Todd Benson

Why Deans’ Reports? How to Gain In-Depth Insight at a Divisional Level

by Todd Benson

Woman reading screenOne of the hallmarks of COACHE’s work is listening. Perhaps the clearest example of COACHE listening to its partners is the development of our COACHE Comparative Data for Deans, otherwise known as Deans’ Reports.  These reports were built because of our partners’ feedback that drilling down and deploying data at a divisional level is an effective strategy to get even more valuable insights from their COACHE results. Here’s why:

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When Perceptions of Diversity Don’t Match Progress: New Analysis from the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey

by Kiernan Mathews, Todd Benson, Sara Polsky, and Lauren Scungio

Diverse group of faculty speakingSince 2005, the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education’s (COACHE) Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey has been systematically listening to faculty and, campus by campus, revealing inequities in the faculty experience. The survey results illuminate disparities in perceptions about the academic workplace between faculty of different racial and ethnic backgrounds—and also demonstrate, amid a nationwide conversation about inclusion, that white faculty’s perception of diversity and inclusion efforts on campus still outpaces genuine progress.

Guidance for Remaining Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey Communications (March 23–April 10, 2020)

by Todd Benson

Hands holding a phoneThis post serves to offer some communications guidance for the COACHE partners with three weeks remaining in the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey period. We understand that many other priorities are in play right now: these points are offered strictly to reduce your cognitive load, not to add to it. As mentioned in Kiernan’s update last week, you do not have to do any more work.

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Considering Part-time Faculty in COVID-19 Response Planning

by Todd Benson

man giving presentationWith the sudden escalation in both public concern and genuine risk associated with COVID-19, COACHE’s team has been discussing the implications for faculty. As we discussed the issue, an important question that arose was, “Who might we be forgetting?” For us, the answer to that question was part-time faculty. As administrators grapple how to handle their institutions’ response to this global pandemic, here are some thoughts about why part-time faculty are an important consideration in these discussions and some questions that institutions might consider in their planning.... Read more about Considering Part-time Faculty in COVID-19 Response Planning

AAC&U 2020 Annual Meeting: Four Faculty-Focused Tracks Through the Agenda

group convened for panel presentationCOACHE research on the professoriate is shaping the future of higher education leadership, so we are eager to attend next week’s annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Shaping the Future of Higher Education: An Invitation to Lead.” While the program is characteristically overflowing with opportunities to learn and to network, we have identified four tracks through the January 22-25 schedule where we expect to find most of our partners:... Read more about AAC&U 2020 Annual Meeting: Four Faculty-Focused Tracks Through the Agenda

Evidence-Based Faculty Development: The COACHE Research-Practice Partnership
Mathews, K., & Benson, R. T. (2018). Evidence-Based Faculty Development: The COACHE Research-Practice Partnership. In Success After Tenure: Supporting Mid-Career Faculty . Stylus Publishing, LLC. Read the bookAbstract

This book brings together leading practitioners and scholars engaged in professional development programming for and research on mid-career faculty members, those tasked with being the next generation of faculty leaders and mentors on their respective campuses, with little to no supports to do so effectively.

The stories, data, and resources shared in this book will provide inspiration—and reality checks—to administrators, faculty developers, and department chairs charged with supporting their faculties as they engage in academic work. Topics include faculty development for formal and informal leadership roles; strategies to support professional growth; teaching and learning as a form of scholarship; and strategies to recruit, retain, and promote underrepresented faculty populations.

While the authors acknowledge that mid-career faculty members face numerous challenges, this collection offers a counter narrative by looking at ways that faculty and/or institutions can assert themselves to find opportunities within challenging contexts.

Sharing Data with Faculty: The Paradox of Transparency

by Todd Benson

A pile of chartsToday, higher education institutions are using more and more data to drive decision-making. This is a good thing, however, when leaders need to include faculty in decision making and execution offering the right amount of data is of paramount importance. Faculty are, by their training, critical consumers of data and not sharing everything could be interpreted as the administration spinning the results. On the other hand, sharing every single data point can lead to an unfocused discussion. It’s no surprise then that one of the most frequent, and challenging, questions that comes up as we work with our partners is “How much of the report should we share with faculty?” Our standard answer is “Everything!” but full transparency presents its own set of challenges and concerns.

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Data, Leadership, and Catalyzing Culture Change
Benson, T., & Trower, C. (2012). Data, Leadership, and Catalyzing Culture Change. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning , 44 (4), 27-34. Read the articleAbstract

As the national economy has worsened, a large cadre of tenured senior faculty is graying and staying at their institutions. This has left an older set of full professors who began their careers in a different era, an overworked and underappreciated set of associate professors, and a group of assistant professors who are wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?”

By and large, tenure-track faculty want what they have always wanted: clear and reasonable tenure requirements; support for teaching and research; an environment that allows them to juggle responsibilities at work and home; and a set of colleagues to whom they can turn for mentoring, collaborations, intellectual stimulation, and friendship. But several differences between the past and present affect these faculty dramatically.


How One University is Creating Sustainable Faculty/Administrator Working Groups

by Todd Benson

A team of people sitting at a conference tableRecently I had the chance to speak with Berit Gundersen at the University of the Pacific. As the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, Gundersen lead the initiative to bring the COACHE Faculty Job Satisfaction survey to the University of the Pacific in 2014. In our discussion, she mentioned that even years later, faculty and administrators are discussing the results - even during a dinner at the President’s home this past spring. It made me wonder what aspects of their approach allowed the work to sustain itself for so long, so Berit and I dug in to try to understand what worked. Some themes began to appear that might be valuable for other institutions that wish to engage their faculty in data driven discussions.

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The Truth About Peer Selection in Higher Education

by Todd Benson

A chess board with pieces on it

As we near the end of our survey administration cycle, our team has begun working on institutional reports. The reports that COACHE provides are distinctive in that they allow our partners to select five peer institutions for more direct comparison. That kind of nuanced comparison can be both a blessing and a curse for our partners. The benefit of having near peer comparators comes from the ability to see beyond the national benchmarking. They provide context that helps explain why your institution may be over- or under-performs in the national landscape. The challenge that comes with this sort of data is that it can create the opportunity to dismiss the findings when the peers aren’t “perfect.” In truth, there are no perfect peers. There are choices with consequences that need to be considered and communicated throughout the rollout process. To that end, I wanted to share some thoughts about peer selection based on my experience with our partners.

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Response Rates Matter - Just Not as Much as We Think

by Todd Benson

A survey with check-boxes for responsesDuring the past month COACHE launched its annual national Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey. It is by far our largest initiative every year and this year is no exception. We have over seventy institutions in our project with some campuses as small as seventy-five faculty and others with several thousand faculty. As soon as we launch, I immediately receive emails wanting to know how to track response rates and whether one institution is performing above average compared to others. Before examining these questions, it is important to consider why response rates matter and perhaps, why they should not matter quite as much? Which strategies tend to generate higher response rates? And, perhaps most importantly, how we can use the exercise of driving up response rates to effect real change on your campus?

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