Title

The Good, the Bad, and the Persuasive: Enhancing Retention of Future Information Professionals through Attitude Inoculation

Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Information Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Jeffrey M. Stanton

Keywords

Inoculation Theory, IT occupational culture, IT workforce, Recruitment, Resistance to attitude change, Attitude change, Retention

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science

Abstract

In recent years, schools that offer information technology (IT) related majors have struggled with student retention. This issue has raised concerns within academic and practitioner communities alike. Previous research (Erickson, 2005; Fischman, 2007; Margolis & Fisher, 2002; Panko, 2008; Wilson, 2002) has shown that early exposure to occupational features of the IT profession has an effect on the decision making processes of future information professionals, with respect to whether to remain or leave the IT field. This dissertation investigated the impact of an intervention designed to affect attitudes of future information professionals towards occupational features of the IT field.

This research drew upon the principles of Inoculation Theory (McGuire, 1964, 1970) which aspires to strengthen existing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors against change (Miller & Burgoon, 1973). Future information professionals have attitudes about features of the IT profession - attitudes which are changeable, by definition. Arguably, if students have a positive attitude towards the information profession, helping them maintain it would be beneficial - e.g., to retention. As well, it could help to prevent them from being convinced otherwise by the various challenges they face or learn about during their educational process.

Following the principles of Inoculation Theory, inoculative and attack messages were developed and tested to assess their impacts on participants' resistance to attitude change towards occupational features of the IT field. N=214 participants enrolled in IT-related and non-IT-related majors at universities within the United States took part in a three-phase online 2x2x2 (major X gender X treatment) factorial experiment that exposed them to either an inoculative and an attack message (treatment group) or to an attack message only (control group). Results showed that significant differences arose among the different groups of students. Groups that were inoculated presented a greater resistance to attitude change when confronted by a "threat." As hypothesized, an observed decline in attitude was smaller for participants in the treatment group; participants in control groups were more affected by the attack than participants who had received an inoculation treatment. In opposition to hypothesized differences, the study did not detect significant differences in attitudes based on gender and major.

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