S. Kimani, V. Mabin, J. Davies

Victoria University of Wellington (NEW ZEALAND)
The study sought to explore the causes of less-than-desirable experiences of teaching in higher education (HE) in order to understand ‘what to change’. Although much research has been undertaken on teaching in higher education, little research explains those undesirable experiences of teaching in HE which may have bearing on approaches to teaching and the subsequent outcomes of teaching and learning. The thesis of this paper is that any improvement effort on teaching and learning in HE should focus on the causes of undesirable experiences of teaching that might not only be limiting the achievement of teaching goals but also the achievement of learning goals.

A case study design was found appropriate to explore the undesirable experiences of teaching in a Business School in Kenya. The Theory of Constraints-Thinking processes (TOC-TP) methodology framework guided the construction of the interview guide. Interview questions focused on identifying ‘what was undesirable’, ‘why the undesirability’ and ‘how the undesirable issues affected the goal of teaching (and learning)’. Data was collected from twelve lecturers whose years of experience of teaching at the Business School ranged between 2 to 37. Similar interviews were also conducted with administrators and focus groups of students. The results presented here focus on the lecturers’ views, though some findings – especially the commonalities – will be presented for the three groups to provide a broader context.

Findings indicated that lecturers encountered many undesirable experiences in their teaching. The analysis using TOC-TP logic tools, facilitated by Flying Logic software, identified two seemingly unrelated critical root causes of less-than-desirable experiences of teaching, described as: limited government funding and lack of necessary coordination within the school. However, further surfacing of the assumptions and notions underpinning the critical root causes would be necessary not only to provide a basis for understanding the necessary changes that are sufficient to achieve the desired situation but also improve the alignment of action to goals and to reduce resistance to change.

This paper provides an illustration of how the use of TOC-TP methodology can foster improvement practices in HE institutions; and how it may contribute to the development of positive experiences of teaching in HE contexts.