Evaluation of Educational and Research Status in Microbiology Department, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 Mashad University of Medical scinces

2 Mashad University of Medical Sciences

Abstract

Background: Continuous improvement of quality in higher education is the ultimate goal of any medical school. Evaluation of research and educational status makes it possible to judge about the quality of educational achievements in a system. Thus we evaluated the educational and research status of Microbiology and Virology Department, faculty of medicine in Mashhad University of Medical Sciences.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted during 2012 in the Department of Microbiology and Virology. The study population included  the head of the department, members of the Evaluation Committee, nine faculty members of the Department, postgraduate students and some undergraduate students, several alumni, as well as educational staff of the department. A questionnaire was utilized to evaluate 8 fields by questions based on a 3-point Likert scale. This questionnaire has been previously assessed and confirmed in terms of reliability and validity.  Descriptive statistics were calculated using appropriate software.
Results: The best scores were obtained in the area of faculty members, students, and dissertations while the minimum points were achieved in the areas of educational facilities, educational programs (curricula) and alumni.
Conclusion: According to the results, curricula, educational and research facilities and spaces which were identified as the weakest areas need to be considered and paid more serious attention. Planning to develop the effective communication with alumni can improve the quality of education in the department.

Keywords


Introduction

Higher education institutions are important elements for society development. To achieve the desired results, one of the most important issues that should be considered is educational quality. The quality of these organizations is increasingly  influenced by factors inside and outside the institution. Despite advances in the field of education, yet general agreement on how to manage the quality of education has not been reached.(1, 2) Functions of the higher education institutions management are as follows. a) Planning; b) Organizing; c) Directing; d) Monitoring and Evaluation (3). Among these, monitoring and evaluation play crucial roles. The evaluation is a process to improve the quality of the education using the collection and judgment of data.

 

 Growing needs of experts and a growing number of students  have high lightened the importance of the quality of education.(4) In recent years, many researchers have conducted studies in this field. In this regard, an appropriate evaluation that leads to accurate judgment is of specific importance. (5) Each evaluation program consists of systematic data collection, observation, analysis, and finally summarizing all the information to judge and to determine the quality of the educational system. However, in a traditional approach, changes within or outside the organization, might challenge the evaluation process. (6)

Conventional models of evaluation for higher education institutions, include assessment of the content, data and process evaluation, and outcome evaluation.(7, 8) The evaluation of the department of Microbiology and Virology, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences was conducted based on this common pattern for evaluation (9, 10). We hope this process assess the efficacy of educational programs provided at the Department of Microbiology and Virology to estimate and address the limitations and strengths. The ultimate aim is to promote the quality of the education in the field of microbiology for medical students as well as postgraduate students.

Methods:

This study was conducted in the Department of Microbiology and Virology, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences during 2012. The data collection tool was a questionnaire. Through this descriptive cross-sectional study, the efficacy of provided education was assessed in 8 fields; “the mission and objectives", "training", "faculty", "student", "teaching and learning strategies", "educational and research facilities," "dissertation", and "graduates". The study population consisted of the head of the department, evaluation team, 9 faculty members in the department, the PhD and M.Sc. students together with the undergraduate students (such as medical students, dentistry, pharmacy and paramedical students),and also some of alumni. These questions were presented separately to these groups. This questionnaire was based on a 3-point Likert scale. The questionnaire had been previously assessed and confirmed in terms of validity and reliability (Cronbach's alpha= 0.85). Finally descriptive statistics were calculated using SPSS. Educational evaluation results were analyzed based on SWOTS (strengths, weaknesses, opportunity, and threats) method.

Results                                      

Findings based on the degree of desirability of the 8 fields were as follows:

Table 1: The degree of desirability in Mission, goals, organization field

Desirability %

Maximum score

score

Criteria

56.25%

16

9

Mission, goals

73.33%

30

22

Head of the department

66.66%

9

6

Program to develop courses and educational fields

30%

10

3

Resource development

75%

8

6

Regulations and rules

87.5%

8

7

Faculty members participation in educational planning

20%

10

2

Financial resources

57.14%

14

8

Activities outside the university

60%

105

63

Sum

Table 2 : The degree of desirability  in Courses and curricula field

Desirability percent

Maximum score

score

Criteria

75%

12

9

Curriculua  and educational goals

42.85%

14

6

Fields of study and faculty member expertise

40%

10

4

Need to revise the curriculum and course

52.77%

36

19

Sum

Table 3: The degree of desirability infaculty members field

Desirability percent

Maximum score

score

Criteria

80%

10

8

The number of faculty members

87.5%

10

8.75

Educational activities  of faculty members

91.66%

12

11

Research activities of faculty members

87.5%

8

7

Executive activities of faculty members

40%

10

4

Academic level of faculty members

77.5%

50

38.75%

Sum

Table 4: The degree of desirability instudent’s field

Desirability percent

Maximum score

score

Criteria

81.25%

16

13

Admitting process and student development

44.44%

9

4

The number and distribution of students

75%

10

7.5

Student participation in educational planning

100%

12

12

Student interaction with faculty members

11.11%

9

1

Students' awareness and interest in the field of study

58.33%

24

14

Viewpoint of students about the department

87.5%

10

8.75

Research activities of the students

66.94%

90

60.25

sum

Table 5: The degree of desirability inteaching / learning strategies field

Desirability %

Maximum score

score

Criteria

65%

20

13

Models and teaching methods

80%

15

12

Resources and training tools

73.33%

15

11

Assessment of Educational Progress

60%

15

9

Feedback from previous evaluations

69.23%

65

45

sum

Field 6: The degree of desirability inEducational facilities field

Desirability %

Maximum score

score

Criteria

40%

10

4

Educational and administrative spaces

16.66%

12

2

Library and IT unit

41.66%

12

5

Computer facilities and services

53.33%

15

8

Workshops and laboratories

40%

15

6

Audio-visual facilities

39.06%

64

25

sum

Field 7: The degree of desirability inThesis, Sabbaticals, seminars field

Desirability %

Maximum score

score

Criteria

94.44%

18

17

Quality of thesis  and dissertations

46.66%

15

7

Seminars held by the department

50%

12

6

Research contracts

66.66%

45

30

sum

Field 8: The degree of desirability in alumni field

Desirability %

Maximum score

score

Criteria

50%

12

6

Postgraduate education

16.66%

18

3

Communication with graduates after graduation

66.66%

9

6

Scientific articles and books by the Alumni

100%

9

9

Alumni careers and job opportunity

55.55%

9

5

Capabilities of graduates

50.87%

57

29

sum

 

Discussion

Regarding the mission and goals of the department as the first evaluated field, the status of the department is appropriate. However, the department score was unfavorable in some cases such as training manual for new students. As a guideline to give an overall view of the course at the beginning of the course increases students' learning efficiency, it is necessary to properly develop such guidelines. In most cases the score of management was favorable except for the participation of students in educational planning. The department situation to attract foreign students is unacceptable. This can be improved by planning in international unit of the university and reduction of administrative and bureaucratic procedures. Unfortunately, the criteria for department status in terms of physical resources and facilities were not acceptable. Also the department did not succeed to obtain resources outside the university.  This can be improved by reducing the bureaucracy and expanding relationships with industry and the private sector. It seems that there is no programmed schedule for taking sabbaticals by faculty members. Considering the rapid growth of science, the need for taking sabbatical courses and expanding the relationship with other academic centers has been increased.

Regarding the field of curricula and courses, the overall condition is moderate. The Non-Core courses were not offered by the department. The current educational program is too rigid though the university can offer up to 10% of each curriculum as non- core courses and be more flexible. This potential should be activated and universities should provide Non-Core Courses based on their ability and capacity.

The status of the department in the field of faculty members and educational and research activities was appropriate. Department has repeatedly won awards because of research activities. However, the department failed to admit guest researchers from other universities. This can be improved by facilitating the process at faculty and university levels.

In the field of students, the department had  a relatively good condition in most areas. However, the number of postgraduate students was not consistent with the educational facilities. This deficiency can be overcome with additional resources as the number of students increasing. The department also failed to involve the students in educational planning.

In the fifth field, teaching and learning strategies were evaluated. Learning output is still assessed by the traditional method of taking test in the end of semester in the department so new and appropriate plans for students' evaluation are needed. Moreover, the exam results were not finally analyzed.

There are many deficiencies and defects in the field of educational facilities, Physical facilities, and equipment as well as the space which needs to be expanded. Special programs and mechanisms should be considered to renovate laboratory equipment and facilities.

More attention should be paid to the theses and dissertations and research contracts with relevant organizations should be facilitated. Sabbatical courses must be encouraged to develop the relationship with other research centers.

In the field of graduates, although continuing education programs are held regularly for graduates, the communication with alumni should be increased furthermore. Fortunately, scientific works and future career of the graduates were acceptable

However, the overall score is satisfactory in these departments (310 points out of 512). But more emphasis should be put on the limitations as the results of any evaluation can help to resolve the failures (11, 12) .

According to this study, the following recommendations at the department, faculty and university levels are provided to improve the educational quality of the department.

The department must provide the booklet or educational manuals for new students and the students should be involved in educational planning furthermore. Also annual meetings with alumni and maintaining effective communication with them should be considered. Also the department should plan to offer non core courses. The faculty should provide opportunities for students to get familiar with industries and markets for their future career. The faculty members should use new methods to evaluate the students. The university should extend sabbaticals and increase communication with other universities within and outside the country. Meanwhile improving facilities, including physical environment, expert personnel,and equipment should be considered. The university should also develop international relations with higher education institutions in other countries in order to attract foreign students. Open communication with industry and research institutions to attract funding from the private sector, is also critical for higher education development. And finally the curricula should be regularly revised by expert committees.

Renewing the facilities and equipment, more effective contact with graduates and a revised curriculum should be considered. These programs may lead to an upper grade in later evaluations.

Acknowledgment:

We would like to thank all dear faculty members and students who helped and sincerely supported us during this study.

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