The Psychological Contracts of Experienced College Instructors

by Hrabok, Ann

Abstract (Summary)
The purpose of this study was to determine the contents and nature of the psychological contracts of experienced college instructors, taking into account the passage of time and context, in order to further understand the employment relationships that existed between instructors and the employing college system. The experienced college instructor, for the purposes of this study, was identified as one who was 45 years of age or older, with 15 or more years of teaching experience in the college system. The majority of these experienced instructors were members of the baby boom generation and, as such, demanded a certain amount of attention, particularly with respect to their sheer numbers and their consequential impending exit from the system.

The study utilized a five-part framework, including the identification of the employer, the contents, the passage of time, the context, and the nature of the psychological contract. Data collection consisted of the use of interviews, focus group sessions, and a survey, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. The data were treated descriptively through frequency analysis and inferentially through principal component analysis, identifying various dimensions of the psychological contract with respect to contents, passage of time, context, and nature of obligations. Dimensions drawn from the principal component analysis did not differ significantly from those derived from the descriptive treatment of the data. The analysis of variance procedure used indicated that female instructors perceived the dimensions of the psychological contract significantly different, as did instructors with 20-24 years of experience or over 25 years of experience in the organization. Also, instructors between the ages of 50 and 54 years perceived the dimensions of the psychological contract different, as did instructors with a mix of technical/vocational and academic levels of education.

Conclusions drawn from the study included (1) there were at least two types of psychological contracts at work, such as the organizational one and the agential one, (2) as the duration of the employment relationship increased, the psychological contract became more complex and sophisticated, (3) a dynamic was occurring in the organization that indicated instructors experienced a facelessness and depersonalizing of the organization, resulting in an employment relationship that was perceived to be impersonal, detached, self-centered, work-oriented, and less-than-reciprocal, and (4) the concepts of both organization identity theory and identity theory would be useful to use in the measurement and conceptualization of the psychological contract concept.

Implications drawn from the study indicated that it may be irrelevant to ask the identity of the employer. A more sophisticated measure, other than the use of typologies for example, is required in order to comprehend the psychological contracts of the long-term employee, working in a public service capacity, performing emotional labour, being in close proximity with clients for extended periods of time, as educators and role models. Implications exist for the employer and instructor alike, as identified in this study, in order to increase the organizational effectiveness of the college system. The apparent usefulness in considering context and the passage of time in the examination of the psychological contract in education, in particular, is this study's contribution to the research area. Further research, in collaboration with psychological contract research, involving the concepts of organizational learning, organizational memory, and institutional professionalism are compelling areas of interest, particularly in reference to not only the large and influential members of the baby boom generation but to other generational groups within the organization.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Foster, Rosemary; Scharf, Murray P.

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:11/19/2008

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