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A scaling research on faculty characteristics that higher education students prioritize.

In view of the importance of taking student preferences into account while establishing educational practices, this study explores which faculty member characteristic fourth year students mostly prefer in a higher education institution. A faculty member characteristics form that includes ten characteristics was administered to 419 fourth year teacher trainees. Data gathered was scaled from a complete data matrix with Thurstone's law of comparative judgment case V. equation. The findings of the study show that show that the faculty member characteristic that the students prioritized is "having good interpersonal relations". This characteristic is followed by "occupational experience", "pedagogical knowledge", "support to social activities", "generosity in grading", "taste of humor", "status", "age", "physical appearance", and "gender". As it generates an awareness of student preferences in relation to faculty member characteristics, the study is noteworthy for higher education faculty who are charged with teaching.

Key Words: Pair-wise scaling, higher education, student preferences, faculty member characteristics


University is the highest educational institution in a country. It can be defined as the universal resource of academic research that promotes the synthesis of different opinions and the distribution of scientific truth. It is a guild or corporation that serves in disseminating knowledge (Rothblatt 1997). According to Scott (1998 p. 127) "the university at any rate has the potential to become the leading institution in the knowledge society as the primary location at which symbolic goods are, if not produced, at least conceived and designed." It also serves as a territorial display of civilization-building with a bias towards advancing society-at-large through knowledge distribution. Moreover, it has been utilized in ways to control or contain social, political, and economic power relations (Arnove 2003).

Korkut (1999) states that the primary missions of universities are to implement professional education-teaching and conduct scientific research. However, he considers the professional education-teaching mission more important than conducting scientific research since scientific research can also be conducted by institutions other than universities. In addition to these two missions, another significant purpose of universities is to create individuals with inquisitorial skills in order to respond to the expectations of society. Doganay and San (2004) argue that universities in a democratic society should train individuals in terms of active decision making, autonomy, and creative intellectuality so that they can refrain from devoting themselves imprudently to authorities. Similarly, Harvey and Green (1993) state that universities should help students to develop analytic and critical thinking skills.

In order for universities to accomplish these goals it is necessary for them to have distinguished faculty members who provide education for students, commit themselves fully to their teaching obligations, engage in scholarly activities, act as role models, and inspire students for future goals. Therefore, faculty members form an important part of university education (Karakutuk et al. 2008).

Research on faculty member characteristics has shown that occupational knowledge (Metzler and Woessmann 2010; Buchmann 1984; Shulman 1986), interpersonal relations (Fraser et al. 2010; Birch and Ladd 1998; Tartwijk et al. 1998), measurement and evaluation knowledge (Akgol 1994), pedagogical content knowledge (Van Driel and Berry 2012; Abell 2007), awareness of technological innovations (Carr et al. 1998; Mishra and Koehler 2003), and the personality of the university instructors (Cranton and King 2003; Renaud and Murray 1996) are related to students' academic achievement.

In addition to these characteristics, another important point that needs to be considered in higher education is student preferences in relation to how a faculty member should be. Research on education suggests that a better understanding of students' preferences of faculty can contribute to achieve educational goals and create an opportunity to learn in a classroom environment more conducive to student preferences (Zapalska and Dabb 2002; Nunan 1999; Gurney 2007; Minotti 2005; Sternberg et al. 2008; Williamson and Watson 2007). Since a university is run as a business, evaluation by students can be a measure of consumer satisfaction (Espina 2013). Students as consumers are interested in the product of college education, and thus, their ideas are crucial sources of information (Wright 2000; Sander et al. 2000). Taking student preference into consideration is an important aspect of democratic education that promotes critical thinking, freedom of speech, and innovative perspectives. Moreover, students' educational preferences tend to be reliable, valid, relatively unbiased, and valuable (Murray 1994).

The evaluation of faculty members by students has been frequently used in higher education research (Seldin 1999; Onwuegbuzie et al. 2007; Ginns et al. 2007). Findings show that faculty member's age (Zabaleta 2007), gender (Sinclair and Kunda 2000; Centra and Gaubatz 2000), occupational experience (Zabaleta 2007), status (being a professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor or research assistant) (Zahn and Schramm 1992), interpersonal relations (Sander et al. 2000; Frymier and Weser 2001), physical appearance (Wright 2000), pedagogical knowledge (Nasser and Fresko 2002; Botas 2004), and generosity in grading (Miller 1988; Greenwald and Gilmore 1997; Grifflin 2004) are the characteristics that university students pay attention to.

The methods used in these studies are the analysis of student responses to open ended questions and student answers to degreed likert type scale items that include specified sub factors. The statistical analysis applied in these studies includes difference analysis, factor analysis, and percentage and frequency values. There exists no study that directly presents students a list of faculty member characteristics and requests them to rank their preferences in relation to these characteristics. Such an evaluation can be done by using scaling techniques.

The focal point of scaling is to set up a correlation between the perceived size and the real size of the feature that wants to be measured (Guilford 1954; Crocker and Algina 1986; Dunn-Runkin 2004). On the other hand, scaling makes transition from observations that show qualitative distinctions to measures that display quantitative distinctions possible (Anil and Giiler 2006). Scaling operations are done according to judgment and response law. Judgment law is stimuli centered since an expert's judgments are considered. Conversely, response law depends on the subjects' reactions. In stimuli centered judgment law, the purpose is to scale the stimulus in a specified extent based on observer or expert judgments. In this method, N number of observers is requested to address K number of stimuli according to their stimulus degree by using specific means. These means are ranking, classifying, and pair-wise comparison. It is important to note that observers should specify the position of each stimuli on the scaling dimension by comparing each stimuli with others. As a result, the scale value of the stimuli is obtained by calculating the mean value of observer judgments (Stevens, 1966; Turgut and Baykul 1992). In the response law, K number of stimuli is applied to N number of participants in an experiment group and their reactions are gathered. In this approach, the individuals who react are to be considered as participants who state their reactions rather than experts who provide judgments (Turgut and Baykul 1992). The primary purpose in response law is to scale participants" responses instead of stimulus (Torgerson 1958). This approach positions respondents on different spots of the scale based on their responses (Crocker and Algina 1986). Likert type scale development is a well-known example of the approach that is based on subject reactions (Turgut and Baykul 1992).

The literature on scaling is limited in number (see Darcy et al. 2004; Ami and Guler 2006; Kan 2008; Ogretmen 2008; Brown and Peterson 2009; Guler and Ami 2009; Heldsinger and Humphry 2010; Ozer and Acar 2011; Bal 2011; Bulbul and Acar 2012) and none of them focuses on students' preference of faculty member characteristics. Moreover, there is no study that uses scaling technique as a statistical means to examine the priorities of students in relation to faculty member characteristics. Considering these reasons and the importance of taking student preferences into account to maximize educational efficacy, this study aims to identify which faculty member characteristics students in higher education prioritize by using the scaling technique. It is hoped that the findings from this study will provide actionable recommendations for higher education faculty members and contribute to research on scaling technique.



The study group includes 419 fourth year students who are studying in primary school teaching, foreign language teaching, computer and teaching technologies, Turkish education, special education, social sciences education, and fine arts education departments at Trakya University/Turkey during the 2012-2013 academic year. A written consent was gathered from all participants before the study was conducted. The reason for choosing fourth year students is based on the idea that they have more experience in higher education compared to students who are in first, second, and third years of university education. The number and percentage of participants in relation to their majors are as follows:

* Turkish education: 15 students (% 3,6)

* Primary school teaching: 206 students (% 49,2)

* Foreign language teaching: 79 students (% 18,9)

* Fine arts teaching: 39 students (% 9,3)

* Computer and teaching technologies: 31 students (% 7,4)

* Social sciences education: 28 students (% 6,7)

* Special education: 21 students (% 5,0)

Data collection tool and data analysis

As the data collection tool "faculty member evaluation form" was prepared. In that form, 10 characteristics of faculty members were grouped in a paired form of combinations that allowed pair wise comparison. The form includes 45 paired matching that belongs to the 10 characteristics. These ten characteristics include the faculty member's gender, age, occupational experience, status, appearance, pedagogical knowledge, generosity in grading, taste of humor, support to social activities, and interpersonal relations. Participants were requested to select one of the two characteristics in each group.

Data gathered was scaled from a complete data matrix with Thurstone's law of comparative judgment case V. equation. Initially, students' paired preferences were placed on a 10x10 matrix and the frequency matrix that belongs to ten faculty member characteristics was formed. The proportion matrix was found by dividing each element of frequency matrix by the number of students who made the pair-wise comparison. The z values that correspond to ratio matrix elements were identified and following that operation the formation of unit normal variance matrix was implemented. Values that belong to each column were added to the bottom line of unit normal variance matrix and the mean of each z value in this column were calculated through the columns. Thus, scale values were found.


In this study, faculty member characteristics were scaled by pair-wise comparison scaling technique. Essentially, the 10 characteristics were pair-wisely compared by the students. Table 1 displays the frequency matrix (F matrix) that displays the frequency of student judgments.

Subsequently, the proportions matrix (P) was found by dividing each element of the F matrix in Table 1 by the students' number (N=419) that made the pair-wise comparison. Table 2 shows the P matrix.

In the construction of the P matrix, it is important for the sum of the matrix's elements that are symmetrical to the primary diagonal to be equal to 1. Following this control, the unit normal variance matrix (Z) was formed. Table 3 displays the Z matrix.

When compared to the main diagonal, Z matrix's elements in Table 3 are opposite in terms of sign and equal in terms of absolute value. The smallest of the Zj values that were obtained from the matrix in Table 3 is -0,890.

This value for the faculty member characteristic is specified as J. By moving the starting point of the axis Sj values were found. In order to do this operation, 0,890 which is the absolute value of -0,890 was added to each Zj value. The Sj values which are obtained from this addition operation form the scale values that belong to ten characteristics of faculty members. Figure 1 belongs to the number line that displays this scale value.

The order of faculty member characteristics that were demonstrated at Figure 1 is also shown at Table 4.

Table 4 shows that the faculty member characteristic that the students prioritized is "having good interpersonal relations". This characteristic is followed by "occupational experience", "pedagogical knowledge", "support to social activities", "generosity in grading", "taste of humor", "status", "age", "physical appearance", and "gender". When the scale values are considered, it is obvious that "pedagogical knowledge" and "support to social activities" variables have close scale values. Similarly, "age" and "physical appearance" variables also have close scale values. These close values mean that prioritize these variables at a similar level.

In order to control the comparisons conducted by the students, the inner consistency of the scale values were calculated. In this sense, unit normal deviations, ratios, and error matrixes were formed. Table 5 shows the findings.

Table 5 shows that the mean error that belongs to scale values obtained from pair-wise comparison is low (the mean error=0,019). Considering this result it can be said that student judgments were reliable.

Discussion and Conclusion

Faculty member characteristics were scaled from a complete data matrix with Thurstone's law of comparative judgment case V. equation. The study results display that students prefer their faculty members to have good interpersonal relations more than any other characteristic. Likewise, research by Ergun et al. (1999) shows that students want their faculty members to be approachable, reliable, and humble. They also wish to take classes from faculty members who sincerely and politely deal with students' problems and show respect to their students. Sander et al.'s (2000) study also shows that students prefer to have close relationships with the faculty members and consider it as positive reinforcement that triggers achievement. Kececi and Arslan (2012) found that students in the nursing department considered university instructors with strong interactional skills more effective than others. Supporting this finding researchers argue that a faculty member should be friendly, patient, and open to interpersonal interaction (Greimel-Fuhrmann and Geyer 2003; Spencer and Schmelkin 2002). Saydan (2008) examined how university students' perceived a highly qualified faculty member. The findings of the study show that in addition to academic performance students also considered having good interpersonal relations as a vital characteristic that a highly qualified faculty member should have. The findings of the current research and the relevant literature stresses that a positive social interpersonal relationship between faculty members and students can create powerful inducements for students to come to school. Moreover, a strong interpersonal relationship between the student and the faculty member may contribute to both the academic and social-emotional development of students. Thus, instead of isolating themselves from the needs of students, faculty members should aim to construct strong relationships with their students, care for their needs, and be approachable.

Other faculty member characteristics that students attached importance to in the current study are pedagogical knowledge and occupational experience. According to Botas (2004) the pedagogical style of faculty instructors directly effects (positively or negatively) the interaction between the instructor and his/her students. If the instructors' pedagogical style is authoritarian or compulsive, students' interest and motivation will be low. When the contrary happens, students find the instructor's pedagogical style supportive and have higher motivation to engage in educational practice. Centra and Gaubatz (2005) define pedagogical knowledge as a significant characteristic of faculty members. Jacqueline et al. (2006) consider the pedagogical knowledge and skills of faculty members as the most important features that result in student satisfaction in higher education. Similarly, Arbaugh (2001) found that occupational experience of the faculty member is another feature that influences learning and student contentment. Considering these findings, faculty members in higher educational institutions should pursue pedagogical innovations, improve their pedagogical awareness, and aim to conduct pedagogical applications that are appropriate for their students.

Students in this study want their faculty instructors to support social activities. In this sense, faculty members should promote student participation in student social communities such as acting groups, sport clubs, etc. Student social communities are important for students since they foster social development and provide students the chance to spend their leisure time. In this respect, faculty members should motivate their students to participate in these social communities and contribute to their socialization.

Another faculty member feature that students consider important is taste of humor. Delaney et al. (2010) state that if an instructor has good taste of humor, students enjoy classes more. Similarly Schmidt (1994) found that undergraduate students remembered humorous words more often than non-humorous words. Humor was believed to have an arousal effect on the students, thus humor was a motivating factor. Considering these findings it is important for faculty members to incorporate humorous activities into their teaching practices to increase the joy of learning.

The objectivity and generosity of the faculty member during the measurement and evaluation process has been regarded as important for students (Parpala and Lindblom-Ylanne 2007; Ekinci and Burgaz 2007). According to the students, an ideal faculty member should ground his/her evaluation on specific criteria and be objective. Moreover, students state that faculty members should be generous in their grading and should not particularly try to give students low grades on purpose.

The physical appearance of the faculty member was not considered as important by the participants. However, Shevlin et al. (2000) found that students considered physical appearance of a faculty member as a central piece of charisma and an important characteristic of effectiveness. Saydan's (2008) study also provided similar findings and revealed that first year students want their faculty members to be good looking. Other studies examined the effects of faculty members' formal and informal dressing styles on students. While students considered faculty members' who prefer informal style as friendly and approachable, students considered faculty members with formal dressing styles as sophisticated, well-prepared, and clever (Lukavsky et al. 1995; Leathers 1992).

This study mainly focused on ten faculty member characteristics and examined which of them higher education students prioritized. There is no certain formula for successful education and each faculty member is unique and has an individual educational philosophy and characteristics. However, good educators share common commitments and characteristics and students can prioritize one faculty member over another by taking these characteristics into consideration. Thus, a better understanding of students' preferences by faculty can contribute to accomplish instructive objectives and generate a chance to learn in a classroom environment more beneficial to students.


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Assistant Prof. Dr. Meltem Acar Guvendir

Trakya University

Table 1: Frequency Matrix (F)

Characteristics              A     B     C     D     E

A-Age                             371   21    60    245

B-Gender                    48          21    47    135

C-Occupational exp.         398   398         355   382

D-Status                    359   372   64          356

E-Appearance                174   284   37    63

F-Pedagogical knowledge     389   386   194   301   378

G-Generosity in grading     361   377   177   259   375

H-Taste of humor            364   384   153   260   371

I-Support to social         394   389   222   294   371

J-Interpersonal relations   399   393   322   367   386

Characteristics              F     G     H     I     J

A-Age                       30    58    55    25    20

B-Gender                    33    42    35    30    26

C-Occupational exp.         225   242   266   197   97

D-Status                    118   160   159   125   52

E-Appearance                41    44    48    48    33

F-Pedagogical knowledge           267   251   210   114

G-Generosity in grading     152         251   201   134

H-Taste of humor            168   168         182   104

I-Support to social         209   218   237         110

J-Interpersonal relations   305   285   315   309

Table 2: Proportions Matrix (P)

Characteristics       A       B       C       D       E

A-Age                       0,885   0,050   0,143   0,585

B-Gender            0,115           0,050   0,112   0,322

C-Occupational      0,950   0,950           0,847   0,912

D-Status            0,857   0,888   0,153           0,850

E-Appearance        0,415   0,678   0,088   0,150

F-Pedagogical       0,928   0,921   0,463   0,718   0,902

G-Generosity in     0,862   0,900   0,422   0,618   0,895

H-Taste of humor    0,869   0,916   0,365   0,621   0,885

I-Support to        0,940   0,928   0,530   0,702   0,885
social activities

J-Interpersonal     0,952   0,938   0,768   0,876   0,921

Characteristics       F       G       H       1       J

A-Age               0,072   0,138   0,131   0,060   0,048

B-Gender            0,079   0,100   0,084   0,072   0,062

C-Occupational      0,537   0,578   0,635   0,470   0,232

D-Status            0,282   0,382   0,379   0,298   0,124

E-Appearance        0,098   0,105   0,115   0,115   0,079

F-Pedagogical               0,637   0,599   0,501   0,272

G-Generosity in     0,363           0,599   0,480   0,320

H-Taste of humor    0,401   0,401           0,434   0,248

I-Support to        0,499   0,520   0,566           0,263
social activities

J-Interpersonal     0,728   0,680   0,752   0,737

Table 3: Unit Normal Variance Matrix (Z)

   Ozellikler          A        B        C        D        E

A-Age                         1,203   -1,644   -1,066    0,214

B-Gender            -1,203            -1,644   -1,215   -0,462

C-Occupational       1,644    1,644             1,025    1,351

D-Status             1,066    1,215   -1,025             1,035

E-Appearance        -0,214    0,462   -1,351   -1,035

F-Pedagogical        1,464    1,413   -0,093    0,578    1,294

G-Generosity in      1,087    1,280   -0,196    0,301    1,253

H-Taste of humor     1,120    1,382   -0,345    0,307    1,203

I-Support to         1,558    1,464    0,075    0,529    1,203
social activities

J-Interpersonal      1,667    1,538    0,734    1,155    1,413

[SIGMA]Zj            8,190   11,600   -5,488    0,578    8,505

Zj                   0,819    1,160   -0,549    0,058    0,850

Sj                   1,709    2,050    0,341    0,948    1,740

   Ozellikler         F        G        H        I        J

A-Age               -1,464   -1,087   -1,120   -1,558   -1,667

B-Gender            -1,413   -1,280   -1,382   -1,464   -1,538

C-Occupational       0,093    0,196    0,345   -0,075   -0,734

D-Status            -0,578   -0,301   -0,307   -0,529   -1,155

E-Appearance        -1,294   -1,253   -1,203   -1,203   -1,413

F-Pedagogical                 0,351    0,251    0,003   -0,607

G-Generosity in     -0,351             0,251   -0,051   -0,468

H-Taste of humor    -0,251   -0,251            -0,165   -0,680

I-Support to        -0,003    0,051    0,165            -0,636
social activities

J-Interpersonal      0,607    0,468    0,680    0,636

[SIGMA]Zj           -4,655   -3,107   -2,320   -4,406   -8,898

Zj                  -0,465   -0,311   -0,232   -0,441   -0,890

Sj                   0,425    0,579    0,658    0,449    0,000

Table 4: Scale values that belong to faculty member characteristics
and their ranks

       Characteristics           Scale values (Sj)   Rank

J-Interpersonal relations              0,000          1

C-Occupational experience              0,341          2

F-Pedagogical knowledge                0,425          3

I-Support to social activities         0,449          4

G-Generosity in grading                0,579          5

H-Taste of humor                       0,658          6

D-Status                               0,948          7

A-Age                                  1,709          8

E-Appearance                           1,740          9

B-Gender                               2,050          10

Table 5. Internal consistency of scale values related to the faculty
member characteristics

      Error Matrix


B-Gender                    0,252

C-Occupational experience   0,036   0,006

D-Status                    0,080   0,023   0,119

E-Appearance                0,072   0,056   0,007   0,064

F-Pedagogical knowledge     0,028   0,027   0,004   0,019   0,004

G-Generosity in grading     0,009   0,030   0,016   0,026   0,018

H-Taste of humor            0,015   0,002   0,011   0,007   0,025

I-Support to social act.    0,044   0,017   0,073   0,011   0,016

J-Interpersonal relations   0,004   0,042   0,135   0,048   0,038

[SIGMA]error                1,762

Mean Error                  0,019

      Error Matrix



C-Occupational experience



F-Pedagogical knowledge

G-Generosity in grading     0,076

H-Taste of humor            0,007   0,067

I-Support to social act.    0,009   0,031   0,017

J-Interpersonal relations   0,064   0,038   0,007   0,064


Mean Error
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Author:Guvendir, Meltem Acar
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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