Recently 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.
As we near the end of our survey administration cycle, our team has begun working on institutional reports. The reports that COACHE providesare 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.
During 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?
The 2016-17 academic year was a time of exponential growth here at the Collaborative. We welcomed our largest and most diverse cohort of Faculty Job Satisfaction partners to-date with over 60 higher education institutions -- public and private, two- and four-year -- joining our ranks. After a successful pilot, we nationally launched the the first ever multi-institutional study of Faculty Retention and Exit to 12 institutions in the spring and 22 in the fall. And to complement our survey offerings, we adapted our reporting platform to be more robust than ever.
For the chief academic officer or senior administrator in faculty affairs, there's little time to hunt for the latest research that could improve the practice of academic leadership. This time-scarcity problem steers decision makers, in the interest of expediency, to revert to the status quo--doing things the way they have always been done. It's no surprise, then, that we keep seeing the same results.
I am pleased to make this special announcement about a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) collaboration that many of friends at member institutions have noted is long overdue.
Starting this year, two of HGSE's most trusted names--COACHE and the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education (HIHE)--are working together to provide more and better leadership development options to the network of COACHE institutions. What's more, COACHE members now save up to $1,000 on HIHE tuition--if you apply for the summer programs by Friday, February 12.
I recently fielded a question from a COACHE partner who wanted to know about institutions doing good work in annual appraisal processes that makes real distinctions in faculty performance. There are effective, developmental, faculty-driven approaches, and COACHE data can be deployed to identify them. At our project, however, we start with frameworks—the four lenses of Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal are a favorite device here at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Every so often in my work at COACHE, I meet a brand-new vice provost or associate dean responsible for faculty affairs (or faculty development, or faculty excellence, or so on) at his or her university. Nine times out of ten, these are faculty who demonstrated their leadership as department chairs or on important university-wide committees and now find themselves as academic administrators without a community of peers on campus. It can be a difficult transition. Where do they turn to find support, professional development, and comfort that they aren't alone?