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expectation group is only slightly (a non-significant trend) more likely to take
a seminar than their low expectation counterparts.

Again, however, the data with respect to return rate strongly confirm our
expectation (Table 4). The high expectation group, whom we predicted would ex-
perience the greatest sense of congruity or match between their expectations and
the seminar environment, have the highest return rate (51% vs. 32% vs. 27%).
In other words, while some 27% of the low expectation group do take a second
seminar, almost twice as many of those in the high expectation group (51% vs.
27%) behave similarly.

* Two other patterns of seminar taking behavior were examined. Of those students
who did not take a seminar at all in their first year (N=172) , 30% were morally
involved, 19% were calculative, and 51% were alienated. Finally, of those who
did not take a seminar first semester but did take a seminar second semester
(N»64) , 33% were morally involved, 22% were calculative, and 45% were alienated.

Percentage of each
type who took a
seminar first

Table 2.
Form of Involvement vs. Seminar Taking Behavior


(N = 134)



(N = 82)



(N = 192)


Percentage of each
type who returned
to take a second
seminar, after having
taken one first semester




Table 3.

Form of Involvement (moral vs. alienated) vs. Expected Level of
Participation (High, Med. , Low)

Expected Level of



For ease of presentation, we will
focus on only the extreme types of
moral vs. alienated.

Percentage of students
who are morally involved




Percentage of students
who are alienatively inv(




Percentage who took
a seminar first 44%

semester (47/103)

Percentage who returned
to take a second seminar 51%
after having taken a (24/47)
seminar first semester

Table 4.
Expected Level of Participation vs. Seminar Taking Behavior

Expected Level of Participation
High Med Low






The Interaction of the Three Variables

We have thus far examined the relationship between our three variables in a
pair-wise fashion. We would like, at this point, to examine the interactive ef-
fect of all three variables. It will be recalled that neither involvement form
nor expected level of participation, taken singly, was related to first semester
seminar behavior (Tables 2-4). Combining these two variables does little to change
this picture (data not shown). For example, people who are morally involved and
have a high expected level of participation are just as likely to take a seminar
first semester as are their morally involved low expectation counterparts.

Both variables were, however, strongly related to second semester seminar be-
havior — return rate. Cnnihin-ing these two variables, as can be seen below, yields
even stronger results in the predicted direction.

Percentage of each group who
returned to take a second seminar
after having taken one first semester

a) People who are morally involved and

have a high expected level of participation 61% (16/26)

b) People who are morally involved and

have an average expected level of participation 47% (7/15)

c) People who are morally involved and

have a low expected level of participation 24% (5/21)

While the sample sizes do become quite small when we examine the combined effect
of these variables, the differences are clear and significant.

We have, in the above discussion, taken seminar behavior as the outcome variable.
We can also ask the reverse question, in a sense, namely: what is the combined ef-
fect of seminar taking and expected level of participation on an individual's sense
of moral involvement? For example, we find that of those people who had a high
expected level of participation and who took a seminar first semester (N=47) , 55%

* Rather than confuse even further an already complicated set of ideas and

analysis procedure, we will talk only in terms of moral involvement. In each
case unless otherwise noted the same trend appears with respect to alienative


were morally involved while only 34% of the low participation seminar takers (N=62)
were morally involved. This difference becomes even greater when we examine second
semester seminar behavior — when we focus on the returners. For example, of those
people who had a high expected level of participation and who returned to take a
second seminar (N=24) , 67% were morally involved while only 29% of the low partici-
pation seminar returners (N=17) were morally involved.

Again, while the sample sizes do become small, the message is clear: those
students who both strongly expect to participate in their education and elect to
take Freshman Seminar are very likely to report a sense of moral involvement with
the Institute.

We now turn to a discussion of these results and their broader implications

for the development of self-directed learners.


In the introduction to this paper we developed a conceptual framework which
dealt, in general terms, with the different ways an individual could become in-
volved with any organization. Three major forms of involvement were discussed;
alienative, calculative, and moral. The most appropriate form for the university,
particularly one, like M.I.T., actively committed to the development of self-
directed learners, was presumed to be moral involvement. Morally involved students
have internalized the norms of the system and see the authorities in the system
as a legitimate source of influence. We hypothesized that when a studeat feels
a sense of moral involvement with the Institute, he is more likely tD become a
self-directed learner.

In addition to the concept of involvement, we introduced the concept of con-
gruence or match. The extent of overlap between what a student expects and what
a particular educational program offers in the way of opportunities or experiences —
which we call the psychological contract — could also be expected to influence


student involvement, learning and satisfaction.

In order to explore this general framework in more detail, we chose to
focus upon one particular educational option within the M.I.T. community - the
Freshman Seminar. The characteristics of this program seemed to fit very well
with the requirements deemed essential for the development of moral involvement
and self-directed learning. Given the M.I.T. norm of self-directed learning, the
act of taking a Freshman Seminar could therefore be viewed as "good" behavior.
With respect to the issue of congruence, the Freshman Seminar seemed potentially
capable of satisfying a student's need to actively participate in and contribute
to his own learning. A high degree of congruence, we hypothesized, would be as-
sociated with moral involvement and satisfaction.

As our results clearly point out, the most significant behavioral act would
appear to be the taking of a second seminar after having taken one first semester
(return rate). First semester seminar taking behavior was not related, in any sig-
nificant way, to degree of moral involvement with the Institute, to a stuJeat's ex-
pected level of participation, or to the combined effect of these two variables.

On the other hand, each of our hypotheses was strongly supported when we
examined return rate. Students who need to actively participate and contribute to
tiieir own learning (an individual characteristic which is quite congruent with a
self-directed posture toward learning) were very likely to take a second seminar.
Returners were significantly more likely to be morally involved than non-returriers .
The most morally involved students were those who both had a high need to p.irticipate
and who did take a second seminar. Put in another way, students who both felt
morally involved with the Institute and had a high need to participate were most
likely to elect to take a second semester.

It is important to emphasize that what we see here is an association between cer-
tain feelings a student has toward the Institute at large and his decision to take
an elective six unit seminar. V/hat is impressive, to us, is that such feelings have
such a strong effect on what can be viewed as a relatively minor aspect of an in-
dividual's total life space at M.I.T.

/ -17-

Given the anxiety and confusion which must undoubtedly be characteristic
(f the entry process into M.I.T., there are many reasons why a student might choose
to take a seminar his first semester. To some, the Freshman Seminar provides one
opportunity for the self-directed learning they expected to find before they arrived.
For others, it might represent a low risk opportunity to try a different mode of
learning — to see if they like it. Still others might view it as the "thing to do"
(if M.I.T. offers it, "they" must expect me to take it or my roommate is taking it).
Finally, for others it could be viewed as an easy way to accumulate additional units
toward graduation (beat the system).

The major sorting out, in a sense, of the diversity of reasons discussed above,
seems to come at the point of deciding whether or not to take a second seminar. We
are then confronted with the question of causality. Is the seminar envircnment de-
veloping moral involvement in students or is their moral involvement due to an initial
selection effect? Our data do not allow us to answer this question directly. In
either case, however, from M.I.T. 's standpoint, this congruent situation represents
a desired state since it either: (1) helps develop moral involvement in those students
who are initially calculative or alienative; (2) satisfies or meets the n-jads of
those students who are initially morally involved, who within our framework are
more likely to be self-directed, and who look to the freshman seminar for need ful-

fillment; or (3) reflects each of the above influences, and the results represent

an interaction of these two effects.


Based on the assumption that both these previously mentioned effects occur to
some degree, there are two major generalizations that can be made in regard to
M.I.T. 's efforts to enhance moral involvement and self-directed learning (and re-
duce alienative involvement) among its students. (1) Effort should be tmre t.pecifi-
cally focused on helping the student find the combination of M.I.T. contributions

* Students who are initially "morally involved" and who have expectations congruent
with the seminar environment may be more likely to seek out the seminar experience.
The higher percentage of morally involved students would, then, represent en initial
selection effect rather than a seminar influence effect (which we see mora cleatly
in the second semester because others have "dropped out" of the seminar.)


(seminars, lectures, study abroad, ESG, USSP, etc.) that is most congruent with his
expectations. In other words, a high degree of importance should be placed on the
formation of an initially realistic, congruent psychological contract between the
student and M.I.T.

(2) The hypothesized success of the seminar environment in the facilitation
of moral and the reduction of alienative involvement should not be translated into
a demand for more seminars. Instead, the desirable parameters of the seminar (close
faculty contact, opportunity for student participation, sense of inclusion, etc.)
that appear to help successfully transmit the ideal M.I.T. learning norms should be
isolated and more carefully examined. Those parameters that prove to be effective
facilitators of self-directed learning should be implemented in other situations and
in other combinations to meet a greater variety of student expectations while still
providing positive support for the student striving toward self-direction.

Focusing first on the more general issue of improving the congruity of the
student's side of the psychological contract, v/e must address the issue of how M.I.T.
can make it easier for an entering student to find a combination of M.I.T. contribu-
tions that best match his expectations. In the ideal situation, the student would
clearly know what he wanted of the M.I.T. environment and M.I.T. would clearly com-
municate its offerings and expectations of the student, to the student. With these
data, the student could first make a decision to come to M.I.T. or not, depending
on M.I.T. 's ability to meet his needs. Second, if the student decided to join he
could then make the specific decisions of when, where, and how to participate within
the M.I.T. community in order to best meet his expectations.

To the extent that these two ideal conditions — clearly realized student ex-
pectations and clearly communicated M.I.T. offerings and expectations — exist, the
formation of a congruent psychological contract will be facilitated. Thus, M.I.T.
can approach the psychological contract problem from two directions. First, it can
help the student clarify his expectations and needs in his own mind, and second, it


can provide clearer, more realistic, more "relevant" information to the student con-
cerning the characteristics of its different learning environments.

The problem of helping the student clarify his expectations, needs, and goals
is an important issue, but we will do no more here than raise it as a question that
deserves further attention, since in this paper we have implicitly assumed that the
student does have some set of conscious expectations. On the other hand, we can
suggest some types of information that would help the student to make more realistic
choices concerning his education at M.I.T.

These suggestions are meant to expand on and operationalize desires such as
Paul Gray's to develop "an academic environment in which individual differences


in preparation, in needs, in style , in expectations, and in capacity are recognized,
developed, and exploited in the educational process," for it was ideas like these
that gave the student an opportunity for choice in the first place. The problem we
now face is how to successfully communicate the purpose and intent of these programs
to the student who must make the decision to participate or not to participate. A
first obvious, but difficult, step is to explicitly state the purpose, the goals, the
method, and the expectations of the program to the student. This means more than cre-
ating more outdated catalog course descriptions; it means increasing attempts by the pre
gram "administrators" and perhaps othetx students to communiteate; aBalisfeically the goals,

mechanics, and expectations of the many programs and options available at M.I.T. to
the student in his learning terms so he is able to make meaningful decisions. Attempts
to provide such information should not only help the student plan and grow, but should
also stimulate the program to constantly be listening to its own feedback and understand
ing the effects it is having on those involved . That is, the job of "teaching'' or facili
tating self-directed learning means more than simply planning lectures, demonstrations,
or discussion groups. It also means "closing the feedback loop" by gathering data on th
sponses of students to the learning environment. This allows for constant adaptation a


modification by "the system" to create a better M.I.T. - a student match. At the
same time this process also increases the student's sense of being an active par-
ticipant in the development of the learning environment in which he is a member.
It is this type of commitment and involvement with and by M^I.T. which is needed
to develop an environment that can match the expectations of its students and cor-
respondingly facilitate self-directed learning.

But perhaps more than expectational congruity is needed to successfully fa-
cilitate self-directed learning. For the entering student who already has begun
to internalize a self-directed learning style, congruence of environmental contri-
butions and his expectations should have a strong facilitating effect. But what of
the student who does not yet fully understand the concept of self-direction and who
is not exactly sure of the "purpose" of education? That student not only needs a
sense of congruity, but he also needs an opportunity to learn and internalize these
self-directed learning norms. Correspondingly, our second assumption was that the
seminar environment provided the student with that opportunity. That is, the seminar
was based on a set of parameters that helped communicate an understanding of and fa-
cilitate the internalization of self-directed learning norms.

Further, we said that simply to provide more seminars was not answer in it-
self, but that we should look at the parameters of the seminar environment which
facilitate the learning process and attempt to integrate them in new and/or differ-
ent environmental settings. Such a strategy would hopefully produce a greater
variety of M.I.T. contributions to the student that positively reinforced the ideal
learning norms of M.I.T. Thus, the student's chances of finding an expectational
match with an environment that positively reinforced self-directed learning norms
would be expanded and the probability of his developing a self-directed learning
style increased. An example should further clarify this concept.


One characteristic which hypothetically facilitates the learning of self-
directed norms is the close student-faculty relationship developed in the Freshman
Seminar (Etzioni, p. 307, 1961, Snyder, 1971). It would be useful, therefore, to
reproduce this parameter under circumstances different from the seminar environment
so that the student uncomfortable in a seminar might still have the benefit of a
close faculty relationship. An example of such an alternative would be the develop-
ment of a work-study program in which the student received credit for working in an

interested professor s lab. This option should be much more attractive than a

seminar to a student who does not feel comfortable in a situation where participation
is a group norm, but still would like to interact with a faculty member on a more
personal basis than is offered in the lecture situation.

Although this example is not a new or unique idea, it does illustrate the need
to provide a variety of environments that satisfy different student expectations
while still reinforcing the ideal self-directed learning norms of M.I.T. Such flexi-
bility in designing programs and in developing mechanisms for communicating self-
directed learning norms is necessary if M.I.T. is to be successful in facilitating
the development of self-directed learners. For it is clear that learning is a
unique personal experience, and if we hope to affect the student's attitude toward
learning we must meet him on his own ground and coimnunicate our ideals in terms
that he can imderstand. Such a task requires the same flexibility, introspection,
self-awareness, self-renewal , and growth of the university as it expects of its
ideal students.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which already exists, is an

example of thiiSkind of activity, which could be examined in the way we have studied

Freshman Seminars .


1) This information was collected from Professor Gilliland, head of the Freshman
Seminar Program.

2) Etzioni (p. 307, 1961) indicates that this close personal contact between
faculty and students is required for the successful transmission of normative
rewards — i.e., the reinforcement of self-directed learning norms.

3) The entire Freshman year was, for the first time in 1969, graded pass-fail.

4) Gerstein's paper (1971) focuses specifically on the question of adaptive styles
to the Institute. See his paper for a more complete discussion of this counter-
cultural concept.

5) The alienative student has been classified solely on his system legitimacy score
because his anomie score only further clarifies his type of alienation. It is
hypothesized that a high anomie score would characterize a normless alienative
student; while a low anomie score would characterize a "counter-cultural" aliena-
tive student, a student who had adopted norms counter to the M.I.T. community

gN On« key assumption must be made to use this question as we would like, i.e.,
as a measure of the students' initial expectations upon entering M.I.T.
This question was responded to during February of the students' freshman
year, one semester after the student entered M.I.T., and the assumption
made is that the student's self image with respect to his level of par-
ticipation is relatively constant over this period of time. Since the
nature of this question is closely linked to the individual's perception
of himself, we feel reasonably confident in this assumption. This con-
fidence is based on two factors:

a) one semester's time is a relatively short period relative to the time
span over which the individual's self-concept was developed and;

b) this question is related to an individual characteristic that is
fairly independent of his relationship to M.I.T. Bumstead (1971)
has shown that the individual's response to this question is a
fimctlon of social class, thus supporting the argument that this
perception Is tmchanged through one semester at M.I.T.

7) Most of this last section appears in very similar form in Sweetwood's thesis
(Sweetwood, 1971).

8) See Kolb, D.A. (1971) for more detail on the issue of individual differences
in learning styles.


Bimstead, Dennis, "Social Status Backgroimd and the Adaptation of M.I.T.
Freshmen," Unpublished paper, Sloan School of Management, M.I.T. ,
Cambridge, Mass., 1971.

Etzlonl, Amltai, A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations ,
Glehcoe Free Press, New York, 1961.

Etzionl, Amitai, A Sociological Reader on Complex Organizations . Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1969.

Gersteln, Marc, "Styles of Student Adaptation: Outcomes of the Psychological
Contract," M.I.T. Working Paper #536-71, June 1971.

Kolb, David A., "Individual Learning Styles and the Learning Process,'
M.I.T. Working Paper #535-71, Spring 1971.

McClosky, H. and Schaar, J., "Psychological Dimensions of Anomy,"
American Sociological Review , 1965, 30^ (1), pp- 14-40.

Olsen, M. , "Two Categories of Political Alienation," Social Forces .
1969, 47, pp. 288-299.

Rogers, Carl, Freedom to Learn . Merrill, Columbus, Ohio, 1969.

Rubin, Irwin M. , "Freshmen Socialization: The Psychological Contract
Between The Individual and the Institute," M.I.T. Working Paper
#534-71, June 1971.

Schutz, William, The Interpersonal Underworld , Science & Behavior Books,
Palo Alto, 1966.

Snyder, Benson, The Hidden Curriculum , Knopf, New York, 1971.

Sweetwood, H. , "Expectational Complementarity, Freshman Seminars, and
Student Involvement with M.I.T.," unpublished M.S. thesis, Sloan
School of Management, M.I.T., Spring 1971.


Online LibraryIrwin M. RubinInvolvement with the university and the development of self-directed learners → online text (page 2 of 2)