Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Motivation and retention

What is it that spurs your motivation? This semester has been an interesting mix of energetic opportunities and simple faculty fatigue. After 10 weeks, the semester is flying by and the TO DO list is static. Examining motivation in higher education is interesting. Why do we work such long hours? What keeps us at our institutions? What are we using as a source of energy to continue our efforts?

Oldham (2005) remarked that motivation within the teaching side of higher education depends greatly on the symbolic organizational behavior and sheer collegiality within the institution--this motivation was stronger than any bureaucratic or political organizational behavior in influencing faculty motivation around teaching. This is an important observation, noting that our perception of collegiality in the workplace can influence our personal motivation to meet our professional goals. Interpersonal and organizational communication carries a powerful oar in the way we navigate our professional journey within higher education--even across departments and campus. Drysdale (2005) commented that faculty at one institution were motivated to remain at their institution by three consistent factors: their families, their desire to remain in the geographic location, and their tenure status (achieved). This calls to question, what happens to retain faculty members when they are not tenured, not set on the geographic location, and do not face family pressure to remain? In short, how are many non-tenured faculty finding the motivation to remain at institutions?

Personally, my motivation to do work and to do work specifically at my institution continues to be highly impacted by my students. When they are engaged and excited, it is much easier to work (both on teaching elements, and on committees and research). As students lose energy, my own seems to fade. This means that the end of October has become a difficult time for me to self-motivate here on campus. However, the research shows that strong collegial ties and an institutional focus on need, emotions, and intellectual goals can help faculty members stay motivated to commit to their institution. Perhaps our institutions need to continue focusing on these areas to explore faculty retention, motivation, and ultimately the success faculty members are having in teaching, service, and research as they move through their careers. Institutions aren't the only place to look for assistance in maintaining a productive work environment. Faculty members would do well to reflect on motivation and retention while personally examining how they are shaping institutional culture, departmental culture, and that all-important sense of collegiality on today's college campuses.

In the mean time, my goal lies in finding a consistent level of motivation from which I can draw to stay productive-- A level of motivation that is not subject to the valleys and peaks of the semester timeline or the student energy base.

Drysdale, D. (2005). Faculty job satisfaction: Retaining faculty in the new millennium. Dissertation: Montana State University.
Oldham, B. (2005). Organizational behavior and faculty motivation in higher education. Dissertation: Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University.

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