There is renewed interest in shared governance in American higher education. This evidence-based, exploratory study of faculty leadership identifies indicators of health and promising practices for shared stewardship. It also provides follow up questions for senior leaders to assess the state of faculty leadership and shared governance on their own campuses. The findings are based on interviews with chief academic officers or faculty officers and chief elected faculty leaders at exemplar institutions of various types (baccalaureate, masters, research). These institutions were identified as exemplars through a national faculty satisfaction survey by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE). The author argues for an expansive view of faculty leadership as a key component of institutional resilience and the aim of shared stewardship.
A Note on Methods of Identifying Leading Institutions from the COACHE Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey
The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) administers a faculty job satisfaction survey, which equips academic leaders at participating institutions who agree to work with COACHE to better understand the faculty experience and make changes to improve the conditions for faculty success and institutional excellence. Over the years, the findings have yielded a number of insights into best practices across different areas of faculty and institutional life.
In 2014, COACHE sought to expand its survey to more thoroughly address the topic of shared governance. The resulting governance modules use existing questions around leadership at various levels (department, division, faculty, senior) as well as new questions around the behaviors of senior administrators and faculty leaders concerning governance adaptability, productivity, shared sense of purpose, trust, and understanding the issues at hand. At the inception of Dr. Norman's study published here, the data set for the governance module included responses from over 66,000 faculty members at 138 participating four- and two-year institutions, with an average response rate of 53%.
To support Dr. Norman's study, COACHE researchers used a mixed methods approach to identify and understand institutions where faculty themselves report relatively high satisfaction and frequent observation of model behaviors in the area of faculty leadership. First, we sought to identify leading institutions in the COACHE data set through a quantitative analysis of the survey data around an analysis of aggregate variables of leadership and governance, as well as a specific question on faculty leadership development:
"My institution cultivates new leaders among faculty."
"Frequently; Regularly; Occasionally; Seldom; Never; I don't know; Decline to answer"
COACHE researchers looked for institutions of various types (baccalaureate, masters, research) where faculty report higher than expected levels of frequency when controlling for institution type and size. We then conducted additional checks of faculty demographics at the highest-scoring institutions to ensure that they were broadly representative of their peers. The resulting list included two liberal arts colleges, two masters institutions, and three research institutions. After securing their willingness to be named for the purposes of this study, COACHE provided this list of institutions to Dr. Norman.
With IRB approval, Dr. Norman then contacted each site's chief academic officer or chief faculty affairs officer, as well as the chief elected faculty leader, for semi-structured interviews. The aim of the interviews was twofold: to better understand why faculty might be reporting relatively high satisfaction and a high incidence of model behaviors at that campus and to learn about any practices or initiatives that might provide further insight into how faculty and administrators understand effective faculty leadership, including how to develop it. The response rate was 93%, missing only one faculty leader at one of the research institutions.