Understandings and experiences of member engagement in the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association
University of New Brunswick
This focused ethnographic study examined how member engagement is understood and experienced by members of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association (NBTA), the province’s Anglophone professional services teacher organization. Qualitative examinations of member engagement in professional associations are few, and extant literature primarily conceptualizes member engagement through volunteerism. This study broadened notions of member engagement by using the theoretical framework of volunteerism, modes of identification, and union renewal. Research participants were selected from one NBTA branch. Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews, researcher reflexive analysis journal, reflexive analysis positioning graphics, and member-check interview. Data analysis using Cranton and Merriam’s (2015) interpreting interviews process yielded five themes related to members’ organizational perceptions; relationships to time; experiences of providing value through relevance, belonging, and fulfillment; relationships with self, others, and the NBTA; and interactive communication with the organization and its members. Subsequently, the themes were compared to the extant literature, resulting in identification of three challenges and three promising practices that aligned with, extended, and challenged current conceptualizations of member engagement. The Conceptual Framework for Member Engagement in Teachers’ Professional Associations was created based on the results. The framework identifies five spheres of influence affecting member engagement: avenues of access; flattened hierarchies; relationships with self, others, and the NBTA; enhanced visibility; and providing value through relevance, belonging, and fulfillment. In addition to emphasizing the need to expand qualitative literature on member engagement beyond volunteerism, enhancing member engagement was identified as an organizational risk management strategy, beginning with articulating mandates and responsibilities at all levels of the NBTA. Moreover, the NBTA is advised to develop strategies that (a) reflect a positive enactment of organizational democracy; (b) recruit, respect, and retain members early in their careers; (c) provide meaningful and multiple avenues of access to the NBTA; (d) improve the actual and perceived organizational capacity; (e) foster identification with the NBTA through belonging; and (f) create awareness about the lens of the Conceptual Framework for Member Engagement in Teachers’ Professional Associations. Additional research is recommended related to the use of mixed methods, social network analysis, and virtual interviews within focused ethnography methodology.
SOCIAL SCIENCES::Social sciences::Education