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Required Volunteers: Community Volunteerism Among Students in College Classes

Terry A. Beehr

a

; Kimberly LeGro

a

; Kimberly Porter

a

; Nathan A. Bowling

b

; William M. Swader

a

a

Central Michigan University,

b

Wright State University, Online publication date: 11 October 2010

To cite this Article Beehr, Terry A. , LeGro, Kimberly , Porter, Kimberly , Bowling, Nathan A. and Swader, William M.(2010) 'Required Volunteers: Community Volunteerism Among Students in College Classes', Teaching of Psychology, 37: 4, 276 — 280

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Teaching of Psychology, 37: 276–280, 2010 Copyright

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Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0098-6283 print / 1532-8023 online DOI: 10.1080/00986283.2010.510965

Required Volunteers: Community Volunteerism Among Students in College Classes

Terry A. Beehr, Kimberly LeGro, and Kimberly Porter

Central Michigan University

Nathan A. Bowling

Wright State University

William M. Swader

Central Michigan University

Volunteering implies free choice, but people in some situ- ations can feel compelled to volunteer. Hypotheses about students’ volunteer work focused on self-determination and sufficiency of justification for their behavior. We examined required versus nonrequired volunteerism, internal and external motivation for volunteering, and attitudes of student volunteers toward their university. The sample was 273 college student nonvolunteers, required volunteers, and nonrequired volunteers. Nonrequired volunteers reported stronger commitment to and satis- faction with their university as well as stronger internal and weaker external motivation to volunteer than did required volunteers. Nonrequired volunteers experienced greater time demands than nonvolunteers did. It might be important to manage service learning programs to enhance students’ experience of freedom in their choice to volunteer.

Some college courses require community volun- teerism or service learning. Service learning is prac- tical, experiential education in which students learn from engaging in community volunteer work and in which tasks are related to course topics. Some of the learning comes from reflecting about volunteer ex- periences in relation to course content (Hatcher &

Bringle, 1997; Marchel, 2004; Miller & Yen, 2005;

Osborne & Renick, 2006). Aside from disciplinary learning, two other goals are to develop students’

senses of responsibility and to meet community needs (e.g., Kogan & Kellaway, 2004; Pezdek, 2002). We

examined potential side effects of such volunteer activities.

Voluntariness of Student Volunteering

By definition, volunteerism is usually nonobligatory helping (e.g., Penner, 2004). When universities actively encourage their students to volunteer in the community, however, the nature of volunteerism can become altered. There is a continuum of how much volunteering is “encouraged,” and at the extreme, the oxymoron of “required volunteerism” makes sense (Stukas, Snyder, & Clary, 1999). Courses in which service learning is required are near the required end of this continuum. This study addressed two major issues: potential effects of courses requiring community service and the potential effects of volunteerism on attitudes toward the university.

Students’ Internal and External Motives for Volunteering

Students’ external motivation is represented by behavior that is due to externally administered outcomes, rewards from an external source. Re- wards can be tangible (e.g., r´esum´e enhancement or

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money) or intangible (e.g., praise). Internal motiva- tion refers to rewards “administered” only by the stu- dents themselves, without accompanying rewards from others.

Students often undertake volunteer service with the unselfish motive of doing something for a worthy pur- pose. Being required to volunteer (i.e., external moti- vation) might reduce internal motivation to volunteer, however (Stukas et al., 1999). A set of theories related to the concept of control explain why: the overjus- tification hypothesis about internal and external mo- tivation, as noted in both laboratory and classroom studies (Pearce, 1983; Smith & Weber, 2005; Staw, 1976); self-determination theory (e.g., Ryan & Deci, 2000); and cognitive evaluation theory (e.g., Gagn´e &

Deci, 2005). Therefore, we hypothesized that required student volunteers would report greater external moti- vation and less internal motivation to volunteer than nonrequired volunteers.

Students required to volunteer might be more likely to believe that volunteering is an imposition that takes away a valuable resource: time. Their external motivation is associated with resentment regarding the amount of time given to volunteering, an activity they would be less likely to freely choose than would the nonrequired volunteers. This attribution results in their perception that their time has become limited. Therefore we hypothesized that required student volunteers would report more perceived time demands than nonrequired volunteers.

Attitudes About the University

When students volunteer, benefits to the university can include a student body that is more committed to and satisfied with a university that is civic-minded. In one study, students who were members of university volunteer organizations and who volunteered to work telephones to raise funds for the university endowment (and cash prizes for their own organization) became more committed to their university (Schaubroeck &

Ganster, 1991). This situation was different from most community volunteering situations, but it suggests a volunteerism–university commitment link. In contrast to these studies, universities requiring students to vol- unteer might receive fewer benefits than they would otherwise expect in the form of favorable student at- titudes. Thus we hypothesized that nonrequired stu- dent volunteers would report greater university com-

mitment to and satisfaction with the university than required volunteers.

Method

Participants were Midwestern university undergrad- uates. Nonrequired volunteers (n = 66) were from the university’s volunteer center. Nonvolunteers (n = 125) were in abnormal psychology, psychology of ad- vertising, and stress courses. Required volunteers (n = 82) were in courses with service learning requirements in childhood education, education technology, and workshop courses. All participants averaged 20 years old, 69% were upperclassmen, 80% were women, and their average course load was 15 hr.

All response scales ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Rational and empirical methods re- sulted in six internal motivation items ( α = .93). Each researcher wrote five items describing intrinsic motiva- tion and five items describing extrinsic motivation to volunteer. We evaluated the items for clarity, mean- ing, and redundancy and accepted, rejected, or revised them, resulting in seven items. Examining item-total correlations and reliabilities resulted in elimination of one item. A sample item was “I volunteer because I enjoy it.”

We developed nine external motivation items ( α = .86) in a similar manner. The initial stages resulted in 10 items; item analysis resulted in elimination of one item. A sample item was “I volunteer because people expect me to do it.”

Confirmatory factor analysis tested a two-factor model with intrinsic motivation items loading onto one factor and extrinsic items loading onto the other.

It yielded excellent fit, χ 2 (39, N = 138) = 46.57, p = .19; root mean squared error of approximation (RMSEA) = .03; comparative fit index (CFI) = 1.00;

goodness-of-fit index (GFI) = .96.

We developed eight items assessing perceived time demands ( α = .92). A sample item was “I seem to have less free time than most other people have.”

Eight items assessing students’ commitment to the university (α = .75) were adaptations from Allen and Meyer’s (1990) affective organizational commitment scale. “University” replaced “organization” in the orig- inal items. A sample item was “I really feel as if this University’s problems are my own.”

Four items adapted from Bowling (2002) assessed satisfaction with the university ( α = .91). A sample item was “All in all, I am satisfied with the university.”

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Table 1. Correlations Among Motivation Types, Attitudes Toward the University, and Time

Demands

Scale 1 2 3 4

1 Internal motivation

2 External motivation −.02

3 University commitment .31

∗∗

−.12 4 Satisfaction with university .38

∗∗

−.05 .69

∗∗

5 Time demands .14 −.05 .03 .21

Note. N = 121. The two motivations for volunteering were not measured among nonvolunteers. Listwise deletion was used.

p < .05.

∗∗

p < .01.

Results

Correlations among variables appear in Table 1.

Table 2 contains analyses of covariance, showing the relation of the type of volunteer to internal and exter- nal motivation, commitment to the university, satisfac- tion with the university, and perceived time demands, holding constant students’ sex, age, year in school, and number of current semester hours.

Table 2 indicates that required volunteers reported less intrinsic motivation than nonrequired volunteers, F (1, 128) = 6.07, p < .05; M = 5.94 and M = 6.39, as hypothesized (d = 0.48). Also as hypothesized, re- quired volunteers reported more extrinsic motivation than nonrequired volunteers, F (1, 128) = 8.42, p <

.01; M = 3.94 for required volunteers and M = 3.31 for nonrequired volunteers (d = 0.54).

A 1 × 3 ANCOVA indicated significant differences among the volunteerism groups on perceived time de- mands, F (2, 250) = 5.08, p < .01. Nonvolunteers

reported fewer perceived time demands than nonre- quired volunteers (M = 4.51 vs. M = 5.15, p < .05, d = 0.49). There was no significant difference between required and nonrequired volunteers, however, failing to support the hypothesis.

University commitment differed based on volun- teer status, F (2, 236) = 16.41, p < .01. Nonrequired volunteers had significantly greater university commit- ment than both required volunteers (M = 5.21 vs.

M = 4.36, d = 0.68) and nonvolunteers (M = 5.21 vs. M = 4.20, d = 0.87). Nonrequired volunteers also had greater satisfaction than required volunteers, F (2, 256) = 5.20, p < .01 (M = 5.51 vs. M = 4.84, d = 0.56) and nonvolunteers (M = 5.51 vs. M = 5.04, d = 0.42). Therefore, the hypotheses about volunteers’ re- actions to the university were supported. Although not hypothesized, nonrequired volunteers had greater com- mitment and satisfaction than nonvolunteers.

Discussion

Consistent with cognitive theories of internal and external motivation (e.g., Ryan & Deci, 2000; Staw, 1976), courses requiring volunteer work might affect motives behind volunteering. Promotion of volunteer work ensuring students are aware of the extrinsic ben- efits virtually always accompanies class requirements of service learning, with grades as the most obvious extrinsic benefit.

There are implications for instructors’ communi- cations about experiences in courses requiring vol- unteering. More favorable attitudes might result if information emphasizes internal rewards such as

Table 2. ANCOVAs of Motivation Types, Attitudes Toward the University, and Time Demands by Nonvolunteers, Required Volunteers, and Nonrequired Volunteers

Nonvolunteers Required Volunteers Nonrequired Volunteers

M SD n M SD n M SD n F

Internal motivation — — — 5.95 (5.94) 0.91 76 6.36 (6.39) 0.97 58 6.07

External motivation — — — 3.88 (3.94) 1.00 78 3.39 (3.31) 1.31 56 8.42

∗∗

University commitment 4.21 (4.20

a

) 1.15 110 4.27 (4.36

a

) 1.20 74 5.28 (5.21

b

) 0.96 59 16.41

∗∗

University satisfaction 5.04 (5.04

a

) 1.15 124 4.82 (4.84

a

) 1.28 80 5.53 (5.51

b

) 1.09 59 5.20

∗∗

Perceived time demands 4.40 (4.51

a

) 1.45 120 4.87 (4.58

ab

) 1.35 78 4.99 (5.15

b

) 1.14 59 5.08

∗∗

Note. Age, gender, current number of semester hours, and year in college were controlled in these ANCOVAs. Adjusted means are in parentheses. These covariates’ effects were minimal and are not reported here to save table space. Means are significantly different where the superscripts (a or b) are different.

p < .05.

∗∗

p < .01.

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feelings of satisfaction rather than external rewards. In addition, some service learning courses offer volunteer work as an option, along with assignments such as do- ing interviews and writing a paper (Kretchmar, 2001;

Lundy, 2007). Students choosing the service learning volunteer option might perceive the volunteer work as more volitional.

A limitation of the study concerns students all be- ing from the same university. In addition, random as- signment was impossible for nonrequired volunteers and nonvolunteers. Researchers cannot force students to volunteer freely nor prevent students from vol- unteering. Types of volunteerism could result in dif- ferent student attitudes, a proposed causal direction based on self-determination theories and on empiri- cal studies such as the one with students doing vol- unteer phone work (which employed methods allow- ing stronger inference about causality; Schaubroeck &

Ganster, 1991). It is equally plausible, however, that the attitudes and cognitions caused differential vol- unteering. For example, students’ university commit- ment might cause them to use the university’s vol- unteer center services, thereby becoming nonrequired volunteers.

A second issue concerns context. The required and nonrequired volunteer groups were enrolled in differ- ent courses, and the types of volunteer experiences and the lengths of time in volunteer activities could have been different between the groups. Regarding time spent volunteering, there was no measure of it in the study, but nonrequired volunteers reported more time demands than did nonvolunteers. One interpre- tation of this finding is that nonrequired volunteers are more active people in general, and volunteering is only one such activity.

Courses With Volunteering Components

This study offered a unique comparison between stu- dents who were “voluntary” volunteers, required vol- unteers, and nonvolunteers. Teaching a course that requires volunteer work might influence students’ mo- tivation in undesirable ways. There are ways of teach- ing courses with volunteer experiences that are likely to overcome this potential problem, however, such as emphasizing the intrinsic rewards of volunteer- ing and making community volunteer work a course option.

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Notes

1. We thank Thomas Kromer, Shawna Ross, Robert Siltzer, Nathan Weed, and Karen Wickes-Ortega for their help in data collection.

2. Send correspondence to Terry A. Beehr, Psychology De- partment, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859; e-mail: beehr1ta@cmich.edu

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