Traditional Versus Non-Traditional Student Satisfaction With Professors During One-To-One Contacts

The One-To-One Survey: Traditional Versus Non-Traditional Student Satisfaction With Professors During One-To-One Contacts

Gary T. Rosenthal

The characteristics of positive and negative one-to-one student-faculty interactions were examined with non-traditional and traditional undergraduates. Analyses indicated that non-traditional and traditional students responded to interactions similarly; however, the percentages of nontraditional and traditional students reporting helping/accommodating or belittling themes in their interactions were significantly different.

Several researchers have commented on how professors can enhance student-faculty relationships (e.g. Folse, Rosenthal, Boudreaux & Soper, 1994; Smith, Medendorp, Ranck, Morrison, & Kopfman, 1994; Walsh & Maffei, 1994). However, most research has focused on identifying the characteristics of the “ideal” teacher, or the “ideal” student-faculty relationship; but has not linked such relationships with academic outcomes. For example, Smith et al. (1994) asked students to generate a series of items that characterized an ideal teacher. Garko, Kough, Pignata, Kimmel, and Eison (1994) asked students to imagine the type of relationship they “would like to have” with an instructor. Neither study related student-faculty relationships to course performance.

In contrast to these studies, Folse and Rosenthal, (Folse, Rosenthal, Boudreaux & Soper, 1994; Tabony, Folse, Rosenthal, Boudreaux, & Soper, 1995) have adopted a reality-based and molar approach to the subject. Their “One-to-one” survey examined “real interactions” rather than “imagined or idealized relationships”. They argued that student-faculty “interactions” are more frequent than student-faculty “relationships”; and that research should focus on the least positive interaction as well as the most positive a student experienced. Finally, the survey stresses that the interactions must be one-to-one (personal) thus, minimizing the effects of in-class factors on the survey variables.

The current study is a readministation and revision of the One-to-one survey. The instrument utilizes both closed-ended and narrative items. Its purpose is twofold. First, to determine if students feel that one-to-one interactions effect their performance in the course and evaluation of the professor. Second, to compare the responses of a sample of non-traditional students to a sample of traditional students. Non-traditional students were defined as students over 25 years old, and/or married, and/or with children based upon the definition used by the Order of Athena, a sorority for non-traditional students (Constitution of the Order of Athena, 1995). Non-traditional students often report different concerns than traditional students (Bean & Metzner, 1985); it was expected that their responses would differ from traditional students.

The research hypotheses were divided into those concerning the sample as a whole, and those contrasting non-traditional with traditional undergraduates. Hypotheses concerning the entire sample consisted of the following: (a) Students who experienced a positive interaction would report a greater tendency to initiate such interactions. (b) Students who experienced a negative interaction would be less likely to initiate such interactions. (c) Students who experienced a positive interaction with one professor would report greater satisfaction with their interactions with all faculty. (d) Students who experienced a negative interaction with one professor would report less satisfaction with their interactions with all faculty.

Hypotheses contrasting non-traditional students (NTS) and traditional students (TS) were as follows: (a) NTS and TS would differ in their tendencies to initiate one-to-one interactions. (b) NTS and TS would differ in their overall satisfaction with such interactions. (c) NTS and TS would differ in the extent to which positive and negative interactions affect their reports of course performance. (d) NTS and TS would differ to the extent which positive and negative interactions affect their student evaluations of the professor. (e) NTS and TS would differ in the themes present in their narratives.

Method

Subjects

A total of 193 undergraduate students enrolled at a small southern university completed the survey. Classification of respondents was: 28% freshmen, 38% sophomores, 20% juniors, and 14% seniors. Respondents ranged in age from 17 to 70 (M = 24.7, SD = 8.4). The students were recruited from a variety of undergraduate courses (e.g. The Psychology of Adjustment and Developmental Psychology) and campus organizations (e.g. The Order of Athena and the University Band). All subjects were volunteers; some received extra credit for their participation.

The non-traditional subsample. A total of 77 students (14 males and 63 females) were classified as non-traditional. The nontraditional sample ranged in age from 19 to 70 (M = 32.7, SD = 8.2); their mean G.P.A. was 3.07, SD = .51.

The traditional subsample. A total of 116 students (46 males and 70 females) were classified as traditional. The traditional sample ranged in age from 17 to 24 (M = 19.5, SD = 1.5); their mean G.P.A. was 2.91, SD=.55.

Materials

The instrument consisted of an informed consent form, instructions, demographic questions, survey items and four blank (lined) sheets of paper on which students wrote narratives describing their most positive and negative interactions with a faculty member. Survey instructions defined a one-to-one interaction, and stressed that responses would remain anonymous. The students were allowed as much time as necessary to complete the survey.

Survey Administration

The instrument was distributed to students in classes and organizational meetings. Participants were requested to read the instruction sheet, and ask any questions at that time. The most common question was: “What if I haven’t had any good/bad interaction(s)?” These students were told that: “In that case you should leave the space for the positive/negative interactions(g) blank.”

Results and Discussion

Quantitative results from the survey are presented in two subsections. The first consists of statistical analyses of the sample as a whole (non-traditional combined with traditional students), followed by between group (non-traditional versus traditional) analyses. The second section consists of descriptive statistics for all 194 respondents.

All respondents hypotheses. Those students who experienced a positive interaction, compared to those without positive contact, did not report a greater tendency to initiate student-faculty interactions. Those students who experienced a negative interaction did however report initiating such interactions significantly less often (M = 7.59, SD = 1.98 versus M = 6.52, SD = 2.15), F(1, 189)= 11.62, p [is less than] .001. This is contrary to what we might expect from an operant conditioning standpoint and replicates an effect reported by Tabony et al. (1995). Students who recorded a positive interaction reported significantly higher satisfaction with their one-to-one interactions with all faculty (M = 7.54, SD = 1.89 versus M = 6.06, SD = 2.54), F(1, 189) = 8.30, p [is less than] .01. Finally, those students who experienced a negative interaction reported significantly lower satisfaction with their one-to-one interactions with all faculty (M = 6.82, SD = 2.06 versus M = 7.76, SD = 1.86), F(1, 189) = 10.64, p [is less than] .01.

Non-traditional versus traditional comparisons. Non-traditional and traditional students did not differ significantly in their tendencies to initiate one-to-one interactions. Nor was either group more satisfied with their one-to-one interactions with all faculty.

Non-traditional and traditional students did not differ to the extent that they felt a positive or negative interaction affected their course performance. Non-traditional and traditional students did not differ to the extent which a positive or negative interaction affected their student evaluations of the professor. Hence, the two groups may be more similar than has been assumed at least with regard to faculty interaction variables.

Analysis of narrative data. Narrative data was analyzed by adapting the scoring system suggested by Jones and Pollio (Jones, 1984). The second author examined each narrative to determine whether certain “units of meaning” or themes were present or absent. Themes were based on the most frequent topics mentioned in narratives from prior One-to-one survey research (i.e. Folse et al., 1994; Tabony et al., 1995). Six themes were identified for positive interactions, six for negative interactions.

Each positive interaction was examined to determine if the student described the faculty as: (a) helping or accommodating, (b) understanding, (c) encouraging, or d) caring, or whether the student described the situation as: (e) unhurried, or (f) involving explaining or answering the student’s questions. Each negative interaction was examined to determine if the student described the faculty as: (g) rude/egotistical, (h) impersonal, (i) sarcastic, or (j) unaccommodating; or whether the student described the situation as: (k) belittling, or (1) hurried, delayed, or involving a missed appointment.

Each pleasant theme (a-f) served as a category for classifying positive narratives. If a theme was present, it was assigned “1” for that category, if it was absent it was assigned “0”. For example, a narrative consisting solely of: “He took his time, and was encouraging” would be scored “0” for helping, “0” for accommodating, “0” for understanding, “1” for encouraging, “0” for caring, “1” for unhurried and “0” for explaining. Each unpleasant theme (g-1) served as a category for classifying the negative narratives in a similar manner.

The proportions of non-traditional and traditional students reporting a theme were compared in a series of tests for the significance of difference between two proportions. These proportions (converted to percentages for clarity) and test statistics (z scores) are presented as Table 1.

Table 1 Percentage of-Non-traditional and Traditional Students Reporting Each Pleasant and Unpleasant Theme and z Test Statistics

Non-

Theme Traditional Traditional z

Pleasant Themes(a)

Helping/Accommodating 26.39 42.72 3.26(*)

Understanding 23.61 17.48 -1.42

Encouraging 22.22 14.56 -1.85

Caring 37.50 30.10 -1.46

Unhurried 26.39 21.36 -1.10

Explaining/Answering 38.89 31.07 -1.53

Unpleasant Themes(b)

Rude/Egotistical 32.26 43.90 1.44

Impersonal 29.03 24.39 -0.63

Sarcastic 6.45 9.76 0.72

Unaccommodating 41.94 24.39 -2.27

Belittling 16.13 36.59 2.86(*)

Hurried/Missed Meeting 29.03 14.63 -2.12

(a)n = 175. (b)n = 72. (*)p < .01.

Two of the test statistics were significant. The difference among pleasant themes was that non-traditional students reported fewer helping or accommodating themes than traditional students. The difference among unpleasant themes was that non-traditional students reported fewer belittling themes in their narratives.

Summary data. Overall student satisfaction with one-to-one interactions was positive (M – 7.40, SD – 1.99 on a scale of 1 [very unsatisfied] to 10 [very satisfied]). Ratings ranged from 2-10. Respondents indicated that they (rather than faculty) initiated most one-to-one contacts (M – 6.88, SD – 2.13 on a scale where 1 indicated all contacts were faculty-initiated and 10 indicated all contacts were student-initiated). Ratings ranged from 2-10. A total of 4% of the respondents reported no one-to-one interactions. Clearly, most students have had some individual contact with faculty.

Approximately 91% of all respondents listed a positive one-to-one experience, 37% responded with a negative experience and 32% listed both a positive and a negative interaction. Students who had a positive interaction with a professor felt that the interaction effected their student rating of instructors and their in-class performance “very much”, (M = 2.91, SD = .95 and M = 2.80, SD = 1.09 respectively), where 1 = Not at all, 2 = Somewhat, 3 = Very much, and 4 = Extremely. Finally, those students who had a negative interaction felt that it affected their rating of instructor “very much” (M = 3.03, SD = .98), and that it had effected their in-class performance “somewhat” (M = 2.18, SD = 1.11).

Conclusion. One-to-one interactions between students and professors are the norm rather than the exception, and therefore warrant increased attention. College students believed that one-to-ones effected their performance and their satisfaction. The literature indicates that personal contact with a teacher has far-reaching consequences in grade-school-aged children (e.g. Brophy & Good, 1974; Skinner & Belmont, 1993). The current study indicates that the effects of personal contact with a teacher extend to college-aged adults as well.

References

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Brophy, J. E. & Good, T. L. (1974). Teacher-student relationships: Causes and consequences. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Constitution of the Order of Athena, 3rd Revision, (1995, Fall). (Available from Student Life Office, P.O. 2007, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA 70310).

Folse, E. J, Rosenthal, G. T., Boudreaux, D., & Soper, B. (1994, January). The One-to-one survey: Student satisfaction with professors during one-to-one contacts. Poster session presented at the meeting of the Sixteenth Annual National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Petersburg Beach.

Garko, M. G., Kough, C., Pignata, G., Kimmel, E. B., & Eison, J. (1994). Myths about student-faculty relationships: What do students really want? Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 5(2), 51-65. (WWW home page: htpp://www.lib.muohio.edu/sect/index.html).

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Smith, S. W., Medendorp, C. L., Ranck, S., Morrison, K., & Kopfman, J. (1994). The prototypical features of the ideal professor from the female and male undergraduate perspective: The role of verbal and nonverbal communication. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 5(2), 5-22. (WWW home page: http//www, lib. muohio.edu/sect/index.html).

Tabony, R., Folse, E., Rosenthal, G. T., Boudreaux, D., & Soper, B. (1995, January). The One-to-one survey revisited: Further explorations of student satisfaction with professors during one-to-one contacts. Poster session presented at the meeting of the Seventeen Annual National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Petersburg Beach.

Walsh, D., & Maffei, M. J. (1994). Never in a class by themselves: An examination of behaviors affecting the student-professor relationship. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 5(2), 23-49. (WWW home page: http:// www.lib.muohio.edu/sect/index.html).

The authors wish to thank Ms. Nikki G. Cortez for her assistance in editing this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Gary T. Rosenthal, Department of Psychology and Counselor Education, Nicholls State University, P.O. Box 2075, Thibodaux, Louisiana 70310. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to psyc-gtr@nich-nsunet.nich.edu.

GARY T. ROSENTHAL EARL J. FOLSE Nicholls State University

NANCY W. ALLEMAN Evangeline Parish School Board

DWIGHT BOUDREAUX Nicholls State University

BARLOW SOPER Louisiana Tech University

CLARENCE VON BERGEN Southeastern Oklahoma State University

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