A qualitative case-study on the influence of attitudes and qualities of student teaching assistants
Purpose - The importance and development of information systems are increasing, so are the need of business students' general understanding of information systems and the function of these in businesses as well as influence on firms’ competitiveness. The aim of this study was to identify first year undergraduate students’ motivation and commitment towards education regarding management information system, and how student teaching assistants' attitude and qualities influence these factors. The paper is based on a case study of first year undergraduate students taking the course IT in Business as part of a BSc in Economics and Business Administration at Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences. Earlier studies and observations indicate that initially students find the subject hard to grasp and irrelevant, which decreases their motivation. Based on our study we find that the attitudes and qualities of a student teaching assistant are of significant importance in relation to students’ motivation. In addition to that, the paper discusses what these qualities are and how they might differ from those of teaching assistants in other subjects. Setting - The course, IT in Business, is a first semester undergraduate course taught at Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences and it is compulsory for all students enrolled at the BSc in Economics and Business Administration program. The program aims to give a broad introduction to a number of economic, legal and organizational issues in the business community. Apart from business issues, the program also considers socioeconomic aspects and the joint interaction between economics and business administration. For the 2010 autumn semester the program had around 600 students. While similar in content, the program is divided into two language lines: one taught in Danish (HA) and one in English (BSc). IT in Business is a 5 ECTS course and consists of 2 lecture lessons per week for 10 weeks and 2 tutorial lessons per week for 13 weeks. Lecturers hold the lecture lessons for approximately 100-200 students at a time. Tutorial lessons are classroom based teaching (for approx. 25 students) and these are held by student teaching assistants, who themselves are older students who have been following the course previously. IT in Business has three main elements: 1) An introduction at a practical level to an ERP system (SAP Business One) and thus to the processes in a company. 2) Methods for formal modeling of processes, data and occurrences. 3) An introduction to a company's information systems and the relationship of these to business strategies. In addition to the lectures and tutorials, the students have to hand in a prescribed group assignment in groups of four. The group assignment is divided into two separate parts, A and B, and it is a prerequisite for attending the final exam to hand in solutions to A and B. The exam form is an individual oral exam and it consists of a presentation of the group's solution papers as well as an examination in the curriculum. Method - The study is based on interpretative research (Walsham, 2006; Yin, 2003) and the method chosen was a qualitative case study (Myers, 2009). The data for this study was collected through fieldwork and semi-structured interviews. The fieldwork was conducted during the autumn semester 2010. It is based on two teaching assistants' observations of the students during their classroom tutorials. At the end of the semester 16 of these students were interviewed. When selecting the respondents for the interviews, different factors were considered in order to obtain a representative sample. Taken into consideration were factors such as student attendance in the classroom tutorials and what level of understanding of the subject the student perceived to have. Other aspects such as gender and age were also considered important variables. Findings - Based on our study we dare to conclude that a lack of understanding the aim of the subject has a negative influence on the students´ motivation. In addition to that, our results show that the teaching assistants’ ability to put syllabus into perspective improves the students' understanding and increases their motivation. Research limitations/implications - The findings of the case study identify fields of interest that are believed to be relevant for further studies in motivation of undergraduate students as well as how motivation is influenced by teaching assistants' attitudes and qualities. Practical implications - The research provides insight for teaching assistants and course coordinators subject leaders into the implications of motivating undergraduate students in the subject of management information systems. Originality/value - The paper presents findings of a qualitative study on how student assistants' attitudes and qualities influence the motivation of first semester undergraduate students. Keywords -Motivation; first year undergraduate students; Management Information Systems; teaching assistants. Paper type - Research paper.
Motivation; Undergraduate students; Management information systems; Student teaching assistent
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IV INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR YOUNG SCIENTISTS AND STUDENTS, 2011