Title

Institutional Competition through Performance Funding: A Catalyst or Hindrance to Teaching and Learning?

Campus

Gainesville

Publication date

2020

Publisher

Taylor and Francis

Book or Journal Information

Educational Philosophy and Theory

Abstract

US colleges and universities have operated on the belief that academics need the freedom to question received wisdom, test new pedagogical methods, and produce knowledge that can be transparently shared for the public good. However, the same institutions are increasingly engaged in competition for resources through externally imposed accountability measures, such as performance funding. This article draws upon qualitative data from a year-long ethnographic study of institutional reforms to critically interrogate the impact of performance funding in US higher education. Data depict three ways in which performance funding—and the resulting competitive pressures—negatively impact faculty’s ability to impart their expertise for the benefit of their institutions: (1) a diminishment of control over the content of coursework and the curriculum; (2) a decline in shared governance; (3) and a chilling effect on scholarly inquiry and innovation. In turn, the central argument of this article is that institutional competition has the potential to undermine academic freedom and the intrinsic motivation of professors currently working in performance funding environments. This article also contends that similar policies that purport to catalyze positive learning outcomes could actually hinder the open exchange of ideas that foster a productive teaching and learning environment.

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Institutional Competition through Performance Funding: A Catalyst or Hindrance to Teaching and Learning?

US colleges and universities have operated on the belief that academics need the freedom to question received wisdom, test new pedagogical methods, and produce knowledge that can be transparently shared for the public good. However, the same institutions are increasingly engaged in competition for resources through externally imposed accountability measures, such as performance funding. This article draws upon qualitative data from a year-long ethnographic study of institutional reforms to critically interrogate the impact of performance funding in US higher education. Data depict three ways in which performance funding—and the resulting competitive pressures—negatively impact faculty’s ability to impart their expertise for the benefit of their institutions: (1) a diminishment of control over the content of coursework and the curriculum; (2) a decline in shared governance; (3) and a chilling effect on scholarly inquiry and innovation. In turn, the central argument of this article is that institutional competition has the potential to undermine academic freedom and the intrinsic motivation of professors currently working in performance funding environments. This article also contends that similar policies that purport to catalyze positive learning outcomes could actually hinder the open exchange of ideas that foster a productive teaching and learning environment.