ERG SES E 12, Research in Higher Education
As in everyday life, interpersonal similarity can be determinative in the power of communication in business environments. Similarity can be effective in relations between individuals, especially in recruitment and promotion decisions. It is stated that in higher education, especially recruitment decisions are central. As stated by Roebken (2010) that “Universities operate in the ‘knowledge industry’, and scientific knowledge is primarily bound to an individual researcher.” But there is a particular problem in academia which is the difficulty to asses a candidate’s research and teaching performance. This especially applies to young researchers (Burris, 2004). It is also supported by several kinds of research, for academic relations between people with similar biological characteristics and personality structures are closer than with people who differ. Byrne (1971) calls this relation to the similarity-attraction paradigm. The similarity-attraction paradigm supposes, that people similar to various dimensions are more likely to communicate with each other than with people who are different from (McPherson, 1983).
Although some studies conducted in recent years about the tendency of Turkish culture has changed from collectivist to individualist, it is still common that Turkish culture has high power distance and collectivist culture (Gürbüz & Bingöl, 2007). Unlike the individualist cultures, in collectivist cultures, it is desirable that the subordinate should be in complete harmony with the manager and show her/his loyalty to the managers who have the power to be promoted or to advance on the career ladder (Triandis, 1998). As a matter of fact, Schaubroeck and Lam (2002) found that the similarity and attraction effect on promotion decisions was higher in collectivist cultures (e.g. China) than individualistic culture (e.g. the United States). Considering all these dynamics in academia, it is possible that similar situations can be experienced between the supervisor and the research assistant relations. As a matter of fact, there is both a teacher-student and a subordinate relationship between the research assistant and the supervisor. The aim of this study is to understand the relations between research assistant and supervisor in the context of the similarity-attraction theory. In other words, the study aims to understand the dynamics of the similarity-attraction paradigm in academia; analyzing how it affects research assistants’ careers and educational research towards in-depth research.
The study is designed as a phenomenological qualitative inquiry. According to Patton (2014), phenomenology studies focus on how people interpret experience. It is attempted to define the reactions and perspectives of persons who share a common experience on any phenomenon through in-depth interviews about this pattern (Fraenkel & Wallen 2009). The study group will be research assistants from different universities and departments of educational sciences to ensure the data saturation according to gender and seniority. The aim of maximum variation sampling is to show different perspectives of the problem according to this variety (Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2013). The semi-structured interview form which is developed by the researcher will be used to collect the data. The draft form has been submitted to obtain the opinions of experts to ensure the content validity of the study. A pilot interview has been conducted with a research assistant to test the comprehensibility of the questions on the interview form. According to the recommendations of the experts, the necessary changes were made. The interviews will be recorded upon taking the permission of the research assistants. Voice recordings will be uploaded to the computer and be transcribed. Afterward, the codes, categories, and themes will be formed. NVivo will be used to analyze the data through the content analysis method.
The study continues but according to the primary findings of the research: Similarity-attraction is often seen between supervisor and research assistant, and the criterion of success is assessed by having similar cultural/geographical backgrounds, personal characteristics, and socio-economic demographic spaces. However, having similar cultural and geographic features is a situation that one cannot later change. Even if these backgrounds are different, research assistants try to resemble their supervisors in other respects to tolerate this difference and they tend to act as her/him. This similarity in the early days may cause differentiation over time. This attractive similarity that occurs when a research assistant tries to make familiar her/his behaviors, communication and interaction style, and also sometimes her/his lifestyle to her/his supervisor can cause negative feelings. Finally, the similarity is gradually losing its attractiveness for some research assistants, and sometimes, it becomes a desire to reveal its own understanding, approach or style. Research assistants who have this desire differentiate from their supervisors and the similarity remains only in terms of personal characteristics. Some research assistants do not have this feeling at all, some feel it in the beginning, some of them when getting to know the supervisor, some of them because of the daily problems with the supervisor that go to this dissociation. It is possible to call this relationship as “similarity paradox”.
Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press. Fraenkel, J. R., & Wallen, N. E. (2009). How to design and evaluate research in education. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Gürbüz, S., & Bingöl, D. (2007). Çeşitli örgüt yöneticilerinin güç mesafesi, belirsizlikten kaçınma, eril-dişil ve bireyci-toplulukçu kültür boyutlarına yönelik eğilimleri üzerine görgül bir araştırma [An empirical study on tendencies of different managers towards power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity-femininity and individualism-collectivism cultural dimensions]. KHO Savunma Bilimleri Dergisi, 6(2), 68–87. McPherson, M. (1983). An ecology of affiliation. American Sociological Review, 48(4) 519-532. Patton, M. Q. (2014). Nitel araştırma ve değerlendirme yöntemleri [Qualitative evaluation and research methods] (Bütün, M. and Demir, S. B. Trans. Ed.). Ankara: Pegem Academy. Roebken, H. (2010). Similarity attracts: An analysis of recruitment decisions in academia. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 38(4), 472-486. Schaubroeck, J., & Lam, S. S. K. (2002). How similarity to peers and supervisor influences organizational advancement in different cultures. Academy of Management Journal, 45, 1120-1136. Triandis, H.C. (1998). Vertical and horizontal individualism and collectivism: Theory and research implications for international comparative management. In J.C. Cheng ve R.B. Peterson (Eds.), Advances in international comparative management, 12, 7-35. Stamford, CT: JAI Press.
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