Engaging students in life and literature: a qualitative study of rural north Alabama community college american literature instructors' course design and pedagogical practices
The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the course design decisions and pedagogical practices of American literature teachers at three rural community colleges of varying size in North Alabama. Fink's (2003) Integrated Course Design (ICD) model provided a framework for this study, and the researcher attempted to determine if and to what degree rural community college American literature instructors reflect the over-arching qualities and components of Fink's ICD model. The participants in this study were ten full-time community college American literature instructors of varying ages, educational backgrounds, and years of teaching experience; the participant group included five male and five female instructors. Data for the study were derived from interviews with each instructor, classroom observations, and review of course-related documents. Using basic qualitative methods, the researcher conducted a thematic analysis of the data, which enabled him to organize the qualitative data into manageable strands. Using the study's theoretical framework as a basis for coding the data, the researcher was able to establish connections between the collected data and the research questions. Four themes emerged from data analysis: (a) Situational Factors Affect Course Design and Instructional Decisions; (b) Academically Unprepared Students Affect Course Design and Instructional Decisions; (c) Instruction Should Be Engaging and the Subject Matter Should Be Relevant to Students' Lives; and (d) American Literature Instructors Should Be Reflective Practitioners. The researcher found that participants did consider certain situational factors as they planned for and delivered their courses. Also, the data proved that instructors gave little consideration to the learning goals as they planned and delivered their courses. Similarly, the researcher discovered that participants did not plan teaching and learning activities in advance, nor did they work to ensure alignment with the learning goals or assessments. Finally, findings suggest that the participants spent little time planning or working to ensure the integration of Fink's (2003) four components of course design; when it occurred, integration happened inadvertently. The participants' course design decisions and pedagogical practices only partially reflect the tenets of Fink's Integrated Course Design Model.