The extrinsically motivated university

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One of the guiding principles of the Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching Certificate that I teach on is about encouraging teachers to reflect on their core beliefs and values. We expect that the teachers will use these to guide their teaching approach and through this to be intrinsically motivated.

This, however, seems quite opposite to how universities operate. Very rarely do I hear about universities reflecting on their core values and beliefs and using these to guide them in their higher education approach. Instead, their policies or values seem to be about maximising prestige and their financial income (i.e. the metrics). Extrapolating from Kasser and Ryan’s (1996) work who used the frame of self-determination theory (SDT)*, these values will encourage universities to be extrinsically motivated which can inhibit their growth. In other words, the universities being led by metrics rather than deciding their own self-growth path can be like a leaf lost in the wind – just being pushed along with the current; not making themselves distinctive or securing a place for themselves in society**.

Perhaps, I am harking back to my idealist view of universities as being an autonomous instrument of social good or social change. Therefore, when I heard about the review of UK fees earlier this week from the BBC, I felt deflated. I do welcome the review of fees, if it would make the future life of our students less burdensome. However, any review of fees will mean that universities will begin to pander to the whims of the government and putting in policies and plans that go contradictory to their core beliefs and values, if the universities themselves think in some way it will make them a market leader.

I’m not being entirely cynical as I’ve seen this in a Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) funded research study that I did recently with my colleague, Namrata Rao, around the use of teaching indicators on university websites and tangential to that how the then impending Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) regulations and the  Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) were impacting on them putting up these indicators online.

What we noticed was that for those universities who appeared to genuinely care about their student experience, they were the ones who had the most teaching indicators online (which also corresponded to the university having a higher National Student Survey satisfaction score). However, those who wanted to comply with CMA regulations rather than think about the students’ experience and decision-making process were being the most cautious in putting the teaching indicators out. If you would like to read more about work, you can find it here:

Hosein, A., & Rao, N. (2015). An impact study of the guidance documents for higher education providers published by qaa in 2013. Retrieved from Gloucester: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Subscriber-Research-Impact-Study-Guidance-Documents-15.pdf

Rao, N., & Hosein, A. (2017). The limits of higher education institutions’ websites as sources of learning and teaching information for prospective students: A survey of professional staff. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 21(1), 4-10. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/32NN2qTkN9FEAdYAZADZ/full (first 50 downloads free)

As we go forward as universities, we do need to comply with regulations, but we need to let these fit in or align with our core beliefs and values and not the other way around.

Endnotes

* Pre-warning: I like SDT – it will pop-up a lot in my blog posts!

** I’ve simplified this as some extrinsic motivation can lead to self-growth if it is identified or integrated regulation (see Ryan and Deci, 2000).

References

Hosein, A., & Rao, N. (2015). An impact study of the guidance documents for higher education providers published by qaa in 2013. Retrieved from Gloucester: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Subscriber-Research-Impact-Study-Guidance-Documents-15.pdf

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(3), 280-287. doi:10.1177/0146167296223006

Rao, N., & Hosein, A. (2017). The limits of higher education institutions’ websites as sources of learning and teaching information for prospective students: A survey of professional staff. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 21(1), 4-10. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/32NN2qTkN9FEAdYAZADZ/full (first 50 downloads free)

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

 

 

 

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