ERG SES F 08, Parallel Session F 08
Today the important role of universities to create “knowledge society” is widely accepted by many researchers as well as practitioners. In this respect, Badat (2009) lists the three important roles of the universities as production of knowledge that advances understanding of the natural and social worlds, dissemination of knowledge by forming and cultivating the cognitive character of students, and undertaking community engagement. Accordingly, governments, unions, and universities make efforts to improve teaching quality in higher education (Ballantyne, Borthwick, & Packer, 2000). At this point, the vital role of academic staff for improving educational quality in higher education arises. They are the key resources and the significant components of the research and teaching carried out in our universities and thus their performance, to a large extent, determines the success of higher education for contributing to student learning and development of the whole society by means of graduates (Rowley, 1996).
Nevertheless, research show that difficulties faced by academic staff and their hard working conditions such as being have to achieve complex tasks in an increasingly demanding environment may be retarding for the intended development in higher education. There are also studies showing the negative effects of academic staffs’ workload on their responsiveness to societal and student needs as well as their overall performance accountability (Houston, Meyer, & Paewai, 2006). Consequently, in order to reduce the negative effects of academic staffs’ workload on their motivation and performance external factors including physical conditions in their working environment should be improved as a first step. The priority of physiological needs for individuals’ motivation and performance is also seen in self-actualization model of motivation, which is based on Maslow’s (1970) idea of self-actualization and accepted among the well-established models of motivation (Rowley, 1996).
Accordingly, the researchers of the present study aimed to examine needs of academic staff, namely research assistants, regarding their working conditions. More specifically, we sought answer for the question of “What are the perceived needs of research assistants regarding their working conditions in the universities?” For this purpose, a questionnaire including items about the working conditions of the research assistants in the university such as being have to share a room with too many colleagues and lack of a private place for meetings with the undergraduate students was developed. Besides its convenience, one of the reasons for selecting research assistants as the sample of the study is their vital role in helping university instructors in many foundational works such as pulling citations, reviewing the literature, grading papers and laboratory work and thus facilitating research and teaching in universities (Rosser, 2004).
Although the study investigates the needs of research assistants in one of the public universities of the country where the study took place, it has the potential to provide insight and needed evidence to change some practices in other countries’ higher education institutions that share similar characteristics and applications, therefore it also has an international dimension regarding applicability of its findings.
Badat, S. (2009) The role of higher education in society: valuing higher education. In: HERS-SA Academy 2009, 13-19 Sept 2009, University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business, Cape Town, South Africa. Retrieved from eprints.ru.ac.za/1502/1/badat_hers.pdf Ballantyne, R., Borthwick, J. & Packer, J. (2000). Beyond student evaluation of teaching: Identifying and addressing academic staff development needs. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher education, 25(3), 221-236. Fraenkel, J. R., & Wallen, N. E. (2006). How to design and evaluate research in education (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Houston, D., Meyer, L.H. & Paewai, S. (2006). Academic staff workloads and job satisfaction: Expectations and values in academe. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 28(1), 17-30. Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. Harper & Row, New York, NY. Pallant, J. (2007). SPSS survival manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using SPSS. Buckingham: Open University Press. Rosser, V.J. (2004). Faculty members’ intentions to leave: A national study on their worklife and satisfaction. Research in Higher education, 45(3), 285-309. Rowley, J. (1996). Motivation and academic staff in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 4(3), 11-16.
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