Instructional designers as street level bureaucrats in higher education: A qualitative study

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Akella, Nirupama
Patterson, Jean A.
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Instructional designers in higher education experience on the job conflict due to a misalignment between official university outlined functions and actual daily job functions. They deal with this conflict by possibly acting as street level bureaucrats. Congruently, this basic qualitative study explored instructional designer job conflict and strategies used to deal with the conflict in three higher education institution, all located in different parts of USA, through the theoretical lens of street level bureaucracy. Interview analysis of semi-structured online or in-person interviews with 17 instructional designers and content analysis of corresponding official job descriptions revealed confusing findings which were categorized into three themes of a) instructional design meaning, job roles, and functions, b) street level divergence, and c) organizational contribution. Findings and constant comparison revealed instructional design had multiple meanings ranging from design process dependent on job role and function, influences of learners, and theoretical underpinnings. Instructional designers in both centralized and decentralized institutions exercised street level divergence. Instructional designers viewed their organizational contribution as direct, indirect, while some saw no need to contribute to organization development. Influences of institutional structure, culture, and personal characteristics emerged as major commonalities which enabled instructional designers across the three institutions develop working relations, respond, and exercise street level divergence. Congruently, the study concluded that a) instructional design was a support function, b) instructional designers were not street level bureaucrats, c) instructional designer job behavior and performance was framed by institutional culture and personal characteristics, c) instructional designers were organizational contributors. The study, subsequently, discussed policy, practice, theory, and future research implications.

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Thesis (Ed.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Education, Dept. of Counseling, Educational Leadership, Educational and School Psychology
Wichita State University
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