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Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne effect is a phenomenon that was observed between 1924 and 1933 at a telephone manufacturing factory in which the productivity of workers increased under a research program involving intensive supervision by managers.[1] The effect refers to the awareness of being observed and subsequent non-financial impacts on behavior. Here we propose the possible effects on the employees of Bellevue College should our proposed metrics for success, as outlined below, be applied.

One metric is, should Bellevue College measure its success by checking if the students can proudly show their identities without any discrimination in school? If 80% or more of students say they feel proud to show their identities without discrimination it would be considered a success. This criterion would have been met if 80% or more of students scored 85% (17 out of 20) or more on a campus-wide survey asking the following questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the visibility and diversity of clubs/organizations on campus?

1) Dissatisfied

2) Somewhat satisfied

3) Satisfied

4) Very satisfied

  • Have you encountered or witnessed discrimination on campus?

1) Frequently

2) Sometimes

3) Seldom

4) Never

  • How many of your instructors have discussed inclusivity or non-discrimination in class?
  • None of them
  • Some of them
  • Most of them
  • All of them
  • How comfortable do you feel being “yourself” at school?

1) Uncomfortable

2) Somewhat comfortable

3) Comfortable

4) Very comfortable

  • How safe do you feel while on campus[2]?

1) Unsafe

2) Somewhat safe

3) Safe

4) Very safe

Based on the survey, staff will become aware that their role in promoting equality is being measured. A Hawthorne effect may be that some teachers would then be motivated to start engaging in more equality campaigns during class and start listening to their minority students’ issues or even decorate their classrooms with LGBTQ-friendly and culturally/ethnically diverse posters. This will have a positive impact on the outcome of the metric. On the other hand, now that management and faculty know that their approach to equality is being measured, some will find ways to tilt the results in their favor. They may achieve this by faculty promising extra credit points to students who submit their surveys with higher scores. The outcome of the survey will be higher, and management/faculty will be off the grid, but the inequality will remain intact.

            On our second metric for measuring success (should Bellevue College measure its success by a low percentage of dropout rate of students?) the calculation would be the number of students out of all students registered in one quarter that don’t register for a class in the subsequent quarter, excluding those who complete a degree/certificate. If this number is not higher than the most recent rate, that would be considered a success.

            Based on the staffs’ awareness that their success is being measured on dropout rate, faculty may modify their behavior by offering free tutoring services or start financial assistance programs for the needy so that the school’s student retention rate gets better. For those students that may drop out due to other obligations or lack of time, teachers may find it effective to incorporate more convenient modes of learning such as online classes or discussions. This is a positive outcome of the Hawthorne effect. On the other hand, some faculty may try to keep the rate low by making classes easier so that students are encouraged to stay in school. This will lead to students learning inferior materials and hence they will have less valuable knowledge compared to their peers in other schools. 

In conclusion, a Hawthorne effect analysis on Bellevue College’s success metrics shows that behavioral modification can either impact its workers negatively or positively. Various theorists have argued that productivity can either increase or decrease based on working conditions alone without the presence of wage incentives. Bellevue College will have to weigh the Hawthorne effect from its employees on our proposed metrics for success.

[1] Systematic review of the Hawthorne effect: New concepts are needed to study research participation effects

[2] Transgender Students and School Bathrooms. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from

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