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Quality practices in teaching by academics in higher education.

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The study focuses on quality in teaching in higher education institutions (HEIs) seeking to understand academics’ quality practices in teaching, the influences on those practices and academics’ conceptualisations of quality. Selected national and institutional policies concentrating on quality in teaching are presented to unpack the policy environment in which academics function. From the literature and the policy documents, Categories of Quality Practices in Teaching are established to assist in data analysis. A qualitative case study methodology within an interpretive paradigm is adopted. Data are generated through interviews with nine academics and documents provided by those academics. The practices are categorised and then compared with institutional policy. The academics’ conceptions of quality are analysed using five conceptions of quality identified in the literature. Further thematic analysis is performed to analyse the views of academics regarding the practices. Findings reveal that academics prioritise those practices closest to them which relate to the classroom and to students followed by practices which relate to the institution and to peers. The reported practices are mainly in accordance with institutional policy with a few variations. Academics conceptualise quality as transformation, exceptional, value for money and as fitness for purpose. According to them, transformation means changing and impacting the student through teaching. The study suggests that there could be emerging conceptions of quality as both self-efficacy and self-identity. The study also establishes that academics construe various factors as having the potential to enhance or impede quality in teaching. Lastly, results indicate that many academics are driven by a desire to comply, rather than iii being self-driven. Using neo-institutional theory concepts, the study concludes that quality practices in teaching are mainly due to multi-level isomorphic pressures, resulting in minimal improvements in the quality of teaching. The study advances a Quality Practices in Teaching Model, for better understanding of academics’ quality practices in teaching undergraduate students. It is recommended that quality practices in teaching should result mainly from intrinsic motivation of academics and be based on willingness to improve quality in teaching. There should be ways of dealing with de-coupling between academics and the institutional structures driving the quality initiatives.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.