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Study: Faculty Members Have More Positive Outlook

Study: Faculty Members Have More Positive Outlook

College and university administrators across the country are under increasing pressure from external forces, such as policy makers and the public, to be accountable for the productivity and workload of their faculty members. As a result, reliable benchmarks to assess, evaluate and respond to changes in these perceptions among faculty members are essential to the success of these academic institutions. Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher is investigating how faculty members’ perceptions have changed over time.

Dr. Vicki Rosser, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, examined three dimensions of work life — professional development, administrative support and technical support — to determine faculty members’ levels of satisfaction. Rosser used four elements to define satisfaction — advising and course load; quality of students; benefits and security; and self-report of job satisfaction.
“The degree to which faculty members feel supported in the areas of professional development, administrative support and technology continues to be a critically important aspect in the quality of faculty members’ work life, potentially generating a positive or negative response in their overall level of satisfaction,” Rosser says.

Rosser used data from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, a survey conducted by the National Center of Educational Statistics and the National Science Foundation to measure issues associated with faculty members’ institutions and professional work lives. Rosser compared data from 2,974 respondents from the 1993 survey and 4,776 respondents from the 1999 survey. 

In general, the 1999 group felt more supported with their work lives, the study found. Specifically, Rosser says she found a more favorable attitude toward technical support in 1999 due to technological advances, such as e-mail, that have changed the way faculty members conduct daily business. Administrative support was the only area that faculty members perceived as less supportive in 1999 than in 1993.
“More than any other aspect of their work life, this area in the academic workplace has been subjected to deteriorating economic conditions,” Rosser says. “As the number and positions of staff members and assistantships decrease, the amount of administrative work and bureaucratic accountability continues to increase.”

Contrary to the increase in overall satisfaction in the 1999 subset, Rosser found that ethnic minorities perceived the quality of their work lives less positively in 1999 than the 1993 group. 

“It may be that disparity in workload and advising responsibilities, the number of students advised, mentoring and role modeling responsibilities and climate issues continue to have an impact on the perceptions of ethnic minority faculty members in higher education,” Rosser says. 

Rosser’s study was recently published in Research in Higher Education.

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