include the National Surveys of Postsecondary Faculty sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (e.g., Schuster and Finkelstein, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2005) and the Higher Education Research Institute surveys sponsored by the University of California, Los Angeles (e.g., DeAngelo et al., 2009). Second are a limited number of national surveys of faculty members in engineering (Borrego, Froyd, and Hall, 2010), the geosciences (Macdonald et al., 2005), and physics (Henderson and Dancy, 2009).
The sample sizes of national surveys of faculty permit cross-disciplinary comparisons only at a gross level such as natural sciences versus social sciences. The discipline-specific surveys, in contrast, contain larger samples in the disciplines studied. However, those results are not readily comparable across the disciplines because researchers asked different types of respondents about different types of research-based practices. In addition, findings from the individual disciplinary surveys must be interpreted with caution. Response rates vary from 12 percent in engineering to 50 percent in physics (compared with almost 90 percent across all disciplines in the National Surveys of Postsecondary Faculty 1994). The results may reflect selection bias, if faculty members more engaged in research-based teaching responded more frequently than others who were less engaged. In addition, the findings in the geosciences and physics are based on faculty self-reports, which may overestimate the extent of change in teaching practice. The engineering surveys report on department chairs’ perceptions of faculty members’ teaching practices, which also might not be accurate.
National survey results of faculty instructional approaches show that faculty members in science and engineering fields are, on average, the least likely to use any form of student-centered or collaborative instruction. They are the most likely to rely primarily on lectures in their classrooms (Fairweather, 2005; Fairweather and Paulson, 1996, 2005; Schuster and Finkelstein, 2006). These results are consistent with the more detailed studies of individual science and engineering disciplines described next.
Researchers in the geosciences conducted a web-based, national survey of 2,207 faculty members in 2004, with a 39 percent response rate (Macdonald et al., 2005). Survey responses revealed that traditional lecture was the most commonly used classroom teaching method. Sixty-six percent of those teaching introductory classes and 56 percent of those teaching courses for majors reported lecturing in nearly every class. More than half of respondents said they incorporated some interactive activities at least once a week, usually lecture with questions or lecture with demonstrations. Faculty reported using interactive techniques more frequently in courses with fewer than 31 students—including small introductory courses and courses for majors—than in medium-sized (31-80 students) or large classes (more than 80 students).