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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Attitudes the first predictor of behavior intentions and are conceptualized as rational responses that individuals hold toward the behavior (Ajzen, 1985; 1991). Attitudes represent the summation of the beliefs held about the behavior and the strength of those beliefs (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Ajzen (1991) suggested that attitudes reflect personal feelings of moral obligation which could be helpful in understanding altruistic behaviors such as volunteerism. Therefore, before committing to a behavior, individuals first evaluate and prioritize these beliefs. The stronger the belief about the behavior, the more likely the individual may be to develop intentions to perform it.

While individuals base their decision to engage in a behavior on personal evaluations of the behavior, they also rely on the beliefs of others. Subjective norms and beliefs assess how valued social networks feel about the individual engaging in a behavior and the importance of these networks in influencing intentions to perform behaviors (Ajzen, 1985). Social networks include family members, close friends, or co-workers. Individuals make sense of others’ beliefs by first assessing the expectations of others. Then, they evaluate their motivation to comply with the expectations of others. And, last, they also evaluate their motivation to comply the expectations of others.

Perceived behavioral control is the third component of the theory of planned behavior.

Perceived behavioral control is described as the level of difficulty of performing a particular behavior and it is conceptually similar to the notion of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977). Based on Bandura’s idea, TPB suggests that perceptions of control will determine whether an individual will attempt a particular behavior. In situations in which individuals perceive they possess the required resources and capabilities to perform a behavior they will be more likely to execute the behavior.

Although it has not been previously used, TPB can serve as a framework to understand why individuals volunteer. Based on this framework it could be argued that volunteering behavior is predicted by three factors: attitudes towards volunteering, perceived and importance of norms from significant others, and the belief that an individual is capable of volunteering and can make a difference through volunteering. Specifically, individuals that believe that volunteering is important will be more likely to volunteer. Additionally, if an individual’s significant social network (i.e., immediate family, friends, and classmates) also believes that volunteering is an important behavior then a student will also be more likely to engage in volunteering behavior. Finally, individuals will be more likely to engage in volunteering behavior to the extent that they perceive that they are capable of volunteering and that their volunteering will make a difference. Given the rationale presented above we advance the

following hypotheses for this study:

H1a: Attitudes toward volunteering will be positively related to volunteering behavior.

H1b: Perceptions about volunteering held by important others will be positively related to volunteering behavior.

H1c: Perceived control regarding volunteering will be positively related to volunteering behavior.

685 A second factor that we were interested in exploring for this project was how previous volunteering experiences affected current volunteering behaviors. In the last 5 years, universities have started encouraging students to engage in volunteerism by incorporating community service into courses and university life. In the classroom, instructors are promoting a sense of civic responsibility by requiring students to engage in community service or creating awareness of important social issues as part of a course requirement. Outside of the classroom, student organizations are also encouraging community involvement (Illinois State University Dean of Students, 2009). While volunteering may be required to become a member of a student organization, students have the freedom to choose their involvement with these organizations.

However, students may be required to take particular courses to fulfill graduation requirements and may not be aware of course requirements prior to enrolling. Thus, requiring community involvement for a grade can lead to perceptions of forced volunteerism. And, forcing students to volunteer can in turn negatively impact the ability of NPOs to recruit and retain dedicated volunteers. In the following section we discuss the how previous volunteering experiences may influence future volunteering behaviors.

Previous Volunteering Experiences There is some research in different areas of the literature that suggests that past behaviors and experiences will affect how we behave in the future. As mentioned above, in the last 5 years universities have been trying to incorporate to their missions developing civically engaged students. In a general sense, civic engagement movements incorporate goals that are intended to create more productive and involved citizens. These goals can be achieved through democratic and political engagement, community involvement, and involvement with voluntary associations.

Civically engaged individuals are educated to become agents of change and are equipped with the ability and motivation to solve community problems, connect with other citizens, and become involved with a larger social community (McCoy & Scully, 2002; Kwak et al., 2005). In the university context, these movements promote student involvement with their peers, with the institution, and with their community as a whole (McCoy & Scully, 2002).

Recently, academic institutions have promoted these movements within classrooms and university life. Programs such as the American Democracy Project and Political Engagement Project reinforce the importance of being knowledgeable and responsible citizens and give students opportunities to engage with others for the greater social good (Illinois State University Outreach, 2009; Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2009). In these programs community service is the most advocated activity for students (Lawry, Laurison, & VanAntwerpen, 2006). Community service includes activities such as volunteering (e.g.

volunteering for a personal relevant cause, assisting with a school project or event, etc.) and becoming involved with voluntary associations, such as NPOs.

It is important to note that civic engagement movements in general do not force students to volunteer. Their goals are to prepare students to become more aware and involved citizens and to encourage them to serve a greater good. However, many academic institutions are integrating civic engagement goals and activities into course curriculum in a way that may represent forced volunteerism. Volunteerism is frequently implemented into academic institutions as a part of service learning, or the application of civic engagement projects into coursework (Jacoby, 2009).

In the classroom, instructors integrate service learning by requiring students to engage in some form of community service or involvement to meet course requirements (Illinois State University Outreach, 2009). Such projects range from working with a local NPO, developing campaigns to 686 promote important social issues, or writing speeches and papers designed to prepare active and engaged citizens.

Civic engagement can be promoted both inside the classroom through service activities and requirements, and outside of the classroom through student organizations. Unlike the former instance, students who join organizations are familiar and knowledgeable of the mission of the organization and of the expectations of members. However, when students register for a course, they may not realize what the requirements are until they have already registered for the course.

Thus, whereas students voluntarily enter into student organizations that may require volunteerism, students may register for a course only because it meets a graduation or major requirement. Therefore, if a course requires individuals to volunteer, and a grade is attached to this volunteering behavior, the civic engagement movement might be forcing volunteerism.

With this in mind, in the current project we were interested in exploring what the relationship was between having had a course that required students to volunteer, attitudes toward volunteering, and volunteering behavior. We were particularly interesting in exploring if there were any negative consequences on attitudes toward volunteering or volunteering behavior for students. As described above, forcing students to volunteering can have both positive and

negative consequences. With this in mind we advanced the following research question:

RQ1: What is the relationship between having had a course that requires volunteering and attitudes toward volunteering?

RQ2: What is the relationship between having had a course that requires volunteering and volunteering behavior?

Methods Participants Three hundred and eight students participated in this study. The age of participants ranged from 17 to 52 (M = 19.98, SD = 3.03). Forty four percent of the participants were male, 70% were Caucasian, and 51% were freshman in college. Additionally, 52% of the sample was actively involved in a student organization and 65% were members of a church group. Finally, 77% of the respondents indicated that they had donated money in the past to organizations.

Procedure Participants were recruited during in-class briefings. The researcher visited introductory undergraduate communication courses at the university and explained the purpose of the study.

Students that consented to participate were given a paper copy of our survey to complete in class.

Participants answered questions about their current volunteer behavior, experience with volunteering as part of a course, their previous volunteer experience, their attitudes toward volunteering, individual characteristics, and demographic information. Completion of the survey took between 10 and 20 minutes.

Measures Volunteering behaviors. Seven questions were developed for this study to evaluate the volunteering experiences of the participants. Individuals were asked to indicate whether they currently volunteered, for how many organizations, how many hours a month, what type of organizations that had volunteered for, and the reasons why they volunteered.

Previous volunteer experience. To assess participant’s previous experience with

volunteering as part of a mandated classroom assignment, students were asked 4 questions:

“have you ever been enrolled in a class that requires you to volunteer”, “What type of 687 volunteering did the course require”, what type of volunteering did volunteering fulfilled”, and “how relevant was the volunteering requirement to the course work”.

Attitudes toward volunteering. Six items were created to assess attitudes toward volunteering (M = 3.93, SD =.64, α =.82). Participants indicated their level of agreement with each statement using a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree). A sample item was “It is important to engage in volunteering activities”.

Subjective beliefs about volunteering. Subjective beliefs about volunteering were measured using a nine items. Three items asked questions about the perceptions of the family network norms and their importance; three items assessed perceptions about the friendship network and the final three asked questions about their perceptions regarding norms of classmates. Participants indicated their level of agreement with each statement using a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree and 7=strongly agree). Sample items are “My friends/ family/ classmates would want me to volunteer” and “I am motivated by what my friends/ family/ classmates think”.

Self-efficacy toward Volunteering. Self-efficacy toward volunteering was measured using an adaptation of Sherer et al.’s (1982) General Self-Efficacy Measure. Participants indicated their level of agreement to six statements using a 5-point Likert scale (M = 3.68, SD =.59, α =.70). Sample items include: “I am capable of donating time to volunteer” and “I believe that if I volunteer, my volunteer efforts will make a difference”.

Proactive Personality. Proactive personality was added as a control variable. This personality characteristics was measured using Bateman & Crant’s (1993) Proactive Personality scale (M = 3.31, SD =.55, α =.87). Similar to all the scales in this study, participants indicated their level of agreement with each statement using a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree). A sample item was “I feel a drive to make a difference in my community and maybe in the world”.

Results Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics of the study and the correlations for the variables included in this study. Before we present the analysis for hypotheses we would like to describe the volunteering behavior of the participants in our study.

Volunteering Behavior Fifty five percent of the participants in the study reported that they currently did not engage in any volunteering behavior. Out of those that expressed that they currently volunteered, 66% volunteering for one organization while 21% volunteered for two organizations.

Additionally, 74% of the participants reported volunteering between 1 and 5 hours a month primarily for non for profit (51%) and religious organizations (23%). When asked about previous volunteering experiences that were part of a course, 51% of the participants reported that had a course in the past that required them to volunteers and 47% of the participants indicated that this volunteering counted primarily as part of the course grade. Finally, 32% of the sample also indicated that they were currently enrolled in a course that required them to volunteer either as a part of the grade for the course (35%), as part of extra-credit opportunities (36%) or as an alternative assignment (29%).

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