Students' Perspectives on Materials Posted on Faculty Office Doors

Article excerpt

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.

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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.

Method

Participants

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. …