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Unformatted text preview: Page 91 THE CASE OF REWARDING “A” BUT EXPECTING “B” IN HIGHER EDUCATION: REVISITING REWARD SYSTEMS THAT FAIL IN UNIVERSITIES Robin L. Snipes, Columbus State University Fonda Carter, Columbus State University CASE DESCRIPTION The primary subject matter of this case is employee motivation and developing reward systems that match the organization’s mission and objectives. Secondary issues examined include performance appraisal systems and employee compensation. This case has a difi‘iculty level of four, appropriate for senior-level undergraduate students or first-year graduate students. The case is designed to be taught in a one-hour class and is expected to require at least three hours of outside preparation by students. CASE SYNOPSIS There are many examples of reward systems where the behaviors that are rewarded are not those desired by management. In public universities, ojficials hope that teachers will focus on quality instruction, but they are mainly rewarded on their research and publications. Moreover, teaching quality is often measured by student evaluations, which may be manipulated by making courses easier or more “fun”. Students get rewarded for getting good grades, not necessarily for acquiring knowledge. In short, the reward systems of most universities have failed to achieve their intended objectives. As pointed out by Steven Kerr over 30 years ago, some of the causes of this are the fascination with "objective" criteria, overemphasis on highly visible behaviors, and an emphasis on equity rather than efiiciency. THE F OLLY OF REWARDING “A” BUT EXPECTING “B” IN HIGHER EDUCATION More than 30 years ago, Steven Kerr pointed out the problems with most reward systems in his influential article printed in the Academy of Management Journal entitled, “On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B” (1975). In the article, Kerr explained that many reward systems are “fouled up in that the types of behavior rewarded are those which the rewarder is trying to discourage, while the behavior desired is not being rewarded at all” (p. 769). In his article he laments that “society hopes that teachers will not neglect their teaching responsibilities, but rewards them almost entirely for research and publications” (p. 773). And more than 30 years later this still seems to be the case in higher education. Good teaching is rarely rewarded, and when it is the rewards are usually limited to annual “Outstanding Teacher Awards” which are given to a very small percentage of faculty and usually come with a very small monetary bonus. Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, Volume 18, Number 5, 2—0—1? Page 92 Recent evidence suggests that university course rigor has declined in the last few decades. One recent study of college students found that they spend 10 fewer hours a week studying now than they did in 1961, yet college grades on average have gone up (Wilson, 2010). Another study of 259 business professors who had been teaching for at least 10 years showed that, on average, they had reduced the analytical—thinking requirements in their courses and, in exchange, had replaced them with group presentations. The author of the study predicted that, over time, courses will “inexorably become easier as students (even the conscientious ones) choose courses where they can expect higher grades, and professors (even the most dedicated) turn to strategies that they expect will improve their student evaluations” (Glenn, 2011). One survey by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment found that provosts at universities identified faculty engagement as their number one challenge in making greater efforts to assess student learning — not because of a lack of concern by professors, but instead because of what the rewards system tells them is important (Wilson, 2010). University accrediting agencies have historically focused on faculty qualifications (as measured by faculty degrees and research productivity), but in the last decade they have started to focus more on student learning outcomes in the accreditation and re-accreditation process. However, faculty have little incentive to change the way they are doing things. Faculty rewards are not tied to the assessment of student learning. And to further compound the problem for administrators, the concept of “academic freedom” to faculty means that they should have the final say in what goes on in their classroom, within reason. According to the guidelines posted on the American Association of University Professors (“AAUP”) website, tenure is “a means to certain ends, specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability” (www.aaup.org). Historically, a faculty member’s time was split between three primary responsibilities: teaching, research, and service to the institution. In addition to teaching and research, faculty are also expected to perform certain service activities. Service to the institution usually includes serving on college and departmental committees and student advising/mentoring. Faculty - service is essential to the effective functioning of an academic institution, since many of the institution’s decisions are driven by faculty input. Like many employees in the private sector, the reduction in budgets has translated to a reduction in the number of faculty and support staff (which includes graduate assistants). Faculty are now being asked to handle more with less support — more service obligations, more students, and more classes. Additionally, the service component of a faculty member’s job is usually not given the same weight on annual performance evaluations as teaching and research. In reality there are few faculty who are eager to serve on major committees. Faculty know that committee work doesn’t transfer to other institutions. In other words, it doesn’t make one more “marketable” in that it doesn’t improve one’s potential salary in the marketplace. Faculty know that the best way to improve one’s marketability is through research. Some participate more on committees because of their loyalty to the college and/or desire to participate in the decision-making process. Yet this is usually a small percentage of the faculty, which means that the few who do are usually unduly “taxed” with too much service work (and little to no rewards). Journal of Yhe International Aeademyfor Case Studies, Volume 18, Number 5, 2—012 Page 93 MEASURING FACULTY PRODUCTIVITY: THE FASCINATION WITH OBJECTIVE CRITERIA Teaching Quality. Most universities use some type of student evaluation to measure instructional quality. Student evaluations usually contain several statements to which students indicate their level of agreement or disagreement (normally on a five-point scale). Examples of the items on student evaluation surveys include, “This instructor is well prepared”, or “I can now articulate the core concepts of this course.” The overall scores are averaged for each class, and faculty instructional quality is measured by the numerical average of student evaluation ratings. For some universities this is the only measure of instructor teaching quality. However, many feel that this measure doesn’t actually achieve its objective of assessing instructional quality but feel it is more of a measure of student satisfaction. A big debate in higher education today is whether students are to be viewed as the “product” of the organization, or its customers. Many feel that the overuse of student evaluations as the sole measure of teaching quality is putting too much power in students’ hands and can have the impact of actually lowering academic standards. As pointed out by many faculty, the problem with treating students as customers is that they are also the product of a university. So, universities have two oftentimes-conflicting goals: one is to increase student (customer) satisfaction, and the other is to increase student learning. Many faculty believe that making courses easier (and grades higher) and spoon-feeding students are good ways to increase student evaluations, but they don’t increase the amount of student learning or instructional quality. A recent study seems to confirm this. In his study, Ewing (2009) concluded that lenient grading does indeed inflate student evaluation scores and, thus, can yield incorrect conclusions regarding instruction quality. The results of the study indicated that student evaluations were not valid measures of student learning (based on students’ performance in future classes). Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, President Emeritus of George Washington University, recently pointed out in a New York Times interview (2010): “Students are not customers nor are they not customers. They are investing time and money with a purpose in mind. The school that does not serve that purpose will not survive. Students are looking for a quality education, and they want distinguished and accomplished professors on thefizcuity. But that alone is not sufficient. ” Studies in the area of education have demonstrated that improving teaching quality can increase student achievement. In his 2003 study of middle school students, Marzano concluded that, “on the average, the most effective teachers produced gains of about 53 percentage points in student achievement in one year (on all levels), whereas the least effective teachers produced achievement gains of about 14 points over one year” (p. 72). To more accurately assess instructional quality, a good measure of student learning needs to be developed. One way to measure student learning is through pre-tests and post-tests given to students prior to taking a class and again when the class is completed. As pointed out by Chatterj cc (1994), “an alternative to student evaluations is to think in terms of output measures rather than customer satisfaction, and the teaching output of a university is the additional educational value added to each student” Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, leume f8, Number 5, 2012 Page 94 (p. 2). However, many faculty have resisted participating in this type of course assessment because they feel that it is not a productive way to spend their time. Many feel that their limited time might be better spent doing other things such as updating their courses, or looking for new and better ways to teach their classes. Course assessment requires a lot of paperwork and time ~— it’s one more demand on a faculty member’s time —— and many feel that the costs are larger than the potential benefits. Faculty Service. To measure faculty service, most colleges simply count the number of committees and/or the number of advisees assigned to a faculty member. However, this is not always an accurate or fair measure of productivity because some committees require a lot of time and effort, while others only meet once a year. Additionally, chairing a committee requires significantly more time and effort than simply being a member of one. Academic advising can be defined as the “process that helps students develop academic success through relationships and guidance from faculty members or assigned advising staff” (Coll, Oh, Joyce, Coll, 2009, p. 1). Student advising in higher education is playing an increasingly important role in student success. Several recent students have shown a positive relationship between the amount and quality of student advising and retention, academic success, and satisfaction with the institution (Tinto, 2006). Although faculty are usually expected to spend part of their time advising and/or mentoring students, it is usually not measured nor is it part of their annual performance appraisal. There are faculty who enjoy this aspect of their jobs and spend a great deal of time advising and mentoring students, but it is usually the minority rather than the majority. Research Productivity. There is no doubt that a strong research profile can add to a college’s reputation, and students want to attend prestigious universities (Wilson, 2010). Additionally, accreditation agencies look at faculty research productivity as a measure of faculty qualifications. It is believed by these agencies that faculty who continue to do research will remain current in their field of study and, therefore, will be more effective teachers. Research productivity is important to individual faculty as well because it can bring professional recognition and rewards in the form of higher pay. So, faculty research output remains a big concern for both faculty and administrators. Universities measure faculty research productivity by reviewing scholarly presentations, journal publications, and research grants acquired by a faculty member each year. It is interesting to note that several studies have investigated the correlation between faculty research and instructional quality with mixed results. Some studies suggest that teaching and research can be mutually reinforcing (Colbeck, 1997; Fairweather, 2002), while others have found little to no evidence of a correlation between research productivity and teaching effectiveness (Feldman, 1987; Hattie and Marsh, 1996). Research productivity can help the reputation of an academic institution, but the jury is still out on whether it improves teaching effectiveness. Journal off/1e International Academy jbr Case Studies, Volume 13, Number 5, 2012 - Page 95 , MEASURING FACULTY PRODUCTIVITY: THE OVEREMPHASIS ON HIGHLY VISIBLE BEHAVIORS As pointed out by Stephen Kerr in his 1975 article, “difficulties often stem from the fact that some parts of the task are highly visible while other parts are not... publications are easier to demonstrate than teaching... hitting home runs is more readily observable than advancing base runners (in baseball)” (p. 780). It is easier to simply count publications than it is to try to develop more valid assessments of teaching quality. Additionally, it is difficult to get facuity agreement on the most appr0priate way to measure teaching quality because it is somewhat of a subjective evaluation. Most universities continue to measure service by simply counting the number of committees andfor the number of advisees assigned to a faculty member. An objective measure is not necessarily the most valid one. MEASURING FACULTY PRODUCTIVITY: THE OVEREMPHASIS ON EQUITY RATHER THAN EFFICIENCY There are other factors that might prevent academic institutions from rewarding the behaviors desired by administrators (Kerr, 1975). The challenge of motivating professors to become better teachers is further complicated by the current state of university budgets across the country. Just as in the private sector, most public universities in the country have experienced budget cutbacks as the—result of the economy, so faculty are being asked to do more with less. Merit pay increases in academic institutions across the US. have been nominal to nothing in recent years, further limiting administrators’ ability to reward good behaviors. When Merit pay is available, it is often distributed equally among all faculty — faculty receive very similar pay increases (within a percentage point or two). Furthermore, within a particular discipline, faculty pay is determined by a variety of internal and external factors. Internal factors include research publications and length of service. External factors include the external labor market (supply and demand of Ph.D.’s in each discipline area). In academia today, pay compression, and sometimes pay inversion, is commonplace. Pay compression occurs when the salaries of new professors are very close to tenured professors who have been with the institution for many years. Pay inversion is the rare case where the starting salaries of the new Ph.D.’s are actually higher than the salaries of tenured professors. This is due, in part, to the dwindling supply of new Ph.D.’s — especially in certain discipline areas such as business and medicine. This is also due to the down economy and the continuing budget cuts that have frozen most tenured faculty salaries for years, while market salaries for new Ph.D.’s continue to rise. These salary differences are market—driven, but they sometimes affect collegiality within an academic institution and can affect the ability of a university to keep good tenured faculty. Salary differences within an academic institution can be substantial -- faculty who are in disciplines where the supply of Ph.D.’s is larger and demand is smaller, such as History or English, sometimes make almost half of those in the high demandllow supply disciplines. Due to concerns of fairness and the ambiguity in assessment criteria, some have Journal of ihe International Academy for Case Studies, leume 18, Number 5, 20'12 Page 96 pushed for salary equity across the university so as to create a more collegial and collaborative working environment. However, others suggest that public colleges, like private for-profit institutions, should offer salary increases to reward productivity and marketability. The market favors those faculty who are most mobile — the productive researchers who can bring the institution more prestige and are in Specialized, high-demand fields. As pointed out by Amey and VanDerLinden (2002), “administrators must consider all forms of reward to attain the desired level of faculty productivity... offering one-time bonuses to redress past salary inequities, for example, does little to compensate for base salary inequities” (p. 29). Administrators need to consider several factors in determining a faculty member’s total compensation package, including the institutional mission, faculty evaluation criteria, merit pay, and the labor market. YOUR SITUATION You are Dean of a College of Business at a medium-sized public university in the Midwestern part of the United States. Due to the economy, you have been told by the President of your university that you will not be able to offer salary increases to your faculty again this year. Because of cuts in federal and state budgets, you haven’t been able to give your faculty cost-of—living or merit pay increases for three years now. Like many universities, some of the new hires are now making just a few thousand dollars less than tenured faculty. Some of your tenured faculty are very dedicated employees who have been at the university for more than 10 years. You have a total of 35 faculty in your College, not including the Assistant Dean and three Department Chairs. Although your student enrollment has increased, faculty turnover in your college has been high the last several years — some of your tenured faculty have retired, but much of the turnover is due to rising market salaries for business Ph.D.’s. In fact, only about 20% of your current faculty are tenured (which means that they have been at the college for more than five years). Some of your tenured faculty are very dedicated employees who have been at the university for more than 15 years. Others are less engaged and do the minimal amount of work expected. You have been able to hire new faculty recently, but you haven’t been able to fill all of the open positions, and you’ve had to pay the new faculty close to what your tenured faculty make to get them to come to your college. The labor market for business Ph.D.’s is still very tight — while faculty salaries have been frozen across the nation due to the economy, new Ph.D.’s are still in high demand and their salaries continue to go up. You need your tenured faculty to help mentor the new faculty and help with the departmental committee work and student advising. Untenured faculty are usually discouraged from serving on many committees so that they can" work on their research since it is a big consideration in getting tenure. You know that asking your untenured faculty to do too much service work will set them up for failure in the tenure process....
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