Values gaps among faculty and administrators.
Undergraduate faculty and administrators were surveyed regarding their perceived academic values, using an adaptation of the SERVQUAL Scale. Gap analysis results on differences in ideal versus university values are reported for both groups.
The Values Project evolved out of conversations among researchers who came together to discuss the role of academic values in shaping their institution's identity and performance. They explored academic values in order to clarify institutional priorities and pinpoint areas where improvement was needed. An institution's higher educational values were conceptualized as implicit standards and expectations about higher education that influenced the decisions of educators and administrators. In order to better understand the concept of values, research efforts in the disciplines of business administration and education were reviewed. Faculty and administrator values were then measured with questionnaires that were designed from focus groups and the literature review.
Business literature provided insight into organizational values, as educational institutions are organizations. Organizational values have been defined as "the means and ends that matter most to organizations" that "play an important guiding and directing role in the functioning of the organization" (Dobni, Ritchie, and Zerbe, 2000, pp. 91-92). They "provide a common language for aligning a company's leadership and its people" (Rubino, 1998, p. 24).
Within an organization, managers and employees will invariably encounter conflicts between personal and organizational values (Anderson 1998, Rubino 1998). In knowledge-based organizations (such as higher education institutions), Burdett argued that personal values will dominate, since "the investment in learning is extremely high. The talent pool demanded to fuel the growth and survival of such enterprises is, of necessity, marketed by intellectual independence and a demand for high quality of life." (Burdett, 1998, p. 41).
A number of issues were found in the education literature related to academic values. Browder (1997) identified two major ideological views: the traditional view of teaching as the pursuit of truth and knowledge versus the postmodern view of teaching as a means to social transformation. Connected to this struggle is the related issue of whether or not students should be viewed as consumers. If so, adopting a business and customer satisfaction viewpoint for the university setting is arguably appropriate (Athiyaman, 1997, Finn, 1997, and Wambsganss & Kennett, 1995). However, Bay and Daniel provided strong arguments against viewing students as customers, including: professors often have a better understanding of what a quality education is than do students; focusing too much on keeping students happy results in institutions ignoring the needs of other stakeholders; and "empowering" students as customers may result in shifts of responsibility for learning from student to institution and power from professors to students (Bay and Daniel, 2001, pp. 3-7).
Universities face greater pressures today, coming "under fire from legislators, private industry, the media and the general public to describe the positive outcomes of a university education and to monitor those outcomes" (Browne, et al., 1998, p. 2). Given this conflict, one may ask whether higher education institutions must cater to students as consumers or should remind students that they are also products. Or, if Guolla (1999) is correct, we must consider the possibility that our students play at least four roles: customers, clients, producers, and products.
Most of prior research examined the perspective of students, both undergraduate and graduate, through teaching evaluations and other measures. Alexitch and Page (1997) identified three purposes for universities as seen by faculty: to impart knowledge and new ideas, to develop critical-thinking skills, and to promote personal growth (1997, p. 84). Litten and Hall (1989) concluded that:
"The effective marketing of colleges and universities will require a capacity for relating both the objectives and the views of the producers of educational services to those of the consumers of these services. Research must be pursued on both sides of the issue; ... [and] could benefit ... from examination of what tradeoffs people are willing to make among types of quality and considerations of quality versus costs." (1989, p. 321, italics added).
Three focus groups were guided in the spring of 1999. Each group was composed of 8 to 13 participants who were randomly selected from three cohorts: new faculty who were in their first year of teaching at Bemidji State University (BSU); senior faculty who were nearing retirement; and faculty who had been at BSU between 8 and 12 years. Four themes emerged: intellectual transformation of students; high expectations of academic achievement; effective institutional planning; and effective institutional marketing.
Based on the identified themes and the literature review, a survey was designed to determine how widely endorsed these values were by faculty. The survey listed 18 value statements phrased to include the tradeoffs inherent in endorsing one particular value over another. Respondents rated each value statement twice using a five-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Statements were rated first in terms of the degree to which the value was perceived as essential for an excellent university (Ideal Values) and then in terms of the degree to which they felt the values characterized our institution (BSU Values). The difference or gap between the scales for each item provided information about areas where BSU was perceived as falling short of educational values. The gap analysis model was adapted from the marketing literature on measuring service quality using the SERVQUAL Scale (Zeithaml, et al., 1993). The scale was developed by the three authors in 1985 and subsequently revised over the next ten years. Five dimensions of service quality are measured by the scale: assurance, empathy, reliability, responsiveness, and tangibles. Demographic questions were also included on the survey.
Surveys were mailed in February 2000 to all full-time faculty. One fold of the survey contained a cover letter, with instructions for returning completed surveys anonymously. Reminder postcards were sent out two weeks later, followed by a second mailing after the reminder. Seventy-four (38%) of the surveys were returned. Six surveys were completed by non-teaching members of the faculty and were omitted from the sample, leaving a total of 68 usable surveys. The number of respondents from each college was roughly proportional to the number of faculty employed in each college. Four respondents did not indicate their college affiliation on the survey.
Results: Faculty Values
The five most highly endorsed values as being essential to an excellent university (Ideal values) appear below, listed in descending order according to mean scores (included in brackets):
* Both faculty and administrators commit the substantial time and resources actually needed to insure open, honest, and public communication. [4.27]
* Student growth and development is the primary goal of the college experience. [4.20]
* Budget allocations, including any program funding increases or reductions are made in light of defined priorities rather than on an across-the-board basis. [4.08]
* The institution is willing to be innovative even at the risk of occasional failure. [4.00]
* Individual academic and service units are required to make choices that are consistent with an established long-term institutional plan. [3.95]
Three of these statements relate to institutional planning, highlighting the perceived importance of this value to respondents. Echoing the third theme elicited from the focus groups, faculty seem to believe that an excellent university commits time and resources to develop an innovative institutional plan through open participation which will ultimately guide decisions made at every level of the university. Additionally, student growth and development is seen as the primary goal of the institution rather than the attainment of knowledge perse or career preparation.
Subtracting the mean ratings for the BSU Scale from the mean ratings for the Ideal Scale for each item (based on matched subjects only) provided us with a method of determining how closely BSU matches the "ideal university" for each value statement. Items with the largest gaps, indicating areas of dissatisfaction or where our institution is the longest away from the ideal, are listed below beginning with the item having the largest gap (scores and significance levels in brackets):
* Both faculty and administrators commit the substantial time and resources actually needed to insure open, honest, and public communication. [1.76, p < .001]
* Budget allocations, including any program funding increases or reductions are made in light of defined priorities rather than on an across-the-board basis. [1.70, p < .001]
* Individual academic and service units are required to make choices that are consistent with an established long-term institutional plan. [1.53, p < .001]
* The administration is responsible for developing and maintaining procedures that insure the timely recognition and resolution of conflicts. [ 1.15, p < .001 ]
* The institution is willing to be innovative even at the risk of occasional failure. [1.15, p < .0011
Four of the five items with the largest gaps were also found among the most highly endorsed values for an ideal university listed above. It is not surprising that the items faculty report valuing most are also the ones for which they are most dissatisfied with their current institution. In fact, it may be precisely because these values are seen as lacking in their own institution that faculty may see them as so important.
The following three items were found to have significantly negative gaps; in other words, faculty rated them as more characteristic of BSU than is desirable. These items were:
* A statewide system advocates for legislative resources and guides institutional mission and priorities even at the cost of some local control. [-0.78, p < .01]
* Career preparation is a primary goal of the college experience. [-0.67, p < .001]
* Faculty are responsive and accommodating to the special requests for students even when those requests excuse the students from normal course expectations. [-0.42, p < .001]
The faculty survey, with modifications to the demographics section, was used a year later for the administrators on campus. The same 18 value statements, phrased to include the tradeoffs inherent in endorsing one value over another, were used again. Respondents rated each value statement twice using a five-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Statements were rated first in terms of the degree to which the value was perceived as essential for an excellent university of our type (Ideal Values) and then in terms of the degree to which the value characterized BSU (BSU Values).
The population of administrators was determined to be 45; therefore, a complete census was conducted instead of a random sample. Surveys were sent to all 45 administrators by campus mail in February 2001, with reminder postcards sent two weeks later. A total of 23 usable questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 51.11%.
Results: Administrator Values
Twelve (52.2%) of the administrators have been employed in higher education administration for more than 15 years, and another five (21.7%) have worked between 11 and 15 years. Ten (43.5%) have been employed at BSU for over 15 years, while only two (8.7%) have been here less than six years. Eight administrators (34.8%) have less than one year of teaching experience (full or part-time), while ten (43.5%) have one to ten years of teaching experience. Thirteen administrators (56.5%) have earned Master's degrees as their highest degree. Sixteen are men and seven are women. Most of the respondents worked either in Academic and Student Affairs (12, 52.2%) or in Administrative Affairs (8, 34.8%).
The educational values most highly endorsed by administrators as essential to an excellent university (Ideal values) are listed below in descending order of endorsement (means in brackets):
* Both faculty and administrators commit the substantial time and resources actually needed to insure open, honest, and public communication. [4.78]
* Budget allocations, including any program funding increases or reductions are made in light of defined priorities rather than on an across-the-board basis. [4.57]
* The institution is willing to be innovative even at the risk of occasional failure. [4.48]
* Individual academic and service units are required to make choices that are consistent with an established long-term institutional plan. [4.43]
* Student growth and development is the primary goal of the college experience. [4.35]
Again, subtracting the mean ratings on the BSU Scale from the mean ratings on the Ideal Scale for each item provided a method of determining how closely BSU matches the standards of the "ideal university" for each value statement. Items with the largest gaps, indicating areas where BSU most falls short of expectations, are listed below beginning with the item having the largest gap (scores and significance levels in brackets):
* Individual academic and service units are required to make choices that are consistent with an established long-term institutional plan. [1.74, p < .001]
* Budget allocations, including any program funding increases or reductions are made in light of defined priorities rather than on an across-the-board basis. [ 1.70, p < .001]
* Both faculty and administrators comment the substantial time and resources actually needed to insure open, honest, and public communication. [1.65, p < .001]
* The administration is responsible for developing and maintaining procedures that insure the timely recognition and resolution of conflicts. [ 1.04, p < .01]
* The institution is willing to be innovative even at the risk of occasional failure. [.96, p < .01]
* Student growth and development is the primary goal of the college experience. [.96, p < .01]
Five of the six items with the largest gaps were the most highly endorsed values reported on the previous page. It is not surprising that the items administrators value most highly are also those for which they are most dissatisfied at their current institution. It may be precisely because they are seen as lacking that administrators regard them as so important. It's also interesting that the first five items above were those with the largest gaps in the faculty study. The following two items were found to have significantly negative gaps; in other words, administrators rated them as more characteristic of BSU than is desirable. These items were:
* A statewide system advocates for legislative resources and guides institutional mission and priorities even at the cost of some local control. [-0.83, p < .05]
* Faculty autonomy and even eccentricity are valuable components of university life and should be defended, even at the cost of some disorganization and perceived inequalities. [-0.82, p < .01]
Three limitations of this study were:
1. Small sample size for the faculty study as a result of a response rate below 40 percent. The small sample size is a major weakness of this study. A similar survey on values and other variables by the institutional research director came out a few weeks before the authors' questionnaire, which may have turned faculty away from participating in this study.
2. Small population size for the administrator study affected the quality and types of data analysis that could be done on the data.
3. Generalizability of the findings is questionable. The questionnaire was tailored to the focus group results at one institution. Still, the procedure and the results in general may be beneficial to other institutions considering an examination of their values.
Institutions of higher education are highly evolved and complex systems that develop their own culture and values over time. While it is not clear how the results from BSU can be generalized to other institutions of similar type, several interesting findings suggest that such an inquiry might be worthwhile. Three conclusions in particular are worth noting:
1. Both faculty and administrators can be said to possess values that are broadly shared within each group. Academic values are not so idiosyncratic between individuals and groups as to make references to "institutional values" misplaced. This may be the result of association with the organization having shaped the values of the individuals involved, or whether the organization recruits people with shared values already in place.
2. Faculty and administrators are somewhat in agreement as to what an ideal institution would look like. Therefore, conflicts between these two groups are based more on differences in their roles within the organization than on more fundamental differences in their world view.
3. The stability of these perceived values over time should be carefully studied. Especially on the items where institutional performance most falls short of expectations, it is possible that perceived problems draw attention to these items, with the result that they are rated as more important than they would be, were institutional performance more satisfactory.
The questions developed for this study should be tested further to see whether they can be successfully applied at other institutions. Researchers may find that they first need to develop questions tailored to their own institutions' idiosyncracies before attempting to measure value perceptions and gaps.
In conclusion, the authors recommend examining institutional values using the SERVQUAL approach as a vehicle for exploring possible improvements in institutional processes. Moreover, such improvements are particularly desirable in a context where public support and funding for higher education is declining, and where demands for accountability are increasing. Institutions with only a vague sense of mission and identity are at a disadvantage in the higher education marketplace. Only by taking a good look at a higher educational institution's expectations for excellence and determining where it falls short of these expectations will the institution's stakeholders be able to better realize the institution's potential.
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Jeff Totten, Southeastern Louisiana University, LA
Laurie Desiderato, Bemidji State University, LA
Robert Ley, Bemidji State University, LA
Marilyn Meisenheimer, Bemidji State University, LA
Totten is assistant professor of marketing. His research interests include marketing education, case research and web-based surveys. Desiderato is associate professor of psychology and has been actively involved in higher education assessment for the past ten years. Ley is professor and chairman of the economics department and has conducted research on student outcomes and students' economic impact. Meisenheimer is assistant professor of educational foundations. Her research interests include power relationships and multieultural education.
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|Publication:||Academic Exchange Quarterly|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2003|
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