Students' Perspectives on Materials Posted on Faculty Office Doors
Kelly, David B., College Student Journal
Undergraduates (N = 459) completed a survey in which they rated the appropriateness of various materials that might be posted on the outside of faculty office doors. Results indicated that students considered school-related items to be the most appropriate for posting on faculty doors; items of personal expression were rated second most acceptable, and political/social items were considered least appropriate. Postings of information related to office hours, advising, and research/employment/ scholarship opportunities were strongly supported. Students were more divided about personal expressions by faculty, with the most acceptable postings being quotes from famous authors or philosophers and university sports-related signs. There was a notable drop off in approval for nonpolitical cartoons, family pictures, and hobby-related pictures or announcements. The area of political/social expression received the smallest endorsement of the three categories. Among the least objectionable items in this category was the expression of support for some social causes such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Students generally did not approve of faculty members posting expressions of religious or political beliefs, or views on controversial issues such as abortion. When asked if they had ever become upset or angry about something they saw on a faculty office door, 11% responded affirmatively.
Many faculty members at universities post both school-related and other information on their office doors. In spite of the frequency of this practice, few studies have attempted to examine students' reactions or opinions of the posted items. It is not known which types of materials are perceived as helpful and which might be deemed inappropriate or superfluous by the student. Several researchers have investigated the effect on students of specific features of faculty offices. Initial studies (e.g., Zweigenhaft, 1976) examined whether desk placement within the office influenced students' perceptions of faculty. The findings were not consistent, and Hensley (1982) postulated that desk placement was as likely to be determined by situational demands of the office as by the personality characteristics of the faculty member. Other environmental aspects of faculty offices have received only occasional study. Wells and Perrine (2001) showed students slides of a faculty office in which there was a dog, a cat, or no animal. They found that students tended to experience the office with the dog as being more comfortable and the professor more likely to be friendly than those whose office had a cat or no animal. More recently, the
focus has shifted to issues such as the types of content that students and faculty think are appropriate for faculty web pages. Palmiter and Renjilian (2003) surveyed both groups about essential information that should be contained on a faculty member's academic web page. Although they did not publish separate faculty and student responses, the combined group expressed strong support (greater than 86%) for the inclusion of an e-mail address, office hours, and telephone number. There was very little support (less than 3%) for personal links, personal interests, and family information.
Even with the proliferation of online courses, most students still attend classes and meet with professors on campus. The most likely meeting place outside of the classroom is in the faculty member's office. The content of materials posted on office doors may influence the way students perceive and interact with faculty members. The current research sought to obtain an overall rating of the types of information that students considered to be the most appropriate for posting on faculty doors.
A total of 459 college students (306 women, 153 men) volunteered to participate. The students received credit in a psychology course in exchange for their participation. Students in the age range of 17-22 years old comprised 90% of the sample, those 23-27 years old were 5% of the sample, and the remaining 5% was greater than 27 years old. African Americans comprised 15% of the sample, Caucasians were 77%, and the remaining 8% was divided among other racial categories.
Materials and Procedure
Participants completed a 16-item author-constructed survey in which they were asked to rate the appropriateness of various materials for posting on the outside of faculty office doors. They rated each item on a scale from 0 (Strongly not appropriate) to 9 (Strongly appropriate). One additional item asked whether they had ever been angry or upset by something they saw posted on a professor's door. Demographic information that was collected included sex, race, and year in school.
Principal component factor analysis with a varimax rotation yielded three underlying factors that explained 62% of the variance. The factors were interpreted to be school-related materials, personal expression, and political/social expression. Internal consistency for each subscale was high. Cronbach's alpha for school-related materials was .75, for personal expression .87, and for political/social expression .85 (see Table 1 for items on each subscale).
The mean rating for each individual item and the percentage who endorsed the extremes on each one are listed in Table 1. Approval and disapproval ratings for each item were constructed by summing the percentage of participants who rated the item 8 or 9 (strongly appropriate) for approval and the percentage who rated it 0 or 1 (strongly not appropriate ) for disapproval. Materials rated most appropriate for posting (> 80% approval) were office hours, research/scholarship/employment opportunities, and information related to advising. Materials rated least appropriate for posting (< 20% approval) were political signs, political cartoons, religious messages, and views on abortion. In response to the question "Have you ever been angry or upset about something you saw on a professor's door?", 11% of the participants answered yes and 89% responded no.
The results indicated that students considered school-related items to be the most appropriate for posting on faculty office doors; items of personal expression were rated second most acceptable, and political/social items were considered least appropriate. There appeared to be clear endorsement for posting information related to office hours, advising, and research/employment/scholarship opportunities. Information that would help students better accomplish their academic tasks seemed to be the most acceptable. Students were more divided in their views about personal expressions by faculty, with the most acceptable ones of these being quotes from famous authors or philosophers and university sports-related signs. There was a notable drop off in approval for nonpolitical cartoons, family pictures, and hobby-related pictures or announcements. Thence findings are consistent with the results of Palmiter and Renjilian (2003), whose survey showed high approval for school-related information on faculty web sites, but not for personal or family-related information. Finally, the area of political/social expression received the weakest endorsement of the three categories. This was the only category where some of the items had a greater disapproval rating than approval. The least objectionable item in the category concerned the expression of support for social causes such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Because there is a wide range of social causes, it is possible that the specific example that was given for this item influenced the positive response and that giving a different social cause as an example might have changed the outcome. Students generally did not approve of faculty members posting expressions of religious or political beliefs, or views on controversial issues such as abortion. The finding that 11% of the students said that they had been upset or angry about something they saw on a faculty door indicates that faculty postings are noticed and have at least a temporary emotional impact on some students. Future research might include administering the survey to faculty members and comparing their responses to those of the students. The fact that many faculty members continue to post a wide assortment of materials on their office doors suggests that their views on appropriateness may differ from those of students.
Hensley, W. (1982). Professor proxemics: Personality and job demands as factors of faculty office arrangement. Environment and Behavior, 14,581-591.
Palmiter, D., & Renjilian, D. (2003). Improving your psychology faculty home page: Results of a student-faculty online survey. Teaching of Psychology, 30, 163-166.
Wells. M., & Perrine. R. (2001). Pets go to college: The influence of pets on students' perceptions of faculty and their offices. Anthrozoos, 14(3), 161-168.
Zweigenhaft, R. (1976). Personal space in the faculty office: Desk placement and the student-faculty interaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, 529-532.
DAVID B. KELLY
Middle Tennessee State University
Table 1 Rating and Percent Endorsement for Each Item, Grouped by Category M SD School-related Items Office hours of the faculty member 8.67 1.09 Postings of research, job, or scholarship opportunities for students 8.46 1.19 Advising information (e.g., changes in university requirements or new course offerings) 8.45 1.29 Announcement of student club meetings or pictures of club events (e.g., Math club picnic) 7.94 1.68 Personal Expression Quotes about life from famous authors or philosophers 7.51 1.92 University sports team sign or banner 7.30 2.10 Signs of a faculty member's professional organization (e.g., American Psychological Association) 7.21 2.13 Sign with U.S. Flag or patriotic message 7.11 2.28 Non-political cartoons (e.g., Ziggy or Dilbert) 5.94 2.65 Family pictures (e.g., new baby, grandchild, pets) 5.87 2.68 Hobby-related pictures or announcements (e.g., non-university bicycle club event) 5.75 2.62 Political/social Expression Sign supporting a social cause (e.g., Mothers Against Drunk Driving) 6.38 2.40 Sign with a religious message 4.31 2.89 Cartoons supporting a political viewpoint (e.g., poking fun at a particular political party) 4.08 2.86 Sign supporting a particular political party or candidate 4.05 2.87 Sign expressing a view on the abortion issue 3.51 3.00 Percent Percent Approve (a) Disapprove (b) School-related Items 92 < 1 Office hours of the faculty member Postings of research, job, or 85 < 1 scholarship opportunities for students Advising information (e.g., 86 1 changes in university requirements or new course offerings) Announcement of student club 73 < 1 meetings or pictures of club events (e.g., Math club picnic) Personal Expression 61 1 Quotes about life from famous authors or philosophers 60 2 University sports team sign or banner Signs of a faculty member's 58 2 professional organization (e.g., American Psychological Association) 57 2 Sign with U.S. Flag or patriotic message 36 7 Non-political cartoons (e.g., Ziggy or Dilbert) 37 6 Family pictures (e.g., new baby, grandchild, pets) Hobby-related pictures or 33 6 announcements (e.g., non-university bicycle club event) Political/social Expression Sign supporting a social cause 40 4 (e.g., Mothers Against Drunk Driving) 19 19 Sign with a religious message Cartoons supporting a political 17 20 viewpoint (e.g., poking fun at a particular political party) 16 22 Sign supporting a particular political party or candidate 14 34 Sign expressing a view on the abortion issue Note. N = 459. (a) Percent approve was the percentage who endorsed 8 or 9 (Strongly appropriate). (b) Percent disapprove was the percentage who endorsed 0 or 1 (Strongly not appropriate).…
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Publication information: Article title: Students' Perspectives on Materials Posted on Faculty Office Doors. Contributors: Kelly, David B. - Author. Journal title: College Student Journal. Volume: 42. Issue: 4 Publication date: December 2008. Page number: 1009+. © 2009 Project Innovation (Alabama). COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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