New Paper Summary: Study Reveals How Teaching Practices in Communication Courses Reveal Need for Socioculturally Informed Faculty Development

August 19, 2021   |   By WCER Communications

Matthew Hora, director of WCER's Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions

Matthew Hora, director of WCER's Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions

UW–Madison’s Matthew T. Hora, Ross J. Benbow and Changhee Lee have published a new paper in the Journal of the Learning Sciences titled, “A sociocultural approach to communication instruction: How insights from communication teaching practices can inform faculty development programs.”

Hora is an Associate Professor of Adult Teaching and Learning, and director of the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions (CCWT) in the School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Benbow is a CCWT investigator and Lee is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

In the paper, the authors note that colleges and universities are expected to provide students with so-called ‘soft skills,’ such as communication, because they are considered essential for success in school, work and society. But faculty are rarely trained to design courses emphasizing complex, cultural skills like communication, the authors state, highlighting the need for professional development for instructors that adopts a sociocultural perspective on skills, teaching and faculty learning.

The researchers documented instructional practices in communication classes in two U.S. cities using interviews, classroom observations and surveys. Results of the data analysis included the identification of key elements of course planning that dynamically interact to inform teaching practices. Classroom observations revealed a range of teaching methods, from lecturing to classroom debates, and three factors were identified as being most important to teaching decisions: prior experience in industry that sensitized faculty to employer needs, social networks and student skills.

The data contribute to research on skills-focused instruction, the researchers said. The paper concludes with a description of a socioculturally informed faculty development program based on the study findings.

Learn more by accessing the full paper here.