Title page for ETD etd-1234132439741131

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Preston, Marlene M.
Author's Email Address mpreston@vt.edu
URN etd-1234132439741131
Title A Descriptive Study of the Design influences and Role of Students' Needs on the Selection of Course Content In higher Education
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Emick, Mark
Niles, Jerome A.
Parson, Stephen R.
Wildman, Terry M.
Magliaro, Susan G. Committee Chair
  • curriculum and instruction
Date of Defense 1997-08-21
Availability unrestricted




by Marlene M. Preston

Chair: Dr. Susan Magliaro

Curriculum and Instruction


College faculty are recognized as experts in their academic

disciplines with a wide range of knowledge about their

disciplines. As a manifestation of their academic freedom,

they have assumed responsibility for folding that discipline

knowledge into course design. Generally untrained as

teachers, however, they have followed circuitous routes

into the realm of course design. While scholars, peers,

administrators, legislators, and the public have examined

their delivery strategies in the classroom, little consideration

has been given to the processes faculty use to select

appropriate course content for their students.

Focusing on those selection processes, this study sought to

describe (1) how faculty learn to choose content, (2) the

place of students among the influences on their content

selection, and (3) the processes they undertake in their

decision-making about course content. The study involved

a questionnaire and interviews.

The results of this study indicate that some faculty, albeit a

minority, do focus on students as they choose content.

They consider students to be a primary influence, and they

collect data in an informal, intuitive manner about students.

They may not know current principles of learning theory,

but they seem to have a sense of what works for students.

This sense has led to a practice of course design which is

unique to individual professors, fluid, and isolated.

The majority of faculty are concerned with students, but

are discipline-centered in their content selection. Across

types of institutions and disciplines, their first loyalty is to

the furtherance of the academic discipline. They do report

an interest in learning about topics related to students,

especially learning theory.

Faculty and administrators who are interested in enhancing

the focus on students in higher education should find the

study useful. They will want to search out those

student-centered planners and begin to document their

processes as a first step in identifying and transmitting

effective steps in the content selection practice. They will

want to plan development activities, perhaps rooted in the

disciplines, and find ways to support faculty as they learn

and practice relating needs assessments to content

selection for their courses.

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