The Value Assimilation Effect Between University Professors and Their Students in the Classroom

Glory Emmanuel-Aviña, Harold D. Delaney


In the clinical, therapy context, it has consistently been found that while therapists’ value systems are stable, clients’
values are less stable and become congruent with their therapists’ values over the course of psychotherapy (e.g.,
Schwehn & Schau, 1999). This phenomenon is termed the Value Assimilation Effect (VAE). This study examined if
the VAE occurs in the university context between professors and students, that is if students’ values assimilate to
their professors. The current study tested three main hypotheses: 1) students demonstrate value change over time
while professors’ values remain relatively stable over time; 2) students’ attributes influence value change; and 3)
students assimilate to their professor’s values. In a sample of 20 classrooms, 14 professors, and 414 students, it was
found that students’ values did change over time, both for values-bases classes and for non-values based classes.
Students’ attributes, specifically their initial commitment to values and religious commitment, were predictive of
value change with those more committed to values reporting less value change over the semester. Students were
found to assimilate their values to their professor’s values. This was influenced by class type (values versus
non-values based) and students’ belief in their professor’s ability to teach. Unexpectedly, professors’ impact on
students’ religiosity was the most consistent and robust finding in this study. The magnitude and direction of change
in students’ values were influenced by their professor’s level of religiosity. The benefits and concerns of value
assimilation are also discussed.

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching

ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)

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