Examining How Faculty Reflect on Instructional Data: A Call for Critical Awareness and Institutional Support

WCER Working Paper No. 2016-4

Bailey B. Smolarek and Matthew T. Hora


August 2016, 26 pp.

ABSTRACT: Drawing on insights from culturally responsive K-12 education frameworks and dual process theory, this qualitative study explores the situated nature of reflective practice among postsecondary faculty and calls for increased critical awareness and institutional support. Through interviews with 21 California research university faculty, this study found that instructors drew on both numeric and non-numeric data forms to engage in reflective practice. This tendency indicates a need for a more holistic, multi-disciplinary, and critical understanding of “data” than what the current accountability movement has imagined. This study’s findings also show that although faculty consistently engaged in reflective practice, the outcomes of this reflection were severely limited by both individual bias and institutional constraints. Thus, while we recognize the current budgetary struggles many universities face, we argue that in order to better serve postsecondary students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, more institutional support is needed. Postsecondary institutions can play a significant role in facilitating critical examination by providing faculty the necessary space, time, and guidance to engage in critical reflection as well as the appropriate institutional mechanisms to voice concerns and enact change.

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keywords: Reflective Practice, Higher Education, Equity, Faculty Development