Scholarly article on topic 'Do University Professors Still Believe in Values?'

Do University Professors Still Believe in Values? Academic research paper on "Law"

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Abstract of research paper on Law, author of scientific article — Venera-Mihaela Cojocariua

Abstract Expedited requests and controversial contemporary time flow toward academics. Caught between higher education and specific quantitative and qualitative margins, ever rising research, economic and quality standards, professors are often forced to rebate axiological reflection which should guide all the work. The study, in its preliminary stage, attempts to determine whether academics still believe in values. Under this assumption, as it is a defining quality that trainers should have, we are interested in what they are and especially if there are any significant differences between values that seem to define two distinct categories of teachers. Using a questionnaire survey we have investigated 26 subjects with over 20 years’ teaching experience (half in the socio-human sciences, and half in the real) from “Vasile Alecsandri” University of Bacau. The research was conducted in the university center of Bacău, between March and April 2012, as a qualitative type of research. We have applied a questionnaire that included 8 open-ended items. For the items that required a hierarchization of the respondents’ options, the score of each value has been established as follows: 3 points for the value situated on the first position, 2 points for the value from the second position, 1 point for the value situated on the third position. Our effort was directed at identifying values professors believe in and that they hand down to students precisely because they may influence students’ beliefs, choices, motivations, and attitudes. Following the collection, analysis and interpretation of the results, we have identified a set of common values for the professors in the investigated group. These are: morality; love for people, appreciation of others; work; faith in God; responsibility. For the future, we intend to add other universities and categories of teachers (less than 20 years’ experience) in the research.

Academic research paper on topic "Do University Professors Still Believe in Values?"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 76 (2013) 279 - 284

5th International Conference EDU-WORLD 2012 - Education Facing Contemporary World

Issues

Do university professors still believe in values?

Venera-Mihaela Cojocariua*

_"Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau, Department of Teacher Training, Mara§e§ti Street nr. 157, Bacau, 600115, Romania_

Abstract

Expedited requests and controversial contemporary time flow toward academics. Caught between higher education and specific quantitative and qualitative margins, ever rising research, economic and quality standards, professors are often forced to rebate axiological reflection which should guide all the work. The study, in its preliminary stage, attempts to determine whether academics still believe in values. Under this assumption, as it is a defining quality that trainers should have, we are interested in what they are and especially if there are any significant differences between values that seem to define two distinct categories of teachers. Using a questionnaire survey we have investigated 26 subjects with over 20 years' teaching experience (half in the socio-human sciences, and half in the real) from "Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau. The research was conducted in the university center of Bacau, between March and April 2012, as a qualitative type of research. We have applied a questionnaire that included 8 open-ended items. For the items that required a hierarchization of the respondents' options, the score of each value has been established as follows: 3 points for the value situated on the first position, 2 points for the value from the second position, 1 point for the value situated on the third position. Our effort was directed at identifying values professors believe in and that they hand down to students precisely because they may influence students' beliefs, choices, motivations, and attitudes. Following the collection, analysis and interpretation of the results, we have identified a set of common values for the professors in the investigated group. These are: morality; love for people, appreciation of others; work; faith in God; responsibility. For the future, we intend to add other universities and categories of teachers (less than 20 years' experience) in the research.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the University of Pitesti, Romania

Keywords: values, university professors, students, academic environment

* Corresponding author. Venera-Mihaela Cojocariu, Tel.: +4-074-706-6462 E-mail address: venera_1962@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the University of Pitesti, Romania doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.04.113

1. Why university professors and the values they believe in?

The economic impact upon the academic environment, its growingly closer correlation with the labor market, its efficiency and pragmatism criteria generate, unfortunately, not only positive effects. An utterly undesirable effect is the rebound of the reflexive and metareflexive dimension of a university professor's activity. From the reflexive practitioner that he should be, he often turns into a bureaucratic administrator and manager. At the same time and to an unprecedented extent, the system's expectations concerning professors are growing, as they are required to remain, despite all crises and pressures, true models and, first of all, moral models [1, p.l]. In this context, the values that professors believe in and that they implicitly objectify in their actions (hidden curriculum) are still a significant impact factor in shaping student behavior. Atkin shows graphically, accurately and expressively, the relation of congruent determination and becoming between the basic values of professors, the principles deriving from these and practical behaviors as the living expression of personal values [2, p. 4, 17].

It is therefore essential that universities look more often at the implicit values of their own professors [1, p.4]. As Connors (2002), Durbridge (2004) and Totterdell (2000) have shown, each of the professor's choices and actions is the expression of at least one value [1, p.7] that may turn into a vector of personal development for students. Another interesting aspect of these studies is the effect that they may produce upon the professors themselves. These may become more reflexive, may re-consider their professional purpose and re-organize multiple "right ways" to approach education [3, p.2]. Thus, we agree that "teaching is as much a moral effort as it is an intellectual enterprise; teachers not only educate students how to think and solve problems, they also inform student's beliefs about what is right, good and important in life, shaping their values in the process" [4, p.47].

From this perspective, investigating the values professors believe in, we hope to be able to identify certain directions of value force that may shape the vector towards which they influence the options, aspirations and motivations of students, eventually generating the meaning of their own life [5,p.91],

2. How did we proceed?

Started as a micro-research, the study aims at identifying the values university professors believe in, values that organize their lives, build their relationships with students and are indirectly and/or directly handed down to the latter.

The research involved 28 subjects from "Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau. The investigated group's structure: women: 14 (7 for each of the fields, real/engineering sciences and, respectively, socio-human); men: 14 (7 for each of the fields, real/engineering sciences and, respectively, socio-human). All the professors have a working experience in higher education of at least 20 years.

We have chosen this criterion because this category of teachers was trained before 1989, that is, before the fall of the communist regime in Romania. In the second stage, the study was extended to include a comparative analysis with the colleagues from "Petrol §i Gaze" University of Ploie§ti as subjects and in compliance with the same criteria. In the coming stages of the research, we intend to include subjects with a maximum of 15 years of experience (respectively, university teachers trained after 1990, within the circumstances of a democratic political regime) and to compare the two generations of professors in terms of the values they hold.

The research was conducted in the university centre from Bacau, during March-April 2012, as a qualitative type of research. We have applied a questionnaire that included 8 open-ended items. For the items that required a hierarchization of the respondents' options, the score of each value was established as follows: 3 points for the value situated on the first position, 2 points for the value from the second position, 1 point for the value situated on the third position.

3. What results did we obtain?

Following the collection of data and the analysis of the respondents' answers, we have obtained 7 data sets that we have systematized and that we shall further present. After the results for each item have been centralized and highlighted in Table no. 1, these have also been synthetically analyzed.

Table 1, The centralized presentation of the obtained data

Item no. Values rank I/points

1. morality, 61p

2. responsibility, 8 p.

3. competence, 19p

4. superficiality, 16p.

5. equity (fair play), 17 p.;

Values rank II/points love for people, 18p competence, 4 p. honesty, 4p. deceit, 10 p

work, 9 p.

Values rank Ill/points

faith in God, 9p.

quality - 3 p.

passion, lp.

demagogy, 7p. envy, 7p

responsibility, 8 p.

love, appreciation of others, 14p work, 9p balance, 2p.

truth, correctness, 9p. respect, 2p.

morality, 22 p

morality (83), equity (fair play), 17p.;

knowledge, lip.

love for people, 18p, work, 18p

love for others ,7 p.

faith in God, 9p. responsibility, 8 p.

100 80 60 40 20 0

□ Responsibility

■ Faith in God

□ Equity (fair play)

□ Work

■ Love for people

□ Morality

Figure 1, Graphical representation of the obtained data

For item 1, Thefirst three values that 1 believe in most, in order of relevance..., the values professors regard as representative for their personal axiological system allow us to highlight the existence of an axiological dominant shared by the entire group of subjects. Generically called morality, it incorporates a wide range of values (equity, fair play, gentleness, honesty, sincerity, truth, justice, impartiality, loyalty, consistency) and scored 16p. The

following two values are love for people, 18p., and faith in God, 9p., respectively responsibility, 8p. (at a very small difference, 1 p).

For item 2, In relation to my work, the value that concerns me most is..., the comparative perspective upon the data does not allow to accurately highlight a shared axiological dominant. A high degree of dispersion was found for 4 to 7 values out of 7. However, certain values have been highlighted as shared by 2 subgroups of the investigated group: responsibility, 8 p.; competence, 4 p.; quality, 3 p. Although the nucleus of the values cherished is not identical for each subgroup, we could see that professors relate to their own work in terms of the triad responsibility, competence, quality, which expresses an up-to-date and pragmatic approach.

For item 3, The most important value for the activity of an academic professor is ..., the comparative perspective of the data does not indicate a shared axiological dominant. There is a high and very high degree of dispersion of the answers, for 4, 5, 6, 7 values out of 7. Thus, the shared values of competence, 19 p., honesty, 4 p. and passion, 1 p. are highlighted with low scores.

For item 4,1 believe that, in today's world, the most dangerous counter-values are, the comparative analysis of the data did not lead towards any shared axiological dominant. A wide degree of dispersion of the solutions provided by professors was found. The shared counter-values incriminated are: superficiality, 16p., deceit, 10 p., and demagogy and envy, 7p. each.

For item 5,1 believe that the main values that higher education should inculcate to students are... (Name three values in the order of relevance), the wide dispersion of answers was maintained. The identified shared values are: equity (fair-play), 17 p., work, 9 p. and responsibility, 8 p.

Item 6 provides an interesting series of final messages that professors would address to students during their last meeting, as a response to the hypothetical situation: If I cease my activity tomorrow, the last thing that I would tell my students would be.....We shall present some of the most illustrative answers:

a. Women, engineering sciences: "By offering others the best of us we shall surely live in a better world"; "Be fair with yourself and with society!"; "You can accomplish the scenario in which you strongly believe!"; "Be true men!"; "Learn so that you may have what to give, give so that you may have what to receive!".

b. Women, socio-human sciences: "Always be quality men!"; "Think analytically and critically!"; "Do not give up hope!"; "Work honestly and with dedication!"; "Cultivate self-confidence!"; "Success in life is given by unconditional self-confidence!".

c. Men, engineering sciences: "Be responsible!"; "Trust your own powers! Be honest"; "Be prepared for all of life's challenges!"; "Be men!"; "Be powerful!"; "Never stop learning!".

d. Men, socio-human sciences: "Keep learning!"; "Work with honesty!"; "Be yourselves in everything!"; "In a world of all absurdities, try to remain yourselves!"; "Change the world!"; "Be models!"; "Only change is constant!".

For item 7,1 believe that the value that will always preserve (save) mankind is..., the comparative perspective upon the results allows the identification of an axiological suggestion based on the following saving values: 1. love, appreciation of others, 14p.; 2. work, 9p., truth, fair play, 9p.; 3. balance, 2p., respect, 2p.

For item 8, The future society needs the following 3 values..., the comparative analysis enables the identification of the following axiological options: morality, 22 p.; knowledge, 11 p. and love of others, 7 p.

4. What is the relevance of the data obtained?

Following data collection and interpretation, we have observed that the entire investigated group of academic professors are concerned with their own values, respectively those underlying the relationships with their own work, the values of future generations, correlating the cognitive and moral dimension of their professional life.

When analyzing the data, we have looked at the values shared by the investigated group. By exploiting strictly the quantitative dimensions, we have managed to identify the shared presence of certain values as well as their position in shaping the axiological dimension of the questioned professors.

• The first three values academic professors believe in are: morality, love for people and faith in God (Table 1, item 1). We regard as utterly relevant the number of points obtained by the value of morality, 61p, the highest score from the whole research, 3 times higher than the following value (love for people) and at a distance of 52 points from the third value (faith in God). Other unshared but mentioned values are also important: responsibility, family, perseverance, dignity;

• The first three values related to one's work are: responsibility, competence, quality (Table 1, item 2). Although they have been identified, the low score obtained and their presence shared only by two subgroups from the investigated group does not confer relevancy upon them, yet. Of course, other values are also important: professional development, work efficiency, consistency. All are closely connected to constant learning. We have noticed the fact that such values as authenticity, passion, perseverance, are (very) poorly represented;

• As for the previous item, there was found only one value shared by 3 subgroups, regarded as the most important value for a professor's activity: competence, 19 p. The values enumerated further, at a great difference of points, are honesty and passion, shared only by 2 subgroups (Table 1, item 3);

• The most dangerous counter-values highlighted by the investigated professors are, nowadays: superficiality, deceit, demagogy and envy (values shared by 2 subgroups) (Table 1, item 4). The investigated professors also pointed, individually, to some other dangers: non-value, aggression, corruption, self-sufficiency, selfishness, lack of respect, pride, slander, ignorance, treachery, greed, intolerance, religious intolerance, malice.

• The core values that higher education should nowadays inculcate upon students are: equity (honesty), work and responsibility. The first value is clearly highlighted with an almost double score compared to work (being a value shared by 3 out of the 4 subgroups), the latter at a small score difference, 1 point, from responsibility (Table 1, item 5);

• In their opinion, the value that will preserve/save humankind is, first of all, love, appreciation of others. These are closely followed by work and truth (equity), followed at a quite significant distance by individual choices such as balance and respect (Table 1, item 7);

• The values that the future society would need are: morality and love for others (Table 1, item 8) Regarding the final message that professors would address to students during their last meeting, we have

noticed the importance that the investigated university professors give to dignity, living with honesty, self-confidence, constant learning, love for others, hope and belief in one's success, not wasting one's free time on dangerous and/or useful things.

Summarizing, we may enlist (given the rank and the score obtained) a set of prevailing values shared by the entire group of investigated professors that may be regarded as defining for them: morality; love for people; appreciation of others; work; faith in God; responsibility.

5. Conclusions and future directions

It is undisputable that the values professors believe in are essential for the quality of their work, implicitly for the formative act upon students. Identifying the key values of the investigated group of professors (morality, love for people, work, faith in God, responsibility) projects a first image of the axiological profile of the professors from Bacau. According to the results, these are defined by values that are indispensable to exercising the assumed social role (love for people, work, responsibility) and by excellence benchmarks for the hypostasis of pedagogical model (morality). Given the small number of professors included in the group, it is appropriate to develop/extend this research by including other university centers as well as other categories of university professors (with less than 20 years' working experience).

References

[1] Mergler, A. - (2008), Making The Implicit Explicit: Values And Morals In Queensland Teacher Education, in Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Vol 33, 4, Article 1, Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol33/iss4/l, retrieved October 28, 2012;

[2] Atkin, J. (1996) From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice, Available at: http://www.learningtolearn.sa.edu.au/Colleagues/files/links/ValuesBeliefs.pdf, retrieved October 28, 2012;

[3] Bloom, P., J. & Ellis, L. (2009) Helping Teachers Identify and Articulate Their Values and Beliefs, Published by the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University, Available at: http://cecl.nl.edu/public/issues/dlf09.pdf, retrieved October 28, 2012;

[4] Slater, R., O. (2008), American Te a c h e r s, What do they believe?, in Education next, Vol.8, No.l., pp. 48-56, Available at: http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_20081_46.pdf, retrieved October 28, 2012;

[5] Frankl, V. - (2009), Omul in cautarea sensului vietii, Bucharest: Meteor Press.