Students in higher education are increasingly perceived as customers by both administrators and themselves. Perceived as paying customers, student satisfaction with their experience in higher education has become a topic of greater interest to stakeholders, first and foremost to administrators interested in improving it. While many factors can influence student satisfaction, previous research highlights the specific importance of quality course instruction. Ironically, a leading complaint made by students is poor quality course instruction. The gap that exists between what students need, desire, and expect and what they get often results in feelings of dissatisfaction with faculty performance and course instruction and with higher education overall. The degree to which customers' needs, desires, and expectations are met plays an important role toward influencing their overall satisfaction level. Although increased interest has resulted in considerable efforts to study this topic from different vantage points, it has not been adequately studied as a human phenomenon. Consequently, not enough is yet known about what it means to be a customer satisfied with course instruction in higher education. Recognizing the needs, desires, and expectations students have of faculty is an important step toward developing course instruction students evaluate as satisfying. This study used a quantitative approach to identify a class of nearly 100 students who were highly satisfied with a class they took as well as a qualitative approach to study their lived experiences. This study was designed to develop a deeper understanding of what happens to students during a course they evaluated as highly satisfying and from which they "learned a lot." Data were analyzed using grounded theory method to uncover the needs, desires, and expectations they had and were met by their instructor. Findings were used to create a theoretical model explaining how a highly satisfying learning experience unfolded for these students.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major:Teaching and Learning. Advisor: Frank Guldbrandsen, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 141 pages, appendices A-B.
Butterfield, Brenda S..
Mind the gap: a mixed methods study of student satisfaction with faculty performance and course instruction in higher education.
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