Inside Higher Ed, New Paper Makes Case For Paying More Attention To Pre-tenured Faculty Emotions:
Academics might be known for their intellect, but they have emotions, too -- and those emotions matter, according to a new paper on the pretenure faculty experience [The Emotions of Pretenure Faculty: Implications for Teaching and Research Success].
The mixed-method study, published in The Review of Higher Education, looked at assistant professors’ emotions regarding teaching and research, including their frequency, precursors and relationships with perceived success. It found that teaching was much more associated with positive emotions. Research, meanwhile, was associated with more negative feelings.
Why do faculty emotions matter? There’s a divide between qualitative research that consistently identifies certain factors — namely clear expectations for promotion and tenure, collegiality and balance between work and home — as important to faculty success, the paper says, and other quantitative research suggesting that those factors actually have limited influence.
Might understanding faculty members’ emotions help bridge that gap? Perhaps.
No qualitative studies to date “have directly asked professors to identify and describe their emotions related to teaching and research,” the paper says. And researchers “have not sufficiently examined the generalizability of the wide range of faculty emotions from qualitative studies beyond the emotion-related constructs of emotional exhaustion (burnout) or emotional labor.” ...
Robert Stupnisky, lead author and associate professor of educational foundations and research at the University of North Dakota, has previously written about what motivates good teaching and supporting pretenure faculty members to help them find their intrinsic motivation. He said via email that his newest paper is “the most comprehensive study on faculty members’ emotions conducted to date” and that it provided “some very interesting findings.”
In terms of implications for institutions, Stupnisky found that perceived collegiality correlated with both teaching and research emotions, and perceived balance correlated specifically with research emotions. Collegiality was also a significant, direct predictor of control and value and an indirect predictor of success in both the teaching and research domains via faculty emotions.
So “a sense of belongingness” in the workplace appears to be a particularly salient factor in faculty emotional experiences. At the practical level, the paper says, pretenure faculty were found to experience a range of not only positive but also negative emotions. And “encouraging greater discussion of and emphasis on emotions in faculty in general could benefit faculty development.”