The Numbers are Not Enough: The Role of Qualitative Evidence in Local Teaching Cultures

J. Lynn Gazley
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology
The College of New Jersey

STEM-centered change efforts often rely on traditional (quantitative) forms of evidence to inspire faculty to change their pedagogies, but ignore the important contribution of social and emotional learning. Qualitative data, therefore, can be an important contributor to institutional change because of (1) the ability to reveal novel information about why strategies are and are not working, helping to detect issues as they arise, and (2) the usefulness in detecting patterns among small populations. This mixed-methods, longitudinal research project builds on a data-in-practice framework to examine how experience and qualitative data can be developed, shared, and integrated into a local teaching culture to encourage inclusive, student-centered teaching practices.Pilot data from the Summer Scholars Program, a five-week summer bridge program for Pell-eligible students receiving scholarships that include academic support, demonstrates a transformational effect on the faculty instructors’ pedagogical practices and attitudes toward the traditionally underserved students within the program. In interviews, we noted a shift in faculty attitudes from focusing on filling preparation gaps to appreciation of student effort (“these guys work so hard! They do everything I ask of them”, Engineering faculty member). In addition, the integrated nature of the program led to transparency between academic performance and life circumstances, with our faculty members shifting from dismissing students they perceived as ‘not trying’ to asking other program staff (and the students themselves) if ‘something is going on’ with them.This research into the role of expertise with new majority students and qualitative data in pedagogical decision making offers the STEM education community a new mechanism to foster cultural change. By building these faculty experiences into the fabric of academic departments, we can move from a focus on individual innovators to institution-wide teaching culture change.


John Marshall, TCNJ, Suriza Van der Sandt, TCNJ, A. J. Richards, TCNJ