Faculty Performance Standards: Patterns within Disciplines in the Research University

By Hardré, Patricia L.; Cox, Michelle et al. | The Journal of Faculty Development, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Faculty Performance Standards: Patterns within Disciplines in the Research University


Hardré, Patricia L., Cox, Michelle, Kollmann, Sherry, The Journal of Faculty Development


Previous research has demonstrated effects of performance standards on productivity across work contexts. The present study focused on the characteristics of institutional performance standards, evaluation processes, and performance-responsive measures of academic departments in research universities. The faculty performance evaluation standards of 51 academic departments were examined for patterns in a sample of 11 disciplines. The study used an iterative, multi-phase analysis procedure to recognize both prevalence of characteristics and emergent patterns. Processes, evidence and standards varied widely between disciplines. Valued evidence, methods and level of productivity expectations tend to be defined within disciplines. Academic departments may be undermining their own goals if they fail to clearly articulate and communicate performance standards to faculty members.

The leadership within institutions and disciplines is a driving factor in how faculty performance is measured and valued. For high-achieving, capable and self-motivated scholars in a research university, leadership needs to provide direction, guidance and encouragement. How these components are communicated and provided can influence the nature of employees' work and the degree of effort they expend on valued activities and pursuits (Gagné & Deci, 2005; Latham, 2007). The present study focuses on disciplinary performance standards and evaluation processes, as articulated in departmental annual evaluation and promotion-tenure specifications.

The researchers collected specifications from 51 academic departments in 21 research universities, extracted sets of characteristics that constitute parallel elements of the evaluation standards and processes, and examined them for patterns and value messages, whether explicit or implied. The overarching questions that guided this study were the following: How is faculty work being judged and evaluated, within disciplines in the research university? What potential effects on faculty work and performance do these practices have? What implications do they present regarding the quality of faculty work, and how can that inform administrative policy?

Background

Organizational policy and practice influence employee performance, because they communicate about priorities that inform employees' self -perceptions, goals and commitments of time and resources (Braskamp & Ory, 1994; Deci, 1995; Swanson & Holton, 2001). Such messages are contained in the language of the organization's performance specifications (Hardré et al., 2007; Sansone & Harackie wicz, 2000; Seidin, 2006) . In some institutions of higher education there are mixed messages on valuing, such as sources alternately communicating higher value for teaching quality or research productivity (Braskamp «Sc Ory, 1994; Hearn, 1999; Fairweather, 1996).

From the time of hire and appointment, faculty members begin the process of aligning institutional criteria with their personal value systems and career objectives, and it is the coherence among these factors that influences their performance (Glassick, Huber «Sc Maeroff, 1997). Faculty members' decisions about emphasis in their work are responsive to departmental specifications and criteria for promotion and tenure (Hardré, et al., 2008; OTvleara «Sc Rice, 2005; Tien, 2000). Standards influence action through internalization, as individuals adopt and negotiate their personal values and goals with those of the organization and its leadership (Diamond, 1993; Latham, 2007; Ryan, Connell «Se Deci, 1985; Deci, Eghrari, Patrick «Sc Leone, 1994; see also Bono «Sc Judge, 2003). A critical issue of faculty hiring and retention is the alignment of faculty values and expectations with those in the institution and department where they want to achieve tenure and advancement (Fairweather, 2002; Hardré, et al., 2007). However, relatively little research in higher education has examined the nature, scope, and implications of these standards and guidelines, and even less their consistency or variability across disciplines. …

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