students with a
background in history that will help them develop appreciation of their culture and
heritage and make connections between the past and present. This study should offer
history instructors information that may be helpful in providing a productive learning
environment for students and add to the knowledge base on effective college teaching.
Research for this study was established on the following premises: (a) community
colleges and the unique challenges of teaching community college students; (b) past
studies on the characteristics of exemplary college instructors; (c) an analysis of
methodologies and techniques currently used in college history classrooms; (d) methods
of assessing instructor effectiveness in community college history classes; and (e) the
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results of a qualitative study focused on the attitudes, observations, and teaching
methodologies of college history instructors who have been determined to be effective by
student, peer, and administrative evaluations.
Significance of the Study
According to Carroll (1999), a strong background in history is vital to the
appreciation of American culture and heritage and to understanding the people and
societies of the world. An awareness of the events and people of the past can provide
powerful examples to guide decision making throughout ones life. For millions of
Americans, the community college will provide the foundation for their knowledge and
appreciation of history. The students educated each year in community colleges will
become a major force as they assume roles of leadership in government and business and
become the taxpayers, workers, and voters of the 21st century (OBanion, 1997). The
comprehension of historic issues, such as slavery and its enduring influence on African
Americans, discrimination against women and other minoritiesas well as democratic
principles and the rich, multicultural facets of American societyis crucial if todays
students are to be effective agents of reform and progress in the United States (Carroll,
1999). Community college history instructors shoulder much of the responsibility of
communicating the power and possibilities of understanding the past to college students.
For this reason, an appreciation of what effective community college history instructors
do to teach and inspire their students is a vitally important area of research.
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Summary
The purpose of this study was to examine the techniques, strategies, and teaching
theories that have been found to be effective in teaching history in the community college
setting. Instructors who have been determined by supervisor, peer, and student
evaluations to be successful in teaching material and skills to college history students
provided the foundation for this study. Community college history instructors shoulder
much of the responsibility of communicating the power and possibilities of understanding
the past to students. For this reason, understanding what effective community college
history instructors do to teach and inspire their students is a vitally important area of
research.
In order to achieve the goals of this study, it is imperative to understand the
unique demands and opportunities of teaching history in the community college setting.
Chapter II includes a review of literature focused on teaching in the community college
environment, the challenges of teaching both traditional and non-traditional students (see
Appendix A) in community colleges, current trends and methodologies that are
considered to be successful in the college classroom, and the specific aspects of teaching
history in community colleges. Chapter III outlines the qualitative methodology and
analyses that were used in this study. Chapter IV identifies and presents the results of the
study. Chapter V provides a description of the implications, recommendations for future
study, and a conclusion to the research
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CHAPTER II
LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction
Across the United States, nearly 50% of all history courses required for students
enrolled in college degree programs are completed on the campuses of the nations
community colleges (Tai, 2004). For many Americans, experiences in community college
history classes will provide a foundation for their understanding and appreciation of the
American culture and historical heritage. Community college students will someday
become the leaders in government, business, and educational arenas and will shape the
direction for the future of the nation. For this reason, it is vitally important to understand
the personal and professional attributes of effective community college history
instructors. This review will examine current literature on the community college
experience for instructors and students as well as the accepted and successful
methodologies, strategies, and theories used in the college classroom, and the role of
community college history instructors in the educational process. A thorough review of
this literature provided a framework for the purpose and importance of this study and
established the direction and focus for the subsequent research.
Community Colleges
Over the last century, the American community college system has expanded and
developed to meet the needs of a constantly changing population (Kasper, 2003; Milliron,
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& de los Santos, 2004). Perhaps no other segment of postsecondary education has been
more responsive to the public demand for the new skills and knowledge needed to tackle
the challenges of the future. In a community college, adult students of all ages can pursue
a degree while taking advantage of low tuition, convenient campus locations, open
admissions, and comprehensive course offerings (Boggs, 2004; OBanion, 1997; Rouche
et al., 2001). For a growing number of American citizens, community colleges are
providing unprecedented opportunities to achieve both personal and professional goals.
The History of Community Colleges
Considering the long history of higher education in the United States, the
community college phenomenon is of relatively recent vintagea trend that evolved and
expanded over the course of a century (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). According to Roueche et
al. (2001), the creation of community junior colleges was perhaps the most crucial
development in the American higher education system in the 20th century. The first
community college was created in 1901 to provide students in the Chicago area with
remediation before entering the University of Chicago. The concept of junior colleges
and the opportunities these institutions could provide for studentsspread throughout the
nation, opening the door of higher education for millions of Americans. Junior colleges
offered two additional years of schooling after high school, allowing students to prepare
for college and choose career paths. Moreover, these junior colleges offered remediation
for students who were unable to cope with the academic rigors of a university (Bryant,
2001; OBanion, 1997). The 2-year institutions were significantly less expensive than 4-
year colleges and offered educational opportunities for a wider range of the population.
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The emerging philosophy of community colleges reflected the belief that education was
the right of all American citizens (Roueche et al., 2001).
The United States faced enormous challenges in the early 20th century, including
national and international economic crises and global competition for limited resources
(American Association of Community Colleges [AACC], 2004). National and local
leaders across the United States realized that a more skilled workforce would be a major
factor in ensuring the nations continued economic growth and stability. Despite the
demand for a more educated workforce, three-quarters of the students graduating from
high school in thel920s chose not to attend college, in part because many recent high
school graduates were disinclined to attend a distant college or could not afford the high
costs of tuition (OBanion, 1997). Community colleges provided a viable option for
middle-class Americans who wanted to pursue degrees, hone their job skills, or change
careers. A college education became an achievable aspect of the American dream.
The growth of community colleges was also fueled by the nations rapidly
growing public high school system (Gleazer, 2000). In seeking new ways to become
more involved in their communities, it was common for early 20th century high schools
to establish teacher institutes. These institutes were structured to offer vocational
education programs or night school programs that allowed working or older students to
earn a high school diploma. In fact, Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, the nations
first community college, began as a high school-based community institution (Rouche et
al., 1997). Typically, early community colleges were small and rarely enrolled more than
150 students. These early colleges offered a core curriculum of academics, as well as a
variety of extracurricular student activities. One distinguishing feature of early
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community colleges was their availability and access to women who wanted to further
their education beyond high school. Community colleges also played a leading role in
training many of these young women for careers as grammar school teachers (Rorty,
1990). During the early 20th century, it was common for more than 60% of community
college students to be women, practically all of them preparing to be teachers (AACC,
2004).
The community college grassroots movement grew rapidly after World War II
when the G.I. Bill of Rights was enacted and a new wave of students enrolled in
American colleges (OBanion, 1997). The G.I. Bill offered federal money for tuition to
returning soldiers; by the mid-1950s, over seven million returning veterans had taken
advantage of a college education funded by the government. The G.I. Bill marked the
beginning of government involvement in providing education for those who could not
afford the costs of college. The current government grants and loan programs evolved
from programs established to provide education for American war veterans (Roueche et
al., 2001). Many of the veterans chose to begin their college careers in community
colleges, creating a demand for more of the institutions across the nation. From the
combination of these historic developments, American community colleges emerged into
a system that would become the post-secondary foundation for the majority of college
students (AACC, 2006).
The Community College Today
Today more than 1,100 community colleges serve more than 5 million students
across the United States (Milliron & de los Santos, 2004). Community colleges of the
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21st century provide pre-baccalaureate and occupational entry education for many
students who would not otherwise pursue a college education (Cohen & Brawer, 2003;
Kiefer, 1997). According to AACC (2006), approximately 45% of all United States
undergraduates are enrolled in the nations community colleges. These community
colleges award about 400,000 associate degrees to students each year. However, as
community college leaders have noted for years, the number of graduates does not reflect
the number of students who actually attend community college (Quirk, 2001). Many
students who attend community colleges are not seeking degrees or planning to attend a
4-year institution. Community college students often enroll in courses for personal
reasons, for professional development, or to receive credentials or certificates in technical
fields.
According to McPhail, Heacock, and Linck (2005), the changing demographics of
the United States will create a challenge for community colleges across the nation. The
U.S. Census Bureau (2006) reports that, although the foreign-born population now makes
up 11.8% of the U.S. population and is steadily increasing, lower birth rates and an aging
society will contribute to a shortage of workers in the near future. It is estimated that by
2020, 40% of Americans will be more than 45 years old, and about 15% will be over age
65 (Gleazer, 2000). These predictions indicate that only 40% of American citizens will be
of working age, creating a critical shortage of workers in every sector of the economic
structure. These demographic changes, combined with the challenges based on an
increasingly competitive world economy, have been recognized by government and
business leaders as a critical problem that will likely place increased demands on training
and education. Community colleges will have a pivotal role in providing the technical
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and professional training needed to meet the challenges of the future (McPhail et al.,
2005).
Current Educational Trends
Several educational trends have gained particular importance during the last few
years, including the growth of remediation programs and the learning college movement
(Bettiger & Long, 2005; Hesse & Mason, 2005). Remediation programs allow under
prepared students to gain the academic skills needed for success in the college classroom.
Additionally, the learning college philosophy expands the college experience beyond the
campus and provides students with the opportunity to achieve a college degree in
innovative ways (Dougherty & Kienzl, 2005). Both of these trends reflect the changing
role of community colleges as they respond to both student and societal demands.
Community college educators tend to agree that the majority of their students
arrive on campus with a broad range of needs, both academically and personally (Quirk,
2001). According to a 1996 study conducted by the National Center for Education
Statistics [NCES], 2006), 30% of all incoming college freshmen begin their college
career in need of some form of remediation. At the community college level, the need for
remediation is even greater, with 41% of all entering students requiring at least one
remedial class (Bettinger & Long, 2005). The purpose of remedial education is to offer
under-prepared students with the skills necessary to succeed in college and gain
employment in the labor market. Remedial programs are not a new concept in American
higher education (Phipps, 1998). Indeed, in the 17th century Harvard College often
assigned tutors to under-prepared students studying Latin (Phipps, 1998). As students
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from all social and educational backgrounds began to enter college throughout the 20th
century, the need for remedial programs was exacerbated. By the 1960s, most community
colleges had established programs for testing students skills and abilities, as well as a
placement process for remedial classes, as a prerequisite for college-level work.
Although the American higher education system has a history of serving students
who are under-prepared for the academic demands of college, remediation is currently
the subject of heated educational and social debates (Oudenhoven, 2002). How or even if
higher education should address the needs of students who are not prepared for college-
level work is of national concern. Opponents of college remediation programs argue that
the availability of remediation in college removes incentives to do well in high school,
detracts from the education of prepared college students by dumbing down courses,
and leads to low graduation rates. A number of educational and political leaders have
questioned the wisdom of remediation, stating that colleges should not teach what high
schools have already received tax dollars to provide (Oudenhoven, 2002, p. 36).
Perin (2002) noted that 4-year institutions are moving away from offering
remedial services and often advise under-prepared students to attend community colleges
to gain the skills needed for academic success. This trend may shift the responsibility of
remediation primarily to community colleges. Those who advocate offering remediation
at all levels of higher education argue that shifting full responsibility for remediation to
the 2-year schools may be unfair to both the colleges and the students. It has been
suggested that isolating remedial education in the community colleges creates a caste
system between 2-year and 4-year institutions and may limit opportunities for students
(Bettinger & Long, 2005; Perin, 2002). The increased numbers of under-prepared
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students could also tax community college resources to the breaking point (Perin, 2002).
As a college education has become more available to citizens of all levels of society, it is
likely that the validity of remedial programs will continue to be debated.
In much the same way as their colleagues in other disciplines, community college
history instructors deal with under-prepared students who often need guidance and
support to achieve success in the classroom (Lorence, 1999). Survey history courses
require a broad range of academic skills, including reading, research, and writing. History
instructors often find their classes populated with students who need remediation or
accommodations in the classroom. Because survey history courses (see Appendix A) are
required for most associates degrees, it is likely that history instructors will continue to
face the dilemma of providing all students with an opportunity for success. For this
reason, it is imperative for community college history instructors to incorporate
methodologies that are successful in dealing with under-prepared students.
In addition to the issue of remediation, community colleges have responded to the
needs and changes of the student population by embracing the learning college concept.
Community colleges are known for opening the doors of a higher education to students of
all socioeconomic levels (McClenney & Waiwaiole, 2005). During the last decades of the
20th century, the learning environment at colleges and universities has been expanding
considerably beyond the traditional space-bound classroom (Steffes, 2004). Beginning in
the early 1990s, community colleges, which had always stated the importance of student-
centered and teaching-centered values, added learning-centered values to their mission
and program statements (Hesse & Mason, 2005). Community colleges across the nation
adopted the learning college concept that would place learning first and provide
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educational experiences for learners anyway, anyplace, anytime (OBanion, 1997, p.
270).
Many community colleges now offer students a variety of learning opportunities,
such as online and distance learning programs that reflect the learning college philosophy
(Hesse & Mason, 2005). These programs are based on structured experiential learning
and provide students with a foundation and knowledge in class settings well beyond the
walls of the classroom (Steffes, 2004, p. 46). The emerging educational sites may be
online classes taken via the Internet or located at off-campus sites. The courses may also
incorporate real-life experiences into student learning by allowing students to
participate in skills and activities based on their career preparation. Many of the
instructors involved in innovative programs are not part of the formal college faculty but
are experts in their respective fields or involved in the community (Hesse & Mason, 2005
OBanion, 1997). Students who participate in non-traditional educational experiences are
frequently able to make connections between cognitive learning inside the classroom and
learning that occurs in real-world situations. The instructors and mentors involved in
these experiences are often able to shape and direct their students sense of
professionalism in their fields well before they graduate from college.
As community college leaders incorporated the concept of the learning college
into their educational goals, it became necessary to clarify the practical ways this concept
could be introduced into the curriculum (Campbell & Evans, 2001; Cherwitz, 2005;
OBanion, 2000). OBanion (2000) provides direction to the learning college concept by
introducing six key principles of a learning college. These key principles include the
following: (a) the learning college creates substantive change in individual learners, (b)
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the learning college engages learners as full partners in the learning process assuming
primary responsibilities for their own choices, (c) the learning college creates and offers
as many options for learning as possible, (d) the learning college assists learners to form
and participate in collaborative learning activities, (e) the learning college defines the role
of learning facilitators by the needs of learners, and (f) expanded learning can be
documented for its learners. OBanion (1997) stresses that community colleges can create
a strong and positive learning environment based on the learning college concept. The
learning college provides a learning paradigm in which an institutions purpose is not to
transmit information but to establish environments and experiences that allow
participants to ascertain and discern knowledge independently (Barr & Tagg, 1995;
Killacky, Thomas, & Accomando, 2002). The learning college concept has opened the
doors to a number of innovative learning environments and methodologies that have
inspired and encouraged student success.
Community College Students
A study conducted by Miller, Pope, and Steinmann (2005) examined the
demographic characteristics of community college students. Community colleges across
the United States serve more than five million students from all socioeconomic sectors.
Statistics show that 42% of all full-time community college students are between the ages
of 18 and 19; part-time students (17%) are between the ages of 25 and 29. Female
enrollment is slightly higher than male enrollment in the surveyed colleges. Indeed, the
AACC (2006) reports that 59% of all female undergraduates are enrolled in community
college. According to Suarez (2003), approximately 20% of all community college
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students intend to transfer, and there is some evidence that this figure is increasing
rapidly.
In addition to the demographic characteristics of students, the study also
investigated the challenges and goals of students who opt to attend community colleges.
Community college student enrollment comprises nearly half of all undergraduate student
enrollments in higher education in the United States today (Merullo, 2004; Miller et al.,
2005). Students choose community colleges for a variety of reasons, including proximity
to home, affordable tuitions, availability of both academic and technical programs, and
access to remedial and tutoring programs (Bryant, 2001; OBanion, 1997; Rouche et al.,
2001). Community colleges have been extremely successful in providing adult education
programs and courses that are structured to provide personal growth or entertainment.
Community colleges also have a long history of effective vocational training that
responds to local labor needs and have been instrumental in social welfare programs
focusing on adult-literacy training and dislocated-worker retraining (Astin, 1999; Bryant,
2001; Miller et al., 2005).
Community colleges have always served a non-traditional student body (Miller et
al., 2005). Currently, students arrive on college campuses with a range of backgrounds
and experiences that are different from even a decade ago. Current community college
students are more likely to come from single-parent families (Kasworm, 2005) and are
also more likely to experience mental or emotional problems and make use of counseling
services (Gallagher, Gill, & Goldstrohm, 1998). On a positive note, current community
college students tend to have more confidence and sophistication in the use of technology
(Tapscott, 1998). Research also indicates that the current community college student
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prefers to work in group-centered activities and tends to be career focused in their
expectations of a college education (Murray, 2001).
Community college enrollments have grown to be almost the same size as public
4-year university undergraduate enrollments, 5.4 million as compared to 5.9 million,
respectively (Bryant, 2001; Giade, 2005; Miller et al., 2005). Public 2-year community
colleges enroll more Native Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics than 4-year universities.
Of particular note, community college enrollment of undergraduate Hispanic students has
tripled in the past 30 years (Bryant, 2001). The overall 2-year-college enrollment is also
projected to increase by nearly 20% during the next decade.
The enrollment of community colleges also reflects a demographic change due to
an age shift (Boggs, 2004). The community college population has experienced a
decrease in the enrollment of students over the age of 40 (down from 7% to 5%), and a
15% increase in the number of traditional-age students (from 64% to 79% over the last 15
years). Additionally, the percentage of adults earning associate degrees, the highest
degree offered by community colleges and the one most frequently used for transfer to 4-
year institutions has risen from 6% to 8% during the past decade (Bryant, 2001).
Townsend (2003) identified an increasing tension within the community college
classroom, as under-prepared students who are often unable to cope with college-level
work are placed side-by-side with students preparing to transfer to universities.
Increasingly, transfer students are making community colleges their first choice based on
cost, convenience, and, in some instances, a greater ability to refine academic skills
before pursuing a bachelors degree. These students expect a challenging learning
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environment that can leave struggling students behind. Instructors in all disciplines are
charged with seeking ways to meet the needs of both groups within the same classroom.
First Generation College Students
One of the most important challenges for community colleges is finding ways to
respond to the unique requirements of a very diverse community of people, including
traditional and nontraditional students (Inman & Mays, 1999). One noteworthy group
currently influencing programs and policies in American community colleges are first-
generation college students. First-generation college students are important for two
primary reasons: first, these students often represent a large segment of the community
college population; second, they represent a unique ilk with distinct goals, motivations,
and constraints (Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996). Understanding
the special challenges of first-generation students will allow community colleges to
expand programs that encourage success for this group.
Compared to students whose parents attended college, first-generation students
are different in several ways (Terenzin et al., 1996). Often, they are less prepared both
academically and psychologically for the college experience. Typically, first-generation
college students have lower high school GPAs, lower SATs (Inman & Mays, 1999), and
have probably not participated in Advanced Placement or honors programs (Terenzini et
al., 1996). First-generation college students face a variety of nonacademic challenges as
well. They usually come to college from a lower socioeconomic level and struggle with a
variety of economic problems that affect their choices in college. Regardless of the
academic and economic limitations, first-generation college students are often less
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prepared emotionally and psychologically for college (Schuman, 2005). According to a
report published by the U.S. Education Department in 2005, 55% of first generation
community college students were enrolled in remedial courses. In general, first-
generation students have a lower sense of self-efficacy and lower self-esteem (Barnes,
2006; Pike & Kuh, 2005) than students whose parents attended college. For some
students, especially those shifting from the workforce to college, low self-esteem may be
amplified by moving to a situation of low competence in the college classroom
(Terenzini et al., 1994).
Recognizing that this new student group presents both a challenge and a golden
opportunity, community college instructors are examining ways to meet the academic
needs of first-generation college students (Lorence, 1999). Many community college
historians acknowledge that providing a strong foundation in the discipline can furnish
students with valuable building blocks for success. Student attitudes and perceptions of
history are often shaped by their experiences in survey history courses (Carroll, 1999;
Zappia, 1999). Indeed, for a significant number of students, survey history courses are the
only history courses taken during their college career. Introductory courses provide a
unique opportunity to encourage students into a meaningful engagement with the people
and events of past and the blueprint choices made by men and women from other
generations. At this level, an effective history instructor can ignite the spark of inquiry
that will lead new generations to value history as a way of learning vital lessons
concerning ones heritage, society, and the world (McCollough, 2005).
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Community College Faculty
Without a doubt, teaching occupies an important position in community colleges
(Townsend & LaPaglia, 2000). According to Huber (1998),
Community college faculty stands out from many of their professorial colleagues
not only because of the size and diversity of their sector of higher education, but
also because teachingfar more than research or serviceis the heart of their
profession, (p. 12)
Who are these individuals who tackle the challenges of teaching in a community college?
According to statistics provided by the NCES (2006), community college faculty make
up 31% of all higher education faculties in the United States and teach approximately
39% of all higher education students, including 45% of all first-year students (Carducci,
2002). Additionally, a study conducted by the NCES in 2000 reported that approximately
225,000 full-time instructors were employed in the public community college system; of
this number, 38% were tenured (Perlow, 2006). The number of female instructors has
risen significantly over the last 2 decades and currently comprises 47% of all community
college faculties (Hereford, 2000). The average age of a full-time community college
instructor was determined to be 51a statistic that has many community college leaders
concerned about large numbers of retirements in the near future and a possible shortage
of qualified instructors (Flanigan, Jones, & Moore, 2004). Over the last 75 years, the
professional origins of community college faculty have changed considerably, with fewer
teachers tracing their roots to a high school background (Outcalt, 2000). Studies
conducted in 1973 revealed that 53.6% of community college faculty had teaching
experience in secondary schools; this percentage had deceased to 26.3% in 1995
(DeBard, 1995).
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A number of studies conducted over the last 30 years have identified a broad
range of challenges that face community college faculty (Cooper & Pagatto, 2003).
Central to the demands of the classroom is the sometimes overwhelming diversity of
community college studentsin terms of their preparation, expectations, and career goals.
Research also indicates a persistent gap between community college instructors
expectations of students and the kind of work that their students are actually prepared to
do. Another challenge recognized by Grubb (1999) is a sense of isolation perceived by
many community college instructors. Grubb (1999) discovered that faculty isolation was
considered to be a significant obstacle to effective instruction: Except in a small number
of exemplary institutions, most instructors speak of their lives and work as individual,
isolated, and lonely. An instructors job is a series of classes, with the door
metaphorically if not physically closed (p. 49). Other researchers noted an increasing
pressure on community college faculty to engage in research. Huber (1998) found that
25.5% of community college faculty engaged in research regularly, with a similar number
asserting that research was necessary for effective instruction. Pressure to engage in
research might be related to a strong tendency for some community college faculty to
emulate their 4-year counterparts and pursue doctoral degrees (Fugate & Amey, 2000).
Despite the challenges of teaching in the community college, instructors also
identified a number of positive aspects about their job (Fugate & Amey, 2000). Research
reported by Truell, Price, and Joyner (1998) indicated that a majority of community
college faculty were generally satisfied with their job and had a positive perception of
their role as a community college instructor. According to Corbin (2001), community
college instructors role perceptions affect teaching styles and, consequently,
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effectiveness of teaching. For this reason, it is important to understand how community
college faculty members view their respective roles and responsibilities (Levin, 2003).
Satisfied faculty members provide a source of strength and identity to the college
atmosphere. Rosser and Townsend (2006) found that instructors with high and medium
levels of job satisfaction were more effective than those with low job satisfaction.
Research reveals that job satisfaction was independent of length of service and related
solely to an individuals attitude toward their job. Additionally, satisfied faculty
perceived their roles as instrumental in helping students expand their educational goals.
Community College History Instructors
In a study conducted by Zappia (1999), the professional background, educational
levels, and career paths of community college history instructors were examined and
compared to past research on history instructors in both community colleges and 4-year
institutions. This study revealed that 43% of all respondents held doctoral degrees, with
another 5.2% holding Educational Specialists (Ed.S.) degrees. The majority of history
instructors listed a Masters (MA) degree as their highest earned degree (46%). When
asked how many years they had taught at their present institution, 44.2% reported 20
years or more, while 22.7% reported less than 5 years. Responses to questions concerning
the security of their employment indicated that 77.5% of the faculty surveyed was
tenured, 12.8% were on the tenure track, and only 9.7% held part-time, temporary
positions. The study also found that 14.1% of the respondents taught in systems that do
not grant or recognize tenure.
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History instructors at community colleges are generally required to teach multiple
sections of introductory, or survey courses, in American History, Western Civilization,
and/or World History (Tai, 2004). Most community colleges expect full-time faculty to
teach four to six courses per semester, with anywhere from two to five preparations. Each
history class is likely to be composed of 20 to 60 students who are usually heterogeneous
in age, goals, and academic abilities (Tai, 2004; Trask, 1999; Zappia, 1999). A
community college faculty member may usually expect to spend 12 to 16 hours in the
classroom each week, and work with approximately 150 to 175 students each semester,
many of whom will require individual tutoring and advising. Additionally, community
college faculty members are often expected to supervise student organizations, serve on
faculty committees, and attend extracurricular functions and activities. Given the
demands of teaching in a community college, the college teaching career path can
certainly seem daunting to many history instructors.
Like their university counterparts, community college history instructors
sometimes face challenges to their academic freedom (Rausch, 2005). The primary
threats to academic freedom for community college history instructors are usually
derived from internal administrative and bureaucratic forces rather than outside pressure
and public controversy. For community college historians, threats to academic freedom
often focus on two major issues. First, there are limits to academic freedom in terms of
the courses instructors are required to teach. In most community colleges, departmental
policies require instructors teach lower-division survey class, thus limiting options in
teaching ones specialty. Second, community college history instructors grapple with
administrative policies and demands concerning how they teach in regards to curriculum
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formats, departmental syllabi, methods of instruction, and, most particularly, the use of
technology. The drive to make technological innovations a major academic goal is more
pronounced at the community college level and can have a profound effect on how
faculty teach and how much choice they have in teaching. Increasingly, community
college history instructors are feeling pressured to transform their courses into an online
or computer enhanced format (Wark, 2004).
Despite the challenges and demands of teaching in community colleges, many
history instructors strive to present students with a meaningful learning experience
(Abbott & Nance, 1994; Feldman & Paulsen, 1999). According to Rodgers (2005),
history instructors focus on two major goals in structuring a history course:
The first goal is to provide them [students] with a basic knowledge of the kinds of
important historical events and individuals that one would expect a well-educated
person to know. A second goal is to help students to develop critical thinking and
reading abilities, (p. 42)
Beyond these tenets, community college historians also have the responsibility to help
students develop a lasting appreciation for the past (Masur, 2005).
Community College History Curriculum
Community college history programs traditionally offer introductory courses that
undergraduates are required to take as part of the core curriculum. Most liberal arts
disciplines focus on acquainting students with a given subject, including its origins, its
unique language, and major subdivisions (Rogers, 2005). Unlike survey courses in other
subjects, freshman history courses are usually not concerned with introducing students to
history as a discipline. Instead, the primary focus of survey history courses is
communicating a descriptive narrative of particular groups or nations during a specific
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time period. Courses dealing with history as a discipline are generally upper-level
historiography or methods classes taken only by history majors (McMillen, 1996).
To understand why history is unique among other college disciplines, one must
examine in detail at how most survey history classes are taught (McMillen, 1996;
Rodgers, 2005; Townsend, 2005). What goals do most community college history
instructors try to achieve in designing the survey history course? The first and most
obvious goal in the survey history class is to present a narrative introduction of the major
events and individuals in the period of United States, western civilization or world history
that is covered by the course (Rodgers, 2005). For students majoring in history, this
narrative provides an important factual foundation upon which the more narrowly
focused upper-level courses may build. For students taking the course as part of the core
curriculum, the goal is to provide them with a basic knowledge of the kinds of important
historical events and individuals that one would expect a well-educated person to know
(McMillen, 1996; Rodgers, 2005; Zappia, 1998). History instructors have the
responsibility of providing both groups of studentshistory majors and non-history
majors alikewith relevant and inspiring instruction.
Introductory history survey courses play an important role in undergraduate
education, and are often the only college-level history courses taken by those not
majoring in history (Lorence, 1999). Even though a majority of community college
history departments offer survey courses in United States, European, and/or world
history, there is no standard, universal design for introductory level courses. History
instructors, both those who are new to the teaching field as well as seasoned teachers,
often grapple with the challenge of defining and structuring the course and its content
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(Rodgers, 2005). To identify the common themes of the United States history and
European history introductory courses taught in community colleges and 4-year
institutions across the nation, the National College Board conducted a nationwide survey
in 2003 of college faculty teaching these courses (Zappia, 1999). The data garnered from
this survey history research project was analyzed and distributed to members of the
American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians
(OAH). More than 800 community college history instructors responded to the survey,
providing valuable insights into course content, class assignments, pedagogy, and issues
that concern community college instructors.
The survey results identified several issues affecting all college history
instructors. One of the most pressing issues for an instructor attempting to teach an
introductory history course is how to structure and coverin a meaningful waythe
enormous amount of material involved (Reed & Kromrey, 2001; Rodgers, 2005; Zappia,
1999). The dilemma instructors often face is whether to cover course material
chronologically or to organize sections thematically. The National College Board survey
results indicate that most history instructors who teach the introductory U.S. and
European history courses prefer to use a combination of chronological and thematic
approaches. In both courses, only 2% of surveyed faculty members used a purely
thematic approach (Townsend, 2005).
The 2003 National College Board survey also indicated that history instructors
were concerned about choosing and using appropriate teaching strategies to present
material (Townsend, 2005). According to Rodgers (2005), history instructors can best
achieve their goal of creating a viable, meaningful learning experience for students in two
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major ways. First, history instructors must craft a well-prepared narrative of appropriate
historical information. For a history instructor, creating the narrative is a creative act that
requires both critical thinking and a deep, comprehensive knowledge of history. In
creating the narrative, the history instructor is required to reduce massive amounts of
information down to a comprehensible explanation of how a culture and the historical
eras presented to the class evolved over a period of time (McMillen, 2005, Rodgers,
2005). Although there are historical events and individuals that all instructors cover, the
overall content of a survey course will vary significantly according to the vision,
interpretation, and approach of the historian creating it (Rodgers, 2005, p. 43). Second,
history instructors must identify and use appropriate methodologies and assessments that
encourage and reinforce student learning. This research reflects Shulmans theory
concerning the importance of pedagogical content knowledge (see Appendix A) and
appropriate choices of methodologies in effective teaching (Chen, 2004; Shulman, 1992).
Assignments
In addition to knowing what and how to teach, survey history instructors must
also decide on the type and amount of assignments to require from their students
(Townsend, 2005). What types of assignments are appropriate and productive for 21st
century community college history course? For both students and instructors, this
question is of primary importance and can make or break the success of a history course.
Instructors in community colleges must take into consideration the abilities and time
constraints of community college students (McMillen, 2005; Townsend, 2005).
Community college students often arrive to the college history class burdened with heavy
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responsibilities of jobs and family and are unable or unwilling to respond to the
traditional college history assignments that require extensive reading, memorization, and
research (Dollinger, 2000; Robinson & Kakela, 2006). Moreover, many students may
lack the background and preparation to tackle assignments their instructors may have
experienced in their own undergraduate days (Dollinger, 2000). History instructors have
the challenge of finding a balance between assignments that can reinforce student
learning and prepare them for the rigors of 4-year universities and meeting the needs of
individual students. History instructors are charged with the responsibility of carefully
considering the assignments they require of students and evaluating these tasks for their
currency and effectiveness (Dollinger, 2000; Rodgers, 2005; Zappia, 1999).
In a study reported by Townsend (2005), both university and community college
history instructors were asked to respond to a questionnaire concerning the types of
assignments they gave their students. Most of the surveyed community college instructors
(78%) indicated that they assigned a research paper. Interestingly, only 40% of history
instructors in 4-year institutions assigned research papers to students-most likely due to
the large class sizes of university survey history courses. In addition to research papers,
community college history instructors were more likely to give students reading
assignments from the textbook and other sources and require students to use the readings
to answer questions or prepare for a test (Tai, 2004; Rodgers, 2004).
Assessments
Each semester, college history instructors struggle with issues concerning testing
and student assessment (Townsend, 2004). Traditionally, college history students were
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tested with essay exams that required students to organize and write responses to
questions based on material learned from class lectures and readings (Bridgeman &
Lewis, 1994; Tai, 2005; Townsend, 2005). Over the last 2 decades, however, both
university and community college instructors have begun to use other types of tests,
including, more often than not, multiple choice tests (Bridgeman, Morgan, & Wang,
1997). Instructors cite a number of reasons for using alternatives to the essay test,
including the time required for grading essay tests for large numbers of students and
students lack of preparation in organizing and writing an essay test response. Despite the
growing popularity of multiple choice tests, the majority of history instructors in both 4-
year institutions and community colleges continue to incorporate essay questions into
their assessments of student performance (Townsend, 2005). Interestingly, both
university and community college instructors were more likely to use a multiple choice
test in U.S. History than in European history.
Pacing the History Curriculum
For most community college students, survey history courses focus on either
European or world history or United States history (Martin, 2001). Community college
history instructors are usually required to teach a combination of these subjects in the
timeframe of a semester or quarter system. In a study conducted in 1993 by the National
College Board, 830 community college history instructors revealed that they tended to
cover time periods and topics for the U.S. history introductory courses both
chronologically and thematically (Townsend, 2005). Most respondents in the study,
around 71%, indicated that their survey courses in U.S. history began with the pre-
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Columbian period with a focus on Native American tribes and culture. According to
Townsend, a comparison of results of past survey data indicated that there has been very
little change in the chronological and topical breakdown of the U.S. history courses.
Interestingly, survey comparisons indicated an increase in coverage of social and cultural
history in U.S. history survey courses.
As in the case of the U.S. history course, there was little variation among the
history instructors surveyed in terms of the chronological coverage of the introductory
course in European history (Townsend, 2005). Townsend reported the results of a 2003
study that focused on the teaching practices of European history instructors in community
colleges. The results of this study, along with the National College Boards past results,
show very little change in the content of the Western Civilization survey courses. Survey
analysis indicated that, like the respondents who participated in earlier studies, most
instructors spent 25% of the course on the early period from 1450 to the Renaissance and
75% of the course on the period from Renaissance to the present. A difference between
the 1997 and 2003 surveys emerged in respect to the starting point of the course. Public
2-year institutions appear to devote more time to earlier periods of history, similar to the
trend noted among faculty who teach the introductory U.S. history course.
A questionnaire dispersed to community college history instructors determined
the general premises and themes that should be incorporated into all history courses
(Trask, 1999). Instructors were asked to list the top five themes in teaching survey
courses, both U.S. and European history. The themes identified in this research included
the following: intellectual and cultural developments and their relationship to social
values and political events; the developments in social, economic, and political thought;
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changes in religious thought and institutions; the origins, development, and consequences
of urbanization and industrialization, such as economic trends, cultural value systems
geographical and climactic limitations; short-term causations such as the conscious
efforts of individuals or groups to affect some type of outcome (p. 45).These underlying
themes allow students to synthesize historical information and understand the
connectivity and impact of historic events to present-day situations.
College History Textbooks
Community college history instructors tend to rely more heavily on textbook
readings than their 4-year university counterparts (Townsend, 2005). Community college
history departments adopt a broad range of textbooks in both U.S and European history
courses. In a study conducted in 2004, researchers found that no single textbook in the
U.S. history survey is used by more than 10% of the respondents, with just three
textbooks cited by more than 7% of the respondents. Several recent studies have focused
on how textbooks are used by history instructors. Textbooks play an important role in
many community college history classes and often dominate the readings students are
required to do in the course (Cohen, 2005). In classrooms where textbooks are the
primary source of readings, objective tests, rather than essay tests, are the most common
form of evaluation.
The Relevance of Learning History
In 1990, Rosenzweig and Thelen (1998) directed 1,500 interviews with American
college students concerning their attitudes about history. Open-ended questions asked
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students to describe their experiences in studying history throughout their academic
careers. The words most often used by participants were dull, boring, and irrelevant.
Given this attitude about college history courses, it is often a difficult task to convince
students that learning history is a valid, vital pursuit and worthy of their time.
To address the issue of the relevance of history, Steames (1993) established six
justifications for teaching history in college. These reasons include the following: (a)
History offers a store of information about how people and societies interact. History
helps people understand the complexities of both human nature and the societies they
create, (b) History helps one understand the constant changes that occur in society and
how these changes affected the past and may shape the future, (c) Exploring what
historians label the pastness of the past, that is, how the people of the past constructed
their lives and relationships, creates a sense of beauty and fascination, (d) History
provides a framework for moral decisions. By examining the choicesgood and badof
people of the past helps one develop a guide for moral decisions of the present, (e)
History provides people with a personal identity. Exploring ones family history and
making historical connections between ones ancestors and events of the past allows one
to make valuable insights family relationships, (f) History offers information about the
development of national issues, institutions, and values. The study of history encourages
the development of citizenship and patriotism. According to Steames (1993), History
should be studied because it is essential to individuals and to society, and because it
harbors beauty (p. 4).
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Effective College Instruction
Because teaching is a complex, problem-solving activity and teacher quality is a
complex topic, the elements of college teaching can be extremely difficult to define
(Braxton, Olsen, & Simmons, 1998). The definition of teacher quality varies from a focus
on what an instructor knows and does in the classroom, to how and to what extent
knowledge is acquired by students. Despite the difficulty of defining good teaching at the
postsecondary level, the powerful influence of effective instructors has generated
numerous studies on college teaching and student learning. According to Darling-
Hammond (2000), research has concluded that students exposed to high quality
instruction learn more than other students. In a similar study conducted by Opalka and
Ellis (2005), the perceptions of college students concerning effective college teaching
were identified. The study used a mixed method of qualitative and quantitative research
with 218 college students and focused on the instructor qualities that enhanced or
encouraged learning or enjoyment of the class or subject matter. The study revealed
several emerging themes on the qualities of effective college instruction. The themes
identified included teaching skills, commitment to student learning, content knowledge,
and strong verbal skills. The results of this study seemed to support previous findings that
teacher quality is an important educational issue and that an instructors qualifications
and background are fundamental elements of teacher quality (Darling-Hammond, 2000).
The author summarized the impact of this study as follows:
It is apparent from this study that quality teachers must embrace the vision of
caring for students and their learning. The primary customers of educational
organizations are the students, and quality teachers need to be committed to
students and their learning goals. Quality teachers must have the ability to use a
variety of instructional methods in their classroom to meet students learning
needs, (p. 376).
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Research conducted by Opalka and Ellis (2005) identified a number of qualities of
an effective college instructor. When asked to describe what a quality teacher means to
them, about 39% of the college students in the study indicated an instructors sincere
concern for students and their academic success was a vital factor in the learning process.
Additionally, 53.7% of the respondents strongly agreed with the premise that students
learn best when an instructor knows how to teach. This research echoes the findings in
previous studies on effective college teaching and indicates a direction for instructor
preparation (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Johnson, 2006).
Although instructors determined by student evaluations to be effective display a
variety of styles and attitudes, there are personal and professional characteristics that
effective instructors seem to share. According to Leblanc (1998), an effective instructor
displays passion for the subject he or she teaches and a drive to inspire students to learn.
Good teachers also know how to listen and respond to students with humor, flexibility,
and an honest interest in student learning (DeWinstanley & Bjork, 2002; Greinke, 2004).
Most importantly, an effective instructor truly enjoys teaching: At the end of the day,
good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure, and intrinsic rewards
(Leblanc, 1998, p. 147).
According to Lowman (1994), intellectual excitement and rapport between the
instructor and students are also powerful indicators of effective teaching. Students often
determine instructional effectiveness by how interesting and how clear they find an
instructors teaching. Instructors who have developed a unique, personal style of teaching
that students find engaging are more likely to be seen as more effective than those whom
students consider bland or boring. In addition to these attributes, teachers who are able to
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establish rapport with students both in and out of the classroom have a powerful
motivational influence on students (Drummond, 2004).
Research conducted by Hativa et al. (2001) reflects the results of previous studies
on effective college instructors. Using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies,
the researchers interviewed four college instructors determined by student evaluations to
be effective teachers, examined video recordings of each instructor interacting with
students in the classroom, and analyzed the results of a student survey on effective
college instruction. The goal of the study was to identify the beliefs and general
pedagogical knowledge of exemplary college instructors regarding successful teaching
strategies, how these strategies are used, and the relationship between their beliefs and
knowledge to their classroom practice. The results of the study determined that effective
instructors are highly organized, spend significant time planning their lessons, set definite
goals, and have high expectations of their students. Additionally, effective instructors
give students regular feedback regarding their progress in the course and may assume a
major responsibility for student outcomes.
An effective college instructor must also address classroom management issues
such as organization of the curriculum, dealing with student behavior and assessment of
student work-in order to create a positive learning environment for students (Davis,
1997; Opalka & Ellis, 2005). Students expect a college instructor to display excellent
organizational skills and handle student behavior issues in a fair and consistent manner.
Glenn (1998) noted that successful college instructors tend to develop clear standards
concerning class requirements and grading. These standards are often communicated to
students in advance as part of a comprehensive syllabus and applied consistently and
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fairly throughout the term. Teachers who are perceived as unorganized or inconsistent are
often seen as incompetent or ineffective by students.
Faculty-student contact outside the classroom can have a positive influence on the
educational experience of community college students (Bain, 2004; Ei & Bowen, 2002;
Lundberg & Schreiner, 2004). Currently, the community college student is likely to be a
non-traditional studentfirst-generation college students, minorities, older students, and
working students with families now represent the majority of the community college
population (Jacobson, 2000; Rouech et al., 2001). Positive contacts with instructors can
increase the likelihood that these non-traditional students will be successful in their
studies, complete their community college courses, and transfer to a 4-year institution.
Current research of student success indicates that faculty-student contact outside the
classroom has a significant and positive impact on students and is an integral part of good
teaching (Ei & Bowen, 2002). According to Jenkins (2005), it is vitally important for
instructors to recognize, understand, and address the problems and challenges faced by
students. An instructor who is sensitive to the needs of students and proactive in helping
students overcome barriers to success in college can have a positive and powerful impact
on student retention.
Eble (1988) noted that research on the characteristics of effective college teaching
can be traced from the early 20th century and continues to the present. A meta-analysis of
a broad range of studies reveals consistent findings on the characteristics and abilities of
an effective college instructor. Elbe states:
Most studies stress knowledge and organization of subject matter, skills in
instruction, and personal qualities and attitudes useful to working with students. If
personal characteristics are emphasized in a study, good teachers will be singled
out as . . . enthusiastic, energetic, approachable, open, concerned, imaginative,
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[with a] sense of humor. If the mastering of a subject matter and good skills are
emphasized, good teachers are masters of subject, can organize and emphasize,
clarify, point out relationships, can motivate students, pose and elicit questions
and are reasonable, imaginative and fair in managing the details of learning, (pp.
21-22)
Experts in postsecondary education have presented numerous theories on student learning
and effective instruction. Understanding important theories on how learning takes place
in a formal, classroom setting is vital to the analysis of exemplary teaching. These
theories reflect the results of previous studies conducted on successful college instruction
and the qualifications of exemplary college teachers.
National associations, such as the American Association of Colleges and the
National Endowment for the Humanities, have voiced concerns about the quality of
instruction in college classrooms (Braxton et al., 1998). A number of recommendations
for enhancing the quality of instruction have been proposed by these groups and other
organizations. Chickering and Gamsons (1999) seven principles for good practice offer a
promising approach to improving teaching and learning in undergraduate education.
According to the authors, effective college instructors incorporate the established
principles into their teaching methodologies and philosophies.
Effective instructors provide opportunities for student-faculty involvement.
Research indicates that student motivation and involvement are promoted by frequent
student-faculty contact both in and out of class. Effective instructors also encourage
cooperation among students. Chickering and Gamson (1987) contend that collaboration
between students in both formal and informal groups increases learning. Effective
instructors encourage students in active learning. Active learning requires college
instructors to move past passive learning to active learning and find more meaningful
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ways of engaging students in the learning process. Effective instructors provide prompt
feedback of course performance. Appropriate feedback helps students assess their
knowledge and skills in their coursework. Effective instructors emphasize time on task,
or the time students should spend learning course material, and communicate high
expectations to students. Additionally, effective instructors respect the diverse talents,
learning styles, and abilities of individual students. Chickering and Gamson (1999) based
their seven principles of good practice on an extensive body of research on teaching and
learning theory. This study examines how and to what extent these principles are
expressed in the teaching methodologies and attitudes of effective community college
history instructors.
In research conducted by DuBois (1993), exemplary community college
instructors were interviewed to determine specific characteristics and attitudes. Reflecting
the theories of Shulman (1992), Chickering and Gamson (1999), Lowman (1994), and
others, this study determined that exemplary community college instructors share a
number of distinct characteristics, which include the following: a strong command and
organization of their subject, an enthusiasm about their discipline and class presentations,
an approachable and friendly style with students, and the ability to motivate students to
form goals and succeed academically. In addition to these traits, DuBois (1993) also
discovered a number of hidden characteristics shared by successful community college
instructors. These traits refer to shared life experiences that may explain the abilities and
attitudes of exemplary instructors. The study determined that effective instructors shared
the following life experiences: overcoming a difficult childhood experience that served to
attract them to helping professions; teachers who served as strong, inspiring role models;
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a distinct identity as a teacher and role model; and a strong need for positive relationships
with students. These characteristics have not been extensively reported in past research
literature and provide an interesting dimension in the examination of effective college
teachers.
Instructional Methodologies
How do effective instructors apply recognized theories of learning to classroom
instruction? From the early medieval universities, instructors have searched for
innovative ways to transfer knowledge from the learned expert to the student (Rorty,
1986). Instructors in all disciplines of higher educationand particularly in community
collegesare currently challenged by an increasingly diverse student population (Bryant,
2004; OBanion, 1997). According to many experts in higher education, traditional
methods of teaching may not correspond to the needs of non-traditional students. Current
literature provides a rich source of material concerning college teaching strategies.
Lecture Method
From Platos Academy of ancient Greece to the modem university, knowledge
has been transmitted verbally from teacher to student (Rorty, 1998). The original Socratic
Method employed by Greek philosophers required a dialogue between teacher and
student that was stmctured to guide students to intellectual and philosophical discoveries.
The lecture, developed in the medieval university, presented students with the discourse
of a learned expert that required little or no active response from the students. Originally,
lecturing was the only way that the knowledge stored in books could be transmitted to a
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large number of students; in fact, the word lecture is derived from the Latin legere,
meaning to read. Many centuries after the invention of the printing press and other
significant advances in technology, the lecture continues to be the primary mode of
instruction in higher education. The reasons for the popularity of the lecture are apparent:
lectures are cheap, since a single teacher can lecture to a classroom full of students;
lectures are easily changed and updated by the instructor; and they are efficient in
covering a wide range of material in a timely manner. Finally, and perhaps most
important, the method is familiar to students and teachers alike, with the roles of teachers
and students clearly defined.
According to de Winstanley and Bjork (2003), the lecture has recently come into
disrepute as a method of teaching. Active learning, cooperative learning (see Appendix
A), and student-based learning are often touted as more conducive to the learning needs
of 21st century students, making the lecture both outdated and unproductive as a teaching
methodology. However, this view of the lecture method may be incorrect as well as
impractical (Spector, 2002). In most institutions of higher education, 4-year universities
and community colleges alike, a majority of survey courses, especially survey history
courses, are often extremely large. The lecture method offers a viable method of
presenting information to large groups of students.
Despite the criticism the lecture method has garnered recently, most college
history instructors continue to use this method as their primary mode of instruction
(Detweiler, 2004; deWinstanley & Bjork, 2002). The lecture has a place in todays
college classroom, but lecturers should incorporate current research findings on student
learning when structuring lessons (Detweiler, 2004). To realize their maximum potential,
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students must do more than just listen in the classroom, they must also engage in
activities and discussion regarding the course materials. Teachers can use some simple
techniques, along with lecturing, to encourage students to learn and process the events,
facts, and people that make up a history lesson (Wingfield & Black, 2005). Pausing at
least three times during a lecture to allow for discussion among the students may help
them clarify and assimilate the information. According to Torok, McMorris, and Lin
(2004), successful college lecturers often incorporate humor into the presentation of
material. In the college classroom, humor is usually viewed as an important teaching tool
in courses students consider boring or difficult (Berk & Nanda, 1998; Friedman, Halpem,
& Salb, 1999; Ziv, 1988).
Active and Experiential Learning
In the early 20th century, John Dewey, an influential leader in experimental
educational philosophy, presented theories that revolutionized how learning took place in
the classroom (Martinez-Aleman & Salkever, 2003). Dewey believed that learning should
actively engage students in activities that provided freedom to learn and understand
beyond rote memorization. Deweys educational philosophy encouraged thinking and
reflection, for both students and teachers, and presented the revolutionary concept that the
classroom could be a community based on democratic ideals. Deweys progressive ideas
sparked a number of educational experiments that spread from kindergarten to the college
classroom (Hickcox, 2002). Proponents of Deweys philosophy recognized the
importance of active learning as part of the educational process and supported methods
and strategies that demanded higher thinking skills from students (Kosnoski, 2005).
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David Kolbs experiential theory of education is based in part on the works of
Dewey as well as the cognitive development theories of Jean Piaget. Kolbs theory
identifies four distinct learning processes, each of which must occur before learning can
take place (Kolb, 1984). The learning cycle begins with the concrete experience in
which the learner develops a personal involvement in the learning activity. In the second
stage of Kolbs theory, the reflective observation cycle, the learner reflects on the
learning experience and draws logical conclusions and observations. When this level is
achieved, abstract conceptualization takes place, allowing the learner to add his or her
own conclusions to the theoretical constructs of others (Kolb, 1984, p. 8). In the final
cycle of the learning process, the active experimentation stage, the learner uses the
conclusions developed in the third stage to inspire new concrete learning experiences
(Philbin & Meier, 1995). Kolbs theoretical model focuses on how students perceive the
information to be learned and how they process that information. Kolbs theory stresses
that it is vital that students feel a personal connection with the material to be learned as
well as with the instructor (Fox & Ronkowski, 1997).
According to Wingfield and Black (2005), todays changing environment requires
an employee who can analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources, make
decisions, and implement a course of action. Employers expect their workforce to possess
strong communication skills; be flexible, yet decisive; and be prepared to apply
knowledge in diverse situations. Institutions of higher education must accept the
responsibility for providing students with these necessary skills. College instructors focus
on two goals: (a) imparting knowledge and (b) developing the skills required in todays
dynamic business environment. As a result, identifying characteristics or styles of
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education that can have the greatest and most permanent impact on college students is
becoming an increasingly crucial issue. A review of current literature on teaching styles
and student learning indicates that active learning methodologies, such as constructivism
and cooperative learning, can be powerful tools in preparing students for success in their
chosen careers (Henry, 2002; Kaye, 2000).
Constructivism, an approach to teaching that encourages students to seek answers
for themselves, while the instructor acts as a guide and facilitator, can also be a
successful tool in student learning (Switzer, 2004). Problem-based learning, an
instructional method based on constructivist theories, has been identified as a viable
method of presenting students with higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills
(Conner-Greene, 2002; Herron & Major, 2004). Research indicates that other methods,
such as cooperative learning and technology, can contribute to a richer learning
environment for students (Owen & Demb, 2004).
Problem Based Learning (PBL) has deep roots in the theories of John Dewey and
David Kolb, which stressed the importance of practical experience in student learning
(Hmelo-Silver, 2004). PBL is the focused, experiential learning organized around the
investigation, explanation, and resolution of meaningful problems (p. 236). In a PBL-
based learning activity, students work in small cooperative groups and learn what they
need to know in order to solve a problem (Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Herron & Major, 2004).
The instructor acts as a facilitator to guide students through a cycle of learning that leads
students to a solution to a problem. In this cycle, students are presented with a problem
scenario and are then required to formulate and analyze the problem by identifying the
relevant facts from the scenario. As students understand the problem better, they are able
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to generate hypotheses about possible solutions. A vital element of the PBL cycle is
identifying knowledge deficiencies relative to the problem and seeking ways to address
these deficiencies through research or experimentation. PBL has been successfully
incorporated into the community college classroom. A study conducted by Swartz and
Branford (1998) in undergraduate psychology classes indicated that well-constructed
PBL activities increased student learning between pre-tests and post-tests and increased
student interest in the lecture.
Group endeavors have been recognized throughout history as an impetus to
human advancement and achievement; indeed, many historians count the ability of
people to reach a group consensus and take action as the very basis for civilization
(Cooper, 1995). It is not surprising that the power of collaborative efforts is now a current
topic for college educators (Karnes & Collins, 1997; Pauley, 2001). Todays college
students represent a wide range of academic motivations, abilities, learning styles, and
interests; the needs of this diverse group are not always met with traditional methods of
instruction (Johnson & Johnson, 1993). Instructors have the overwhelming responsibility
of choosing the appropriate methods and tools of instruction to help individual students
meet their learning goals. According to many educational researchers, cooperative
learning may be the best way to help college students prepare for a successful and active
future in a democratic society (Nelson, 1999; Pauley, 2001).
Although cooperative learning has been studied and debated by educational
experts for over a century, most of the body of research focuses on elementary and
secondary education (Morgan, 2003). However, as college and university instructors have
begun to seek innovative ways to teach students, researching the impact of cooperative
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learning in the college setting has gained momentum. In a study conducted by Morgan
(2003), the attitudes of 140 university seniors, who had participated in cooperative
learning activities that resulted in a group grade, were studied. An analysis of results
determined that 30% of the participants indicated that they had reached a higher level of
understanding of material required for the class. The study found that students developed
a strong sense team building and the development of a sense of responsibility. One
participant stated: I was more concerned about learning the material because I didnt
want to let any team members down (p. 44).
Other studies on cooperative education in postsecondary education reveal the
powerful and positive affects of this method on the learning and attitudes of students
(Pauley, 2001; Strom & Strom, 2002). In a meta-analysis of research conducted between
1990 and 1997, Strom and Strom (2002) compiled evidence of the effects of cooperative
learning. According to the researchers, cooperative learning results in
significant student gains in problem-solving skills, more favorable attitudes
toward education, increased willingness to try new and difficult tasks, an
enhanced sense of belonging, greater appreciation for persons of other ethnic
backgrounds, reduction of misbehavior, and better relationships with classmates.
(Strom & Strom, 2002, p. 315)
Cooperative learning also helps students develop listening skills, encourages teamwork,
and teaches students how to negotiate conflictabilities considered vital for success in
society (Pauley, 2001).
Despite the fact that cooperative learning experiences can be successful in the
college classroom, many community college instructors have reservations about
incorporating this method into their instruction (Strom & Strom, 2002). Community
college instructors often voice two concerns associated with cooperative learning. First,
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instructors express uncertainty about how to evaluate the activities or projects created by
group work. Although instructors want to be effective in judging what happens during a
group project, they are seldom able to witness or appropriately evaluate the interaction
between team members. Instructors also express concern about their students lack of
experience with group based learning. This lack of experience sometimes creates
tremendous frustration for both the instructor and students, making instructors reluctant
to integrate cooperative learning activities into their teaching structure. These concerns
can be resolved with professional development focused on cooperative grouping and
activities and mentoring programs that pair experienced instructors with teachers who are
uncomfortable with group learning (Murray, 2001; Strom & Strom, 2002).
Technology
Technology use has become an important element of education for college
students on campuses nationwide (Al-Bataineh & Brooks, 2003). Both community
colleges and 4-year institutions spend vast amounts of time and money to keep abreast of
constantly changing computer technology. Because technology has become such an
integral part of the postsecondary experience, it is relatively easy to forget that computer
use in education is a comparatively new phenomenon that has evolved to widespread use
only within the last 20 years (Johnson & Bartleson, 2001). According to Roblyer and
Edwards (2000), teachers began to have more control over classroom technology use
with the introduction of the first microcomputers in 1997. Even as technology use and
application has made rapid advances on college campuses, many of the issues related to
technology use remain remarkably constant. These issues include properly trained staff,
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adequate equipment, ongoing funding, and successful integration of technology in order
to maximize learning. Effectively meeting such challenges can magnify the advantages of
incorporating technology while diminishing the disadvantages.
Until recently, research in technology has focused on the debate between
computerized learning versus non-computerized learning. Researchers in higher
education, however, have noticed a shift in the focus of technology studies to determining
the appropriate uses of technology for different ability levels and content areas and an
examination of the issues presented by widespread use of technology (Al-Betaineh &
Brooks, 2003). The International Society for Technology in Education (2005) presents a
synopsis of the current challenges that must be addressed in order to maximize a
technology in the postsecondary learning environment. These challenges include visions
with support and proactive leadership from the education system; educators skilled in the
use of technology for learning; content standards and curriculum resources; student-
centered approaches to learning; assessment of the effectiveness of technology for
learning; technical assistance for maintaining and using technology resources;
community partners who provide expertise, support, and real-life interactions; ongoing
financial support for sustained technology use; and policies and standards, supporting
new learning environments (p. 4). Clearly, a number of the issues related to technology
have existed since computers were first introduced into the classroom (Al-Betaineh &
Brooks, 2003). All participants in the educational process, students and instructors alike,
need to be knowledgeable about effective uses of technology.
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Distance Learning
Because community college students require flexibility, community colleges were
among the earliest institutions to promote distance learning (Tai, 2004). Community
colleges inaugurated a homebound program in the 1970s that allowed students to pursue
coursework in their homes. With the introduction of computer technology and Internet
access, community college faculty have transformed their courses with innovations such
as web-based images and readings; online class assignments, tutorials, and discussion
boards; fully online asynchronous courses; and learning style and career-advisory
diagnostic software. Historians on community college campuses are going beyond just
applying this technologythey are developing it, often with the support of prestigious
grants (Lorenzetti, 2004).
Distance learning, like the growth of remedial programs and the establishment of
learning colleges, reflects the changing demands of the 21st century community college
student (Smith & Ayers, 2006). Community college students tend to work either full- or
part-time and often enter college with family responsibilities that can present
insurmountable obstacles for students (Floyd & Walker, 2003). These challenges can be
positively addressed by distance learning programs (Lorenzetti, 2004). Community
colleges are a natural match for distance education. More than any other type of
institution, the community college attracts a student body that varies widely in age, life
circumstance, and a need to balance study with other commitments. Indeed, distance
education has made a college education a possibility for students who would otherwise be
unable to attend college.
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The role of technology in the delivery of instruction at universities has been an
extraordinary development in higher education (Wegner, Holloway, & Garton, 1999).
While relatively unheard of a decade ago, Internet-based courses have created a wide
range of possibilities for college students. Students are able to receive and send
coursework via the Internet on the campuses of most community colleges and
universities. Indeed, college students are now able to pursue an entire degree program
without attending a class on campus. According to Plotnik (1995), the predictions made
just a few years ago that the Internet would soon be as common as the telephone or
television as a means of communication have rapidly become a reality. Moreover, the use
of the Internet for delivery of distance education will likely increase at all levels of the
higher education system.
Educational experts have identified a number of concerns about distance learning
(Wegner et al., 1999). Several of these problems have been identified as possible barriers
to learning. First, many students and instructors lack the technological expertise to
appropriately access distance learning. Second, faculty resistance to change and student
passivity are also perceived as serious drawbacks to distance learning. While these points
represent legitimate areas of concern, for the most part the problems relate to training and
technology issues that may be addressed with additional training.
Community college history instructors are expected to respond to current
educational trends and incorporate appropriate strategies and methodologies that reflect
abilities and expectations of current students. As established by Shulmans (1992) theory
of pedagogical content knowledge, the challenges of teaching in a community college
require a deep and flexible knowledge of history and a commitment to finding the best
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methodologies for teaching students. For a growing number of community college
historians, the goal of creating a positive learning experience for students has led to
incorporating current technology into their instruction.
Media Enhanced Instruction
In addition to computer-based instruction, community college history teachers
may also tap into a rich source of visual and auditory resources (Cohen, 2005; Dollinger,
2000). For example, period music can help bring a sense of time and place to the
community college history experience. Instructors can prepare an audio (or video)
selection based on that days lecture topic. For a lecture on the Great Depression, one
could play Brother Can You Spare a Dime or Happy Days Are Here Again,
selections from Franklin D. Roosevelts first inaugural address or one of his fireside
chats. A lecture on post-World War II popular culture could include footage from Elvis
debut on the Ed Sullivan show or a news clip on the Korean War. A civil rights lecture
might incorporate images of the Selma to Montgomery march or an audio of Martin
Luther Kings I have a dream speech. By beginning a history class with a music or
video, instructors can generate interest, or even excitement, about history topics (Cohen,
2005; Dollinger, 2000; Ghelawat, 2004).
Community college history survey courses have traditionally reinforced what has
been called the five pillars of classical historical instruction: lectures, note-taking, texts,
tests, and term papers (Sprau, 2001, p. 101). Many history educators pattern their
teaching styles on the history professors of their own undergraduate days and strongly
support these methods and tools as most effective for teaching history. Students,
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however, often indicate that they find their history classes boring and repetitive. Media
enhanced instruction offers history instructors a powerful tool in reaching and educating
21st century students.
Classroom Management
An important element of effective teaching is providing an environment
conducive to student learning (Bartlett, 2004). According to Robinson and Kakela (2006),
instructors can enhance student success learning by creating a space for fun, interaction,
and trust in which teachers and students together build a learning environment that
promotes engagement, deep learning, and meaning (p. 101). To design a classroom
environment that facilitates student learning, it is important for community college
instructors to understand how to manage a classroom composed of a diverse group of
students with a wide variety of abilities and learning styles. Many community college
instructors enter the classroom with little or no preparation for the challenges of
managing a classroom. Good teaching requires more than knowledge of ones discipline
and instructional methodologies (Ternes, 2002). Effective instructors must also develop
keen skills in classroom management.
To understand the demands of designing and maintaining a positive class
environment, one must examine the challenges that college instructors face on a daily
basis (Bartlett, 2004). Of major concern to many higher educational professionals is rude
or disruptive behavior. On community college campuses across the nation, many
instructors are noting a change in the attitudes and behaviors of students (Robinson &
Kakela, 2006). College instructors often report being required to deal with students
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rude behavior that threatens to undermine their teaching (Bartlett, 2004, p. A8).
Effective instructors tend to develop strategies that deal with disruptive behavior
immediately, while maintaining a positive class atmosphere.
Many community colleges are currently offering professional development in
classroom management based on current research (Robinson & Kakela, 2006; Temes,
2002). This research suggests that instructors can establish guidelines and class authority
systems that encourage positive behaviors in students. Bartlett (2005) recommends the
following tips for helping a college class run smoothly: establish credibility on the first
day of class. Let students know why you are the best person to teach this course; show
students you care about them as people. Learn their names and where they are from; be
consistent. If you tell the class that late papers will not be accepted, then do not accept
them; handle discipline problems as soon as they occur; demonstrate that your knowledge
of the material is up to date and will benefit them in the long run. Studies of student
evaluations of effective college teaching indicate that students actually want their
instructor to be in charge of the classroom and deal with inappropriate student behavior
(Young, 2003).
Although student misbehaviors and disruptions in the college classroom have
been given a great deal of attention in a number of recent studies and articles (Merwin,
2005; Seidman, 2005), negative behaviors from instructors can also interfere with student
learning and create an unconstructive climate in the college classroom (Kelsey, Kearney,
Plax, Allen, & Ritter, 2004). Student evaluations indicate that specific teacher behaviors
can irritate, demotivate, or substantially distract from them in an aversive way (p. 40).
In a quantitative study conducted by Kelsey et al., college students identified a number of
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teacher misbehaviors that hindered student progress. Researchers categorized teacher
misbehaviors into three dimensions: incompetence, offensiveness, and indolence. The
incompetence category, which may be considered as the lack of essential teaching skills,
included such behaviors as confusing or boring lectures, apathy toward students, and lack
of knowledge of the subject matter. Offensive behaviors were identified as sarcasm,
verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and showing favoritism. Offensive instructors used
profanity, yelled, or humiliated or embarrassed students in the class. The third category,
indolence, included being continually tardy or absent from class, being unprepared or
disorganized, and failing to return assignments or tests in a timely manner. Indolent
instructors are often so disorganized they fall behind in their syllabus and fail to cover
required material. In an earlier study conducted by Kearney, Plax, Hays, and Ivey (1991),
students indicated that indolent teachers underwhelm them with information by
making their classes and tests too easy (p. 323).
The responsibility for controlling the classroom and motivating students lies with
the instructor (Kelsey et al, 2004). Studies of effective college instructors indicate that an
excellent predictor of student learning is academic engagement of time. The instructor
who has the ability to keep students actively involved in the classroom is more likely to
have a powerful, positive influence on the learning process, whatever teaching
methodologies are employed. Classroom management skills provide a basic framework
for instructors to present the substance and skills required to educate their students.
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Student Evaluations of Faculty
Student evaluations of college teaching are relatively new phenomena in the long
history of higher education. The first evaluations of college instructors occurred when
enterprising college students established the informal use of ratings of faculty in the
1920s (Algozzine, Beattie, Bray, Flowers, Gretes, Howley, Mohanty, & Spooner, 2002).
Over the last century, student evaluations have become an integral part of the college
experience and are administered in almost all American colleges and universities.
According to Cashin (1983), student evaluations are probably the main source of
information used for evaluating the effectiveness of faculty teaching. Indeed, some
colleges and universities base decisions of tenure and promotions primarily on student
evaluations given at the conclusion of courses (Baldwin, & Blattner, 2003).
When students fill out evaluations for their college instructors, they often
compare their real teachers with their opinions of the ideal professor (Epting, Zinn,
Buskist, & Buskist, 2004). In previous research, students used words such as warm,
capable, and accessible to describe the personal and professional characteristics of an
ideal teacher. However, according to Domsife (2000), evaluations are not constructive or
useful unless the characteristics identified by students as effective and positive are
translated into actionpolicies and practices that guide an instructors interactions with
students. Despite the issues that can arise from end-of-course student evaluations,
instructors can gain important insights from reading their evaluations. According to Witt
(2004), instructors should pay careful attention to recurring themes and comments that
occur in their evaluations. Student observations, both positive and negative, can provide
valuable feedback for improving instruction.
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Although student evaluations are important barometers of effective teaching,
instructors are often unaware of how their teaching skills are perceived by students
(Miley & Gonsalves, 2004; Okpala & Ellis, 2005). In a study conducted by Appleby
(1990), a number of misconceptions were identified concerning what students actually
perceive as good teaching and what instructors believe that students want from a college
teacher. While the majority of students who participated in the study rated equality and
respect from the instructor as most important, instructors gave more weight to controlling
the classroom, entertaining students, and being buddies to students outside of class.
According to Chen and Hoshower (2003), instructors would benefit from a more in-depth
understanding of student feedback about their teaching strategies, methodologies, and
attitudes.
Summary
Community colleges will play a pivotal role in educating citizens of the 21st
century for their roles in the social, economic, and political arenas of the future.
Providing students with a quality postsecondary education is critical to the future and
direction of this nation. Because a growing majority of students begin their college career
in community colleges, history instructors in these institutions have the responsibility of
presenting the power and possibilities of knowing history to students. Understanding
what effective community college history instructors do to help students learn and enjoy
the discipline can offer new instructors valuable information for improving student
learning.
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This review of literature presents a description of the community college
environment and culture for both faculty and students and provides a framework for the
examination of the unique responsibilities and challenges of community college history
instructors. Additionally, past research on effective college teaching, current, accepted
methodologies of college instruction and student evaluations are examined as part of the
literature review. To better understand the specific requirements of teaching history in
community college, this literature review also examined the curriculum and content of
survey history courses traditionally offered in community colleges.
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CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
Introduction
For the last decade, educational researchers have conducted numerous studies on
the methodologies and teaching strategies found to be effective in the college classroom
(Chen & Howshower, 2000; Hativa et al., 2001; Okpala & Ellis, 2005). A majority of
these studies evaluated and compared the diverse methodologies used in college
teachingfor example, traditional lecture method, experiential learning techniques, and
computer-based instruction. Additionally, researchers have examined student evaluations
of effective teaching and the affects of various teaching techniques on college students
learning outcomes and attitudes. Effective college teaching is based on an instructors
ability to create a learning environment that engages students in critical, disciplinary
thinking and encourages learning beyond the classroom (Bain, 2004). Although previous
research has provided a strong data base for effective college instruction, little of this
research has focused specifically on how effective community college history instructors
create a successful learning environment for students and how these instructors view their
craft of teaching history. This assertion indicates a need for a study such as this one,
which focused on the attitudes, methodologies, and strategies of effective community
college history instructors. Chapter III presents information concerning the theoretical
framework, setting and population of the study, data collection and analyses,
trustworthiness, assumptions and limitations, and a summary of the chapter.
57
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Setting
The setting for this study was community colleges in the Alabama community
college system. The Alabama community college system is composed of 24 two-year
community colleges, 4 technical colleges, and 1 upper division institution (Alabama
College System, 2006). Statistics provided by the Alabama College System reveal that a
total of 78,173 students were enrolled in Alabamas 2-year institutions during the 2005-
2006 academic terms. The demographics of Alabama community college students reflect
the trends identified in national studies on college attendance (Bryant, 2001; Huber,
1998; Inman & Mayes, 1999; Merullo, 2004). Currently, Alabama college students are
more likely to be older, female, and attend school part-time, often in response to work or
family responsibilities. According to statistics provided by the Alabama College System
(2006), 58% of students enrolled in the Alabama community college system between
2005 and 2006 were female, and the average age of an Alabama community college
student was 27.53 years. Approximately 47% of Alabama community college students
attend classes part-time. The researcher purposely sought participants from north and
central Alabama community colleges. The colleges located in this area provided a
representative sample of the Alabama community college system as a whole in terms of
size and student demographics. Moreover, the recommendations from north and central
Alabama institutions provided a sufficient sample of participants who fulfilled the criteria
established for study and provided theoretical saturation of research data.
A majority of higher education students in Alabama begin their academic career
in a community college (Alabama College System, 2006). For this reason, community
colleges serve a vital mission in higher education. Community colleges shoulder the
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responsibility of providing affordable access to college to increase the educational
opportunities of the population (Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, 2006
p. 1). Because articulation agreements with the states 4-year institutions guarantee the
transferability of course work completed at the community college level, Alabama
community colleges offer an unprecedented opportunity for higher education.
Alabama Community College History Curriculum
Most community college students will transfer to a 4-year institution; for this
reason, the majority of history courses taught on community college campuses are
general survey courses that satisfy basic study requirements (Alabama College System,
2006). Additionally, a majority of community colleges require at least one history course
for the AA degree. In the Alabama community college system, students satisfy their
history requirements through U.S. history, western civilization, or world history survey
courses. According to a coding system developed as part of the Alabama postsecondary
articulation agreement, these courses receive an A code, indicating guaranteed
transferability to participating 4-year institutions. Other courses with limited
transferability, specified by a B code (courses are appropriate to the degree or pre
major requirements of individual students) or a C code (courses are subject to approval
by the 4-year institution), are also offered by Alabama community college history
departments. For example, Bishop Community College located in Mobile, Alabama,
offers a course in African American history (code B), and Wallace State College in
Hanceville, Alabama, offer classes in genealogy research (code C). These additional
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offerings allow history students, particularly history majors, to explore facets of history
not covered in a survey course.
In response to the changing needs of students, all of the history departments in the
Alabama college system offer online courses. Online courses provide a more flexible
schedule for course work for students whose work or family responsibility make
traditional scheduling difficult or impossible (Lorenzetti, 2004). An examination of 2006
fall schedules for the 24 state community colleges reveal that at least one sequence of
western civilization, world history, and/or U.S. history are offered as online or hybrid
courses by all institutions. Moreover, several schools continue to offer survey courses in
the video format. Video courses allow students to purchase video recordings of lectures
and usually require students to take tests on campus. These non-traditional course
offerings reflect the learning college (OBanion, 1997) concept embraced by many in the
Alabama community college system (Wallace State Community College Handbook,
2006).
Theoretical Framework
This study was grounded on Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Model. According to Shulman, to teach students successfully, teachers must possess a
deep and flexible understanding of the subject matter they teach. The pedagogical content
knowledge of an instructor is a key factor in the students ability to create useful
cognitive maps, make connections between information and concepts, and analyze and
synthesize information successfully. Teachers need to comprehend how concepts connect
across curriculums and to the daily lives of students. This type of comprehension
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provides a foundation for pedagogical content knowledge that ultimately facilitates the
teachers ability to transfer knowledge, skills, and ideas to students (Chen, 2004).
Shulmans model also emphasizes the principle that each discipline contains a language
and teaching methodology that is unique to that discipline (DeAngelis, 2003).
According to Major and Palmer (2002), the focus on teacher knowledge and
pedagogical choices is a relatively new area of research in higher education. Shulmans
Pedagogical Content Knowledge concepts encouraged a broad range of research on
college faculty knowledge and the effects of this knowledge on teaching. Understanding
faculty members' pedagogical beliefs, decisions, and judgments during teaching (p.
139) can provide valuable insights into effective teaching and successful student learning.
Shulmans (1987) theory also established a cycle of processes that an instructor should
complete in order to facilitate student learning. This teaching and learning cycle includes
the components discussed in the following paragraphs.
Comprehension
Instructors need to understand the subject they teach deeply and flexibly. This
comprehension is a vital element in transmitting knowledge and enthusiasm for the
subject matter to students (Shulman, 1992). Effective teaching reflects not only an
instructors knowledge of the subject, but also the principles and philosophies associated
with teaching (Shulman, 1987). Moreover, instructors have the responsibility of engaging
students in the learning process, providing students with opportunities to inquire and
discover new information, and encouraging students to develop skills and attitudes that
will help them achieve success in a democratic society.
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Transformation
The instructor must have the capacity to transform content knowledge into forms
that are pedagogically meaningful and yet flexible and adaptive to the variety of student
abilities and backgrounds. Transforming an instructors knowledge of the subject matter
into forms that are pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variety of student
abilities and backgrounds (Shulman, 1986, p. 4) is a key factor in effective teaching.
This transformation requires several processes for the instructor, including preparation of
materials, the ability to make appropriate instructional selections of methodologies and
strategies, and adapting these instructional selections to the needs of specific students in
the classroom.
Instruction
Instruction includes many of the most crucial aspects of pedagogy: classroom
management, the interaction and communication between student and teacher, structuring
group work, incorporating humor, and discovery and inquiry instruction (Shulman,
1992). This element of Shulmans theory reflects the art of teaching, or the skills of
teaching.
Evaluation
Evaluation forms a connection between theory and practice in the classroom. This
element of Shulmans theory requires an instructor to assess the educational theories
proposed by the experts and determine whether this theory can be used in a valid and
successful manner to teach students. An instructors ability to appropriately test and
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evaluate is an important element of effective instruction. According to Shulman (1986),
the evaluation process includes assessing students for understanding and
misunderstanding during the teaching process as well as testing students understanding
at the end of lessons or units. Evaluation also involves assessing ones own performance
and adjusting for different circumstances.
Reflection
Perhaps the most formidable challenge in any profession is learning from
experience and applying this knowledge to the field (Shulman, 1992). For this reason, it
is important to reflect on ones success or failure in the classroom and use this experience
to enhance and expand ones teaching. This process includes reviewing, reconstructing,
reenacting, and critically analyzing ones own teaching abilities and then grouping these
reflected explanations into evidence of changes that need to be made to become a better
teacher.
Community of Practice
It is important for members of academe to share the knowledge they have gained
from their teaching experience and reflection with others of the profession (Shulman,
1992). Effective instructors can deepen their knowledge by serving as mentors to less
experienced teachers. Colleges that sponsor programs or opportunities for teaching
professionals to share their learning and insights can create a strong academic climate for
students (Darling-Hammond, 1994).
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Shulmans Pedagogical Content Knowledge theory has encouraged educational
experts to search for specific elements of effective teaching (Major & Palmer, 2002). The
components identified as important characteristics of a successful instructor include
knowledge and beliefs about the purposes of teaching, knowledge of students
conceptions and misconceptions of a topic, curricular knowledge of kinds of materials
available, instructional strategies, or representations for teaching particular topics (p.
142). This study examined the how and to what extent effective history instructors
reflected the tenets of Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge model.
Study Design and Questions
This study was based on a qualitative research design. A purposeful sampling
strategy was used to examine the attitudes, teaching methodologies, and strategies of
effective community college history instructors. The participants for this study were
drawn from a pool of recommendations requested from academic deans, division heads,
and department heads of Alabama community colleges. Criteria for recommendations
included exemplary student and departmental evaluations, awards or commendations
from professional groups, or master teacher status. From this group of recommendations,
nine history instructors were selected to participate in this study. Because an important
focus of this research project was the methodologies used by effective college history
instructors, the sample included five instructors who primarily used the lecture method,
two instructors who were successful in teaching online history courses, and two
instructors who used mixed methods (collaborative activities, technology, and the lecture
method). Additionally, a majority of the participants were active in leadership roles at
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their respective schools. Included in the participant group were department heads,
division heads, and committee chairs. The interview responses and observations of
teaching behaviors of these exemplary history instructors allowed the researcher to
develop a rich, deep description of effective college teaching According to Seidman
(1998), the primary indicator of sample size in qualitative research is the point at which
redundancy or theoretical saturation is reached. For this reason, the sampling process for
this study was flexible and evolved as the research progressed until theoretical saturation
of the data was achieved.
In addition to interviews with effective instructors, the researcher also observed
classes conducted by instructors and recorded detailed field notes on observed behavior
the instructors teaching methodologies and interactions with students. Additionally, the
researcher examined documents associated with college history classes, including each
teachers syllabi, tests, handouts, technology, and textbook assignments. Data derived
from these sources provided a rich base of information about what occurs in the
classroom of effective college history instructors.
Interviews were conducted on the campuses of the community college of each
instructor. An informed consent and protocol for the interview was sent to The University
of Alabamas research board and permission was granted to conduct the research.
Documents relating to gaining permission to conduct research are included in Appendix
D. The participants were asked to sign a release form that allowed direct quotes from the
interviews to be used in the study. The interviews were recorded on a tape recorder for
transcription. The researcher made notes of observations of facial expressions, body
language, and other visual aspects of the interview. Approximately 30 minutes were
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scheduled with each research subject; however, additional time was incorporated into the
interview schedule to accommodate the longer interview sessions. To further explore
comments made by participants during initial interviews and behaviors noted in
classroom observations, follow-up interviews were conducted. These post-interviews
clarified and expanded data gathered in previous interviews.
Research Questions
The interview questions were grounded on Shulmans (1987; 1992) Pedagogical
Content Knowledge theory and focused on four specific areas of teaching history in
college. Participants provided information about the following aspects of effective
teaching: personal attitudes about teaching history to college students, attitudes about
student learning, types of strategies and methodologies used in the classroom, attitudes
about the profession of college teaching, and academia. The structure of the questions
encouraged participants to express opinions and attitudes teaching history, student
learning, and teaching methodologies.
The questions constructed for the interview were open-ended and participants
were encouraged to express their opinions, values, and beliefs about teaching in
community college, personal philosophies of teaching, and the successful classroom
methodologies. As suggested by Marshall and Rossman (1998), the questions were
carefully structured so that yes-no questions or multiple questions were eliminated (see
Appendix C). At the end of the interview, the researcher asked each subject if there was
additional information not covered by the questions he or she would like to discuss. This
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allowed participants to contribute information that may not have been considered in
constructing the questions.
This study sought to answer the overarching question How do effective
community college history instructors think about their teaching? In an attempt to
further explore teaching attitudes within the context of the overarching question, the
following sub-questions were also addressed:
1. How do effective community college history instructors think about their
discipline?
2. How do effective community college history instructors think about teaching in
their discipline?
3. How do effective community college history instructors learn about and stay
current with developments in their discipline?
4. What kinds of pedagogical approaches do effective community college history
instructors employ to best teach history and what is their rationale for these approaches?
5. What strategies do effective community college history instructors employ to
reach a variety of students taking history and what is their rationale for these strategies?
6. How do effective community college history instructors know when they are
successful in teaching history?
7. How do effective community college history instructors know when they need
to improve or change their teaching methodologies or strategies?
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Research Perspective: Rationale for Qualitative Research
Qualitative methods are designed to help researchers understand the meaning that
people assign to social phenomena and to clarify the thought processes and attitudes that
underlie behavior (Patton, 1990). Unlike quantitative research, a qualitative study does
not attempt to measure human behaviors or attitudes. Instead, qualitative research
examines the why behind phenomena that cannot be measured in an empirical manner.
According to Merriman (1998), qualitative research methods are valuable in providing
rich descriptions of complex occurrences and can offer illumination of the experiences
and attitudes of individuals whose views may be rarely heard. A qualitative research
design was chosen for this study because this methodology will best identify the unique
qualities of instructors who are successful in motivating community college students to
learn and appreciate history.
Participants
Participants for this study were drawn from history faculty in the Alabama
community college system. Academic deans and department heads from Alabama
community colleges were contacted by e-mail and asked for recommendations of
effective history instructors based on the established criteria of exemplary student or
departmental evaluations, teaching awards and commendations, or master teacher status.
In selecting participants for this study, the researcher examined past qualitative research
on effective college teaching and established criteria based on the recognized methods
currently used to determine effective college instruction. In order to further clarify the
criteria, the researcher initiated a dialogue by telephone or e-mail with the academic
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deans, division heads, and department heads who recommended participants for this
study. This dialogue allowed recommenders to ask questions about the research project
and refine the characteristics of an effective instructor before presenting
recommendations. For the majority of recommenders, student evaluations, personal
observations of teaching styles, and instructors reputations for effective teaching
provided the basis for recommendations. Interestingly, two of the individuals who were
contacted for this study were unable to make recommendations. According to both
individuals, recent retirements or resignations had placed the history department at their
institution in a state of transition, making recommendations based on the established
criteria difficult.
From the recommendations made by academic deans, department heads, and
division heads, nine history instructors were selected for this study. All of the instructors
who participated in this study were full-time employees of the Alabama community
college system who taught survey history courses in either United States history, western
civilization, or world history. Because the purpose of this study was to examine how
history instructors view their craft of teaching, conducting in-depth, structured interviews
with a diverse group of effective teachers provided the best depiction of good teaching. A
narrative case study of each participant was included as part of the study.
Data Collection and Analysis
Interview and class observation appointments were scheduled with instructors at
their convenience. The interviews were conducted in the instructors office or other
locations determined by the participants. To make efficient use of time, the researcher
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analyzed collected data as it was gathered from interviews and observations. After
transcription of the tapes, data analyses focused on coding emerging themes and patterns
in the interview answers and field notes (Merriman, 1998). To facilitate the analysis of
data, the researcher used Atlas 5, a qualitative research software program that identifies
and categorizes patterns and themes in the interview transcriptions. After the interviews
were transcribed and analyzed, the tapes were erased.
Field notes taken during classroom observations were also analyzed. The
researcher examined field notes written during observations of the participants
classroom environment and teaching style. These notes were coded based on student-
instructor interactions, student engagement in the lessons, and methodologies and
strategies employed by the instructor. These narrative notes also provided a contextual
framework for interpreting other data. An examination of the materials associated with
the participants teaching and curriculum provided additional insights on the techniques
of effective history instructors and served as a springboard for continued dialogue on
successful teaching.
In analyzing data derived from this study, the researcher used three qualitative
research approaches. First, narrative case studies of each of the nine participants were
developed based on interview responses, field notes of observed teaching behaviors, and
an examination of teaching materials. According to Rosiek and Atkinson (2005),
narrative case studies can provide important information about the way instructors
understand their discipline and their craft of teaching. The narrative case studies allowed
the personal philosophies and attitudes about teaching in their discipline to be presented
in way that highlighted the unique characteristics of individual instructors. Second,
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interview transcripts and field notes were analyzed and emerging patterns and themes
were identified. These themes were used to isolate the attitudes and beliefs of effective
history instructors as well as the teaching methodologies these individuals used in the
community college history class. Third, a cross-case analysis provided a comparison of
the multiple narrative case studies (Merriam, 1998). From this data analyses, a thick, rich
description of good teaching methods emerged concerning instructor characteristics,
beliefs, and teaching behaviors.
Trustworthiness
This research project adhered to the structure of a well-designed qualitative study.
As discussed by Merriman (1998) and Marshall and Rossman (1998), qualitative studies
must establish recommended standards and methods to generate valid, usable data. This
research was based on recommended methods of qualitative research to ensure
trustworthiness. Thick description, a method of providing detailed descriptions that
convey the actual situations that are being investigated was used to ensure
trustworthiness. Research data was triangulated through interviews, observations, and
examination of instructional materials. To further ensure credibility and confirmability,
the researcher created an audit trail that will allow future scholars and researchers to
examine both the process and results of this study. The audit trail consists of
transcriptions of interviews, field notes taken during observations, and data analyses
(Merriman, 1998).
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Researcher Perceptions
The researcher is an integral component of research based on qualitative methods.
As the primary researcher in this study, I was aware of personal biases that could
influence the collection and interpretation of data in this research project. As a veteran
history instructor on both secondary and college levels, I have strong opinions about what
comprises effective teaching and the vital role of history education in preparing college
students for the future. Throughout my career in education, I have been active in national,
state, and local educational and historical organizations. In 1997, as president of the
Alabama Council of the Social Studies, I joined other history professionals in defending
history as an essential element of the Alabama core curriculum. As members of the state
Board of Education discussed the possibility of reducing history to an elective status, I
was made keenly aware of negative perceptions of many individuals concerning history
education, as well as the influence and power of articulate, passionate historians in
defending and preserving their discipline. Additionally, my goal as a history instructor
has always been to encourage my students to appreciate and enjoy history. Due to my
past experiences, I have developed an abiding interest in the best practices of teaching
history. In designing this study, I purposely focused on the positive characteristics and
practices of effective community college history instructors. The constructive approach
of this research reflects my personal viewpoint and attitude on the craft of teaching
history and best serves the purpose and goals of this study.
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Limitations and Assumptions of the Study
Community college instructors in Alabama are usually limited to teaching survey
courses in history, specifically U.S. history, western civilization, and world history. The
fact that the participants taught only survey subjects may have limited the depth and
breadth of the study. In the interest of time, the researcher interviewed a limited number
of subjects; this element may have also created a limitation in gathering data. In addition
to these limitations, the very nature of qualitative research may have created bias in the
research. While the researcher made every attempt to eliminate bias from this research
project, there is no guarantee that bias did not occur.
The following assumptions may be made regarding this study: The researcher
assumed that community college history instructors interviewed in this study shared
trustworthy and pertinent information regarding their methodologies, teaching
techniques, and attitudes. Additionally, it was assumed that the data gathered for this
qualitative study would provide useful insights and information concerning effective
teaching in community college history classes and that this information would be useful
to college history instructors.
Preliminary Protocol Research
To ensure that the interview protocol (Appendix B) developed for this study
obtained usable data that responded to each research question, a preliminary study was
conducted. A history instructor who met all criteria established for this research was
interviewed by the researcher. Additionally, the researcher observed the instructor in the
classroom setting and examined the syllabi, reading assignments, and the assessment
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associated with the lesson taught by the instructor. After the interview responses were
transcribed and coded, the researcher determined that additional questions were needed to
more closely reflect the theoretical framework provided by Shulmans (1987)
Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model.
Shulmans (1987) theory establishes the need for instructors to reflect on their
successes or failures in the classroom and respond to these reflections in a way that
enhances and expands ones teaching. The process of reflection requires a critical
analysis of ones own teaching abilities and a determination of how this evidence can be
used to improve teaching techniques. The original interview protocol did not address this
aspect of effective teaching; therefore, questions were added to examine the participants
attitudes and practices of reflection.
Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model stresses the importance
of the community of practice. According to Shulman, it is vitally important for successful
educational professionals to share their knowledge and successful techniques and
methodologies with other instructors. This sharing of knowledge may be accomplished
through mentoring inexperienced instructors, conducting workshops, and providing other
instructors with information. The original protocol did not address this facet of
Shulmans theory. Questions were added to the protocol that asked participants to share
their attitudes concerning the academic community of practice.
The preliminary protocol research allowed the researcher to make several
important changes in the protocol before conducting interviews and observations for this
study. The additions to the protocol (Appendix C) established a more solid link with
Shulmans Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model and provided a richer, more detailed
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description of effective teaching. Moreover, the researchers experience as a classroom
observer, as well as the examination of teaching materials offered useful groundwork for
future research.
Summary
Qualitative methods offered a rich, multi-faceted representation of how effective
history instructors view their profession, their students, and their discipline. An
understanding of the unique attitudes and teaching strategies of effective history
instructors may help other and future history professionals in designing a successful
learning environment for students. This chapter details the participants of the study and
qualitative methodologies that were used to collect and analyze data.
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CHAPTER IV
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes and teaching behaviors of
effective community college history instructors. To facilitate an understanding of how
exemplary history instructors create a successful learning environment for students, the
researcher selected nine history instructors who were recognized and recommended by
their deans or department heads as participants. This chapter presents the research data
collected from semi-structured interviews, researcher field notes of classroom
observations, and instructional material. Data are presented to highlight individuals as
well as show overarching themes.
Narrative Case Studies
In order to develop a comprehensive view of college teaching in the discipline of
history, the researcher sought a diverse group of exemplary instructors who approached
teaching history in a variety of ways. To highlight the personal and professional attributes
of individual instructors, a narrative based on individual interview responses, researcher
field notes of class observations and teaching materials will be presented. The narratives
provide a description of the teaching styles, teaching philosophies, and personal
characteristics that make these community college historians effective and inspiring.
76
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Lesley
Lesley has been teaching history in a community college since graduating from
college with a Masters degree in 1986. In fact, college teaching is the only full-time job
she has ever held. A glance around Lesleys small office reveals an eclectic range of
interests. A photograph of Elvis Presley occupies space next to a painting of George
Washington; an American flag is draped over the wall behind her desk, and the windows
and door are covered with travel posters. The informal atmosphere of her office is
reflected in Lesleys warm, relaxed demeanor with students. According to Lesley, her
open door policy encourages students to drop by her office to chat and ask questions.
Lesley commented, Half the joy of my job is getting to know my students and forming a
relationship with them. If they have a relationship with you, they dont want to miss class
or do poorly on a test. They dont want to disappoint you. This student-centered thinking
was apparent in Lesleys interview responses and observed teaching behaviors.
Lesleys current teaching load includes survey classes in both U.S. history and
western civilization. Her primary method of instruction is lecture enhanced by a variety
of media such as music, video, maps, and photographs. An observation of Lesleys class
clearly revealed her enjoyment and enthusiasm for teaching in her discipline. Her lecture
on the American Revolution was enriched with anecdotes based on a vacation to historic
sites in Boston and Philadelphia and humorous observations of American and British
leaders. Students responded to her animated and energetic style of speaking with
laughter, as well as questions and comments throughout the class. Although Lesleys
student population was large, the informal atmosphere encouraged lively discussions and
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debates; she stimulated this exchange with questions that focused on applying the
information discussed in class to current political events.
Although she enjoys teaching western civilization, Lesley considers her area of
expertise to be American history, particularly the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She
often spends her vacations traveling to historic sites and uses the information she gains
from these visits to enrich her teaching. Her latest history trip took her to Boston,
Massachusetts, where she explored sites associated with the American Revolution and the
founding of the nation. Lesley strongly believes that walking on the same ground as the
historical characters she presents to her students gives her narratives a sense of
immediacy and excitement. In describing the impact of her vacation experiences on her
teaching, Lesley commented:
I always learn something new, something I didnt know, something you wont
find in the history books. When youve actually stood on the village green at
Lexington, you cant help but get excited when you teach the American
Revolution. It just makes the history more real.
To encourage her students to explore and appreciate historic sites, Lesley arranges at least
two field trips each semester to local historic sites or events. For example, she recently
escorted a group of U.S. history students to the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham,
Alabama. This field trip allowed students to experience the Civil Rights struggles of the
1950s and 1960s in a powerful and really personal way.
As a history instructor, Lesley is keenly aware of the rich media resources
available on historic topics. According to Lesley, incorporating music of an era into her
lessons has been particularly successful in both western civilization and U.S. history
classes. In describing this technique, Lesley gave the following example:
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When I teach the Vietnam War, I play the music of the era . . . war protest songs
that most students have heard but didnt understand the meaning of the words. I
have my students analyze the lyrics using the information they learned in class.
My students always enjoy the music assignments.
Lesley noted that students respond positively to audio-visual experiences and often bring
their own examples of history-related music and video to share with the class.
In addition to augmenting her lectures with media, Lesley also reinforces student
learning with reading assignments based on primary documents and Internet research. For
instance, at the end of her lesson on the American Revolution, Lesleys students were
given an excerpt from Thomas Paines Common Sense to read and analyze. Lesley
explained, I want these students to read the actual words that inspired a revolution. It
makes them understand the people and the events with a little more depth. According to
Lesleys shortbut thoroughsyllabus, grades for her courses are derived from outside
reading and research assignments, reviews and commentaries on media presentations, and
at least four tests each semester. Lesleys tests are composed of several types of
questions, including essay questions. According to Lesley, her multifaceted style of
teaching is a direct result of her past experiences in her own college history classes and
her personal interests in the sights and sounds of the past.
Tom
Tom, a former high school teacher, has been teaching history in a community
college for 17 years. He considers his area of expertise to be 20th century Alabama
political history, particularly the events and people of the Civil Rights era. In fact, even
though research is not a job responsibility for 2-year college instructors, Tom has
published several articles on Alabama politics during the Civil Rights movement and
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hopes to research and write again after he retires and has the time to follow some
interesting threads of research. Tom is also a strong proponent of historical preservation
and often volunteers for preservation projects. Like Lesleys, Toms office is filled with
an eclectic mix of memorabilia, posters, and photographs that represent his broad range
of interests in history.
Although Tom teaches traditional classes in western civilization and U.S. history,
he was selected for this study on the basis of his online history classes. He developed one
of the first online history courses in the state and is currently the chair of the distance
education committee at his institution. Tom acts as a mentor for other online instructors
and has conducted numerous professional development workshops on technology-based
instruction. He is a passionate supporter of online education and feels this format is a
perfect mesh for history. Tom also believes that online coursework opens the door of
higher education for those students who would never have been able to pursue a degree
in a traditional college setting.
An examination of Toms online U.S. History course revealed a well-organized
structure with requirements and due dates clearly defined and displayed for students. He
uses a variety of learning activities in his online courses including Internet research
projects, quizzes based on text readings, and discussion board responses. For example,
assignments on Toms online U.S. History 202 class required students to read the section
of the textbook that focused on the causes of the Great Depression and President Franklin
Roosevelts New Deal policies. From this reading, students responded to quiz questions
based on vocabulary terms and analyzed the economic and social impact of New Deal
government agencies. Students were also directed to websites featuring Depression-era
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photographs, letters, and journals; student observations and comments concerning these
artifacts were posted on the discussion board.
In an effort to make the requirements of his online classes comparable to his live
classes, Tom requires his students to read and answer questions based on the topics he
would normally cover in lectures. Online students are also expected to travel to testing
sites to take the same tests as his traditional students. To neutralize the problems that can
arise in an online class, such as technical problems and lack of experience in navigating a
computer-based course, Tom regularly communicates with students via e-mails and the
discussion board while addressing student concerns as quickly as possible. He also
strictly adheres to the deadlines set for assignments and tests and demands responsible
behavior from his students. Toms syllabi for online courses are learning-centered (see
Appendix A) and present a detailed, comprehensive description of class objectives,
assignment deadlines, test dates, and student responsibilities.
As a leader in online instruction, Tom is well aware of the reservations of many
history instructors to transform their classes to an online format. He considers much of
this reluctance is based on the concern that history students do not receive the same depth
and breadth of knowledge as in a traditional history class. However, Tom strongly
believes that many students are able to learn more in an online history class than in a
traditional class. He explained:
They [students] can perform better on tests, the same tests, than a lot of the kids in
the regular classroom. I think they just learn better by sitting down to a computer,
by reading rather than listening to a lecture and taking notes. They can be more
open to discussion online because nobody can see them; theyre not as shy about
voicing their opinion. They areit sounds strange to saymore active participants
in the online class than they would be just sitting there and taking notes. They just
dont get as intimidated.
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According to the academic dean of Toms institution, student evaluations of his online
classes are consistently positive and indicate high levels of student learning.
Toms teaching decisions seemed to be firmly based on a student-centered
philosophy and recognition of the unique needs of community college students. He
openly expressed his views of an instructors role in providing positive, powerful
learning opportunities that can extend beyond the classroom and into other spheres of
community college students lives:
You have to be able understand the level of students youre working with and be
able to communicate. Its all about where you get the student and where you go
with them. Thats hard to measure just on test scores. My philosophy is basically
that I want to be flexible enough to encourage students to learn and to want to
learn. I want my students to value history and gain a deeper understanding. When
all is said and done, I just want them to appreciate history and learn that history
can give them useful knowledge that will help them in the outside world.
Tom believes that, in order to meet his instructional goals, he has a personal
responsibility to continue his own learning and expand his knowledge of the discipline.
According to Tom, many college history teachers get into a rut and dont want to learn
anything new. They bum out and they bum out their students. He believes that through
reading, researching, and staying current with changes in his discipline, he is able to keep
his teaching fresh and interesting.
Stephen
Stephen is a veteran community college instructor who has been with the same
institution for over 25 years. He made a conscious decision to pursue a career in
community college teaching while attending graduate school. Stephen remarked the
following:
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I set my sights on teaching in college while in graduate school. No one told me I
couldnt do it or at least I didnt listen when people told me, You cant do that. I
just saidthis is what Im going to do and I did it. I sent resumes to colleges
around the state and they hired me here.
Like the other community college history instructors selected for this study, Stephen
teaches a combination of U.S. history and western civilization. In addition to history
courses, he also teaches classes in religion and philosophy. His primary method of
instruction is lecture enhanced by student discussion and debate.
Stephens dry sense of humor was apparent throughout interviews with the
researcher and during observations of teaching behaviors. Laughter punctuated his lecture
on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in a U.S. History 201 class. Students were
relaxed and responsive as Stephen involved engaged the entire class in the topic by
asking students to vote on their support, or non-support, of the decisions made by the
Convention delegates. He presented a well-crafted, vivid narrative of the political
maneuvers and personalities of the founding fathers involved in creating the
Constitution. Stephens thought-provoking and incisive comments asked students to
examine the role of civil disobedience in the foundation of this nation and apply these
concepts to current events.
Like the philosophies of other instructors who participated in this study, Stephens
teaching philosophy is strongly student-centered and infused with a determination to
encourage and nurture his students appreciation of history. He made the following
comments, exemplifying his philosophy of teaching:
Teaching students . . . thats why Im here. I think that teaching can give people
the tools to learn . . . and the inspiration to want to learn. The mere conveying of
facts will be forgotten. Although thats what we measure . . . thats how we
determine if learning has taken place or not. We often dont pay attention to that
next step. If we can help students think in a different way than they did before we
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have been successful. If all we have taught are dates and names then we havent
been successful. Thats my philosophy. Its all about the student and what they
gain from my class.
Stephen strongly believes that it is important for history instructors to model the attitudes
and behaviors they expect from their students. He noted: I am rarely absent, Im always
on time. I expect the same behavior from my students.
Additionally, Stephen believes that history instructors have a powerful influence
in fostering student enjoyment and interest in the history. In describing the importance
of helping students take that next step from learning history to appreciating and
enjoying history, Stephen recognized the importance of being flexible and taking
advantage of the unexpected teachable moments that sometimes occur within walls of
the classroom. He described one such moment in the following comment:
Sometimes those teaching opportunities happen and you have to seize the
moment. 9/11 is a perfect example of this. When I taught my first class on that
day, I had no idea what was going on. When I got back to my office on my break,
I turned on the radio to get the 9:00 news. I started listening and the planes had hit
the World Trade Center. I went back to class and just told them about it. It would
have been silly to talk about history when history was happening right at that
minute. We all went down to auditorium and watched it unfold on television. . . .
It was a teachable moment that we would have missed if I had been too traditional
or structured. If I had been old school, I would have just kept talking about John
Adams.
Stephens flexibility and attention to teachable moments emerged in a class debate on
the First Amendment of the Constitution. After a spirited discussion on freedom of
speech and the issue of censorship, he asked each student write a statement of his or her
personal philosophy on the subject. Although this spontaneous task was assigned near
the end of class time, many students remained in the classroom to clarify their thoughts
and continue a debate on censorship issues before putting their personal creed on paper.
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Stephen skillfully transformed the information presented in his lecture to an unexpected
critical thinking experience for his students.
A review of Stephens course syllabi revealed a basic structure established by the
institutions history department, which included a course description, college policies on
student behavior and integrity, and a departmental policy on make-up work. In addition
to this information, he also listed specific personal requirements for his history courses
such as a description of a book report project, dates of tests, and advice for achieving
success in the class. The syllabus for each course includes a sheet for students to sign and
turn in stating that they have read and understood the requirements and policies for the
class. Stephen keeps a file of these signed documents as part of his classroom
management procedures.
Stephen stresses, in his syllabi as well as verbal instructions to his class, the
importance of writing. Students are encouraged to read a book based on a historical topic
and write a review for bonus points. Additionally, he requires written summaries for the
documentaries and films shown in class. In structuring his assessments, Stephen requires
students to respond to short answer and essay questions based on information covered in
lectures and outside readings. He prepares his students for testing through scheduled
reviews and study guides. Although Stephen recognizes the importance of testing in
teaching history, he expressed the following concerns about appropriate assessment:
You have to test them [students] enough to make them take it seriously but since
were teaching a introductory class, and perhaps the only history the majority of
them will ever take, you dont want to make them hate history. But if its too
easy, they wont work and they will disrespect the class.
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Stephen addresses his personal concern about assessment by making certain that he
covers in class what is covered on the test and by grading and returning student work a
quickly as possible.
Although testing is an important element of effective teaching, Stephen also
expressed concern that tests and assignments often failed to assess the depth and
complexity of student learning. He expressed this intangible facet of student
assessment, stating,
I know that what we test is necessary . . . but theres an intangible that you cant
test. And thats really the most important part of the course. Its a by product of
this other process of learning in a classroomand I cant seem to make it testable.
According to Stephen, this intangible learning outcome may be described as a spark of
interest and an awareness of a connection between the past and present. When asked
how he knew that indefinable and often elusive outcome of teaching had occurred, he
replied as follows:
You are at the gas station and someone will come up to you and make a comment.
Its always unexpected. A student will come up to me and say, I visited those
places we talked about in class. . . or I they will say, I decided to change my
major to history because of your class. Ive had students write me a note, and
bring it to my office and slip it under the door. Its like that. But you never know
for sure and it always takes me by surprise. Because I just do what I do. Its like
you throw it out there but never know how it will affect your students.
Stephens instructional goals and behaviors reveal a passion and knowledge of his
discipline and his dedication to the craft of teaching.
Jane
Jane has spent all but 6 weeks of her teaching career in the community college
history classroom. She teaches a combination of U.S history and western civilization
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courses as well as a developmental English class. Janes professionalism and passion for
teaching in her discipline were evident in her interview responses as well as the
instructional behaviors noted by the researcher during observations. Janes classroom,
which adjoined her office, was a large, sunny room filled with posters and maps. Before
teaching a western civilization class on the growth and spread of Islam, Jane proudly
demonstrated a new media projector and screen that had required her to learn new
technology skills and revise methods of presenting audio-visual materials to her class.
Although Jane often incorporates visuals, such as PowerPoints, photographs,
illustrations, and videos into her lessons, she considers herself to be a traditional lecturer.
Its chalk and talk for me, she commented. Jane enjoys lecturing but also lectures
because she feels it is the best way to prepare students for the future: Im still pretty
much of the old school. I still feel that if were going to prepare them [students] for
transfer they need the lecture. This is probably what they are going to have at a 4-year
college. Preparing students for their future studies in history and instructor expectations
of student responsibility were considered important elements in Janes choice of
appropriate teaching methodologies.
An observation of Janes western civilization class revealed her extensive
knowledge of the discipline. Her students were attentive and responded energetically to a
review of previously covered material on the development of Islam. Jane used a
PowerPoint presentation of photographs depicting Middle Eastern sites and information
as an accompaniment to her lecture. Although she is excited about using PowerPoint to
enrich her classroom instruction, Jane has identified some problems and limitations
concerning her use of this method. She commented,
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I really enjoy doing PowerPoints. But Im still trying to find a way to use them in
class . . . it seems like the students are focused on the screen instead of me. If I try
to tell a story, its almost as if Im interrupting the class. They look at me like . ..
this isnt on the screen; this isnt on the study guide. I just dont like that. I just
dont want their attention totally focused on the screen. It seems to limit the
knowledge they want to obtain.
Despite the need to work out some bugs in her use classroom technology, Jane is
committed to making the system work for her.
An examination of Janes syllabi revealed the strong organizational skills noted
by the researcher during the class observation. Course requirements, class rules, and
assignments were clearly defined for students. Additionally, Jane covers each element of
the syllabus on the first day of class and strictly adheres to the established requirements
and deadlines. To give her students the opportunity to succeed, Jane schedules at least
four tests during the course of the semester and assigns several short research projects.
Because she strongly believes that history students should be able to analyze and write
information, Janes tests are composed of a variety of questions, including essay
questions. In discussing her views on assessment, Jane indicated a concern about fairness
and creating an opportunity for student success. She commented, I give a study guide. I
also give them the discussion questions ahead of time. They [students] always know what
will be on the test. And I have always covered that material in class. Janes dedication to
teaching history and providing a vital learning experience for her students is integral to
her instructional philosophy.
Jim
Jim has been teaching history in the same community college for over 31 years.
His outgoing and energetic personality was evident in the interviews with the researcher
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as well as observations of teaching behaviors. Jim is passionate about history and has
traveled extensively in Europe and the United States. As an avid photographer, Jim
usually returns from his travels with pictures of the historic sights he explores. He
routinely shares these photographs, along with stories of his travels, with his students.
Although Jim enjoys reading and researching European history, U.S. history is his very
favorite subject to teach. As department head, he assigns himself only U.S. history
classes and has taught U.S. History 201 and 202 exclusively for the last decade.
Jims primary method of instruction is lecture enhanced by media, in particular
the photographs he takes of historic places. According to the academic dean who
recommended him, Jim is known for his humorous stories and unique style of lecturing.
In describing his methodologies, Jim noted:
A professor once told me . . . a good teacher is as much of an actor as he is a
teacher and thats what I do. Im a performer. I love to grab my students attention
with a little drama. I do illustrated lectures . . . I show wonderful photographs of
the places and houses I have visited as part of my lecture.
Jim acknowledges the debates surrounding the place of lecture in the 21st century
classroom, commenting, I lecture and I make no apologies. I enjoy it and I think my
students enjoy it as well. However, he recognizes the limits of his students attention
span and encourages discussions and debates throughout his lecture.
An observation of Jims lesson on Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonian era
highlighted his impressive penchant for dramatic storytelling. His lecture went far beyond
the presentation of facts and dates. As a social historian, Jim wove his deep,
comprehensive knowledge of 18th century customs and traditions throughout his
narrative on early American government and political leaders. He illustrated his lecture
with photographs of period homes ranging from Monticello, Thomas Jeffersons Virginia
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plantation, to primitive log cabins. Students responded to the lecture and photographs
with keen interest and enthusiasm and asked numerous questions on the lifestyle of 18th
century people.
Jim believes that his major goal as a community college history instructor is to
introduce his students to the people and events of the past in an interesting and enjoyable
manner. He also believes that he has the responsibility to provide his students with the
knowledge and skills that will help them achieve success in higher level history courses.
Jim is particularly concerned about non-traditional students who may face serious
challenges in completing a college education. He recognized the unique needs of these
non-traditional students, noting:
I ask my students, How many of you in here have a job, or a spouse? Or you
have kids, youve got a mama or daddy or somebody youre responsible for.
Youve got a life beyond being a student. I cant expect you to do everything in
my class like you dont have anything else to do, like my class is your life. Its
not. I know its hard to balance and do all the things you have to do. I understand
that.
To help his students achieve their academic goals in his class, Jim often holds study
sessions outside of class provide students review for tests.
An examination of the syllabus for Jims U.S. History 202 class revealed an
organized structure with test dates, class requirements, and rules clearly defined. The
syllabus included the standard information on institutional and class policies, a calendar
of important dates, and a list of advice for academic achievement. He also adds a detailed
description of the structure of his tests (a combination of definitions and essay questions)
and a description of all outside assignments to his syllabi. Jim allows students to choose
from several possible research assignments including a service learning project that
allows students to venture outside the classroom for real life experiences. He believes a
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strong syllabus with a detailed description of requirements is an important tool in
classroom management. According to Jim, A good syllabus will save you a lot of
headaches down the road.
Jim noted that he is constantly seeking ways to improve his teaching. He routinely
distributes self-made course evaluations to students in addition to the formal, institutional
evaluations given at the end of each semester. The questions on Jims evaluations are
structured to elicit specific observations from students about the material covered in class
and methods of instruction. Students are requested to make honest comments about what
they enjoyed about the class and how they think the class could be improved. According
to Jim, these evaluations are invaluable in creating a positive learning experience for his
students.
Ann
Ann taught 11th grade U.S. history for 16 years before moving to a career in
community college teaching. Although Ann enjoyed working with students in high
school, after teaching the same age group and the same subject for over a decade, she
was ready for new challenges. Ann currently teaches a combination of U.S. history and
western civilization and is particularly drawn to the history of ancient Greece and Rome.
She considers herself to be a voracious reader and her office reflected this love of
booksfloor to ceiling shelves were filled with books on an impressive variety of historic
and educational topics.
As a college instructor, Ann uses a variety of instructional activities such as
lecture, cooperative group activities, Internet research assignments, and media. She
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credits her multifaceted style of teaching to her experience in secondary education. Ann
explained,
I use several methods when I teach. I love to lecture . . . I love to tell stories. But
at my most fascinating, keeping their [the students] attention for over an hour is a
tough job. I try to use a variety of activities and methods . . . this probably comes
from my high school days. In secondary education courses, you are told to use at
least three activities during the course of a class. I try to have a group activity, a
video documentary to discuss, or a primary document to analyze. I also love
discussions and debates. I dread those classes that wont respond and just sit
there. I think technology is great t ool . . . I give my students the option of doing
web based assignments and try to use technology in my classroom often.
Ann constantly seeks new methods and techniques to use in her history courses and
attends workshops and conferences to expand her teaching skills.
Students in Anns U.S. history class experienced her creative and diverse teaching
methodologies during a lesson on the passage of the 18th Amendment. She introduced
the topic with a short lecture that provided students with a background on the
Temperance movement and the impact of Prohibition on American society. At the
conclusion of the lecture, students broke into groups and were given 15 minutes to
analyze political cartoons from the era. At the conclusion of the group activity, Ann used
a media projector to display the political cartoons and each group provided a commentary
based on the group analysis. She skillfully kept the students on task and provided an
opportunity for students to contribute to a class discussion on the legislation of
morality. Ann provided clear, concise verbal directions for each activity and students
were clearly engaged and interested in both the topic she presented and the learning
activities.
In describing her successful use of collaborative activities, Ann stressed that
organization and detailed instructions concerning expectations of student behavior and
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work were vital to a successful collaborative experience. She remarked, They [students]
know exactly what I expect from them. I go over the instructions and show examples.
You have to be organized. An examination of the instruction sheet developed by Ann
for the Prohibition cartoon activity revealed detailed directions for analyzing political
cartoons as well as a grading rubric. Ann always grades group activities with a rubric,
which she believes solves a lot of the grading issues. Although she enjoys group
activities, Ann admits that the task can be daunting. She remarked, My classes are huge
and my students really have very little experience in collaborative work. Despite the
challenges, Ann expressed a strong commitment to exposing her students to group
activities.
The history department at Anns institution developed a standard syllabus for all
history courses that includes general school policies, a course description, and a
departmental make-up work policy. Ann also includes, as an addition to this standard
syllabus, a list of test dates, a description of her grading policy, and her expectations for
student behavior and work. Additionally, she attaches an instruction sheet that outlines
the requirements for a semester project (a group project based on Internet research) and
advice for preparing for tests.
As a college teacher, Ann seeks out innovative methods for presenting history to
her students. She constantly perfects and changes the assignments and presentations in an
effort to prove to my students that history is fascinating and worth their time and effort.
Because she is constantly trying new techniques and ideas, Ann often finds herself
evaluating the success or failure of her teaching efforts. She provided an excellent
description of this facet of her teaching:
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Just recently, I had a class-a Western Civilization class-that watched a video I
thought was wonderful. They [the students] hated i t . . . they were almost
unconscious by the middle of it. I always have classes rate the videos we watch in
class . . . this one got zero stars from most of them. Ill never show that video
again. Ive had some catastrophes with group activities . . . some of them were too
complicated or took too much time. I change them, I toss them out. I am always
fine tuning.
Ann allows her students to evaluate the projects and activities she assigns and pays close
attention to the suggestions her students make for improving the learning experience in
her class.
Similarly to the philosophies of the other participants, Anns teaching philosophy
is rooted in student-centered thinking. As an instructor, she makes an effort to personalize
her relationship with students by learning their names and backgrounds. Ann routinely
encourages students to drop by her office to chat and invites them to e-mail her with
questions or concerns. In summarizing her philosophy of teaching, Ann stated, I want
their [students] experience in my class to be memorable and positive. I am always aware
that my words and actions can make or break student success in my class. An
observation of Anns class clearly revealed this student-centered thinking. The class
environment was open, informal, and punctuated by humorous comments and laughter.
Students appeared to be comfortable asking questions and making observations about the
activities and information Ann had presented. She ended the class with encouragement
and advice on completing an upcoming project while students gathered around her to
continue a class discussion on Prohibition and the 18th Amendment. Ann was obviously
able to create a positive learning environment that encouraged her students to explore and
enjoy history.
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Greg
Greg taught American history, government, and economics in high school for 24
years before accepting a full-time position at a community college in 1998. Gregs
primary area of interest is military history, particularly the World War II era. He pursues
this interest through extensive reading and research on military topics and visits to
historic military sites and museums. Greg teaches a combination of western civilization
and U.S. history and was selected for this study on the basis of outstanding evaluations of
his online Western Civilization 101 and Western Civilization 102 courses.
Gregs western civilization courses are presented through WebCT, an online
format used by a majority of Alabama community colleges. He uses the rich resources,
assignments, and tests available through the textbook publishing company. The
extensive, learning-centered syllabus for this course outlines assignments, quizzes, and
testing requirements in an organized manner. Students are also required to respond to
statements and questions on a discussion board. For each unit of study, students are asked
to take online quizzes based on chapter vocabulary terms and answer questions from text
and Internet sources. Students are also required to travel to the campus or other sites to
take three major tests based on the quizzes and question responses.
Although Greg had initial reservations about transforming his history classes to an
online format, he now believes that online courses can provide students with a strong
background in the discipline as well as appreciation of history. After teaching online for 4
years, Greg is adamant that history courses can be successful as long as students
understand and accept both the restrictions and opportunities offered by distance
education. He observed the following:
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I think its a matter of getting the right students into the class. For some,
especially some of the older, non-traditional students, an online class can be
successful. I would say that 99% of the students who are successful in an online
class are the non-traditional student. They have the drive, the determination to
make the online course work.
Greg insists that his students adhere to the deadlines and due dates listed in his syllabus
and responds quickly to student questions and concerns.
As a college history instructor, Greg particularly enjoys working with students.
He is committed to providing his students with knowledge of history as well as the
support and encouragement students may need to be successful in college. Greg offered
the following remarks about what was important in his job:
The most important part of this job is the students and the opportunity to influence
students in a positive way. At the end of the day, its all about the student and
how you made their life different, how you made their life better. If you dont
enjoy working with students, you have no business teaching.
According to Greg, community college teaching is a creative and satisfying job that
allows him to pursue his interests in history while helping students achieve their
educational goals.
Scott
Scott came to community college teaching from a career as a genealogical
researcher and archivist. Initially hired to direct a genealogy program at his institution,
Scott began teaching history classes in 1989 and found that he loved working with
students instead of just books and documents. Currently, he teaches both U.S. history
and western civilization and continues to direct his institutions nationally recognized
family history program. Scott also teaches classes on genealogy research methods and
conducts workshops on family history research. His area of expertise is the American
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Civil War era, and Scott has published two books and numerous articles on the subject.
He also travels extensively and enjoys researching and writing about the history that you
find hidden in the dark comers of old libraries and archives.
Scott uses lecture as his primary method of instmction; he firmly believes that this
traditional method of teaching history best presents the people, events, and stories that
comprise a history lesson. Scott explained his rationale for lecturing as follows:
I lecture. When I go into my class I have my lecture notes printed out to give to
my students. I tell jokes, I tell wonderful stories that Ive heard over the years,
embellished for my students. I do what I have to do to keep them awake and
paying attention. I learned the techniques I use from the U.S. army . . . how to
wake them up, how to make them pay attention to what youre saying even when
they dont want to. I think I have patterned my teaching on the great professors I
have had from the past and all of them were lecturers.
Scott expects his students to pay attention, take notes, and respond to questions during
class time. To encourage student involvement in the lesson, he also promotes student
discussion and comments throughout his lecture.
An observation of Scotts U.S. history class revealed his dramatic and colorful
storytelling abilities. In a lecture on the political aspects of early American government,
Scott used drama and colorful descriptions of people and events to keep his students
attention focused on the lesson. To present his students an image of early political
orations, Scott gave a speech in character as Henry Clay, an early 19th century
Congressional leader. He caught his students attention with extravagant gestures and a
booming voice and, with their interest clearly engaged, continued his lecture on the
government policies of the era. Scotts extensive knowledge of his subject was apparent
as he laced a little murder and mayhem and some old gossip through his lecture.
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Scotts syllabi for his western civilization and U.S. history courses clearly listed
class rules, testing dates, and advice for achieving success in the course. A study guide of
lecture notes, along with important historic dates and terms, are given to students at the
beginning of each class and the four tests given during the semester are derived from
these study guides. Scott also schedules a review session before each test to help students
prepare. Scotts tests are composed of multiple choice questions that require knowledge
of material and higher level thinking skills. Additionally, students are encouraged to read
and review books based on historical topics for bonus points.
Scotts teaching philosophy is strongly student-centered and focused on providing
an excellent background in history for his students. Scott sees his relationship with
students as an opportunity to give something back to the college instructors who had
helped him achieve academic success. Scott commented, I just enjoy working with
students. I often have the chance to help students as my professors once helped me.
Scott encourages his students to students to drop by his office to discuss concerns about
the class or just to talk a little history with him.
Vince
Vince entered the field of college teaching after a 12-year career in the military.
He teaches a combination of western civilization and U.S. history and considers 19th
century European history to be his major area of interest. The multitude of photographs
on his wall depicts Vinces travels throughout Europe and Asia during his stint with the
U.S. Army. Vince is particularly interested in the campaigns and military maneuvers of
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Napoleon Bonaparte and proudly displays a plaster statue of the emperor of France on his
desk.
An observation of Vinces Western Civilization 102 class revealed a relaxed,
positive atmosphere that encouraged students to interact with the instructor. Vinces
primary mode of instruction is lecture enriched by media such as documentaries and
movies. His lecture on the events leading to World War I was laced with anecdotes about
European leaders involved in the conflict. His colorful description of the assassination of
Archduke Francis Ferdinand generated numerous questions and comments from students.
At the conclusion of his narrative, Vince had the class view a short documentary that
reinforced the material he had discussed in class. Students were also given an outline map
of Europe in 1914 and clear directions for completing a map assignment.
Vince enjoys teaching history as a mystery. He often presents his students with
the evidence and clues of a historical event and asks them to figure out the
consequences and possible outcomes. To encourage student inquiry, he routinely poses
questions to his students based on historic facts or events not mentioned in their history
text. Students are challenged to answer this question by searching the Internet or other
sourcesthe first student to find the answer receives bonus points. According to Vince,
this activity is extremely popular with students who learn some history in spite of
themselves in their efforts to find the answer to the mystery question.
Vince enjoys working with students and is keenly aware of the positive impact
student-instructor relationships can have on student success. He makes a consistent effort
to be available to his students and believes that communication between the instructor
and students is a key factor in a successful learning experience. As the first person in his
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family to graduate from college, Vince is particularly sensitive to the needs and demands
of non-traditional students and makes an additional effort to help these students achieve
academic success. According to Vince, many community college students lack a
background in history or academic skills they need to succeed. He addresses this issue by
holding extra study sessions and test reviews for students.
Cross-Case Analysis
The participants in this study were asked to express their perceptions about
history as a discipline and to reflect upon their experiences of teaching history in the
community college classroom. Transcripts of interviews, field notes recorded by the
researcher during interviews and class observations, and teaching materials used by the
participants were coded and analyzed. From this research data, four major emerging
themes were identified. These themes included the following: (a) a passion for the
discipline of history, (b) the historian as a storyteller, (c) the importance of autonomy in
teaching college history, and (d) sharing wisdom and experience.
Theme 1: A Passion for the Discipline
The participating instructors expressed strong beliefs concerning their role in
transmitting knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject matter to students. In interview
responses as well as teaching behaviors, study participants exemplified a deep, abiding
passion for history that was often traced to childhood experiences. In describing her
lifelong interest in history, Ann, a history instructor with a teaching background in both
high school and community college, stated the following:
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I have always loved history. I remember going to the cemetery with my
grandmother to put flowers on the graves. We would walk by the grave stones and
my grandmother would tell me about the people buried there. I felt such a
connection between the past and the present.. . . I still feel it.
Jane, an instructor with more than 25 years experience in teaching history in community
college, concurred with this view and observed, When I was taking history courses in
college, I was always amazedare they really giving me credit for this? It was a just a joy
to learn. Another participant simply remarked, I just fell in love with history . . . I cant
remember when I didnt enjoy learning about it. Jim, who has taught in the community
college for more than 30 years, echoed these sentiments, stating, I have always loved
history, always loved learning about the people of the past .. . how they lived. Its just
endlessly fascinating!
All of the participants described a passion for history that extended beyond the
confines of the classroom and into other aspects of their lives. As Ann commented,
History is just what I do. Its what I enjoy, its what I read, what I watch on television.
This sentiment was reiterated by other participants as they described the influence their
love of history had in shaping and directing their hobbies and interests. Leslie, who has
been teaching in community college since graduating from college, described vacations
based on historic research: I have to know the history of a place . . . its just not a
vacation unless history is involved. Ann agreed with this sentiment and noted, I tell my
students, why would you just go and sit on a beach when you could be exploring
battlefields and museums? They may think Im crazybut they know I love history! Jim
also described traveling to sites around the world to take photographs of historic houses.
He remarked, When you see their houses, the rooms where the lived, the beds they slept
in . . . you get to know them. I want to knowwhat was their life like? Other
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respondents mentioned hobbies based on their interest in history, such as collecting
historic artifacts or reading books on history. Tom, a history instructor with experience in
both high school and college, enjoys plundering through old papers and documents in
his spare time and Scott, the director of the genealogy program at his institution, travels
to archives and libraries across the United States to conduct research into history and
genealogy.
Stephen, the history instructor with more than 25 years experience in the
community college setting, was keenly aware of how an instructors passion for the
subject can affect student learning. He noted: A large part of making history interesting
to students it is just enthusiasm for the subjectits infectious. Many students have never
been introduced to this enthusiasm for history. It makes a difference. Jane confirmed
this assertion, commenting It always amazes me when students come into my class
thinking this is going to be boring. The most important part of teaching this subject is
introducing your students to history as exciting and interesting. As a former high school
teacher, Greg was also aware of the importance of an instructors enthusiasm for
inspiring students. Greg explained as follows:
If a teacher doesnt feel that passion, that love for the discipline, then neither will
students. Students can sense when a teachers heart isnt in it. I think too many
students had coaches in high school that just gave them worksheets or questions at
the end of the chapter. Unfortunately, Im afraid this is particularly true in history.
History can be the most boring or the most interesting subject in the world and a
lot depends on what the teacher does. A lot of my students learned to hate history
in high school and they can be tough to win over in college. I wanted my high
school students to enjoy history and thats still my goal with college students.
A determination to introduce history to students as an interesting, important area of study
was evident throughout instructor interviews and observation of teaching behaviors.
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When asked what drew them to history, the participants expressed intellectual
excitement and fascination for the subject. Jim remarked, I have always just been
fascinated by the past . . . with peoples lives, how they lived, their customs, their homes.
Thats why history is so interesting to me. These people had a life. Ann traced her
fascination for history to a strong sense of connection between the past and present,
stating,
I think I love history because I feel such a strong connection to the past . . . to the
people who lived before me. I love the everyday things, the tools, books, the
objects that people owned and used. I have an old iron pot that my great
grandmother used for washing laundry; I have flowers planted in it now. Every
time I water my flowers, I can see my great-grandmother-she died 20 years
before I was bombut I can see her stirring her clothes in that pot, just trying to
take care of her family and doing the things she had to do to survive. I just love
that connection. These people were real, not just words in a book and I want my
students to see that!
Another memorable comment was made by Jane as she explained why history touched
her so deeply: History is everything. Its psychology, its science, its literature.
Everything is part of history and thats what I love about it. History is not just myopic
vision, its a panoramic view.
In describing the development of their interest in history, most participants
mentioned an inspirational history instmctor as a powerful influence on both their love of
history and their decision to teach. Stephen acknowledged a high school government
teacher as his inspiration: Mr. Morgan, a history teacher I had in high school, was my
inspiration. He was great teachervery unorthodox in his teaching. Lesley recognized a
community college history instmctor as a strong motivation in both her love of history
and decision to teach. Lesley remembered this instmctor as knowledgeable and so
excited about history you had to be excited too. Ann credited a remarkable high school
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history instructor with nurturing her love of history and encouraging her to major in
history in college. Ann described this inspiring history teacher as follows:
Mrs. Thomas was a wonderful, inspiring teacher. She recognized my interest in
history and encouraged me to explore topics that interested me. I majored in
history and became a teacher because I wanted to be like her. I was a little
disappointed when I got to college, though. A lot of my professors were boring
and uninspiringreading from the book or droning on and on. No wonder students
hate history!
All of the participants in this study recognized the influence of a knowledgeable and
passionate teacher as a powerful factor in their love of history as well as their decision to
teach.
The participants indicated that a passion for history was a pivotal influence on
many facets of their lives, including academic choices, career paths, and outside interests.
Participants often traced their interest in the discipline from childhood and recognized
parents, grandparents, and inspiring history teachers as pivotal influences in their focus
on the past. Each of the participants also expressed a personal goal of transferring his or
her passion for history to students. The participants attitudes and teaching behaviors
indicated that effective college teachers have a passion and knowledge of their discipline
that will ultimately be transformed into a successful learning experience for their
students. Additionally, these effective history instructors were able to help students
connect concepts and events from the past and apply these concepts to their daily lives.
Theme 2: The Historian as a Storyteller
Each participant mentioned the storytelling aspect of history as one of the most
appealing elements of the discipline. All of the instructors considered themselves to be
storytellers and used their verbal skills to enrich class instruction. Scott, a history
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instructor who lectures as his primary method of teaching, stating, Ive always been a
storyteller. As an instructor, I rely on the one thing I do really well, telling stories. I guess
Ive always loved the stories of history. In describing the role of storytelling in his
teaching methodologies, Stephen, who also uses the lecture as his primary instructional
method, made the following comment:
I love to tell the storiesa little background information, the foibles of our
presidents, if this happened then this wouldnt have happened, that kind of thing.
Students tend to think of history as inevitable when it isnt. The people at the time
had no idea of how things were going to unfold. I also try to bring in how the past
affects the present. . . how the events of the present are based in the past.
As an instructor, Ann uses a combination of methodologies such as group activities and
technology, as well as lecture. Although Ann rarely lectures for more than 30 minutes of
her class time, telling history stories is something she enjoys. Ann remarked, History is
a story and I love to tell stories. . . . If I had been bom in a tribal culture, I would have
earned my living as a storyteller. The exemplary instructors interviewed for this study
were strongly aware of the importance of the narrative in making history a valid and vital
course for college students. This aspect of teaching history was indicated by Jane who
made the following comment:
If you can make your lecture a story . . . a story with a plot and characters, with a
little mystery and a little excitement, then your students will be more receptive to
learning. Just droning on and on about facts and dates . . . well, thats boring, isnt
it? Youre going to loose their attention.
Jane believes that the ability to tell a good story is integral to teaching history
effectively.
All of the participants professed to be voracious readers who enjoyed reading
books on historic topics. Several instructors mentioned an enjoyment of reading history
books and stories that began in childhood. Stephen reminisced, Well, I was a Davy
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Crockett fan growing upI had the hat. I loved stories of adventure. Jane reiterated the
importance of reading history books in developing her fascination for the stories of the
past. Jane described the role of books in developing her fascination for history:
My mother always had scholarly books around. She didnt read novels or
magazines like most women did. She read Aristotle. I was exposed to this type of
reading at an early age. We used to be in a book club and we had to read a book
and report on it. I would read a biography or a history book. We would meet once
a week and we would have to report on a book that we had read. I give my mother
some credit for my love of both literature and history.
For many participants, their love of reading continues to enrich and expand their
knowledge of history.
The participants also described an early fascination with their own family history
stories and legends, as well as a sense of connection to their ancestors. Tom, an instructor
with teaching experience in both high school and community college, commented on this
powerful connection to family history:
I loved the stories. I grew up in an extended family. My great-grandparents lived
with my grandparents and I just loved to listen to the stories about my family . . .
my ancestors. Im a direct descendant of a Cherokeeone of Andrew Jacksons
allies. I grew up in Cherokee County, Alabama, and my great-great-great-
grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee who married one of the Tennessee
volunteers. I trace my love of history to those stories.
Scott also expressed a deep fascination for his ancestral past, stating, As a genealogist, I
love to dig up the unusual stories and uncover the secrets of the past . . . especially of my
ancestors.
The participants recognized the influence of the storytelling abilities of teachers
and professors from their own school days. Greg commented, My best, my favorite
history teachers were all storytellers. Lesley concurred, stating, My favorite history
teachers and professors were the ones that told the stories. In my opinion, its the only
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way to teach history. Jim also traced his interest in history to his enjoyment of
storytelling and recognized the great storytellers of his past as fundamental in shaping his
teaching methodologies and techniques:
To me, history is a story and I love the stories. I love to hear the stories and I love
to tell storiesthe greatest history teachers, the ones I remember best, were the
storytellers. I always loved listening to my parents and grandparents tell family
stories and thats how I teach history, as a story. I think its the best way to teach
history.
Jim, who considers himself a performer, believes that the most memorable history
teachers are those who can infuse their lectures with colorful descriptions and a little
drama from the past.
The lecturers who were observed for this study displayed skillful, vivid
storytelling techniques and responded to students questions and comments with humor
and enthusiasm. Study participants were able to transform their content knowledge into
forms that are pedagogically meaningful and yet flexible and adaptive to the variety of
student abilities and backgrounds.
Theme 3: The Importance of Autonomy in Teaching College History
Autonomy in the classroom and the freedom to teach history in a way that was
personally and professionally satisfying emerged as an important theme in data analysis.
The importance of autonomy in teaching college history appeared to be strongly
influenced by the instructors leadership roles within their individual institutions.
Represented among the participating instructors were division and assistant division
heads, department heads, and chairs of institutional committees and governing bodies. As
institutional leaders, these history instructors were cognizant of the political climate and
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events that shaped educational policies and did not hesitate to share their opinions with
the researcher. The instructors prized their freedom to express their individual interests in
history and teach in a way that reflected their talents and abilities. This aspect of college
teaching was particularly important to the instructors who had entered community college
teaching with a background in secondary education, as was evident in the remarks of
Ann, a former high school teacher:
I just love the freedom! In high school, what I taught and even how I taught it was
shaped by the course of study and by the graduation exam. I had to drill my students
to get them ready for the exam. . . . I didnt have time to teach anything beyond the
required material. Here, I can teach as I want to and cover information without
checking it off on the course guide. I love it!
Tom, who also entered the college classroom after teaching high school history for 17
years, agreed with Ann. Tom remarked, Compared to high school, college teaching is
pretty amazing. You have time to prepare, time to grade, the time to think about what you
are going to teach, and how you want to teach it. Tom went on to explain that teaching
history in college allowed him a degree of intellectual freedom that he appreciated. He
was able to speak more openly and freely about the material in the college classroom than
in a high school classroom.
In reflecting on the opportunities of teaching in community college, Greg, a
veteran history teacher who had taught in high school for 24 years before entering
community college, also revealed a strong appreciation for the academic and personal
freedom associated with community college teaching. Like the other former high school
teachers who participated in this study, Greg believed that dictates of high school policies
and the requirements of the graduation exam had created barriers to teaching history in
way that encouraged his students enjoyment of the subject. According to Greg, the
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community college milieu had removed many of these barriers and granted him the
ability to take his teaching in directions that reflect his interests and abilities. His
comments reiterated the positive attitudes expressed by the participants, especially those
with previous experience in secondary education:
I think the community college is the best of both worlds . . . you dont have the
constant responsibility for students like you do in high school and you dont have
the pressure to publish like university professors. This is a great environment to
work in. The years in high school has given me a different perspective than
instructors who havent had that experience. I think we appreciate the freedom
and the time . . . its just a different world!
The participants believed their teaching was enhanced by the freedom to structure and
develop history courses based on individual interests and expertise. Additionally, the
participants appreciated the time to research and prepare for history lessons.
Each of the participants, regardless of his or her professional background,
expressed an appreciation for the autonomy that typically comes with teaching history in
a community college. The participants viewed this teaching independence as a major
factor in their enjoyment of their craft. As Vince remarked, I love what I do. I look
forward to every dayI never dread coming to work. All of the participants revealed
high levels of job satisfaction related to the freedom offered in the community college
setting and believed this satisfaction was an important element in their ability to teach
history effectively.
Conversely, the participants also expressed concerns that their autonomy to teach
history in a manner that was personally and professionally satisfying faced threats from
administrative and political demands:
Im afraid weve gotten to the point where our academic freedom is being
threatened. I realize that I have much more academic freedom than I had in high
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school and I want to keep it. Im afraid were moving in a direction that will
eventually limit the decisions we can make for teaching our students.
In addition to losing autonomy in the classroom, several participants discussed their
frustration with the shrinking influence of community college instructors in institutional
policy-making that could ultimately affect how history would be taught in their
classroom. Ann expressed a concern that community college instructors were losing their
voice in establishing policy in the community college:
We are constantly going to meetings and serving on committees. I cant tell you
how many hours Ive spent attending meetings, discussing issues, and then
writing up proposals that were totally ignored by the administration. Its very
frustrating.
This frustration was reiterated by Lesley, who commented: I wish the administration
would listen to us [instructors] before they make decisions that affect how we teach.
In comments concerning threats to academic autonomy, participants also
mentioned the push to incorporate technology-based instruction into the history
curriculum. A majority of the instructors were reluctant to transform their history courses
to an online format. Jim was particularly adamant on the subject:
Our dean wants each instructor to offer an online class by the fall of 2007 whether
we have the computer skills or the interest in teaching online. They dont care. Its
a threat to the academic freedom we have always had at community college . . .
the administration, especially with SACS accreditation breathing down their
[administrators] necks, try to push this stuff on us.
The participants consistently expressed the opinion that they should be trusted by the
administration to teach history in a way that reflects personal teaching goals and abilities.
The instructors who relied primarily on the lecture method were particularly
concerned about the movement toward adapting traditional courses to an online format.
Several of the instructors expressed the opinion that student learning and appreciation of
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history would suffer in online classes. Jane voiced her anxiety about keeping abreast of
constantly changing computer technology and her institutions push to require history
instructors to transform their courses with technology. According to Jane, Theres a
challenge now with all the emphasis on technology. I taught a history class online this
summer and I never want to do it again. WellI just hope my future doctor hasnt taken
his medical classes online. This attitude was also expressed by Lesley who was also
concerned about the institutional push to adapt traditional survey history courses into an
online format. She noted, I definitely feel pressured to teach an online class. I dread i t . .
. its just not the way I want to teach. Like several other participants, Lesley believed
that history students may not receive the same depth and breadth of instruction that she
provides in a traditional class.
As an instructor, Stephen has resisted transforming his history courses into an
online format and expressed concern about the institutional push to incorporate
technology into the history curriculum:
I guess because Ive done lecture for so long and because it works for me, its
hard for me to adjust. I may have to move more in this direction because the
administration is pushing a bit. Well, actually its not a push, its a shove. I think
the technology in the classroom is questionable . . . we dont actually know what
works and what doesnt.
Scott agreed with this sentiment, commenting When it comes to technology, like other
areas,. . . the administration will often demand change for the sake of change . . . without
consulting the people who know what works best in the classroomthe instructors.
Both Tom and Greg, who teach online courses and enjoy online instruction,
expressed more positive viewpoints concerning the move of community colleges toward
technology based instruction. According to Tom, Its the future . . . its where college
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instruction is headed. Greg reiterated this perspective: A lot of kids would not be able
to go to college without the online offerings. Its opening the door to college for more
people. Despite his personal beliefs about technology based instruction, Greg expressed
concern that colleagues were being forced to teach online history classes, despite their
level of technology expertise or interest in teaching an online course: I know people who
were forced to teach WebCT classes . . . they hate it. Its questionable whether their
students are learning anything. And its certainly not fair to the students or the teacher.
Participants expressed concern that the loss of teaching autonomy due to
technological changes could eventually threaten the future of college teaching. As Lesley
noted, Why should they [students] come to class when they can download a video of my
lecture online and watch it at home? Like other participants, Lesley feared that college
instruction would eventually be passed from live teachers interacting with students to
virtual, computer-generated instructors on a computer screen. Stephen best described
this dilemma, stating, Im afraid that college teaching will someday go the way of
blacksmithing. The move of community colleges to require instructors to transform their
history courses with technology was clearly perceived as a threat to by several of the
participants.
According to the study participants, autonomy in teaching history in community
college is strongly influenced by the academic climate and administrative policies of the
institution. The exemplary history instructors interviewed for this study were appreciative
of the autonomy offered by the community college while deeply concerned about
perceived threats to that freedom. Participants were vocal in expressing the importance of
being able to teach and manage their classrooms in a manner that meshed with their
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personal teaching philosophies and abilities. A lack of communication between
instructors and administrators was perceived as a primary issue for the participants.
Additionally, the participants were concerned that educational trends or policies
inaugurated at their institutions without the participation of instructors could negatively
affect their ability to create a successful learning environment in their history classes.
Participants also believed that political pressures, such as fiscal policies and negative
publicity, were perceived as threats to their ability to teach history effectively.
Participants were keenly aware of how teaching in their discipline was affected by the
institutional climate and policies established by the administration. All of the participants
believed that being able to make teaching decisions based on personal teaching
philosophies and talents was vital to their ability to teach history effectively.
Theme 4: Sharing Wisdom and Experience
The instructors selected for this study were seasoned teachers who openly shared
a wealth of advice for effectively teaching history in the community college setting.
Throughout their interview responses and clarifications of observed teaching behaviors,
the participants described specific techniques and attitudes learned from the trials and
errors of their own experiences in the classroom. Moreover, the participants believed that
their knowledge and experience of teaching should be shared with new history
instructors. As one instructor commented, I was thrown into the classroom with a
history degree and absolutely no idea of how teach . . . some direction and advice would
have helped so much. According to the study participants, effective instructors have the
responsibility of contributing to their academic community by sharing their knowledge
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and experience through mentoring inexperienced instructors. The importance of passing
on the wisdom gained from their years in teaching history was a theme that resonated
throughout the study.
According to the participants, an effective community college history instructor
must possess a combination of passion for the discipline and a zeal for working with
students. Stephens comments exemplified this facet of effective teaching;
A good teacherin history or any other subject-should be passionate and
knowledgeable about what he teaches. Thats important. But just knowing and
loving history doesnt make you a good history teacher. Good teaching is
combination of loving your subject and being able to work with people, being
able to communicate with people.
Ann agreed with this view, stating,
In education classes I took in college, I remember being told by one of my
professors . . . always remember, youre teaching students, not subjects. If you
cant transfer your knowledge to students and inspire them to learn, what have
you accomplished?
All of the participants recognized a strong link between an effective instructors
knowledge of the discipline and his or her ability to communicate, or transform, this
knowledge to students in a pedagogically powerful and flexible manner. The participants
impressive knowledge of their discipline and stanch student-centered thinking seemed to
provide the foundation for their ability to teach effectively.
Study participants also stressed the importance of lifelong learning in the
discipline as vital to the success of a community college history instructor. As one of the
instructors commented, You are never going to know everything you want to know or
everything you need to know. Thats just the nature of history. The instructors strongly
believed that reading and researching in the disciplineand changing and developing
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lessons accordinglycontributed to their continued enjoyment and enthusiasm in
teaching. Lesley expressed this element of teaching as follows:
If you teach the same thing, the same way, day after day, and year after year, you
are going to bum out. Teaching history, especially in community college, gives
you freedom to teach the way you want and follow your own interests. Its your
responsibility to make your class interesting and exciting, for yourself and your
students.
Study participants personally adhered to this theoretical precept and believed that
teaching history effectively was based on continued learning of the subject. As Scott
noted, The best advice I can give someone coming into this field is keep learning.
According the study participants, effective history instructors must be aware of
the specific skills and techniques required for teaching in the discipline. All of the
participants, particularly those who also taught in other disciplines, proposed that history
is a distinctive area of study that requires unique abilities or approaches. Jane expounded
upon on this element of history:
History is just different from teaching other subjects. I teach a Basic English class
and, like with grammar, you are teaching terms and concepts that stay the same
throughout the course. A noun is a noun and a verb is a verb. Thats not going to
change. With history, the terms and concepts I use to teach ancient Egypt will not
be the same terms and concepts I will use to teach the history of the Roman
Empire.
Vince reiterated the unique qualities of the discipline of history:
I think its the human element that makes history different from other subjects.
Im presenting people to my students . . . their thoughts and beliefs, their
decisions, their tragedies and triumphs. Its not like teaching a math formula or a
concept in biology.
To teach history successfully, the study participants believed it was important for
effective instructors to spend significant time and thought in choosing the focus of their
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course, preparing a descriptive narrative of historical information, and designing
activities to reinforce and extend student learning.
Study participants were intensely aware of their responsibility in passing on their
knowledge of teaching community college history to new teachers. All had formally or
informally mentored inexperienced history instructors and had generously shared their
teaching materials and advice for effective teaching with colleagues. The following
comment made by Ann exemplifies this attitude:
A lot of community college instructors have never had an education class or any
experience in teaching . . . they go into the classroom not knowing how to put a
class together, how to set up a grade book or how to make out a test. I think, in a
successful history department, colleagues mentor each other and support each
other.
According to the participants, it is important for members of academe to share the
knowledge they have gained from their teaching experience and reflection with others of
the profession.
Summary
The effective community college history faculty interviewed for this study
displayed a passion for their discipline that permeated both their professional and
personal lives. The participants traced their deep and enduring interest in history to
childhood experiences and credited an inspiring history teaching for shaping the direction
of their academic and career paths. Each of the nine participants were also drawn to the
storytelling aspect of history and considered his or her role of storyteller to be one of the
most appealing aspects of his or her job. While appreciating the freedom to teach history
creatively offered in the community college environment, participants openly expressed
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their concern about the loss of academic freedom and how this loss would affect their
teaching. Additionally, the participants indicated that a student-centered philosophy
coupled with a deep, flexible knowledge of their discipline was a major factor in their
successful teaching experiences. As veteran history instructors, the participants believed
an important element of their teaching was sharing their knowledge and experience with
others. Analyses of these emerging themes created a robust, multifaceted depiction of an
exemplary community college history instructor.
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CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, AND CONCLUSIONS
Teaching history is an ancient craft. For countless generations, the men and
women charged with keeping and passing on the history of a culture have held an
important and honored position in society. In the 21st century, history teachersfrom
elementary teachers to university professorsare the primary purveyors of historical
knowledge to the American public (Rodgers, 2005). Community college history
instructors have a vital role in this educational process. For a majority of college
graduates, the community college survey history course will provide their last formal
instruction in history (Rosenweig & Thelen, 1998; Tai, 2004). An effective community
college history instructor has the opportunity to influence students in a positive and
powerful manner, both in the classroom and far beyond.
Community colleges have always stressed good teaching as an important element
of their mission statement (Cohen & Brawer, 2003; OBanion, 1997; Rouche et al.,
2001). Across the nation, community colleges are developing policies and programs to
strengthen and enhance both student learning and effective teaching. The current focus on
improving college instruction has generated numerous studies on effective teaching and
student learning. While these studies present valuable information on diverse aspects of
postsecondary education, little research exists specifically on effective instruction in
community college history courses. An excellent way to understand what constitutes
good teaching in the community college history classroom is to learn from exemplary
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instructors how they think about their teaching and discipline and to what extent their
attitudes affect teaching behaviors and choices. Understanding how these successful
instructors view their craft and how they inspire students to learn and appreciate history
adds to the knowledge base on effective history instruction in community college. The
information garnered from this study may be used to establish benchmarks for good
teaching and assist current and future history instructors in making constructive teaching
choices.
This research focused on how highly effective community college history
instructors think and behave. The results of this study highlighted the professional and
personal qualities of exemplary history instructors, including attitudes concerning the
discipline of history, personal teaching philosophies, the challenges faced on the 21st
century community college campus, and the instructional methodologies and strategies
used to teach students successfully. The findings of this study indicate that effective
instructors share important teaching characteristics and attitudes. Additionally,
participants offered a wealth of information on the principles and practices of good
teaching in the community college history class. The information developed from the
analyses of interview transcripts, class observations, and teaching materials created a
multifaceted composite of highly effective community college history instructors.
Discussion
The history instructors who participated in this study openly shared their thoughts
and observations on history as a discipline and their experiences in teaching community
college students. Protocol items asked participants to respond to challenging questions
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about teaching history in community college. Interviews were conducted in face-to-face
sessions at times and locations that were convenient for each individual instructor.
Protocol items were constructed to explore each research question and elicit observations
about history as a discipline and the profession of community college teaching. Personal
interviews, class observations, and follow-up interviews were conducted over an 8-week
period of time. The participants in this study consistently revealed, in attitude and
teaching behaviors, the tenets of effective teaching established by Shulman (1987).
Moreover, the findings of previous research on good teaching in the community colleges
were echoed by the participants throughout the interviews. To present the findings of this
study in a comprehensible and organized manner, each research question will be
examined individually along with the implications from current literature. The
overarching question (How do effective community college history instructors think
about their teaching) was addressed through seven sub-questions. Each sub-question
examined a specific dimension of the attitudes or behavior of an effective community
college history instructor.
Discussion of Research Question 1
How do effective community college history instructors think about their
discipline?
A review of current literature on effective college teaching establishes a strong
connection between an instructors passion for a subject and the ability to teach students
successfully. Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model indicates that an
instructors passion for the discipline is a vital element in transmitting knowledge and
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enthusiasm for the subject matter to students. Moreover, research reported by Leblanc
(1998) indicates that effective instructors instinctively use the passion for the subject they
teach to inspire students to learn. This aspect of effective teaching is echoed in the work
of Chickering and Gamson (1999), Drummond (2004), Hativa et al. (2004), and Lowman
(1994) and was an elemental theme in the interviews with the study sample.
The community college history faculty who participated in this study were asked
to express their perceptions of history as a discipline. Protocol items addressed the
instructors background in the discipline (What drew you to history as a discipline?) and
asked for their reflections on why the discipline was personally appealing (What do you
find most appealing about your discipline?). Additionally, participants were requested to
discuss the historical eras and courses that he or she particularly enjoyed teaching (What
courses or eras do you do particularly enjoy teaching?). Participant responses revealed a
deep and enduring passion history that permeated both their professional and personal
lives and provided the dominant theme in the data analyses. A fascination for history
inspired the participants to become lifelong learners in the discipline and was identified
as a powerful factor in their decision to teach. Additionally, participants mentioned
hobbies, such as traveling, reading, and collecting, based on specific historical interests.
A preponderance of research literature establishes a strong link between passion and
enthusiasm for ones discipline and effective college teaching (Chickering & Gamson,
1987; Leblanc, 1998; Lowman, 1994). Instructors strongly supported Shulmans (1992)
Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model, which stresses the importance of instructor
knowledge and enthusiasm in effective teaching.
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In describing the source of their interest in history, participants identified the
storytelling aspect of history as a fundamental element of their fascination and enjoyment
of the discipline. Participants credited the great storytellers of their past as pivotal in
shaping their interest in history. Several of the participants also recognized the
importance of family stories and legends, related by parents and grandparents, as the
foundation for their interest in the people and events of the past. Additionally, the
participants mentioned inspiring history teachers who told history like a story and
encouraged an interest in historic subjects. All of the instructors considered themselves to
be storytellers and indicated that enjoyment of spinning yams for their students as one
of the appealing aspects of their job. The participants observations supported research
presented by Rodgers (2005) which acknowledged the creation of the narrative as an
essentially creative and enjoyable process for historians.
In reflecting on the historic eras or specific courses they found most appealing,
the study participants presented diverse and highly individual points of view. Several of
the instructors considered themselves to be social historians and enjoyed delving into
the personal lives of the people of the past. Participants described specific interests in
military history, political history, and art history. Instmctor responses clearly revealed
passion for the discipline and a dedication to extending their knowledge of history. The
participants consistently expressed intellectual excitement and curiosity concerning their
discipline.
Leblanc (1998) describes good teaching as a combination of passion for ones
discipline and dedication to the craft. Effective instructors are much more than mere
dispensers of factsthese unique individuals have the gift of making learning relevant,
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meaningful, and memorable (Leblanc, 1998, p. 1). Moreover, student evaluations
strongly support the importance of an instructors knowledge of their discipline and an
honest enthusiasm for teaching (Algozzine et al., 2002; Baldwin, & Blattner, 2003;
Epting et al., 2004). The instructors interviewed for this study revealed both a passion for
teaching in the discipline of history and enjoyment in sharing their knowledge with
students.
Discussion o f Research Question 2
How do effective community college history instructors think about teaching in
their discipline?
Study participants responded to protocol items designed to elicit information
about their career choice (What led you to the profession of teaching history in a
community college?). Additional items asked participants to explore the rewards (What
aspects about teaching history in community college do you find most appealing?) and
challenges (Describe the greatest challenges you have faced as a community college
history instructor.) of teaching history community college. Instructors were also asked to
reflect upon their philosophies of teaching (Could you describe your philosophy of
teaching? How do you apply this philosophy to your work with students?).
The instructors who participated in this research study expressed high levels of
job satisfaction and indicated that teaching history in a community college setting was
professionally and personally rewarding. In explaining why they found teaching history
in community college appealing, participants mentioned the academic and personal
autonomy typically associated with a career in community college teaching. Because
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there is no standard, universal design for introductory level history courses (Lorence,
1999), community college instructors usually have a great deal of freedom concerning
what and how they teach. The participants considered this autonomy in the classroom to
be one of the most important aspects of their job. Autonomy in making teaching choices
was especially important to the instructors who had moved from a career in secondary
education to the community college. Former high school teachers who participated in this
study were also vocal about the gift of timethe freedom afforded by the community
college schedule. All of the participants, regardless of their backgrounds, expressed
positive attitudes that reflected high levels of satisfaction, supporting current research that
establishes a strong correlation between instructor job satisfaction and effective teaching
(Rosser & Townsend, 2006; Truell et al., 1998).
Community colleges have traditionally supported student-centered and teaching-
centered philosophies (Cohen & Brawer, 2003; OBanion, 2002, Rouche et al., 2001).
The participants in this research study were ardently student-oriented and attributed a
great deal of their job satisfaction and success in teaching history to positive relationships
with students. The instructors indicated that helping students achieve their academic and
personal goals was the most important element of their job. Moreover, participants were
keenly aware of their integral role in inspiring students to learn and enjoy history.
The non-traditional studentfirst generation college students, minorities, older
students, and working students with familiesnow represent the majority of the
community college population (Jacobson, 2000; Rouech et al., 2001). Research indicates
that positive contacts with instructors can increase the likelihood that non-traditional
students will be successful in their studies, complete their community college courses,
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and transfer to a 4-year institution. Participants in this study were keenly aware of the
needs and challenges of non-traditional college students and the instructors role in
guiding and inspiring students. A student-centered philosophy and the determination to
make a difference in the lives of students were recurrent premises throughout the
interviews and observations of teaching behaviors. Instructors stressed the importance of
providing students with a strong background in history, academic skills, and the support
and encouragement to succeed in college. Instructor attitudes meshed well with current
research that identified student-centered thinking as an important facet of effective
college teaching (Ei & Bowen, 2001; Jenkins, 2005).
All of the instructors who participated in this study indicated high levels of job
satisfaction and professed strong feelings of enjoyment and fulfillment in his or her
teaching career. However, in responding to protocol items concerning the challenges of
teaching in their discipline, participants identified several important issues and concerns.
Predominant in discussions were perceived threats to academic freedom. Like their
university counterparts, community college instructors are concerned with administrative
and political demands that may affect teaching (Rausch, 2005). The participants in this
study were very much aware of administrative dictates that affected their professional
experience. As community colleges embrace new concepts, such as the learning college
movement and distance education, veteran instructors often feel pressured to change or
adopt methodologies or philosophies that do not correspond with personal beliefs.
According to Al-Bataineh and Brooks (2003), the drive to make technological
innovations a major academic goal for higher education is more pronounced at the
community college level. Both community colleges and 4-year institutions spend vast
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amounts of time and money to equip classrooms with technology and adapt courses to an
online format. Research indicates that community college history instructors are feeling
pressured to transform their courses into an online or computer enhanced format and may
see this move as a threat to academic freedom (Wark, 2004). Participants in this study
were very aware the profound effect the introduction of technology can have upon what
they teach and how much choice they have in teaching.
In addition to preserving autonomy in the class room, participants were also
concerned about losing a voice in the creation of policies at their institution and the
community college system as a whole. Participants believed that dictates often came from
institutional and system administrators without regard or consideration for instructors. In
expounding on this issue, several of the participants mentioned the decision to eliminate
the attendance policy from the Alabama community college system. The participants
believed that removing the attendance policy had removed the incentive to come to class
for many students and seriously interfered with their ability to teach history effectively.
As participants reflected on the future of teaching history in community college,
several expressed concerns about possible impending changes in the role of teachers.
Instructors were concerned that technological advances were changing the direction and
goals of higher education. In particular, several instructors believed that allowing
students to access class lectures through technology, such as videos on websites or
downloads for iPods (see Appendix A), would make traditional teaching obsolete. As
community colleges embrace the learning college concept by allowing students to
complete course requirements anyway, anyplace, anytime (OBanion, 1997, p. 270),
emerging technology is keeping pace by developing ways for students to access course
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information outside the classroom (Campbell & Evans, 2001; Cherwitz, 2005; OBanion,
2000). Several of the participants feared that college instruction would eventually be
passed from teachers interacting with students to virtual, computer generated instructors
on a computer screen. Despite the challenges and concerns, the instructors who
participated in this study were strongly aware of the advantages associated with teaching
in a community college. The participants were passionate about presenting history to
students in a manner that would inspire and excite intellectual curiosity.
Discussion of Research Question 3
How do effective community college history instructors learn about and stay
current with developments in their discipline?
Participants were asked to respond to protocol items concerning how they
expanded and developed their knowledge of history and history education (How do you
stay current on changes within your discipline? How do you incorporate this information
into your pedagogy?). According to Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Model, an instructors deep, flexible knowledge of a discipline provides the foundation
for effective college instruction. Keeping abreast of developments within the discipline is
an important aspect of reinforcing and enriching ones knowledge of a discipline
(Darling-Hammond, 2000; Johnson, 2006). Participants consistently described their
conscious efforts to extend and deepen their knowledge of both history and
postsecondary teaching techniques.
Participants described reading in the content area as the major method of staying
current with developments in the discipline. Several instructors described changing
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lessons based on reports of new findings or studies of history. In addition to reading
books on history, the participants also mentioned receiving and reading historic
publications or magazines. Participants also reported attending conferences and
symposiums based on historical topics and using the information gained at these events to
enrich their teaching. The study participants professed to be active members of a number
of historical groups, including local, state, and national historical associations. Several
instructors were proactive in historical preservation projects and served in leadership
capacities on boards of museums or historic sites. The responses of the participants
indicated a strong commitment to keeping up with changes in the discipline and
extending their knowledge beyond the confines of a textbook.
Additionally, the participants in this study described attending workshops or
conferences focused on postsecondary teaching techniques and methodologies.
Professional opportunitiesoften provided by the institution or state or national
educational groupsallow instructors to learn new skills or enhance their teaching
(Murray, 2001; Strom & Strom, 2002). Instructors were also members of institutional or
state postsecondary groups or associations, several in leadership capacities. The study
participants were passionate about extending their knowledge in the discipline and
sharing individual knowledge and experience with others in the discipline. Several
instructors were veteran presenters at prestigious conferences and professed a strong
commitment to improving and supporting history and history education.
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Discussion o f Research Question 4
What kinds of pedagogical approaches do effective community college history
instructors employ to best teach history and what is their rationale for these approaches?
According to Shulman (1992), good teaching requires an instructor to understand
and implement strategies for transferring knowledge to students. This aspect of good
teaching is also strongly supported in research reported by Chickering and Gamson
(1987), Lowman (1994), Ovando (1989), and others. Although knowledge of ones
discipline provides a foundation for effective teaching, exemplary instructors are able to
take the next step and develop teaching skills that will ultimately transfer their knowledge
to students. Shulman (1987) refers to an instructors ability to transform knowledge into a
pedagogically successful experience for students as the art of teaching (p. 3). Protocol
items asked instructors to explain the specific pedagogical strategies he or she used in
teaching (What kinds of pedagogical approaches do you use to teach history?) and to
reflect on the rationales behind teaching choices and behaviors (Why did you choose
these strategies?). To fully answer this research question, additional protocol items
focused on classroom management (What organizational methods or strategies to you use
to structure you classroom environment?) and assessment (How do you determine that
your teaching methods are successful?) Responses from participating instructors revealed
diverse and unique approaches to the craft of teaching.
Instructional Methodologies
An important focus of this study was an examination of how effective community
college history instructors transformed their knowledge of the subject into successful
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learning experience for their students. Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Model provided the theoretical framework for this study and supports the concept that
each discipline is unique and requires a distinctive pedagogical approach. According to
Shulman, an effective instructor is able to recognize and apply discipline appropriate
teaching methodologies and employ these methods to transform their knowledge in a way
that encourages student learning. Although a majority of college history instructors tend
to rely on the lecture method (Rogers, 2005; Tai, 2004), the researcher purposely sought
community college history professionals who used both lecture and those who used non-
traditional teaching methods. By interviewing a diverse group of effective history
instructors who approach instruction and assessment in varied manners, the researcher
was able to develop a broader and more robust representation of effective community
college history instruction.
Lecture Method
The enjoyment of storytelling was a fundamental factor in the participants
decision to lecture. According to Detweiler (2004), the lecture can be a powerful and
successful teaching strategy if the instructor has strong verbal skills, infuses humor and
vivid descriptions into the narrative, and is cognizant of student learning styles and
attention spans. Each participant revealed the characteristics of a good lecturer in both
interviews and class observations. For example, Jim enhanced his lecture with drama and
humorous stories and illustrated his narratives with numerous photographs. He also
encouraged his students to ask questions, discuss the information he presented, and
engage in an impromptu debate. Like Jim, other participants used their unique
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storytelling skills to present history lessons and enriched lectures with illustrations,
music, and videos.
In explaining rationales behind choosing the lecture method, participants
mentioned several motivations. Instructors were comfortable with the lecture method and
confident in their skills as a lecturer. The instructors also believed that lecture was the
most efficient way to teach the large number of students that are typically enrolled in a
survey history class. Moreover, instructors considered the lecture to be the best way to
prepare community college students for transfer to 4-year institutions. Instructor attitudes
concerning the lecture method reflected research presented by Detweiler (2004),
indicating that the lecture has a place in today's college classroom if lecturers incorporate
current research findings on student learning when structuring lessons. A majority of the
instructors who participated in this study were comfortable incorporating audio or visual
materials into their lectures and routinely engaged students in discussions on historic
topics.
Collaborative Learning
Research indicates that non-traditional methods, such as cooperative learning and
technology, can contribute to a successful learning environment for students (Owen &
Demb, 2004; Pauley, 2001; Strom & Strom, 2002). The instructors who incorporated
more student-centered strategies into their teaching expressed a determination to create a
richer learning environment for students through the use of non-traditional
methodologies. Ann, an instructor who routinely uses a variety of methods during a class
session, believes that incorporating cooperative group activities enhance and reinforce the
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material covered in her lecture. However, Anns use of groups and other collaborative
activities was unique among the study participants.
In describing views on cooperative and experiential methodologies, a majority of
participants expressed reluctance to introduce these activities into their classroom.
Instructors cited several reasons for rejecting group-based teaching strategies. Large class
size, difficulty in grading collaborative work, and a lack of confidence in group work as a
viable strategy for learning history were identified as impediments to implementing
cooperative learning activities. This reluctance to include cooperative activities into the
curriculum is reflected in research conducted by Strom and Strom (2002), which
indicates that community college instructors are frequently unwilling to incorporate non-
traditional learning strategies into their curriculum, often due to a lack of experience or
knowledge in using the strategy.
Distance Education
Distance education has been touted as one of the most important developments in
community college instruction (Wegner et al., 1999). Internet-based courses allow
institutions to open the doors of higher education to more students, especially those who
have work or family obligations that preclude attending campus classes. Two of the
instructors interviewed for this study supported institutional moves to embrace distance
education and perceived online history courses to be a viable mode of instruction for
history, especially for non-traditional students. From interviews with the online
instructors and observations of individual class websites, three important elements
emerged as successful distance education strategies. First, the instructor must clearly
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establish the requirements and deadlines for the course. According to Tom, a veteran
online instructor, high standards for student behavior in meeting the requirements and
deadlines are essential ingredients for a successful online class. Second, instructors must
make a consistent effort to communicate with students through discussion boards and e-
mails. Greg was particularly vocal about this aspect of online teaching. Thirdand most
importantly according to both Tom and Greg-administrators, instructors, and students
must realize that online education is not for everyone. Although the online format can be
a successful learning experience for many community college students, others may lack
the computer skills, self-motivation, and organizational abilities needed for success in a
computer-based class.
Textbooks
In exploring facets of teaching history in community college, study participants
described how they used the textbook as part of the course curriculum. Recent studies
have determined that textbooks play an important role in many community college
history classes and often dominate the readings students are required to do in the course
(Cohen, 2005). The qualitative data derived from this study veered from previous studies
and indicated that most participants used course textbooks as a backup for missed
lecture notes and for occasional reading assignments. Several participants expressed a
reluctance to be bound by the textbook and believed overuse of text readings and
assignments made history tedious and boring for students. Instructors also expressed
concerns about the high price of textbooks as compared to how little it was actually used
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by students. To address this issue, several participants had adopted a less expensive
paperback texts or allowed students to share books.
Classroom Management
An effective college instructor must also address classroom management issues
such as organization of the curriculum, dealing with student behavior and establishing a
fair grading systemin order to create a positive learning environment for students
(Davis, 1997; Opalka & Ellis, 2005). The study participants revealed firmly established
action plans for dealing with student behavior problems. All of the participants
exemplified high levels of organization and expressed strong views of the importance of
preparing lessons and providing a positive learning environment for students. The
attitudes of the participating instructors meshed well with current studies of student
evaluations of teacher behaviors, which indicate that teachers who are perceived as
organized or prepared are often seen as competent or effective by students (Glenn, 1998;
Opalka & Ellis, 2005).
The participants also expressed high expectations for student work and behavior
and communicated those expectations to their students. Each of the participants routinely
created detailed syllabi that clearly established their expectations and requirements for
the course. Moreover, participants believed that instructors should model the behavior
they expect from students, such as arriving to class on time and respectful, positive
classroom behaviors. Participants were keenly aware of the importance of consistency
and organization in managing classroom issues and made conscious efforts to reflect
these attributes in their teaching.
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Discussion of Research Question 5
What strategies do effective community college history instructors employ to
reach a variety of students taking history and what is their rationale for these strategies?
Community colleges have always served a non-traditional student body (Miller et
al., 2005). Currently, students arrive on the community college campuses with a range of
backgrounds, abilities, and expectations (Gallager et al., 1998; Kassworm, 2005).
Instructors in all disciplines of higher educationand particularly in community colleges-
-are currently challenged by an increasingly diverse student population (Bryant, 2004;
OBanion, 1997). To understand how effective instructors meet the needs of a diverse
student population, protocol items were developed to explore the specific strategies and
rationales identified by participants as successful with a wide range of student abilities
(As a community college instructor, you have a broad range of students in terms of
ability, learning styles, and interest in the history. How do you address these differences
in your teaching?). A protocol item was also included to examine instructor assessments
of the success or failure of these strategies (How did you know these strategies were
successful?).
The participants in this study agreed with current research that emphasizes the
importance of student-centered values in effective college teaching. The participants
professed a steadfast dedication to helping both traditional and non-traditional students
achieve success. Participants recognized the challenge of working with a diverse student
population and professed a willingness to help students who were struggling or needed
guidance. In describing the strategies used to reach a diverse student population,
participants mentioned the importance of being available to students. This open door
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policy encouraged students to communicate with the instructor about issues and
problems associated with their coursework or attendance. The necessity of keeping
regular office hours and promptly returning e-mails and phone calls were also identified
as important strategies in assisting students. Participant attitudes concerning classroom
management clearly reflected current research, which stresses the importance of
organization and consistency in effective college teaching (Glenn, 1998; Opalka & Ellis,
2005).
Additionally, participants were supportive of students who required
accommodations for physical or learning disabilities. As community colleges reach more
segments of the population, citizens with disabilities are increasingly able to pursue an
education and achieve career goals (Gallagher et al., 1998; Kassworm, 2005). The
participants expressed positive and supportive attitudes concerning accommodations and
a determination to provide a positive learning environment for all students.
A community college survey class typically enrolls 60 students or more, and may
present a wide range of student abilities and motivations (Boggs, 2004; Rouche et al.,
2001). The lecture format of most community college history courses can be difficult for
many non-traditional students (Tai, 2004). Reflecting the theories of Shulman (1992),
Chickering and Gamson (1999), Lowman (1994), and others, current research has
determined that exemplary community college instructors tend to be flexible and willing
to adapt to the specific learning needs of students. To address this issue, participants
allowed their lectures to be recorded, supplied study guides, conducted review sessions to
help students prepare for tests, and provided consistent feedback concerning student work
and behavior. Instructors determined their success or failure in meeting the needs of
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students through assessments of student tests and assignments and student evaluations of
the course.
Discussion o f Research Question 6
How do effective community college history instructors know when they are
successful in teaching history?
According to Shulman (1987), an effective instructor recognizes the importance
of evaluating student learning as a benchmark for success. Good teaching requires an
honest assessment of student learning and instructor effectiveness (Chen, 2004; Shulman,
1992). Protocol items asked participants to reflect on the methods they used to assess
student learning (How do you measure student success in your classroom?) and to
examine how those assessments were used to improve teaching skills (How do you use
assessments of student work to improve your teaching?). Instructors revealed strong
opinions on assessing student learning and described the techniques and strategies they
used to create a successful learning experience for students.
Assessments
A study conducted by Townsend (2005) on the assessments used by community
college history instructors indicated that assessing student outcomes was one of the most
challenging aspects of teaching. An instructors decisions on how and what to test and the
choice of assignments can make or break the success of a class. The study participants
were keenly aware of this aspect of teaching and expressed strong opinions about
assessing student work. Townsends (2005) research determined that most community
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college instructors used tests with a combination of questions including an essay section.
The participants in this study supported Townsends research resultsseven of the nine
instructors developed tests with a variety of questions including multiple choice,
matching, fill in the blank, and essay. The majority of participants believed that
organizing and writing responses to essay questions was a vital element in testing and
that essay questions prepare students for transferring to higher level history classes. All of
the instructors identified large class size and the enormous commitment of time required
for grading essays as a challenge. Two participants assessed student learning with tests
composed entirely of multiple choice questions that could be graded quickly. In
explaining their rationale for using only objective tests, these instructors indicated that
well-structured multiple choice questions could be valid and reliable, while eliciting
higher order thinking from history students. Regardless of the type of test used to assess
student learning, participants stressed the importance of reviewing and preparing students
for testing, fairness in grading, and returning graded assessments promptly. According to
Shulman (1987), an instructors ability to appropriately test and evaluate student
performance forms a connection between theory and practice in the classroom. The study
participants reflected this element of Shulmans theory by their commitment to
developing fair assessments and providing students with feedback on their performance.
Assignments
When asked to describe the types of coursework they required of students,
participants revealed a variety of creative assignments and activities. Instructors indicated
that they favored assignments that encouraged critical thinking skills and class
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participation in the form of discussions and debates. In relating examples of student
assignments, several instructors required students to analyze primary documents or read
books on course-related topics and write short book reports. Instructors also based
assignments on the rich sources of information available on Internet websites. Two
participants described using service learning projects that allowed students to venture
outside the classroom for real life experiences in career interests. Instructors were
determined to structure class and outside assignments that were creative and required
students to practice research skills, and used high level thinking skills.
The findings of this study do not concur with Townsends (2005) research
indicating that a majority (78%) of community college history instructors assign research
papers. Although inferences cannot be made concerning the practices of community
college history instructors as a whole, it is interesting to note that none of the instructors
who participated in this study assigned traditional research papers to his or her students.
Instructors mentioned an overwhelming number of students and the lack of student
experience in writing research papers as the rationale for not assigning research papers
as part of their assessment of student learning. Most of the instructors indicated that they
would incorporate research paper assignments into their history curriculum if class sizes
were reduced.
According to Shulman (1987), evaluation of student learning forms a connection
between theory and practice in the classroom. An instructors ability to appropriately test
and evaluate is an important element of effective instruction. The participants in this
study implied that that they were dedicated to finding the best way to assess student
outcomes and were willing to seek out and employ new strategies to gauge student
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140
learning. In reflecting on their views of assessment, many of the participants mentioned
the intangible results of teachingstudent learning that cannot be measured by formal
assessments. These intangible student learning outcomes were described as that light
that turns on when a student comprehends a concept or makes a connection to history.
Instructors perceived these light bulb moments as one of the most rewarding aspects of
teaching.
Discussion o f Research Question 7
How do effective college history instructors know when they need to improve?
According to Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model, an
effective instructor takes the time to reflect on their success or failure in the classroom
and then changes or improves teaching techniques accordingly. This reflective process
includes reviewing, reconstructing, reenacting, and critically analyzing ones own
teaching abilities and then grouping these reflected explanations into evidence of changes
that need to be made to become a better teacher. Protocol items were structured to elicit
information from the participants concerning how he or she determined improvements in
teaching methods were needed (How do you know if you need to change or improve a
pedagogical approach or strategy?). Additionally, instructors were asked to describe
examples of how methods or strategies were changed or improved (Could you share an
example of a method or pedagogical approach that you changed because you determined
it was unsuccessful?). Participant responses indicated the power of reflection and
flexibility in honing teaching skills and provided compelling support for tenets
established by Shulman (1992).
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141
Instructors openly discussed the continuous learning process that marked their
teaching experiences. Each participant offered examples, methodologies, and techniques
that failed to produce student learning and the actions taken to correct these failures. This
willingness to learn from mistakes and change strategies accordingly was echoed
throughout the interviews. Participants were urged to expand on experiences in their
classrooms that exemplified this willingness to change unsuccessful pedagogical
approaches. One example was provided by Jane, who described changing a research
paper assignment when it became apparent that her students simply did not have the
background or experience in formal writing to successfully complete a research paper.
Jane now uses several short book reports or activities based on Internet research rather
than a major research paper. According to Jane, the shorter assignments accomplish many
of the same goals as the research paper, including the development of research and
critical thinking skills. Janes willingness to re-evaluate her teaching methodologies and
make necessary adjustments were important elements in her dedication to create a better
learning experience for her students. Each instructor shared a similar experience of
changes made based on evaluations of success or failures and expressed a determination
to keep his or her teaching fresh and interesting for students.
Student Evaluations
Over the last century, student evaluations have become an integral part of the
college experience and are administered in almost all American colleges and universities.
According to Cashin (1983) and Baldwin and Blattner (2003), student evaluations are
probably the main source of information used for evaluating the effectiveness of an
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142
instructor. Participants were asked to describe how they used student evaluations to
examine successes or failures in the classroom. Instructors indicated that student
evaluations often provided useful information on successes or failures in the classroom.
Participant responses meshed well with research conducted by Witt (2004) indicating that
effective instructors pay careful attention to recurring themes and comments that occur in
their evaluations.
Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model establishes
reflection, a self-analysis of success or failure in ones teaching, as one of the most
important elements of good teaching. Shulman stresses the necessity of critically
analyzing ones teaching methods and behaviors and determining how one can improve
and develop the learning experience for students. By paying close attention to student
evaluations and seeking critiques of class activities, assignments, and assessments, study
participants continuously improved and expanded their teaching skills.
Discussion o f the Overarching Question
How do effective community college history instructors think about their
teaching?
The overarching question for this study sought to develop a robust, multifaceted
analysis of how highly effective community college history instructors think about their
teaching. Each of the sub-questions developed for this study was structured to examine a
specific facet of good teaching. Protocol items were structured to explore the attitudes
and behaviors of the effective community college history instructors and encouraged
study participants to share their thoughts and experiences of teaching history in
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143
community college. Analyses of participant responses provided a robust and multifaceted
composite of the attitudes and behaviors of effective community college history
instructors.
Research Question 1 (How do effective community college history instructors
think about their discipline?) revealed that effective history instructors are passionate
about their discipline and often trace a fascination of history to childhood experiences.
This passion for the discipline permeates all aspects of life and provides the basis for
hobbies, travels, and other personal pursuits. Moreover, effective history instructors are
drawn to the storytelling aspect of history and often use their own storytelling skills to
enrich student learning. According to Shulman (1992), an instructors deep and flexible
knowledge of the discipline he or she teaches provides the foundation for good teaching.
The effective instructors, in both attitude and teaching behaviors, embraced this element
of Shulmans theory.
Research Question 2 (How do effective community college history instructors
think about teaching in their discipline?) produced compelling data concerning how
effective history instructors perceived teaching in their discipline. The responses of study
participants indicated that effective instructors enjoy their work and profess high levels of
job satisfaction. These findings supported the findings of research conducted by Rosser
and Townsend (2006), indicating that instructors with high and medium levels of job
satisfaction were more effective than those with low job satisfaction. While recognizing
the opportunities inherent in the community college milieu, effective instructors are vocal
defenders of academic freedom. Additionally, research data determined that effective
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144
community college history instructors are strongly student-centered in their teaching
philosophy and dedicated to meeting the needs of a diverse student population.
An analysis of Research Question 3 (How do effective community college history
instructors learn about and stay current with developments in their discipline?) revealed
that effective community college history instructors tend to read extensively in their
discipline and often consider themselves to be lifelong learners. Effective history
instructors also make conscious efforts to expand their knowledge in educational practice
and theory. Moreover, effective instructors are proactive in supporting formal and
informal historical and educational organizations, often serving in leadership capacities.
The determination of effective instructors to enrich and expand their knowledge of the
discipline meshed well with Shulmans (1992) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model.
Research Question 4 (What kinds of pedagogical approaches do effective
community college history instructors employ to best teach history and what is their
rationale for these approaches?) revealed that effective community college history
instructors use diverse strategies and methodologies. Reflecting the results of previous
studies, lecture is the preferred teaching methodology of effective history instructors
(Detweiler, 2004). Study participants routinely used a number of resources and
techniques to enhance their lectures. Research data also imply that effective history
instructors have a positive self-concept and express confidence in their teaching
methodologies and strategies. Additionally, highly effective history instructors are
flexible, organized, and strongly student-centered in their teaching choices.
Research Question 5 (What strategies do effective community college history
instructors employ to reach a variety of students taking history and what is their rationale
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145
for these strategies?) examined how effective community college history instructors
provided a positive learning experience for a diverse student population. Community
colleges have traditionally responded to the needs of students, opening the doors of
higher education to individuals of all socioeconomic levels (McClenney & Waiwaiole,
2005), and community college instructors have been identified as strong proponents of a
student-centered philosophy (Huber, 1998; Townsend & LaPaglia, 2000). Research data
implied that effective history instructors are cognizant of the challenges presented by the
range of student abilities and motivations and dedicated to creating opportunities for
student success.
Research Question 6 (How do effective community college history instructors
know when they are successful in teaching history?) explored instructor perceptions on
assessments of student learning and how these assessments are used to improve teaching
techniques. According to Shulman (1987), an instructors ability to appropriately test and
evaluate is an important element of effective instruction. Research data indicates that
effective community college history instructors develop appropriate tests and
assignments and strive to prepare students for testing through study guides and reviews.
Effective instructors also provide fair and consistent feedback to students.
Research Question 7 (How do effective college history instructors know when
they need to improve?) revealed that effective community college history instructors are
able to determine when and how to change their teaching strategies. Reflecting the
theories of Shulman (1987), Chickering and Gamson (1999), Lowman (1994), and others,
research data determined that exemplary community college instructors tend to be
flexible and willing to adapt to the specific learning needs of students. Additionally,
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146
effective instructors pay attention to the success or failure of teaching strategies and use
student evaluations to improve their teaching.
Implications
The participants in this study openly shared their perceptions of history as a
discipline and reflected on their experiences of teaching in a community college.
Essentially, the results of this study and the themes that emerged from the coding of
instructor interview transcripts were consistent with previous research. A preponderance
of the literature suggests that effective community college history instructors play a
crucial role in providing a positive and successful learning environment for students, and
a successful learning experience can have far-reaching influence on student choices and
attitudes (Bain, 2004, Chickering & Gamson, 1999; Drummond, 2004; Ei & Bowen,
2002; Elbe, 1988; Hativa et al., 2001; Jenkins, 2005; Lowman, 1994; Shulman, 1987;
1992). Unquestionably, a community college history instructor who is passionate and
knowledgeable about their discipline and dedicated to student learning can leave an
enduring legacy with students.
A majority of community college students are required to take at least one survey
history course (Tai, 2004). For many students, their survey history courses can have a
lasting affect on their appreciation of history. The attitudes and teaching behaviors of
effective community college history instructors can provide valuable guidelines for
history instructors who are new to the field or struggling with teaching problems or
issues. It is crucial for community colleges to tap into the extensive knowledge and
experience of effective history instructors. This information may be used to assist in
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147
structuring faculty professional development opportunities, mentoring programs, and
teaching guidelines.
Recommendations for Future Study
1. In researching literature on community colleges, the researcher found a dearth
of current quantitative information on the teaching methodologies and strategies used by
community college history instructors. Past studies have indicated that survey community
college history classes are typically based on a lecture format, despite the introduction of
technology on most college campuses. A state or national survey study based on the
specific methods, assessments, and assignments used by community college history
instructors would be valuable for future studies such as this one.
2. All of the instructors interviewed for this study were vocal about the academic
freedom afforded by the community college teaching environment. Although they
appreciated this freedom, the participating instructors were deeply concerned about what
were perceived as threats to autonomy in the classroom and their ability to influence
policy making of their respective institutions. Although this study addressed the
conflictive issue of academic freedom, an expanded study based on the perceptions of
academic freedom in community college could generate valuable data.
3. In analyzing data derived from this study, the assignment of a research paper,
long considered one of the pillars of the college survey history course, seemed to be
losing ground as a viable teaching technique. Although a search of the literature indicated
that research papers were assigned by a majority of community college history
instructors, none of the participants in this study used this type of assignment. It would be
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148
interesting to conduct a broader study based on viability and rationale of usingor not
usingthe traditional research paper format for student assessment.
4. Current literature identifies student-centered methodologies, such as
cooperative group activities, to be a positive and powerful learning experience for
students (Morgan, 2005). Despite these findings, a majority of the instructors selected for
this study were reluctant to integrate these methodologies into their classrooms. A study
that examines how and to what extent student-centered strategies are used by community
college history instructors would offer valuable insights into instructor choices and
rationales of teaching choices.
5. For the most part, the participants in this study were reluctant to transform their
courses into an online format. Several instructors saw the institutional push toward
distance education as counter-productive to student learning in a history course and a
threat to their role as a history instructor. A study that further examined perceptions and
behaviors of community college history instructors concerning distance education could
generate useful information on developing online history programs and addressing online
teaching and learning issues.
6. Several instructors who participated in this study voiced concerns about the
future of college instructors. Many believed that the tenets of the learning college
philosophy and advances in technology would eventually make the college instructor
obsolete. A study that explores instructor or administrative perceptions of the future of
college teaching could provide an interesting avenue of research.
7. The researcher noted several differences in perceptions and teaching behaviors
of the former high school teachers in contrast to instructors without secondary teaching
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149
experience. This was especially apparent in the areas of beliefs about academic freedom
and attitudes concerning the inclusion of more non-traditional teaching methods into the
classroom. A study that investigates the perceptions and behaviors of community college
instructors who have degrees in secondary education and secondary teaching experience
could offer some intriguing information about this unique group and their approach to
teaching.
8. Research literature suggests that community college history instructors tend to
rely on textbooks for the majority of classroom reading assignments. However, the
participating instructors did not reflect this trend, and most expressed concerns about the
cost of history textbooks as compared to the amount of actual use by students. A study
that examines how and to what extent community college history instructors use the
textbook to reinforce student learning could provide valuable information for institutions
and text publishing companies.
9. According to research on student evaluations, students have strong opinions
about what constitutes effective college teaching. A study that examined student
perceptions of effective history instructors could provide important data on what current
history students expect from their experience in a survey history class. Student
observations of assessments and learning activities used in history courses could offer
valuable insights to instructors.
10. Study participants were particularly concerned about the removal of an
attendance policy from Alabama community colleges. Participants perceived the lack of a
comprehensive attendance policy was detrimental to student learning and a major source
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150
of frustration and stress for instructors. A study on how attendance policies affect student
success should be conducted.
Recommendations for Practice
1. All of the study participants stressed the importance of taking advantage of
professional development opportunities and expanding their knowledge of the discipline
through attending conferences. However, the participating instructors indicated that few
of these professional opportunities or history conferences focused specifically on
strategies or techniques for teaching history in community college. Therefore,
professional development opportunities that are expressly geared toward the art of
teaching history in community college should be implemented.
2. This study echoed previous research indicating that the lecture was the
preferred mode of instruction for a majority of history instructors. Most of the
participants were particularly reluctant to integrate cooperative group learning activities
into their classroom or transform their course into an online format. The basis for this
reluctance appeared to be a lack of knowledge or experience in using or implementing
these methods. Training in these teaching and learning strategies could mitigate instructor
concerns and frustrations about using these methods and provide history instructors with
innovative ideas for enhancing instruction.
3. The instructors interviewed for this study offered a wealth of experience and
knowledge about teaching history in community college. Additionally, all of the
instructors believed he or she had a responsibility to share information with less
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151
experienced instructors. Highly effective history instructors should be encouraged to
provide mentoring for those with less experience in teaching in the discipline.
4. The Alabama College System should develop programs or other opportunities
for history instructors to share ideas, teaching techniques and solutions to teaching
problems and dilemmas. Formal or informal meetings or conferences that allow history
instructors from across the state to discuss innovations and teaching ideas could be a
powerful tool in improving history programs in community colleges across the state. A
program such as this would provide mentoring opportunities for effective history
instructors and allow inexperienced instructors to gain valuable knowledge on the craft of
teaching and classroom management.
5. A website dedicated to dispersing teaching materials and ideas as well as
information on history and postsecondary topics, as well as a forum for discussions and
questions, should be developed by the Alabama College System for history instructors
across the state. A website would allow instructors to access information or seek
assistance at times that are personally convenient. This website could also be used to
provide history instructors with information concerning events and learning opportunities
available through national and state history organizations.
6. Community college history instructors often enter the classroom with little or
no experience in classroom management and dealing with student behaviors. Professional
development opportunities structured specifically for the challenges and requirements of
the history curriculum could be helpful for new history instructors. Additionally, these
professional development opportunities could present current research in educational
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152
theory and philosophy and provide teachers with rationales for implementing teaching
strategies.
7. As indicated by the results of this study, history courses can often be enriched
by audio visual materials such as documentaries, music, PowerPoints, and examples of
art and photographs. A system-wide library or collection of history resources should be
created and made available for instructors across the state. Additionally, instructors who
have successfully implemented specific media into their instruction could provide
instructions and advice for other history professionals.
8. As new equipment such as Smart Boards and media projectors are being
introduced into community college classrooms, it is important for instructors to
understand how to effectively use this technology. Community colleges should offer
professional development focused on implementing technology into the history
classroom. Moreover, history instructors who successfully incorporate technology into
their instruction should be given the opportunity to share this knowledge with other
history professionals.
9. A newsletter or web magazine geared specifically to state community college
history instructors should be created by the Alabama College System. This newsletter
would be an effective way of dispersing information about state and national conferences,
graduate courses in history and higher education, and other professional opportunities.
Additionally, this newsletter could provide community college historians with an
opportunity to present research articles and other information concerning their discipline.
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153
Conclusion
According to Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model, an
instructors deep and flexible knowledge of their discipline establishes the foundation for
effective teaching. This tenet of Shulmans theory was strongly supported by the results
of this research study. The instructors interviewed for this study were passionate about
history and dedicated to extending and enriching their knowledge of the subject. This
passion for history extended beyond the walls of the classroom and provided an impetus
for hobbies, travels, and other interests.
Shulmans (1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model also stresses the
importance of an instructors ability to choose and implement appropriate teaching
methodologies and strategies. The participants, although approaching the art of teaching
in diverse ways, were dedicated to providing the best possible learning environment for
students. All of the instructors selected for this study professed to enjoy the act of
teaching and each strongly believed that he or she was bom to be a teacher. According
to Palmer (1990), good teaching is based on a combination of instructor knowledge and
teaching skills and the indefinable chemistry of an instructors positive relationship with
students. The instructors who participated in this study certainly reflected these tenets of
good teaching in both attitude and teaching behaviors. Each participant revealed an
abiding passion for the discipline of history and a strong dedication for working with
students. In sharing their beliefs and teaching decisions, these exemplary instructors
added to the knowledge base on college teaching and provided useful guidelines on
teaching history in community college.
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APPENDIX A
OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
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168
For the purpose of this research, the following definitions were used:
1. Community college-A 2-year institution that provides an entry-level college
education and is generally characterized by open admissions policies, and a wide range of
offerings, including 2-year degrees, transferable degrees, vocational training, certificate
courses, and community education programs (OBanion, 1998).
2. Traditional college studentAn undergraduate student who enrolls in college
immediately after graduation from high school, pursues college studies on a continuous
full-time basis at least during the fall and spring semesters, and completes a bachelors
degree program in four or five years at the young age of 22 or 23 (Center for Institutional
Effectiveness, 2004).
3. Non-traditional college studentA college student who is older, working full or
part-time, and lives off campus (OBanion, 1998).
4. Pedagogical content knowledgeA set of special attributes that facilitates the
transfer of the knowledge of content to others; the ways that an effective instructor has of
representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others
(Shulman, 1987).
5. Effective InstructorCollege instructors who have been determined to be
successful in creating a learning climate that encourages students disciplinary and
critical thinking (Bain, 2004). Currently, effective instructors are primarily determined by
the efficiency ratings of the instructors conducted by institutional or departmental
evaluations and through student evaluations (Shulman, 1987).
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169
6. Survey history courseAn entry level history course that covers a broad range
of topics in either U. S. history or European history; usually a requirement for completing
a core curriculum (Townsend, 2005).
7. Problem-based learningA pedagogical concept in which students are given
challenging, open-ended problems in small, cooperative groups; teachers guide the
learning process as facilitators (Herron & Major, 2004).
8. Cooperative learningA teaching strategy designed to promote productive and
mutual learning among a group of students (Karnes & Collins, 1997).
9. Learning-centeredA broad range of educational approaches that focuses on
learning as a primary indicator of student success.
10. iPodA brand of portable media player designed and marketed by Apple
Computer and used by colleges and universities as a medium of instruction for distance
education.
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APPENDIX B
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR HISTORY INSTRUCTORS
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171
1. Tell me about your educational and professional background. Why did you decide
to major in and teach history?
2. Do you have a course or era of history that you particularly enjoy teaching?
3. As a community college instructor, you have a broad range of students in terms of
ability and interest in history. Describe the techniques and strategies you have
found to be most successful in teaching your students.
4. Describe the greatest challenges you have faced as a community college history
instructor.
5. Tell me about your philosophy of teaching. How do you apply this philosophy to
your work with the students in your classroom?
6. Describe most and least favorite aspects of teaching.
7. As you look back on your high school and college experiences, are there any
history instructors that stand out in your mind? Did these experiences affect your
teaching in any way?
8. Is there any other information you would like to add to our discussion about
effective college teaching?
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APPENXDIX C
REVISED INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR COLLEGE HISTORY INSTRUCTORS
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173
Introductory Remarks: Thank you for taking time to talk with me today. This interview
will take approximately half an hour to complete. As I mentioned in our earlier
correspondence, I am a doctoral student pursuing a degree in Higher Education at the
University o f Alabama. My dissertation topic focuses on the methodologies, techniques,
and attitudes o f effective college history instructors. You were recommended to me as an
ideal candidate for this research. The information from this interview will be used to
identify the unique characteristics of effective instructors. This interview will be
confidential and I will not identify you by name or institution or discuss our
conversations with anyone.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Overarching Question: How do effective college history instructors think about their
teaching?
Interview Question: What led you to the profession of teaching history in a community
college?
Interview Question: What aspects about teaching history in community college do you
find most appealing?
Interview Question: Could you describe your philosophy of teaching? How do you apply
this philosophy to work with students?
Question 1: How do effective community college history instructors think about their
discipline?
Interview Question: Describe your discipline?
Interview Question: What is the most appealing aspect of your discipline?
Question 2: How do effective community college instructors think about their teaching
in their discipline?
Interview Question: What courses or eras do you particularly enjoy teaching?
Interview Question: Describe the greatest challenges you have faced as a community
college history instructor.
Interview Question: Describe your most and least favorite aspects of teaching history in
the community college.
Question 3: How do community college history instructors learn about and/or stay
current with developments within their discipline?
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174
Interview Question: How do you stay current on the changes and developments within
your discipline?
Interview Question: How do you incorporate these developments into your pedagogy?
Question 4: What kinds of pedagogical approaches do effective community college
history instructors employ to best teach history and what is their rationale for these
approaches?
Interview Question: What kinds of pedagogical approaches do you use to teach history?
Interview Question: Why did you choose these methods?
Interview Question: How do you determine if these methods are successful?
Question 5: What strategies do effective community college history instructors employ
to reach a variety of students taking history and what is their rationale for these
strategies?
Interview Question: As a community college instructor, you have a broad range of
students in terms of ability, learning styles, and interest in the history. How do you
address these differences in your teaching?
Interview Question: Describe the techniques and strategies that you have found to be the
most successful with your students.
Interview Question: How did you know these strategies were successful?
Question 6: How do effective community college history instructors know when they are
successful in teaching students?
Interview Question: How do you measure student success in your classroom?
Interview Question: Do you think it is important to share your successful teaching
approaches and strategies with other community college history instructors?
Question 7: How do effective college history instructors know when they need to
improve?
Interview Question: How do you know if you need to change or improve a pedagogical
approach or strategy?
Interview Question: Could you share an example of a method or pedagogical approach
that you changed because you determined it was unsuccessful?
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APPENDIX D
PERMISSION TO CONDUCT RESEARCH STUDY DOCUMENTS
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176
Office'o: Research
O f f i c e o f the A s s o c ^ t e
V i c e President h * Rssssich
THE U N I V E R S I T Y O F
ALABAMA
R E S E A R C H
: K>7 Rose Administration Building
Bo O' i7
Tu s c s k x i s ^ Alabama 35 4 B/-G* 17
( 205) ^ 5 7
** i'706'5 'i4-rsH7
April 3, 2006
Rebecca Loilar Reeves
Higher Education Administration
College o f Education
Re: IRB " 06-OR-088 Good Teaching: A Qualitative Study of Effective
Community College History Instructors
Dear Ms. Reeves:
The University of Alabama Institutional Review Board has granted
approval for your proposed research.
Your protocol has been given expedited approval according to 45 CFR
part 46. Approval has been given under expedited review category' 7 as
outlined below:
(7) Research on individual or group characteristics or behavior
(including, but not limited io, research on perception, cognition,
motivation, identity, language, communication, cultural beliefs or
practices, and social behavior) or research employing survey, interview,
oral history, focus group, program evaluation, human factors evaluation,
or quality assurance methodologies.
Should you need to submit any further correspondence regarding this
proposal, please include the assigned IRB application number. Please use
reproductions of the IRB approved informed consent form to obtain
consent from your participants.
Good luck with your research.
Sincerely,
d L y * 3 . r y . ...... ^
Carpantato T. Myles, MSM
Research Compliance Officer
The University of Alabama
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MmH-31-2086 14:25 F rom: 2053406781 To:8S88S P . l ' l
tRg #;
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN
SUBJECTS
REQUEST FOR APPROVAL OP RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTS
Second Investigator Third Investigator
I. Identifying isfonaatlon
Principal investigator
Name; Rebecca Lolkr Rtcvea
Department; Higher Education AdminiBrstion
College: Education
University: University of Alabama,
TuscsIoom
Address: 528 County Road 627
Hsaoeville, AL 35077
Telephone: (256)734-3270
FAX:
E-mail: rebrccv@betjsauth.net
Title of Research Project: Good Teaching: A Qualitative Study of Effective Community College
History Instructors
Date Printed: Funding Source:
Type of
Proposal:
Revision Renewal Completed
AtUfih na*rv**l !
tpplkaJitt!
Attach a coAtifttting review o f tftNiia form
PUom enter the origin*! IRB ? at the top of toe pope
_Exempt
UA faculty or staff member signature: _
TFICAT10N OF lIS ACTION (to be completed by IR8):
T>pe of Review: ______ Full board X_____Eipedttod
IRB Action;
^Rejected
Tabled Pending Revisions
Approved Pending Revisions
D a t e
Date
Date
^.Approvedibis propose! complies with Univereity and federal regulations for the protection of human subject
Approval is effective until the following date: * ? / 3 l / 0 *]
Items approved: Research protocol:
Informed consent:
Recruitment materials:
Other:
Approval signature
l-tfR-#"
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178
GOOD TEACHING: A QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF EFFECTIVE
COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMMUNITY INSTRUCTORS
Rebecca Loliar Reeves, Researcher
Dr. Claire Major, Faculty Advisor
Consent Form
Dear Academic Instructor:
As part of the requirements for the completion of my doctorate degree at The University of
Alabama, I am conducting a research study to examine the teaching methodologies and attitudes
of exemplary community college history instructors. In order to accomplish this research, I need
your assistance. I truly appreciate your assistance in my research by taking the time to be
interviewed.
You will be interviewed because of your experience as a college history instructor and reputation
for excellence. With your permission, I would like to audiotape this interview. If at any time you
would like me to turn off the recorder, you may ask me to do so. Participation in this study is
voluntary and you are free to decline to answer any question. The interview will require
approximately 30 minutes of your time.
Data from this interview will be transcribed by the researcher and the tape will be erased. I may
use direct quotations from this interview for my research, however, neither your name nor any
distinguishing characteristics will appear with a quote from this interview without obtaining your
prior permission. Finally, none of the information obtained in this interview will be discussed
during interviews with others at the college. There are no foreseeable risks to those involved in
interviews for this study, and no direct benefits to the participants of this study.
The results of the interviews will be reported in the form of a doctoral dissertation at The
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Research such as this is important and needed to help make
decisions regarding successful teaching methodologies in community college history' classes. The
benefits to society are that the results will be added to the information bank for further study.
For any questions about this interview contact me at rebecca.reevesfngwallacestate.edu or call me
at 256-352-8262. You may also contact my faculty advisor, Dr. Claire Major, at
c m a io r(%bamaed.ua.eda or call her at (205)348-1152. If you have any questions about your rights
as a research participant, you may contact Ms. Tama Myles, Research Compliance Officer at
(205) 348-5152. You will receive a copy of the consent form to keep. Again, thank you so much
for participating.
You have read and understand the consent form. You agree to participate in this research study.
Upon signing below, you will receive a copy of the consent form.
Name of Participant Signature Date
Rebecca Dollar Reeves
Name of Person
Obtaining Consent
Signature of Person
Obtaining Consent
Date
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IRB
CONSENT FORM APPROVED) 1'H'OL
EXPIRATION DATE:
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
179
GOOD TEACHING: A QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF EFFECTIVE
COMMUNITY COLLEGE COMMUNITY INSTRUCTORS
Rebecca Loliar Reeves, Researcher
Dr. Claire Major, Faculty Advisor
Consent Form
Dear Student:
As part of the requirements for the completion the doctoral program at The University of
Alabama, I am conducting a research study to examine the teaching methodologies and attitudes
of exemplary community college history instructors. In order to accomplish this research, I need
your assistance. I truly appreciate your taking time to be interviewed as a participant in this study.
You will be interviewed because of your experiences as a college history student in the Alabama
community' college system. With your permission, 1would like to audiotape this interview, If at
any time you would like me to turn off the recorder, you may ask me to do so. Participation in
this study is voluntary and you are free to decline to answer any question. The interview will
require approximately 30 minutes of your time.
Data from this interview will be transcribed by the researcher and the tape will be erased. I may
use direct quotations from this interview for my research, however, neither your name nor any
distinguishing characteristics will appear with a quote from this interview without obtaining your
prior permission. None of the information obtained in this interview will be discussed during
interviews with others at the college. There are no foreseeable risks to those involved in
interview's for this study, and no direct benefits to the participants of this study.
The results of the interviews will be reported in the form of a doctoral dissertation at The
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Research such as this is important and needed to help make
decisions regarding successful teaching methodologies in community college history classes. The
benefits to society are that the results will be added to the information bank for further study.
For any questions about this interview contact me at rebecca.reeves@waliacestate.edu or call me
at 256-352-8262. You may also contact my faculty advisor, Dr. Claire Major, at
c mat or@faaniaed .ua.edu or call her at (205)348-1152. If you have any questions about your rights
as a research participant, you may contact Ms. Tanta Myles, Research Compliance Officer at
(205)-348'5152, You will receive a copy of the consent form to keep. Again, thank you so much
for participating.
You have read and understand the consent form. By signing this form, I attest that 1am at least 19
years of age agree to participate in this research study. Upon signing below, you will receive a
copy of the consent form.
Name of Participant S i g n a t u r e Date
Rebecca Loliar Reeves
Name of Person
Obtaining Consent
Signature of Person
Obtaining Consent
Date
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IR8
CONSENT FORM APPROVED: 3 ' 3 m
EXPIRATION DATE: ^ -'ht'0^1
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.