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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 68-74

What do faculty feel about teaching in this school? assessment of medical education environment by teachers


1 Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Gulf Medical University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates
3 Department of Community Medicine, Gulf Medical University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

Date of Web Publication13-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Syed Ilyas Shehnaz
M25.M Block, Annanagar East, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.210500

  Abstract 

Background: Faculty members are major stakeholders in curriculum delivery, and positive student learning outcomes can only be expected in an educational environment (EE) conducive to learning. EE experienced by teachers includes all conditions affecting teaching and learning activities. As the EE of teachers indirectly influences the EE of students, assessment of teachers' perceptions of EE can highlight issues affecting student learning. These perceptions can also serve as a valuable tool for identifying faculty development needs. In this study, we have used the Assessment of Medical Education Environment by Teachers (AMEET) inventory as a tool to assess medical teachers' perceptions of the EE. Methods: The AMEET inventory was used to assess perceptions regarding various domains of EE by teachers teaching undergraduate students at the College of Medicine, Gulf Medical University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates. Median total, domain, and individual statement scores were compared between groups using Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Results: Teaching–learning activities, learning atmosphere, collaborative atmosphere, and professional self-perceptions were identified as strengths of the EE while time allocated for various teaching–learning activities, preparedness of students, levels of student stress, learning atmosphere in hospital, and support system for stressed faculty members were areas necessitating improvement. The scores of faculty members teaching in basic medical sciences were found to be significantly higher than those in clinical sciences. Discussion: The EE of this medical college was generally perceived as being positive by faculty although a few areas of concern were highlighted. Strengths and weaknesses of the EE from the teachers' point of view provide important feedback to curriculum planners, which can be used to improve the working environment of the faculty as well as facilitate a better direction and focus to faculty development programs being planned for the future.

Keywords: Curriculum, educational environment, medical faculty, perception, undergraduate medical education


How to cite this article:
Shehnaz SI, Arifulla M, Sreedharan J, Gomathi KG. What do faculty feel about teaching in this school? assessment of medical education environment by teachers. Educ Health 2017;30:68-74

How to cite this URL:
Shehnaz SI, Arifulla M, Sreedharan J, Gomathi KG. What do faculty feel about teaching in this school? assessment of medical education environment by teachers. Educ Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Dec 7];30:68-74. Available from: http://www.educationforhealth.net/text.asp?2017/30/1/68/210500


  Background Top


The educational environment (EE) experienced by teachers includes all of the conditions affecting teaching and learning activities. As the EE of the teachers influences the learning environment of the students, faculty members' perceptions of the EE will have an indirect influence on student learning.[1] However, while the students' perceptions of their EE have been intensely scrutinized,[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] the same attention has not been paid to teachers' perceptions.

A curriculum that has been assessed for its quality will lead to more positive learning outcomes. Evaluation of a curriculum can be carried out by determining educational outcomes and processes.[8] Process evaluation can be undertaken by the study of the EE in the medical school.[1] As the EE affects the curriculum delivered, assessing the positive and negative perceptions that the faculty members may hold toward the EE can help to “diagnose” the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum. Appropriate measures can be suggested to the higher authorities, based on the faculty members' perceptions, to improve the EE and thereby contributing to the improvement of learning in the curriculum.[9]

Undergraduate medical (MBBS) curriculum in our institution, the Gulf Medical University Ajman, United Arab Emirates, is a 5-year teaching–learning program followed by a year of mandatory internship before graduation. In the first 3 years, introductory and basic medical science courses, integrated on the basis of organ systems, are taken along with fundamentals of the doctor–patient relationship. The next 2 years are clinical clerkships which include specialty-based training in the hospital setting. The teaching throughout the 5 years is student centered, and a number of interactive teaching/learning strategies such as case-based learning and problem-based learning (PBL) are used. While the basic medical sciences faculty members (BMFs) are only involved in the first 3 years, the clinical faculty members (CFs) participate in the teaching of the clinical application of basic medical sciences in the initial 3 years and focus exclusively on clinical training in the clerkship years.

Feedback from the students on various aspects of the curriculum including content and delivery is obtained regularly. Instructors also review their courses after each offering and suggest and implement changes as required. However, there was no information regarding the teachers' perceptions of the various aspects of the EE. We, therefore, aimed to measure the faculty members' perceptions of the EE and to investigate differences in perceptions, if any, among the faculty members based on the sociodemographic characteristics.


  Methods Top


Instrument

We used the recently developed and validated reliable inventory, the Assessment of Medical Education Environment by Teachers (AMEET), designed to assess medical teachers' perceptions of the EE. This inventory was developed through a three-round modified Delphi technique in English, and the validity evidence on the test content had been obtained in our institution.[10]

The AMEET inventory consists of 50 statements divided into the following six domains:

  1. Teachers' perceptions of teaching (TPT) - nine statements; maximum score is 36
  2. Teachers' perceptions of learning activities (TPL)- nine statements; maximum score is 36
  3. Teachers' perceptions of students (TPS) - six statements; maximum score is 24
  4. Teachers' perceptions of learning atmosphere (TLA)- ten statements; maximum score is 40
  5. Teachers' perceptions of collaborative atmosphere (TCA)- eight statements; maximum score is 32
  6. Teachers' professional self-perceptions (TSP) - eight statements; maximum score is 32.


The total score of the inventory is 200. High scores indicate positive perceptions of the EE. Each statement is scored from 0 to 4 with 4 = strongly agree, 3 = agree, 2 = unsure, 1 = disagree, and 0 = strongly disagree. Nine negative statements are scored in reverse for analysis.

This study was approved by the Ethics Review Committee of the institution.

Sample and administration of the survey

All faculty members (n = 70) teaching students of the MBBS program in the academic year 2012–2013 were invited to participate in the survey. Participation was voluntary. The objectives of the study and methods of filling out the inventory were explained to the participants. Potential participants were also informed that the data obtained from the survey would assist in improving both the curriculum and the faculty development programs (FDPs). The AMEET inventory was self-administered and confidentiality maintained by asking the faculty members to deposit the anonymously filled inventory in a collection box.

Statistical analysis

Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Science software (SPSS Version 21, IBM Corporation, Armonk, New York, USA). The total, domain, and individual statement scores were expressed as medians and ranges (rather than mean and standard deviation) because a Likert-type scale (an ordinal scale) was used to score the statements. The comparison of scores between the various groups was performed using Wilcoxon rank-sum test. P ≤ 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test compares the ranks of the two groups and indicates whether difference in the distribution between the two groups is statistically significant or not. There is a possibility of having equal medians in two groups with significant differences in their distribution.

For interpretation of the scores of individual statements, median scores 3 and above were considered as areas of strength; median scores between 2 and 3 were considered as areas that could be improved; and median scores of 2 and below were considered as areas of weaknesses.


  Results Top


A total of 62 inventories were returned, yielding a response rate of 88.6%. The sample was almost equally distributed by gender and specialty (BMFs and CFs). The majority were senior faculty with teaching experience of more than 8 years and age more than 40 years [Table 1].
Table 1: Demographics of sample

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While a significant difference was observed in the median total scores between BMF and CF, there were no differences in the total scores among any of the other groups. The median domain scores of the BMF were found to be significantly higher than those of the CF for all but the domain TSP [Table 2]. Gender differences were also observed in the median domain scores with female faculty members rendering significantly higher (P< 0.05) scores to the domain TPT. There were no significant differences in the median total and domain scores based on other characteristics.
Table 2: Median (range) total and domain scores (% of maximum score)

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The highest median domain scores for the whole sample were for TPT and TSP, whereas the lowest domain scores were for TPS. The BMF ranking of the domains was similar to that of the whole sample. However, the CF gave highest scores to the domain TSP and the lowest to TPS.

The individual statement analyses [Table 3] and [Table 4] identified the teaching and learning activities, the learning atmosphere, the collaborative atmosphere, and professional self-perceptions as strengths (median scores 3 and above) while the time allocated for various teaching–learning activities, the preparedness of students, the levels of student stress, the learning atmosphere in the hospital, and support system for stressed faculty members were areas necessitating improvement (median scores of 2 and less).
Table 3: Median (range) scores of statements with significant differences between clinical and basic medical sciences faculty

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Table 4: Median (range) scores of statements without significant differences between clinical and basic medical sciences faculty

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Significant differences were observed in the median scores of individual statements between BMF and CF [Table 3]. Although some of the medians shown in [Table 3] (statements 6, 9, 13, 14, 16, 36, and 50) are the same for both groups, they were found to be significantly different with Wilcoxon rank-sum test.

The BMF gave highest scores to the statements, “the teacher finds his/her role as a teacher interesting,” “I possess the necessary teaching skills for undertaking my duties,” and “the students feel comfortable about asking any question they want” [Table 3] and [Table 4]. Both CF and BMF agreed with the negative statement, “the students do not come sufficiently prepared for the assessments conducted for giving feedback/practice” and did not feel that “the students come well prepared for their learning activities.” These statements had low scores; the congruence indicating the internal consistency of the inventory.

Female faculty members gave significantly higher scores to the statements about teachers respecting the students' viewpoints, opportunities for students to develop confidence, positive attitudes of faculty toward teamwork, use of a variety of teaching methods catering to diverse learning styles, and the inculcation of deep learning skills (statements 26, 27, 29, 30, and 35) as compared to the male faculty members [Table 3].


  Discussion Top


The perceptions of teachers of the undergraduate medical curriculum regarding the EE were studied using the AMEET inventory. In general, faculty members were found to hold positive perceptions of the EE. This is similar to the faculty members' positive opinions about the students' EE reported in two other studies.[11],[12]

There is a paucity of studies elaborating faculty members' perceptions of the EE in their institutions. However, as the curriculum has a major influence on the EE of any institution,[1] research on the faculty perceptions of the curriculum can be considered as a proxy for comparison purposes. Our results are in accordance with other studies which showed positive views of teachers regarding problem-based curricula [13],[14],[15],[16],[17] and hybrid curriculum.[18],[19] The faculty members in our study perceived the students to have sufficient opportunity to develop competence, apply concepts to solve problems, and become lifelong learners. Similarly, students in problem-based curricula were perceived to be more adept at self-directed learning, problem-solving,[15],[17] and the levels of faculty interest were rated to be high.[16],[18]

Our data revealed that BMFs had significantly more positive perceptions than the CFs [Table 2]. The perceptions of our faculty members are consistent with research that described the positive perceptions of basic scientists about curricular integration,[20] development of problem-solving skills, knowledge of basic sciences and intrinsic motivation of students,[21] beneficial application of PBL for students, and contentment with PBL [13] as compared to their clinical counterparts. Contrary to our results, a group of clinical dental faculty had more positive perceptions of their hybrid-PBL dental curriculum than basic sciences faculty members. The authors postulated that this may be due to more interactions of the clinical dental faculty members with the senior dental students.[19] In another study, no differences in opinions on components of the curriculum between academic teachers and clinicians were observed,[22] which were assumed to be due to the small number of staff.

A cooperative atmosphere has a unique positive impact on the working environment of faculty members. The enthusiasm and cooperation of faculty transcending departmental barriers has positive incidental effects in teaching practices and can also be impetus for high creativity and research productivity.[23],[24] On the contrary, negative attitudes and closed lines of communication can be significant barriers to curricular renewal or reform.[25],[26] Although faculty members in our study had positive perceptions of their collaborative atmosphere, the low scores for collaboration by CFs (as compared to BMFs) are a cause of concern and need to be addressed [Table 2].

As faculty opinions may be influenced by the degree and type of participation in the curricula,[17] sense of shared ownership, knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of the curricular design, and reinforced training in the essential skills to implement it,[23] we postulate these may have influenced the differences in perceptions between the BMFs and the CFs. Very few CFs who participated in the survey had been involved in the curriculum development process. The clinical commitments and time constraints of the CF may also have hindered their involvement in the FDPs and restricted communication and building up of interpersonal relationships which contribute to a collaborative atmosphere. Time constraints of CFs have also been identified as a reason for negative perceptions about PBL in another study.[13] In marked contrast, most of the BMFs who participated had been involved in the curriculum planning. Further, there may have been a more successful BMF members' “buy in” through regular FDPs which were conducted at the university. There is also a higher rate of CF turnover at our institution and we postulate that the newly appointed faculty may not be fully oriented to the integrated curriculum and the teaching/learning strategies adopted.

Female faculty members had significantly more positive perceptions than the male faculty members. Reasons for this are not clear though similar observations were reported in the study by Whitney and Walton [19] where female dental faculty had more positive perceptions of the curriculum in their institution. In contrast, in another PBL-based curriculum, male faculty members held more positive opinions about the students' self-directed learning initiatives, problem-solving skills, and teamwork. Unlike our observations, less-experienced teachers were reported to be more positive of the changed curriculum in their study.[15]

A few faculty apprehensions and negative perceptions have been revealed through the low scores of 2 and below for individual statements. Areas such as the time allocated for teaching–learning activities, the preparedness of students, the levels of student stress, the learning atmosphere in the hospital, and support system for stressed faculty members must, therefore, be addressed [Table 3] and [Table 4]. Our data corroborate other studies that described high levels of student stress and lack of availability of a stress support system for students.[2],[26]

Research shows that perceptions of working environment (psychological climate) have a significant bearing on the work attitudes, motivation, and performance of people.[27] The insights gained from this study can be used to improve the working environment of the faculty. An improved working environment will lead to greater teacher satisfaction, more scholarly achievements, and better faculty retention. A teacher who is more comfortable and productive in his/her working environment will eventually have a more positive bearing on the learning outcomes of the students.

Continuously evolving educational trends and the requirements from accreditation bodies necessitate regular curricular renewal and make continuous faculty development a critical need.[28] Effective FDPs help teachers develop and maintain capabilities to address the students' learning needs, keep up with innovations in medical curricula, and can significantly change negative perceptions regarding the new educational trends.[29] Findings of this study will facilitate a better direction to future FDPs. More attention can also be directed toward the newly recruited members in the organization to bring them into the loop and avoid them inadvertently retarding the progress made so far, as has been suggested by Bland et al.[23]

The results of this study can also contribute to the ongoing process of curricular renewal and help initiate measures to foster a favorable EE for the faculty members.

We acknowledge that the small sample size and the participation of only one institution may not allow generalization of the findings. Nevertheless, given the paucity of previous research, we consider that this study sheds light on perceptions of faculty members about their EE in a medical institution. This questionnaire-based survey does not probe the reasons for the differences in perceptions observed between groups of faculty. A qualitative approach can help to elucidate the cause of the differences in perceptions of the CFs and the BMFs and those based on gender. These may overcome some limitations of this study.


  Conclusion Top


The EE in the integrated undergraduate medical curriculum of this school was generally perceived as positive by faculty members although a few areas of concern were highlighted. This study has identified the strengths and deficiencies in the EE and curriculum from the faculty point of view. The findings provide important feedback to curriculum planners and administrative leaders for necessary remedial actions. Improving the EE is expected to lead to greater teacher satisfaction and productivity of the faculty members. The results can also assist in identifying areas for FDPs being planned for the future.

Acknowledgment

We greatly appreciate the invaluable contributions made by late Dr. Gamini Premadasa throughout this study. We also would like to thank Prof. Susirith Mendis for his suggestions in editing the manuscript and all the faculty members of the College of Medicine, Gulf Medical University, who participated in the study.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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