This year's annual meeting of the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) runs from November 11th through 13th in New Orleans, LA, and we can’t think of a more appropriate place to explore this year’s theme “Resilience: Turning Challenges into Opportunities.” Public opinions of higher education have waned to a bleak perception, leaving many parents and potential students asking, “What’s the point of college?” High student loan debts, low starting salaries, and numerous sleepless nights leave many students averse to university. The negative perception of faculty is just as threatening to the success of higher education. The oft asked question of faculty is, “What do you do if you only teach two classes?”
Today, 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.
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.