Visit Modern Campus

The Impact of a Student Recognition Program on a Disaggregated Faculty at a Competency-Based University

Bliven sized 10.23
Instructional staff take pride in their students’ achievements, which is why a student recognition program can have a positive impact on faculty retention and motivation. 

Colleges and universities are challenged to find qualified and high-quality faculty members. Faculty retention is positively related to faculty satisfaction, as previous research indicates. This investigation measures the impact of a student recognition program on faculty satisfaction in an online, competency-based higher education program with a disaggregated faculty.

Faculty satisfaction variables of teacher motivation and gratitude are measured using a 16-item survey of a control group and a treatment group. The treatment group included faculty whose students received an Excellence Award, and the control group had faculty whose students did not receive an Excellence Award. An independent sample t-test, comparing the means of items measured between the two survey groups, and a one-way ANOVA showed that the student recognition program significantly impacted faculty satisfaction.

The treatment group had a 14% to 18% greater mean (p <0.01) for teacher motivation and gratitude compared to the control group. This study’s results are significant and have shown that the student recognition program significantly impacts faculty satisfaction, which has a positive relationship to faculty retention. Future research in this realm is encouraged.

Research Premise   

The study is based on an online university operating in a competency-based education model. The faculty is divided into three separate roles: course instructor, program mentor and faculty evaluation (evaluators). The course instructor instructs the student and the program mentor is the student’s coach and advisor, supervising their course progress. Only the course instructor and program mentor are student-facing. Evaluators assess student submissions for competency without coming into direct contact with the student. The evaluator is the one determining a student’s competency by evaluating the student’s work, ensuring the student meets the rubric requirements to pass a performance assessment.

The Excellence Awards program at the CBU acknowledges student work deemed excellent with evidence of exceeding the requirements to pass the performance assessment. Approximately 3% of all student submissions are nominated for an Excellence Award. About 60% of the awarded students write a thank-you note to the course instructor, program mentor and evaluator who nominated them upon being notified of their selection. The thank-you responses often included other instructional staff who contributed to their achievement and success such as instructors at the Writing Center, Math Lab, Educational Technical Service and enrollment counselors.

These grateful responses are shared with the instructional faculty and staff weekly. Approximately 30% of staff and faculty replied to the responses with gratitude for the students’ appreciation of their role in the latter’s academic achievement. Often, these faculty members express feeling uplifted and taking pride in their students’ accomplishments and achievements, experiencing increased motivation and a positive attitude toward the university, showing this award program’s impact on them personally and professionally. This expression is anecdotal evidence of the positive lift in motivation and gratitude among instructional faculty as a result of the student recognition program.

Barnard Simon’s theory of organizational equilibrium states, “Motivating participants to continue making contributions is one of the most important activities of management” (March & Simon, 1958, p.56). This theory hypothesizes that turnover is a “decision taken after weighing one’s perception of one’s contribution to the organization of one’s perception of the organization’s contribution to one’s life” (March and Simon, 1958).

Also, according to this theory, “job satisfaction is connected to one’s compatibility with one’s different roles at the workplace, on the predictability of their relationship at work, and the conformity of one’s job with one’s self-image” (Holtom, Mitchell, Lee, Eberly, 2008). After their student is selected for an Excellence Award and after receiving a grateful student response, faculty express feeling uplifted, validated and good about themselves, knowing they have contributed to their students’ success.

Research Question   

What effect do faculty job satisfaction when their students receive recognition of excellence and faculty notification of grateful student responses have on intended job retention, intention to leave or stay at the university in a disaggregated competency-based university?

Research Methodology  

This research investigation is a random sample quantitative study with anecdotal evidence in a competency-based education model. The quantitative investigation started off using the data analysis tool SPSS. Measuring the responses of two different faculty groups, SPSS compared the means of items measuring gratitude and teacher motivation.

There was a random sample of 3,137 in the treatment group and 1,832 in the control group to address and ensure the internal validity of this study. There was a completion rate of 37% for the treatment group and 28% for the control group. Missing data from incomplete responses were pruned before data analyses.

Research Findings  

A disaggregated faculty (N=1510) completed a survey with 16 items. Two separate groups completed the survey. Faculty with students who received an excellence award, the treatment group (N=1031) and faculty with no students receiving an excellence award, the control group” (N=479), completed the survey. The faculty included course instructors (N=390), evaluators (N=474) and program mentors (N=643). Most respondents report over five years of experience in their current roles, with the majority of respondents being 36–45 years old.

The data were analyzed using SPSS to conduct an independent sample t-test comparing the means of items measured between the two survey groups and a One-Way ANOVA. The first step of this analysis was an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) testing the reliability of the scale items. Based on this analysis, the EFA shows four of the six items measuring gratefulness were reliable with factor values greater than 0.4. Six items measuring personal motivation and an additional five measuring professional motivation were also found reliable with factor values greater than 0.4.

Therefore, it can be logically said that the CBU Excellence Award program positively impacts faculty’s job satisfaction, which most likely positively impacts their job retention (Johnsrud & Rosser, 2002). A descriptive of frequencies regarding respondents’ tenure ranging from less than a year to five or more years was conducted to test the impact of a faculty member’s student receiving an excellence award on their teaching tenure. Many respondents have five or more years of tenure, and there was a difference of eight percentage points between the treatment group (94%) and the control group (86%) in tenure.

Closing Discussion   

This research investigation is the first study of its nature in a competency-based education model (as known at this time). This study’s findings indicate that a positive impact occurs when the faculty’s student receives an Excellence Award and when the student writes a grateful response. The faculty member is elated knowing their efforts made a difference to their student, as shown by their students’ achievement of excellence. The faculty becomes more motivated, grateful, and connected to the university and their position.

Faculty writing grateful responses to the student’s grateful responses directed to them often mention how “this makes my day,” and “this means more to me than you’ll ever know.” That is an example of anecdotal evidence that the student recognition program is positively affecting the faculty and their satisfaction with their position. In addition, they are encouraged and enticed to remain in their position and keep putting forth as much effort as they can to educate their students.



Holtom, B. C., Mitchell, T. R., Lee, T. W., & Eberly, M. B. (2008). Turnover and retention research: A glance at the past, a closer review of the present, and a venture into the future. The Academy of Management Annals, 2(1), 231–274.

Johnsrud, L. J. & Rosser, V. J. (2002). Faculty members’ morale and their intention to leave. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(4), 518542.

March J. G. and Simon H. (1958), Organisations. New York: John Wiley, pp. 190.

Stegen A, Wankier J. Generating Gratitude in the Workplace to Improve Faculty Job Satisfaction.