A Study of Academic Service Quality and Instructional Quality in a Midwestern Higher Education Environment
The problem: The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship existed between perceptions of academic service quality and instructional quality in a higher education environment. Academic service was defined as service that is not directly related to the classroom activity. This included adaptations of Parasuraman et al. (1988) constructs of tangibles (i.e. classroom facility) and relationships between student and faculty including reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Instructional quality was defined along Marsh’s (1982) nine dimensions: learning, enthusiasm, organization, group interaction, individual rapport, breadth, examinations, assignments, and workload/difficulty. Quality was measured along three dimensions suggested by Parasuraman et al. (1985): expected, observed and quality gap between expected and observed. Procedures: The study employed pre and post surveys of a cohort of 360 students during the fall semester of their higher education experience. The expectation segment was completed at the beginning of the semester and the observed segment was completed after three months. Various statistical analyses were performed including correlations, factor analysis and t-tests. Findings: The findings included a high correlation between service and instructional quality. Instructional quality formed a separate construct from academic service quality while academic service quality overlapped with instructional quality in three subscales: enthusiasm, organization, and rapport. Workload was not found to be a construct of either instructional or service quality while tangibles were found to be a construct of observed quality, but were not a construct of the gap between expected and observed quality. Expected academic service and instructional quality significantly exceeded observed academic and instructional quality for first year students. Conclusions: The findings supported conclusions that academic service quality is related to instructional quality. While the relationships exist at overall and subscale levels and across a variety of demographic variables, the factor constructs of instructional quality are clearly distinguished from academic service quality with academic service quality constructs including instructional subscales for interpersonal relationships. Recommendations: Recommendations for future research included expansion of the study to distance environments, studies of persistence, and participant mood states.
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