Providence College Local Faculty Survey: Analytical Memo of Findings

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1 Providence College Local Faculty Survey: Analytical Memo of Findings October 1, 2013

2 Overview The following memorandum provides an analytical narrative of the results of the 2013 Ithaka S+R Local Faculty Survey pilot, which was administered at Providence College to all full-time faculty members. The survey instrument covers many scholarly research and teaching-related topics, overlapping with the 2012 Ithaka S+R U.S. Faculty Survey, and in part overlapping with other previous iterations of the Ithaka S+R U.S. Faculty Survey. This analysis covers topics in several key areas, including: how faculty members access materials for research; faculty member s research topics and practices; digital research activities and methodologies; undergraduate technology and instruction; student research skills; research dissemination; and the role of the library in supporting faculty members needs. In addition to an analysis of the Providence College findings, comparisons are also drawn against the 2012 U.S. Faculty Survey. 1 For additional context in interpreting these findings, we also present the aggregate nationallevel results by Providence College s Carnegie Classification (Master s colleges and universities large programs, referred to by the standard abbreviation Master s L below in the report). During spring 2013, all Providence College faculty members received an invitation to participate in a survey about the impact of electronic technologies on their research and teaching. One reminder was sent every week for three weeks until the close of the survey. In total, 182 respondents completed the survey, for a high overall response rate of 62%. Due to the survey flow and skip patterns, not all Providence College faculty member respondents (referred to as Providence College faculty members below) received every question in the survey instrument. Key Findings Nearly all respondents identified either equally as a researcher or teacher (48%), or more as a teacher than a researcher (44%), and three-quarters of respondents believe that the primary purpose of the library should be supporting undergraduate student learning. Almost all faculty members have taught an upper division course (90%) in the past two years, more than 4 in five have taught a lower division course, and about a third have taught a graduate-level course. 1 Ross Housewright, Roger C. Schonfeld, and Kate Wulfson, Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey 2012 (New York: Ithaka S+R, 2013), available at Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 2 / 8

3 What role do your faculty members see for the library in support of student learning, both in terms of research skills and academic subjects? More than half of Providence College faculty members (52%) strongly believe that my undergraduate students have poor skills related to locating and evaluating scholarly information, which is roughly consistent with the share of faculty members nationally (49%), and the share of faculty members nationally at Master s L colleges and universities (50%). However, faculty members at Providence College are slightly more likely to believe that developing such skills is principally their own responsibility (55%) compared with the share of faculty members nationally (47%), and are considerably more likely compared with faculty members nationally at Master s L colleges and universities (38%), suggesting a comparatively more engaged partnership for working with the library in developing such skills than may be present elsewhere. The survey includes questions covering both lower and upper division course types. In general, Providence College faculty members report meaningful distinctions related to several instructional expectations on the basis of course type. Textbooks are the most important teaching tool for lower division courses, and a very important tool at the upper division level as well, and lectures are the most important type of course format at both levels. A greater share of respondents expects upper division students to use secondary scholarly sources beyond direct readings (89%) than expects lower division students to do so (61%). A greater share expects upper division students to use primary source materials (72%) than expects lower division students to do so (42%). These shares are higher than the national results in all cases and are also higher than the national results for Master s L colleges and universities in all cases. This suggests that Providence College must be prepared to support a higher density of such needs related to teaching and learning compared to Master s L colleges and universities more broadly. Providence College faculty members have a complicated understanding of the role of the library in supporting undergraduate learning. Exactly 50% of respondents believe that students in their courses occasionally interact with PC librarians, and 10% believe that such interaction occurs often. Another 39% believe that they do so rarely or never. While such interactions are not perceived as occurring frequently, 53% believe that librarian interactions help significantly with student success, and most of the remainder believe this at least somewhat. This matches well with the 59% of faculty members that strongly believe that librarians contribute significantly to student learning by helping them make use of secondary and primary sources in their coursework. It also matches well with the 56% who believe that librarians Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 3 / 8

4 contribute significantly to student learning by helping them develop their research skills (even though slightly less than a quarter of respondents strongly believe that the library should be principally responsible for helping students develop their research skills). Overall, it appears that the frequency of interaction with librarians may not be the most significant feature in their actual impact. Rather, occasional opportunities to work in partnership with faculty members in supporting student learning are significant. This is highlighted by the 62% of respondents who strongly believe that my institution offers excellent training and support to help me adopt new pedagogies or instructional approaches that take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology. What services might your library wish to offer to support your faculty members evolving research practices and methods? What incentives are shaping the evolution of faculty member research, and are those incentives aligned with institutional strategy? Given the significance faculty members assign to supporting the development of student research skills, a surprisingly small minority of 20% report regularly including undergraduate students as collaborators in research projects that they lead. This share is lower than the national results (24%) and is also lower than the national results for Master s L colleges and universities (25%). By contrast, 60% of faculty members at Providence College report that they principally pursue their research alone. To the extent that research collaboration and/or assistanceship are seen as an important way to drive the development of student research skills, there may be opportunities here for Providence College to pursue, especially given that faculty members at other institutions within Providence College s Carnegie class report a higher rate of student-faculty collaboration in the context of research. As was the case with the national findings, Providence College faculty members report that their own interests are of greatest importance in defining new areas of research to pursue. In support of these interests, they utilize a variety of quantitative and computational research methods in roughly similar levels as the share of faculty members nationally, with analysis of quantitative data generated oneself the most common method. Most respondents are at least somewhat interested (74%) in integrating such methods more deeply into their work, though a Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 4 / 8

5 larger share of respondents from the national study are at least somewhat interested (83%), and an even larger share of Master s L respondents from the national study are at least somewhat interested (86%). Respondents who indicated that they are somewhat or very interested in integrating these digital activities and methodologies more deeply into their work received a follow-up question asking the extent to which three possible sources of support would be important in helping them to do so. The most popular type of help requested is technical support and advice, but large majorities of respondents would also like help in understanding how to integrate such methods thoughtfully into their research projects as well as more time to learn about them. Interestingly, a higher share of Providence College faculty members believe that technical support and advice would be very important in helping them integrate digital activities and methodologies more deeply into their work (83%), compared with the share of faculty members nationally (78%), and the share of Master s L faculty members nationally (80%). For the minority respondents who indicated that they are not interested in integrating such methods more deeply into their work, 74% indicated that the most prominent reason is that such methods are not valuable to the type of research that they are interested in conducting. By contrast, 69% of faculty members nationally, and 65% of Master s L faculty members nationally, indicated that digital research methods are not valuable to the type of research that they conduct. How is your library s collecting and content provision role changing? How is open access shaping your faculty members access to information resources? How can you best support your faculty members research dissemination priorities? The PC Library s collecting and content provision role appears to be changing in ways that are broadly similar to the typical pattern nationally. Seventy-eight percent of PC faculty members depend upon the library for access to journal articles and scholarly monographs, and 63% report that freely available materials online are also important, and these shares are highly consistent with Master s L faculty members nationally. It seems likely therefore that the net effect is to increase faculty members access to information resources. While 58% of respondents believe that they would often like to use journal articles not in the library s collections, 52% believe that in such cases for journal articles they can almost always get satisfactory access nevertheless. However, faculty members nationally report a higher level of satisfactory access to journal articles outside the library s collections (59%), which is still a marginally smaller share than the share of Master s L faculty members who report satisfactory Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 5 / 8

6 access outside the library s collections (60%). When research materials are not immediately available via the library, faculty members most frequently use the library s ILL service or search online for a freely available version. Perhaps because of the effectiveness of local service offerings, PC faculty members are slightly more likely to pursue these options and much less likely than the share of faculty members nationally to give up and look for a different resource. Specifically, 38% of PC faculty members report that they often or occasionally give up and look for a different resource compared with 50% of faculty members nationally and 51% of Master s faculty members. PC faculty members recognize the importance of freely available materials online, or open access materials, to at least as great an extent as the share of faculty members nationally. PC faculty members research dissemination priorities appear to be slightly more studentoriented than their peers nationally and among Master s L colleges and universities in particular. Consistent with their greater likelihood to identify primarily as teachers than as researchers, a higher share of PC faculty members (32%)see students as a very important audience for their research, compared with the share of faculty members nationally (28%) and the share of Master s L faculty members nationally (29%). However, PC faculty members are still similar to their peers nationally in seeking an audience for their research consisting principally of other scholars in their own field or discipline. Consequently, peer reviewed journals, monographs, and conference proceedings are the channels used by the most faculty members to share their research findings. Indeed, their audience prioritization even shapes faculty members priorities for selecting journals in which to publish their research. The three most important characteristics in selecting a journal are: wide circulation and reading by scholars in one s field; a high impact factor and excellent academic reputation; and an average of coverage closely aligned with one s immediate area of research. PC faculty members appear uncertain whether they would wish to have publishing support services of the type that the library might be well positioned to provide. The most popular such service, with 60% indicating that it could be at least somewhat valuable, was managing one s public web presence, including links to recent scholarship and contact information. A somewhat smaller share value other types of scholarly communications services, including advisory and analytics support with respect to publishing. Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 6 / 8

7 How can you achieve greater alignment between your vision for the role of the library and your faculty members perceptions of it? In what ways should your library differentiate its collecting and services offerings for different disciplinary groups? The highest share of PC faculty members (86%) indicate that paying for resources they need, from academic journals to books to electronic databases, is a very important role of the library what Ithaka S+R refers to as the buyer role. This is consistent with the high share of faculty members who rely on the library for access to scholarly content, either directly through its collections or via interlibrary borrowing services. Two other roles are also valued highly by over two-thirds of respondents. First, 68% of PC faculty members value the library as a starting point or gateway for locating research information. Second, and of note, is that a substantially higher share of PC faculty members value the library s role in helping undergraduates develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills (66%), compared with the share of faculty members nationally (57%) and the share of Master s L faculty members nationally (60%). This provides additional evidence suggesting that PC faculty members may be highly willing to partner with the library in providing more integrated support services for undergraduate students in particular. While a detailed analysis of discovery issues from the Local Faculty Survey was not pursued in this memo, it may be worth the PC library exploring what faculty members are looking for from it in serving as a starting point or gateway, and whether and how this role should be expanded or refined. A key implication of this analysis is that the importance of the library s role in undergraduate education is well established at Providence College, but the connections between faculty member s teaching practices and needs, and the availability of an adequately integrated instructional support system including the library, may be seen as somewhat more tenuous. We discussed the undergraduate learning role above at greater length, but here it may be worth noting that this role (at 66% indicating it is very important) surpasses the support of one s teaching activities (54%, for last place). In general, PC s faculty members are strongly supportive of the library and its staff. Only a small share of faculty members believes, and 53% do not believe, that the library is becoming much less important because of easy access to content online. An even higher share strongly disagrees that colleges and universities should redirect the money spent on library buildings Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 7 / 8

8 and staff to other needs. Ithaka S+R believes that these questions are among those that are valuable to track for change over time. 9/27/2013 Analytical Memo of Findings for Providence College 8 / 8

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