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Learning outcomes’ role in higher education teaching

Rita Nasrallah (Faculty of the Science of Education, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon)

Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues

ISSN: 1753-7983

Article publication date: 28 October 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this multiple-case study was to examine the ambiguity surrounding course learning outcomes and how they are perceived by faculty members in four private universities, while simultaneously investigating the dominant teaching perspectives, practices and assessment techniques. In parallel, theory of constructive alignment was shared with faculty members and students as a possible teaching-learning model.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is a qualitative multiple-case study designed based on Yin’s (2009) case study protocol and Stake’s (2006) cross-case analysis report. In the process, 52 faculty members were interviewed, and 38 of the 52 were observed teaching, plus 15 of 52, faculty members participated in separate focus groups about constructive alignment. Further, 18 students were interviewed in separate focus groups to find out how they perceive effective teaching and constructive alignment.

Findings

The findings showed why faculty members misunderstood the course learning outcomes. Both faculty members and students withheld similar perceptions when it came to efficient teaching; however, they disagreed regarding the utility of constructive alignment as a proposed teaching-learning model. The 52 faculty members were mainly knowledge transmitters and this contradicts with the notion of the learning outcomes, which is student-centered. In addition, they are not familiar with the teaching-learning theories or with the various pedagogical tools that may render learning constructive.

Research limitations/implications

The fact that this study is a multiple-case study automatically implies that the results cannot be generalized within the larger higher education context. Nevertheless, the research findings can help to clarify the reasons hindering the proper implementation of the learning outcomes in other institutions, as it can serve as a guide to improve all the detected weaknesses, which may be applicable in other contexts. It can also aid administrative bodies at the different institutions in dealing with the obstacles that restrict the workability of the learning outcomes.

Practical implications

Teaching in higher education must be nurtured through continuously investing time and effort in supporting faculty members to develop their teaching-learning skills to suit the changing profiles of students to render learning a durable experience.

Originality/value

The study is unique in how it combined Yin’s protocol with Stake’s cross-case analysis report. Additionally, the classroom observation instrument was, to an extent, a precedent in terms of higher education research in the Lebanese context. Further, the results obtained added to the results of previous research, i.e. the reasons why the learning outcomes were not functional. Plus, a cyclical/retrograding motion learning model emerged in the process, and the practicality of the theory of constructive alignment in the Lebanese context was questioned.

Keywords

Citation

Nasrallah, R. (2014), "Learning outcomes’ role in higher education teaching", Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 257-276. https://doi.org/10.1108/EBS-03-2014-0016

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited