Student satisfaction and dissatisfaction - a study in the higher education context
This application for PhD by publication is the culmination of a series of investigations concerning the development of a conceptual model of student satisfaction with their higher education (HE) experience. The five core papers that sequentially contributed to knowledge are presented within this application, together with their supporting papers. In particular, the investigations focussed on what were the main determinants of student satisfaction utilising critical incident technique (CIT). New determinants of quality within higher education were identified as a result, namely motivation, praise/reward, social inclusion, usefulness, value for money and fellow student behaviour. The resultant research papers have made an original contribution to knowledge in the area of quality in HE. \ud The rationale for using CIT to gather and analyse data was to investigate its effectiveness in triangulating with existing methods used in HE to measure student satisfaction. The CIT research was triggered by previous research that had developed and tested a student satisfaction questionnaire. CIT is used to gather data that is defined as ‘rich’. It is ideal when researching new areas. The questionnaire was based on the work of Sasser et al (1978) who proposed that service delivery consisted of a ‘bundle’ of goods and services, which incorporated distinct elements (the facilitating goods, the sensual service and the psychological service). The CIT survey instrument subsequently adopted, built upon the seminal work by Flanagan (1954) who developed it to assess the psychological impact (on pilots) when learning to fly. Both survey instruments were used to identify the determinants of quality in higher education from a student’s point of view and ultimately what was considered “critically critical” (Edvardsson & Nilsson-Wittel, 2004). \ud An evaluation of teaching quality was carried out as part of this series during the mid-2000 era, and a comparison made of some of the existing measurement methods used at the time, such as student feedback questionnaires and peer review practices. A review of the potential use of mystery students in higher education was also carried out. This particular study highlighted the lack of confidence (by teaching personnel) in the existing methods for evaluating teaching quality as well as some mistrust of the concept of using mystery students in a classroom setting. \ud A multi-method approach was chosen for this series of studies, because of the merits in using both quantitative and qualitative studies to generate data. Using such an approach provided a sequential method of analysing and presenting the data for this cross-sectional study. The initial student satisfaction questionnaire was a quantitative instrument and gathered data on importance and satisfaction ratings (using a five-point Likert scale) which were further analysed used quadrant analysis. \ud The CIT survey was largely qualitative in nature and gathered written narratives from students about their positive and negative experiences; the resulting data used interpretive thematic analysis to identify key themes and any resulting patterns that could be coded quantitatively for input into the statistical software package SPSS. Each piece of research was underpinned by the existing literature at the time; this has inevitably progressed since then. CIT has been widely used in the service sector and additional determinants of quality within higher education have been identified within the current literature. A number of papers presented with this application have generated academic discussion in the field and these are evidenced by the number of citations for the applicant’s work. Moreover, the applicant’s additional supplementary papers also appended for background information have also been cited within the academic literature. \ud The findings can be applied to teaching practice and within policy documents that support front-line teaching (and other) personnel in higher education.