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The influence of faculty expectations on students’ workload: Searching for academic challenges

Paper presented in track 5 at the EAIR 38th Annual Forum in Birmingham, United Kingdom 31 August to 3 September 2016.


Students’ retention, progression and completion have been the focus among higher education institutional practitioners, researchers and policy makers for many years now. Research shows that students’ sense of belonging and engagement are essential for achieving these aims (a.o. Kuh, Cruce, Shoup & Kinzie 2008). Earlier research framed student engagement as the time and energy students invest in educationally purposeful activities, in combination with the effort institutions devote to using effective educational practices (Kuh 2001). Student surveys often show considerable variation among study programs in the time students invest in educational activities. Students’ study time is thought to be influenced by the academic aspirations, expectations and demands of faculty members. The higher and the more clearly faculty members’ academic aspirations and demands, the higher and the more effective is students’ study time investment.

In this paper we test this hypothesis by studying the relationship between faculty members’ aspirations and demands on the one hand, and students’ study time on the other. We use quantitative data on study time and faculty expectations from the Norwegian national student survey ‘Studiebarometeret’.

We conducted focus group interviews with students and faculty members of selected study programs to learn more about how faculty members’ expectations influence the students. Results show that there is indeed a relationship between students’ study time and faculty members’ demands and aspirations. The influence of faculty members’ academic aspirations is stronger for students’ self-study, while the influence of demands is stronger on students’ time devoted to organized learning activities.

The interviews made clear that heterogenic student groups with respect to start competences, motivation and learning styles makes it difficult for institutions to set clear demands for all students. The interviews also showed that both clear and unclear demands lead to a high devotion of study time, while the latter is assumed as a non-effective way of learning. This curve linear effect is partly confirmed in the quantitative survey data.

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Author(s): Marie-Louise Damen
Pål Bakken
Magnus Strand Hauge
Date: 03.09.2016
Report no: 3–2016