Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Steven Bingham

Abstract

With the increased expectation of college or university attendance as a prerequisite for workforce entry, the criticism of business leaders and the general public, and the increasing cost of postsecondary education, it becomes critical for institutions of higher education to know what they are offering students and how well those offerings are being presented. Meaningful, engaged learning that prepares students for life and the ever-changing world of work is what these consumers are seeking. It becomes, then, the responsibility of the institution of higher education to evaluate its programs to determine what it is actually providing students in terms of these needs. Through the solicitation of student and faculty perceptions of practice, this dissertation was designed to explore the extent to which 21st century skills were being incorporated into the academic programs of study at a small, private, church-related university located in the southeastern United States.

The researcher administered a survey of 21st century practices developed by Ravitz, Hixson, English, and Mergendoller (2012) to 682 students and 76 faculty members at the institution where the study took place to gauge the levels of incorporation of eight 21st century practices (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation, self-direction, global connection, local connection, and use of technology as a tool). Descriptive statistical analyses were conducted for each participant group. Independent samples t -tests were used to compare the two groups' responses.

Results of the various analyses of data showed that 21st century skills instruction was taking place in all eight domains. The levels of instruction or incorporation, though, varied between domains and between the specific practices listed within each domain. The greatest implementation was reported in the use of technology as a tool by both students and faculty. Critical thinking and self-direction proved to be areas with high reports of student engagement with many of the specific practices. The greatest room for improvement came in global connection as reported by both students and faculty. Collaboration, creativity and innovation skills, and local connections were other areas where the practices included on the survey were not being universally implemented.

An increased emphasis on unit evaluation and comprehensive planning initiatives were recommended by the researcher. Included in this might be advisory panels of workforce leaders, alumni, and community members who can assist in evaluating curricula to ensure that it remains current and future focused. Likewise, ongoing professional development to address each of the domains reviewed would be suggested.