Students' Responses to Innovative Instructional Methods: Exploring Learning-Centred Methods and Barriers to Change
Ellis, Donna E.
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This exploratory research investigates students’ responses to innovative instructional methods, focusing primarily on identifying the barriers that discourage students from engaging with methods that are new or not expected. The instructional methods explored are examples of learning-centred teaching and assessment methods, and are considered to be innovative since they are not yet widely used in higher education. To investigate this issue, literature from organizational change management, resistance to change, and higher education is reviewed. Gaps from the higher education literature suggest that no comprehensive framework or model exists regarding students’ barriers to engaging with innovative, learning-centred instructional methods. Additionally, few studies compare faculty member and student perceptions, clarify whether the instructional methods studied are innovative for the students, or apply theories and concepts from the change management literature. This research attempts to address these gaps. Case study methodology is selected to enable a detailed study of a course that employs innovative instructional methods. A modified grounded theory approach is used to inform both research instrument design and data analyses. Data are collected from multiple sources and via multiple methods, and both thematic and comparative analyses are presented. Overall, support is found for the four research propositions posed. The students’ barriers fall into eight key themes, and comprise various codes and properties to provide further understanding. The saliency of the codes appears to vary by time of term and type of instructional method. Other relevant factors include: the students’ year of study and amount of instructional variety, the academic discipline and culture of the innovative course, and misalignments between the students’ and instructor’s perceptions of the barriers to change. The value of course evaluation data as feedback about innovative courses is also questioned. Finally, connections are made between the findings and the Reasoned Action Approach theory for future possible research. The findings provide a new comprehensive barrier framework, analytic fishbone tool, and testable theory to help guide the development of future research projects. Additionally, future practitioners – both faculty members and educational developers – can benefit from knowing what factors to consider when planning for and confronting student resistance to innovative instructional methods.