Analysis of the questionnaire to assess the staff development needs of the DEMOS universities in relation to disability: online and paper-based responses
HEFCE Disability Initiative 2000-2002
The Demos project aims to deliver a range of staff development materials using the WWW and in particular online learning pedagogy. The materials are aimed at academic staff in the four universities in the Manchester area (the University of Manchester, the Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford and UMIST) and their subject matter is the support of disabled students in the learning environment. The project is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) under strand three of its special funding programme - 'Improving provision for disabled students'.
The rationale for the project came from concern within the Demos universities' disability offices that academic staff were unable to attend traditional centrally organised staff development events. Furthermore, with the increases in the number of students entering higher education, a corresponding increase in the number of disabled students and recent legislation that seeks to improve the quality of support of disabled students (the Quality Assurance Agency's Code of Practice and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001) the need to address this issue is becoming critical.
Although a need for staff development has already been identified through the rationale of the Demos project it was seen as necessary to investigate the nature of this need in more depth. Therefore, a questionnaire was circulated throughout the universities. This report includes analysis of all the questionnaires (electronic and paper-based), a brief discussion of the results and implications for project management of Demos. An interim report was produced that documented the response to the electronic version of the questionnaire.
As the project is investigating the use of the WWW and online learning as a method of delivery it was thought appropriate that the questionnaire should be circulated through electronic means. The questionnaire was therefore posted on the project website and publicised using the group email systems of each university. However, it was found that the majority of responses were returned from two of the institutions, UMIST and the University of Manchester. The questionnaire was therefore re-circulated in paper format in the other two institutions, UMIST and Manchester Metropolitan University, to increase participation. Multiple copies of the questionnaires were sent to course leaders at MMU and to Departmental Offices at the University of Salford. Staff were asked to circulate copies of the questionnaire to teaching staff only.
Redistribution of the questionnaire to MMU and the University of Salford evened out the spread of respondents across the four universities. Our initial survey showed that 80% of respondents came from UMIST and the University of Manchester alone. Table 1 now shows more parity in the number of responses across the 4 institutions. A further 126 responses to the questionnaire were obtained after circulation in paper-based format.
|University||Number of respondents||Percentage|
Since questionnaires were only sent to teaching staff in the departments, there was no increase in the number of responses from staff other than those in academic or academic-related positions.
|Job role||Number of respondents|
|Admin + other||25|
227 questionnaires were received from academic/academic related staff. This represents approximately 7% of teaching staff from the four institutions (Approximate staffing figures for the four institutions in full-time equivalents (FTEs), teaching staff: MMU - 1190, UMIST - 450, Salford - 788, Manchester - 734).
Respondents were also asked to categorise the department they worked in using the Learning and Teaching Subject Network (LTSN) subject centre specialisms. Appendix 2 shows a breakdown of the response to this question. The largest groups of staff were from the Health Sciences (n=43) followed by Business Studies (n=21).
A total of 270 questionnaires were completed and submitted. This section will discuss noteworthy details from the analysis of responses to each of the individual questions. Graphical analysis of each question can be viewed in the appendices 3-13. Any significant changes from the analysis of the original electronic questionnaire are also reported.
How much time have you spent attending staff development in the last 2 years?
The most popular response to this question was 'more than twenty hours'. The median lies in the upper end of the scale - 9 hours. This indicates a change from the initial survey as the mode and median were both at the bottom end of the scale. However, there is still a u-shape in the pattern of response i.e. there were also many responses at the lower end of the scale mainly due to so many people saying that they hadn't attended any training at all. 23% of respondents had attended more than 20 hours of staff development.
How much time have you spent attending staff development events relating to disability in the last two years?
Only 26% of responses (n=71) had attended any training at all. There were three responses in the last category i.e. more than 10 hours. Therefore, in order to calculate a mean, an estimate of 15 hours was recorded for this category. Hence, respondents who had attended training recorded approximately 3 hours each (n=71, m=3.42).
Please indicate the main topic/s of coverage of the disability related training.
68 respondents answered this question. The most commonly attended event related to disability was 'general disability awareness' (n=40) followed by 'dyslexia' (n=26) and then the 'Disability Discrimination Act' (n=11).
How high on your list of priorities is attending staff development courses related to disability issues?
Participants were asked to rate this question on a scale of one to ten with one indicating 'top of list' and ten 'not on list'. The most popular answer (mode) on this scale was 5 (n=52). Answers were evenly spread across the scale. 5% (n=13) of respondents reported that training in this topic is not on their priority list at all, whilst 10% (n=23) reported that it is top of their list.
In terms of teaching, how important do you rate issues relating to disabled students?
Participants were asked to rate this question on a scale of one to ten with one indicating 'very important' and ten 'not important'. The most popular response to this question was very important (mode=1 n=59). Scores were skewed to the high importance end of the scale. 77 % of respondents rated it in the top end of the scale.
How confident do you feel about teaching disabled students?
Participants were asked to rate this question on a scale of one to ten with one indicating 'very confident' and ten 'not at all confident'. The most popular response was 5 (mode=5, n=57). The scores were skewed towards higher confidence with 67% of responses being in the top end of the scale i.e. more people were confident with supporting disabled students than not.
How much time would you be prepared to commit to training related to disability over the next 2 years?
Nearly all respondents who completed the question said they would be willing to commit at least one hour in the next 2 years to disability related training (90%, n=242). 10% of staff (n=28) said they wouldn't be willing to attend any training over the next 2 years. 51% (n=138) of respondents are willing to commit 4 hours or more to training.
What are your reasons for wanting to attend disability training?
Respondents were able to tick as many reasons as they liked and they were also allowed to add other reasons in a free text box. The most popular choice for wanting to attend training was 'to increase my overall awareness' (n=160, 65%), followed by 'part of my role' (n=121, 49%). 'Need to develop my teaching methods' (108, 45%) was cited as the third most popular reason for attending disability related staff development followed by 'general interest' (n=89, 36%) and 'find out about legislation/legal issues' (n=84, 34%).
19% (n=46) said a reason for attending training is that they 'currently/will be teaching a disabled student'.
What are your reasons for not wanting to attend disability training?
Respondents were able to tick as many reasons as they liked and they were also allowed to add other reasons in a free text box. The most popular choices were 'no time' (n=81, 48%), 'don't teach many disabled students' (n=61, 36%) and 'events clash with my timetable' (n=32, 19%).
34 (20%) respondents said they had other reasons for not attending. Although comments were varied, recurring answers suggested that the training wasn't advertised properly and that the training is usually of a poor quality or not relevant. Also, some questioned whether there are any disabled students on their courses.
If you are interested in attending events in the future what areas would you like to see covered?
In the original questionnaire two topics mentioned in this section indicated dyslexia related training - 'what is dyslexia?' and 'supporting dyslexic students'. However, it was felt that these were too similar so, 'what is dyslexia' was dropped from the paper-based version of the questionnaires. Respondents were asked to tick as many options as they liked from a list provided. The most popular subjects were 'practical advice re: teaching disabled students' (n=131, 53%) and 'general disability awareness training' (n=129, 52%). 'Supporting dyslexic students' was next (n=108, 44%) followed by 'assessment and examination issues' (n=99, 40%) and supporting deaf students (n=99, 40%). All topics were popular however, 'disability, education and the law' (n=78, 31%) was the least chosen topic by respondents.
If you are interested in disability-related training what delivery method would you prefer?
Respondents were asked to choose their top three choices on this item although, many chose less than three and some chose more. The most popular choice was 'am/pm sessions' (n=121, 49%) but electronic means were also popular; 'information on the WWW' (n=103, 42%) and 'online learning' (n=76, 31%). 'Books/guides/leaflets' (n=96, 39%) was the third most popular choice followed by 'lunchtime briefings' (n=88, 36%).
The least popular choices were 'conference' (n=14, 6%) and 'distance learning' (n=28, 11%).