Conceptions of the Quality of Teaching in Higher Education in Australia: An Investigation

Bosquet, Laval Michel Jean-Francois (2018) Conceptions of the Quality of Teaching in Higher Education in Australia: An Investigation. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


In this study I have investigated the ways academics experience the quality of teaching in the higher education sector in Australia. Having an understanding of what quality of teaching means to different categories of academics in important for both university management and the academics. A literature review revealed that ‘quality’ is a contested concept and academics’ divergent opinions over its meaning; the scant attention that the research literature has paid to this notion led this research study to address the gap in this body of knowledge. The study used a phenomenographic approach and a metaphor analysis to elicit and describe the qualitatively different ways that academics experienced the quality of teaching. A purposeful sample of nineteen teaching academics – nine permanent and ten sessional employees in the Business School of a prominent Australian University – participated in the study. The data, which were gathered through individual and focus group interviews, were subjected to both phenomenographic and metaphor analysis. Initially, the interview transcripts were analysed using an inductive data reduction procedure; a phenomenographic analysis resulted in an outcome space consisting of a finite set of categories of description which explained the different ways academics in the sample experienced quality phenomena in their world. As a result, nine ways of experiencing the quality of teaching were identified: • quality as student satisfaction; • quality as compliance with standards; • quality as control and assurance; • quality as blended learning and delivery modes; • quality as scholarship and professional practice; • quality as information and communication; • quality perception and language games; • quality as community of practice and peer-partnership; • quality as students’ academic success and job-readiness. Subsequently, I subjected the data obtained from each of two separate focus group interviews of the permanent and the sessional academics were also subjected to inductive data reduction analysis; this resulted in establishing a set of ’emergent metaphors’ associated with the quality of teaching that emerged from the experience of the two groups of academics. Finally, I paired the categories of description from the semi-structured interviews with the ’emergent metaphors’ from the focus group interviews; similarities and differences arising between the two groups of academics were compared and contrasted. The findings highlighted the fact that academics experienced the quality of teaching in different ways, including individual interpretations and the understanding of the term ‘quality’. I found that the results of the study challenge a commonly-held assumption that the concept of ‘quality’ may only be communicated through the use of exact language and that it needs to be measured substantively, through a proper audit method. I also found that both similar and different ’emergent metaphors’ were embedded within communication between the two groups of stakeholders; overall, the existence of these ‘emergent metaphors’ suggests that there are viable alternative ways of dealing with the notion of ‘quality’ in teaching within the higher education sector.

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Doctor of Education..
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Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords quality of teaching, higher education, Australia, academics, teaching quality
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