In­sight­ful find­ings on mo­ti­va­tion

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - EDUCATION GUIDE -

iN a knowl­edge-driven global so­ci­ety, higher ed­u­ca­tion cre­den­tials have been pre­sented as cru­cial for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and seen as a way of pro­vid­ing in­di­vid­u­als with ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties in the labour mar­ket.

In al­most ev­ery in­dus­try, and in as many coun­tries, a univer­sity de­gree is now con­sid­ered an en­try-level re­quire­ment for the job mar­ket.

This has made higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in­creas­ingly val­ued and highly com­pet­i­tive.

“Higher ed­u­ca­tion was orig­i­nally per­ceived as the ivory tower with its prime pur­pose to ad­vance the de­vel­op­ment of minds,” says Monash Univer­sity Malaysia in Sun­way School of Busi­ness lec­turer Dr Chong Yit Sean.

“How­ever, the role of uni­ver­si­ties has now been ex­tended to in­clude its com­mer­cial im­pact to the na­tional econ­omy. Essen­tially, uni­ver­si­ties are now seen more as ser­vice providers, with stu­dents as our cus­tomers.”

As such, most uni­ver­si­ties rely heav­ily on stu­dent feed­back in shap­ing their cur­ricu­lum, as well as in eval­u­at­ing the per­for­mance of its staff.

“The Univer­sity Ser­vice Qual­ity, or USQ, is a means to ob­tain stu­dents’ eval­u­a­tion of mul­ti­ple facets of his or her ex­pe­ri­ence in that univer­sity in the aca­demic ser­vices, ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices and gen­eral fa­cil­i­ties.”

In line with the Self-De­ter­mi­na­tion the­ory, Dr Chong’s re­search sought to ex­am­ine the im­pact of a stu­dent’s higher ed­u­ca­tion mo­ti­va­tion to­wards his or her USQ rat­ing and, con­se­quen­tially, stu­dent loy­alty to­wards the univer­sity.

This as­pect of anal­y­sis has not been ex­am­ined by pre­vi­ous ser­vice re­search and the out­come of study high­lighted the im­por­tance of the mo­ti­va­tional ef­fect upon ser­vice qual­ity eval­u­a­tion in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

A ques­tion­naire sur­vey was ad­min­is­tered at nine par­tic­i­pat­ing uni­ver­si­ties con­sist­ing of pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties, lo­cal pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties and for­eign branch cam­puses in Malaysia. Ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 busi­ness un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents re­sponded to the sur­vey, with sur­pris­ing re­sults.

“Our study found that stu­dents who are more self-de­ter­mined in en­rolling for higher ed­u­ca­tion tend to have a more favourable USQ ex­pe­ri­ence, which leads to a greater level of sat­is­fac­tion and stu­dent loy­alty,” says Dr Chong.

Th­ese stu­dents are strongly mo­ti­vated by the op­por­tu­nity to gain more knowl­edge in the uni­ver­si­ties and they be­lieve that univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion would pre­pare them for a de­sired ca­reer path.

“On the other hand, stu­dents who were pres­sured to pur­sue ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion showed a greater ten­dency to pro­vide a less favourable eval­u­a­tion of their univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Dr Chong says the in­creas­ing diver­sity in stu­dent pop­u­la­tion in uni­ver­si­ties presents greater chal­lenges in man­ag­ing stu­dent ex­pec­ta­tions as stu­dents’ mo­ti­va­tion for em­bark­ing on a higher ed­u­ca­tion pur­suit dif­fers greatly, and could be in­flu­enced by a myr­iad of fac­tors. This in turn af­fects how they per­ceive the ser­vice pro­vided by their uni­ver­si­ties.

Her pa­per “Stu­dent mo­ti­va­tion and the ‘feel good’ fac­tor: an em­pir­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of mo­ti­va­tional pre­dic­tors of univer­sity ser­vice qual­ity eval­u­a­tion” – co-au­thored by her PhD su­per­vi­sor Prof Pervaiz Ahmed – also showed that stu­dents who felt good about their aca­demic re­sults gave a more pos­i­tive eval­u­a­tion not only in aca­demic ser­vices but also in terms of the ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices and gen­eral fa­cil­i­ties in the uni­ver­si­ties.

On the op­po­site end, stu­dents who were not sat­is­fied with their aca­demic re­sults gave neg­a­tive feed­back, par­tic­u­larly in the aca­demic ser­vice qual­ity.

“Our rec­om­men­da­tion from the re­sults of this study was for uni­ver­si­ties not to use stu­dent eval­u­a­tion as a com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment of a lec­turer, or the univer­sity’s, per­for­mance, purely be­cause all th­ese per­sonal fac­tors come into play,” says Dr Chong.

The risk of re­ly­ing too heav­ily on stu­dent eval­u­a­tion is an in­fla­tion of grades, as lec­tur­ers would want stu­dents to feel good and there­fore give pos­i­tive eval­u­a­tion.

“This is al­ready hap­pen­ing in many uni­ver­si­ties, where the grad­ing sys­tem has be­come so lax be­cause lec­tur­ers don’t want their stu­dents to give them lower scores on their per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion. If this con­tin­ues, the qual­ity of grad­u­ates will be ad­versely af­fected,” she says.

In­stead, Dr Chong sug­gests us­ing peer eval­u­a­tion of teach­ing as an ad­di­tional source of ap­praisal, among other forms.

“Be­sides that, the tim­ing of stu­dent eval­u­a­tion can be man­aged in such a way that stu­dent feed­back is gath­ered at varied points of the se­mes­ter, not only at the end of the se­mes­ter when stu­dents would have re­ceived their as­sign­ment re­sults and be pre­par­ing for the fi­nal exam.

“Essen­tially, the com­plex na­ture of USQ eval­u­a­tion calls for a holis­tic ap­proach in man­ag­ing ser­vice stan­dards in uni­ver­si­ties. The un­der­stand­ing of stu­dents’ ser­vice qual­ity per­cep­tion and ex­pec­ta­tions can as­sist uni­ver­si­ties in pro­vid­ing a mean­ing­ful USQ ex­pe­ri­ence for the stu­dents,” she opines.

The out­come from this study has been pub­lished in jour­nals such as Qual­ity in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, Stud­ies in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Ed­u­ca­tional Man­age­ment.

Dr Chong also re­cently re­ceived fund­ing from the Min­istry of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion un­der the Fun­da­men­tal Re­search Grant Scheme (FRGS) to de­velop a pre­dic­tive model for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy ca­reer de­ci­sion, via a neu­ro­science ap­proach.

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Dr Chong: ‘Uni­ver­si­ties are now seen more as ser­vice providers, with stu­dents as our cus­tomers.’

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