Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

First Advisor

Matthew W. Ohland

Committee Chair

Matthew W. Ohland

Committee Member 1

Joyce Main

Committee Member 2

Karl Smith

Committee Member 3

Stuart Kellogg


There is wide agreement that teaching quality matters in higher education, but faculty have varied ideas about the definition of quality. This dissertation examined data from a survey administered in 1997, 1999, and 2002 at institutions of the Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education (SUCCEED) supplemented by a survey administered more recently to a subset of those institutions and two additional institutions. All participating institutions are large public universities. The data collected included faculty teaching practices and three influences on those practices—the faculty member’s definition of quality teaching, their perspective on ABET accreditation processes, and the climate for teaching at their institution, resulting in a dissertation in a three-paper format.^“Engineering Faculty Perspectives on the Nature of Quality Teaching” examines definitions of quality teaching. Using thematic analysis, these were coded according to a framework for quality in higher education by Harvey and Greene. Multinomial logistic regression showed that views on quality teaching were associated with faculty teaching practices. The most common definition of teaching quality (held by 49 percent of participants) is associated with elitism and restricted access—the best way to improve education is to admit better students. These faculty focus on education as “knowledge transfer” and “learning content.” Another 38 percent of faculty had a transformational perspective, more focused on process than content, valuing “empowering students,” “developing students,” and “creating an environment for learning.” These faculty refer pedagogies of engagement such as active learning. The only other prevalent definition of quality (30 percent of faculty) focused on “fitness for purpose,” characterized by terms such as “ability to meet specific legitimate learning objectives” and “mastery of learning outcomes.” This work provides guidance to faculty development efforts. ^ “The Influence of ABET Accreditation Practices on Faculty Approaches to Teaching” explores the effect of ABET accreditation on quality teaching as described in faculty comments from 2014 using thematic analysis. Multinomial logistic regression related faculty perspectives on accreditation terminology and processes to faculty teaching practices. Faculty had overwhelmingly negative views regarding accreditation, believing that it adds to their workload, stifles their creativity, and distracts them from other important objectives including teaching. Faculty who express various negative views of either the goals or the practice of accreditation are less likely to engage in certain student-centered teaching practices. More positively, our findings show that faculty who tend agree with the student-outcomes focus of the ABET criteria engage in richer educational experiences—they give students more writing assignments and allow students to learn collaboratively. ^ “Faculty Perspectives and Institutional Climate for Teaching Quality in Engineering” analyzes faculty comments from the earlier surveys using thematic analysis. Comments from the 2014 survey were classified by teaching practices (traditional vs. non-traditional) and institutional climate (traditional vs. non-traditional), creating four cases. These comments were then analyzed using a collective case study approach. The study of the two collections of open-ended comments was supplemented by multinomial logistic regression of survey items from the 2014 administration relating faculty teaching practices and the institutional climate for teaching. In the historical data, faculty views of student evaluations evolved from seeing it as a negative burden to describing is as positive evidence of student learning. Faculty comments included many references to administrators who only “pay lip service” to the importance of teaching, although some faculty spoke positively about their campus’ commitment to quality teaching. Faculty awareness of and pressure to use student-centered methods increased with time. The collective case study identified faculty in all four conditions, although they were not equally prevalent, and illustrates the experience in each condition using faculty comments.