Journal of Nursing Education

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Attitudes of Nurse-Faculty Toward Post-Tenure Performance Evaluations

Linda R Suess, RN, PhD

Abstract

ABSTRACT

While non-tenured faculty receive feedback on their work in their annual evaluations for reappointment, many tenured faculty do not receive evaluations and feedback except when seeking merit award or promotion. Recent literature suggests that feedback on work at fixed time intervals, through post-tenure evaluations, can positively enhance faculty productivity.

This survey study examined the attitudes of faculty teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing toward post-tenure performance evaluations. A random, nationwide sample of 248 nurse-faculty participated in this study.

Data analysis showed that attitude toward post-tenure evaluation was not significantly related to such variables as tenure status, perceived productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, internal motivation, age, teaching experience, sex, educational preparation, or rank. Faculty clearly stated that they desire feedback on their work, an opportunity to define future objectives, and a post-tenure evaluation system in their own schools.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

While non-tenured faculty receive feedback on their work in their annual evaluations for reappointment, many tenured faculty do not receive evaluations and feedback except when seeking merit award or promotion. Recent literature suggests that feedback on work at fixed time intervals, through post-tenure evaluations, can positively enhance faculty productivity.

This survey study examined the attitudes of faculty teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing toward post-tenure performance evaluations. A random, nationwide sample of 248 nurse-faculty participated in this study.

Data analysis showed that attitude toward post-tenure evaluation was not significantly related to such variables as tenure status, perceived productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, internal motivation, age, teaching experience, sex, educational preparation, or rank. Faculty clearly stated that they desire feedback on their work, an opportunity to define future objectives, and a post-tenure evaluation system in their own schools.

The Nature of the Problem

Tenure is an established phenomenon in academia. Viewed as a necessary ingrethent for academic freedom, tenure bears a coveted status. Prior to the granting of tenure, a nursing faculty member must demonstrate excellence in teaching and service, as well as productivity in research and other scholarly pursuits.

Once tenure is granted, the literature suggests that formal evaluations of tenured nursing faculty are carried out mainly at times of determining merit award or promotion to a higher rank. Consequently, tenured faculty not applying for these may receive little, if any, overall feedback on their work.

In 1982, the National Commission on Higher Education Issues (1982) identified post-tenure evaluation as one of the most pressing issues facing higher education. Some literature in higher education has suggested that formal, periodic evaluations of tenured faculty be carried out for the purposes of determining productivity in scholarship and research, and excellence in teaching and service (Bennett & Chater, 1984; Chait & Ford, 1982; Olswang & Fantel, 1980-81; Vaccaro, 1972). These evaluations, carried out at fixed time intervals such as every 3 to 5 years, provide feedback on work as well as the determination of future goals; and they can provide a means for promoting faculty productivity, effectiveness, and individual growth and development. However, other literature suggests that tenured faculty may be unwilling to accept feedback (Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979), and that attitudes of hostility and feelings of permanent insecurity toward this process (Bennett & Chater) may exist.

Very little research has been conducted to identify faculty attitudes toward such an evaluation process. Bolden's (1979) study of faculty in Alabama's 4-year public institutions of higher education and Licata's (1984) study of community college faculty both found very positive attitudes toward post-tenure performance evaluations. No studies exist, however, that describe how nursing faculty view post-tenure performance evaluations.

Research Questions

This research study asked the following questions: what are the attitudes of nurse faculty, teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing, toward periodic, post-tenure performance evaluations, and how do the factors of tenure status, perceived productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, level of internal motivation, and select demographic variables influence these attitudes?

Review of the Literature

The concepts of motivation and feedback support the notion of post-tenure performance evaluation, and they provided the basis for this study.

Motivation, a condition or state of being induced to do something, can be generated in an attempt to fill a need, and the work setting is one area where need fulfillment takes place. Researchers have suggested that needs for belongingness, self-actualization, self-esteem (Maslow, 1954), reputation, achievement, power, affiliation, and growth (Aldefer, 1972; McClelland, 1961; McGregor, 1960; Stringer, 1971) can be fulfilled in a positive work experience. While workers must be productive in their respective roles, the role must also have sufficient reward in it to enhance motivation for the worker to be productive while fulfilling some higher order needs.

Many factors have been shown to influence motivation, such as increase in pay, job security, and promotion (Bhushan, 1976; Chruden & Sherman, 1972; Lawler, 1973). In addition, increased motivation occurs when the worker is provided individual choices about an activity, positive feedback and reinforcement on performance, and when he has feelings of self-esteem, accomplishment of personal goals, and a sense of achievement (Cherrington, 1980; Dalton & Lawrence, 1971; Deci, 1971; Deci, Nezlek, & Sheinman, 1981; Harackiewicz, 1979).

Feedback has an important role in worker motivation and productivity, and has long been of interest to performance-based organizations as a means for providing appraisals of worker performance. Hackman and Oldham (1976) believe that feedback is one of the core job dimensions that is influential in creating the critical psychological states basic to enhancing intrinsic motivation and subsequent worker productivity. Such feedback serves to stimulate a worker's degree of effort he puts forth toward desired personal and organizational goals.

Feedback, however, is a complex social phenomenon. The source of the feedback, the message conveyed, and the individual's personal characteristics all have substantial influence on the processing and outcome of that feedback (Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979). Research has shown that feedback, both positive and negative given by supervisors, can significantly influence job satisfaction, motivation, and work performance if it is direct, timely, fair, and from a credible and trustworthy source (Hackman & Oldham, 1976; Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979, 1981; Landy, Barnes, & Murphy, 1978; Nadler, Hackman, & Lawler, 1979; Quaglieri & Carnazza, 1985).

The interrelationship of motivational theory and the concept of feedback suggests that faculty who have internal work motivation will be productive in their roles (Hackman & Oldham, 1976), and that feedback from self and others enhances motivation to continue on in productive activities (Deci, 1975; Lepper, 1981). Individuals with adequate successes in their roles may see a formal feedback process as non-threatening, and perhaps even welcome, while others who lack an adequate level of success may have less desire for a formal feedback process due to its inherent exposure and evaluation of lesser successes.

No prior nursing studies have been carried out to identify nurse-faculty attitude toward post-tenure performance evaluations. The literature suggests that there are mixed attitudes toward this process, and this study's purpose was to clearly identify what these attitudes really are.

Sample

The sample for this study consisted of 248 full-time, tenure-track faculty from baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing. The participants were primarily female (95.6%) with a mean age of 47.1 years; welleducated (52% with doctorates); tenured (68.5%); and at varying ranks (instructor 1.6%, assistant professor 46%, associate professor 37.9%, and professor 14.5%). Only 26.3% held an administrative role, and the mean years of teaching experience was 9.39 years.

Instruments

This was a non-experimental survey study which consisted of a four-part questionnaire. Three of the parts were developed specifically for the study and were related to demographic information, self-ratings of productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, and attitude toward posttenure performance evaluations. The fourth part was an adaptation of an existing instrument that measured internal motivation.

More specifically, the Demographic Survey consisted of 11 items to gather data regarding age, sex, highest earned degree, years of teaching experience, rank, tenure status, administrative roles, and programs offered in current schools.

The Self-Rating Instrument was developed from the available literature that described the multiple areas of teaching, service, and scholarship on which an individual could be evaluated. Such items included writing clear course objectives, designing new courses, providing thesis/ dissertation direction, school or community service, authoring books and articles, principle investigator of research projects, and paper presentations. Faculty requirements for productivity and excellence in these areas may differ between the various levels of collegiate nursing programs, with academic rank, and with varying expectations of the parent colleges and universities. Thus, rather than seek a quantification of such productivity, this instrument asked participants to rate themselves as to how they were functioning in comparison to the perceived expectations in their own school. This 52-item instrument used a fivepoint Likert scale for responses, from "much lower than expected" to "much higher than expected."

The Attitudes Toward Post-Tenure Evaluation Instrument was divided into two parts. Section A consisted of 16 items that related to various aspects of a post-tenure evaluation process. The respondent was asked to complete the statement, "At my school, a post- tenure evaluation process would . . ." for each of the items, indicating the extent to which the respondent agreed with that item. Using a four-point, forced-choice Likert scale, respondents indicated their answers on a range of "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." Some of these items were: ". . . provide guidance for faculty growth and development," "... infringe on academic freedom," "stimulate faculty renewal and enthusiasm," and "create a climate of mistrust, hostility, and unhealthy competition." Both positive and negative aspects of a post-tenure evaluation process were included in these items.

Section B of this instrument consisted of five questions that related to how the respondent felt about a post-tenure evaluation process in his/her own school of nursing, and his/her perceptions of how other tenured/non-tenured faculty and administrators would feel about such a system. The Likert scale used in Section A was also used in this section.

The fourth instrument, Internal Motivation, was comprised of selected items from Hackman and Oldham's (1976, 1980) standardized Job Diagnostic Survey. These six items dealt with internal motivation, and participants indicated their level of agreement with each item using the established seven-point agreement scale.

Procedures

Because two of the instruments were newly developed, reliability testing was carried out using the test/retest method. A convenience sample of 10 faculty from three regional NLN-accredited collegiate schools of nursing participated, using a 3-week test/retest interval. Table 1 shows the test/retest reliabilities, ? values, and alpha coefficients for each of the subsections of the Self-Rating and the Attitudes Instruments. A high, positive correlation in the test/retest of these two instruments, as well as the alpha coefficient values, indicate a high degree of reliability for these two instruments.

For this study, schools of nursing were randomly selected from an existing list of National League for Nursing-accredited programs. Letters were sent to deans/ directors/chairpersons of these schools describing the study and asking for the names of faculty who could be contacted for inclusion in the sample. Twenty-five schools of nursing, representing 17 states, chose to participate. The names of 429 faculty were provided by these chief administrators. Questionnaires were returned by 276 faculty (64%), and 248 (58%) met the full criteria for inclusion in the study.

Results and Discussion

Research Question 1: What are the attitudes of nurse faculty, teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing, toward periodic, post-tenure performance evaluations ?

Data analysis clearly showed that there was no significant difference in attitude toward post-tenure performance evaluations between tenured and non-tenured faculty. Mean scores for sections A and B of the Attitudes Instrument (the lower the number, the more positive the response) showed tenured faculty (x = 33.4 and 10.7, respectively) to hold slightly more positive views toward this evaluation process than did non-tenured faculty (x=34.0 and 11.4, respectively). ANOVAs, using the variables of scores on Section A and B of the Attitudes survey, and tenure status did not reveal a significant difference in attitude toward post-tenure evaluation between tenured and non-tenured faculty (P =0.69 and P= 0.13, respectively). Only one significant correlation occurred in the t tests comparing tenured faculty response to non-tenured faculty response. This significant correlation (P = 0.02) showed that non-tenured faculty perceived their tenured colleagues to be far more negative toward post-tenure performance evaluations than the tenured faculty actually believed for themselves. Tenured faculty were more positive in stating that they would like such an evaluation system in their school and were more positive in the overall idea of this evaluation system than their non-tenured colleagues.

These results were quite surprising, especially in view of the literature that suggested tenured faculty would be less interested in feedback on their work (Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979) and because of the anticipated negativism toward the idea of a post-tenure performance evaluation (Bennett & Chater, 1984).

Faculty, overwhelmingly the majority, agreed that they want:

1. feedback on their work (79.6%);

2. to identify areas of weakness that can be strengthened (79.2%);

3. the opportunity to define objectives (77.1%);

4. to identify individual strengths (76.1%);

5. to identify faculty who deserve rewards (74.3%); and

6. to help faculty who are not as productive as they should be (71.3%).

Feedback, both positive and negative, coming from self-evaluation is valuable, and most people welcome feedback, especially if positive, from others competent to judge their work. Where formal evaluation systems are absent, workers usually are under the assumption that "no news is good news" because negative feedback is almost always made known soon after the precipitating event. A post-tenure performance evaluation process, then, that provides feedback at fixed time intervals can be an extremely beneficial component of academic life.

While 70.5% of the faculty in this study indicated agreement with the idea of having a post-tenure evaluation system in their own school of nursing, they also held some strong reservations about potential threats in this evaluation process. They expressed agreement with these potential threats to:

1 . infringement of academic freedom (77.8%);

2. violation of job security of tenured status (73.2%);

3. continuation of trusting collégial relationships (72.8%);

4. possible faculty dismissal (66.7%); and

5. creating a climate of mistrust (61.2%).

Careful planning and implementation of a post-tenure evaluation process can significantly reduce these threats and allow for the needed feedback and personal development through defining personal goals and objectives.

Table

TABLE 1Test/Retest and Alpha Coefficients: Reliabilities of Self-Rating and Attitudes Instruments

TABLE 1

Test/Retest and Alpha Coefficients: Reliabilities of Self-Rating and Attitudes Instruments

Table

TABLE 2Pearson Correlations for Attitudes Toward Post-Tenure Performance Evaluations and Selected Variables

TABLE 2

Pearson Correlations for Attitudes Toward Post-Tenure Performance Evaluations and Selected Variables

Research Question 2: How do the factors of tenure status, perceived productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, level of internal motivation, and select demographic variables influence faculty attitude toward posttenure performance evaluations?

Data analysis also showed that there were no significant relationships between attitudes toward post-tenure evaluations and perceived productivity in teaching, service, and scholarship (see Table 2). Again, this was a most unexpected finding. It was anticipated that faculty who perceived themselves to be functioning at less than expected levels would perceive a post-tenure performance evaluation as threatening, and therefore, have a significantly more negative attitude than productive faculty. Results of this study did not support this expectation.

It appears, then, that attitude toward post-tenure evaluation is not significantly affected by perceived level of productivity. Even though faculty rated themselves, in many cases, quite low in some areas (particularly scholarship), the overwhelming majority (74.9%) still felt that a post-tenure evaluation process would be beneficial. Consequently, one can only conclude that, even with the perceived threats (i.e., to academic freedom and to exposure of inadequate productivity), the perceived benefits of feedback and direction far outweigh the perceived costs.

One very interesting finding in this data analysis, not directly related to the research questions, related to the very mixed levels of awareness of the expectations held for the faculty in the areas of teaching, service, and scholarship. Faculty indicated a strong level of awareness of the expectations in teaching (17 items rated), and they believed they were doing well in meeting these expectations (item ? = 3.92 on a five-point scale with 3 being "at the expected level"). A somewhat lower level of awareness was seen for the perceived expectations of service activities (11 items rated), and faculty rated themselves as about on par for meeting these expectations (item ? = 2.96). A much greater discrepancy was noted, however, in the third area of the tripartite role. In scholarship, faculty were very unclear about many of the expectations of them (24 items rated), and rateiHhemselves as well below expected levels in meeting these perceived expectations (item ? = 1.78).

Griffith (1988) found that lack of effective faculty evaluation mechanisms was a serious frustration in the faculty role, and that formative evaluations of faculty were an effective development strategy. As deTornyay (1988) has said, "It is important for faculty to know the rules of the particular institution in which they are aspiring to climb the tenure track ladder" (p. 245). It is essential, then, that schools of nursing define very clearly what the expectations are of their faculty.

One important note to be made here is that of honesty in self-evaluation. Faculty rated themselves on the range of scores from very low to very high and from strongly agree to strongly disagree. There is always the possibility of inflated self-ratings, however, since the mean scores in teaching were well "above the expected level," and the mean scores in scholarship were well "below the expected level," it seems likely that these scores are reasonably accurate self-assessments.

Data analysis also showed that there was no significant relationship between level of internal motivation and attitude toward post-tenure performance evaluations (see Table 2). Internal motivation, overall, was at a strong level for faculty in this study (overall mean of 5.6 with a neutral level of 4). These faculty felt quite strongly that their sense of personal satisfaction was important and that their opinion of themselves rose when their work was done well.

An important point here is that faculty strongly desired feedback on their work, feedback that could certainly enhance their self-actualization and self-esteem. The fact that the level of internal motivation was not a significant factor affecting attitude toward post-tenure evaluation suggests further the notion that these evaluations are not as threatening as initially perceived to be. While the literature suggested increasing age, being tenured, unproductive, or unmotivated might result in negative attitudes, this simply was not true for this study.

Multiple statistical procedures (Pearson correlations, ANOVAs, and multiple regression analysis) were carried out to determine the effect selected variables had on attitude toward post-tenure evaluations. These variables included age, rank, tenure status, sex, educational preparation, administrative role, years in teaching, levels of programs offered in current school, and experience with a post-tenure evaluation system. In all but two instances, no significant relationships were identified, and both of these instances were rather unique.

In the first unique instance, analysis of the relationship of sex of the respondent and attitude toward post-tenure evaluations using ANOVA showed a significant difference (P = 0.02) between males and females in Section A of the Attitude survey, with males having much more negative attitudes than females. However, the ANOVA for Section B of this survey did not demonstrate statistical significance (P = 0.17), although the males did have a slightly more negative attitude than females. Unfortunately, only 10 of the participants in this analysis (4.5%) were males, making it difficult to generalize these findings to the entire population of nurse educators.

In the second instance, source tables for multiple regression analysis showed that academic rank had a significance in only Section B of the survey (P = 0.03). The mean scores (the higher the number, the more negative the attitude) for all ranks in this section showed that those at the instructor rank (x = 14.0) had much more negative attitudes than faculty at the upper ranks (assistant professor x= 10.7, associate professor ? = 10.7, professor x = 11.9). Again, it is difficult to generalize any conclusions about this unique finding because only 1.6% of the total sample (four faculty) were at the instructor rank.

One can conclude from these two unique instances that, for this study, there was a relationship, albeit questionable, between sex and academic rank of respondents and attitudes toward post-tenure evaluations. However, these findings can not be generalized to the overall population with any degree of confidence based on the fact that such a small number comprised these unique groups.

This study found that nursing faculty strongly supported the concept of post-tenure performance evaluations. These positive attitudes were not significantly influenced by age, productivity in teaching, service, scholarship, educational preparation, tenure status, motivation, administrative role, or past experience with post-tenure evaluations. In fact, tenured faculty desire such an evaluation system more than do non-tenured faculty. One can conclude that faculty DO want feedback on their work, the opportunity to define future goals and directions, and recognition of their accomplishments from their school and colleagues.

Therefore, the major recommendation from this study is that faculty in schools of nursing accept the idea of and implement a post-tenure performance evaluation system. It is essential that faculty be empowered with the authority of design and implementation of it so that the designed system is acceptable and workable for all members of the constituent group. It is imperative that such evaluations be conducted in a fair manner with significant input by faculty and that all evaluators be competent and trusted in this role. Faculty must approve this process and determine how the evaluators are selected. In addition, specific grievance procedures must be determined that can be used for any tenured faculty who does not meet the evaluation standards, as well as the means for rewards and recognition of faculty who demonstrate high levels of productivity.

Nursing faculty in this study have heeded the suggestion by the National Commission on Higher Education Issues (1982) to consider post-tenure evaluation as a viable academic concept. Nursing faculty want this evaluation and are aware of the potential costs, but see the virtues of this as a beneficial component to academic life.

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TABLE 1

Test/Retest and Alpha Coefficients: Reliabilities of Self-Rating and Attitudes Instruments

TABLE 2

Pearson Correlations for Attitudes Toward Post-Tenure Performance Evaluations and Selected Variables

10.3928/0148-4834-19950101-07

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