Creating Congruence Between the Faculty Role and Institutional Expectations, Recognitions and Rewards

Excerpt: Institutional harmony and efficiency can be greatly enhanced by ensuring that institutional expectations of faculty (as defined by the faculty body) are overtly shared and clearly defined. They should also align with institutional reward (promotion, tenure and merit) and recognition systems (awards etc.). By studying this article and its linked resources, and by using the associated shared files, you will be able to: • Design a process to help clarify faculty expectations and create better alignment between expectations and their rewards and recognition at your institution. • Constitute and charge a task force to examine expectations of faculty at your institution. • Provide guidance to the task force of good practices for executing its charge and processes for analyzing its results. • Clarify task force expectations by sharing a sample outputs and reports from task forces that have completed their charge. • Formulate a plan to communicate and leverage the task force output to improve hiring practices, the promotion and tenure processes, improve faculty morale and the understanding of the faculty role in a variety of constituent groups.

I have had full-time appointments, been a visiting faculty member or consulted at ten institutions of higher education.  At most of them if I were to ask the question “what do you expect your faculty to do?” I would get the standard response – teaching, research, and service.  If I pushed, I would get some expanded definition of each of these roles, but rarely would I get a complete elucidation.  The fact is that we rarely if ever have the conversations in our communities that would lead to a very clear definition of expectations.  This is partly because faculty don’t like to be regimented, but also partly because we often must face challenging issues when we open this can of worms.  However, this lack of clarity often leads to problems.  Search committees make judgements on candidates based on the elusive standard of fit.  Often there is more clarity about how a candidate needs to fit within the research agenda of the department, than in any other component of the role.  As a result, new hires in their first academic position often flounder because they are unsure of expectations, and worse yet, struggle through the promotion and tenure (P&T) process.  The P&T process itself may be flawed by not aligning with the realities of day-to-day faculty life at the institution – expecting high research productivity at a teaching intensive institution, for example.  Outside of the P&T process, an institution can also benefit by ensuring that its recognition and reward processes also align with expectations.  These might include merit raises, and awards for teaching, research and service.  It is therefore very important for an institution to come to internal consensus about practical expectations of the faculty role, and alignment between those expectations and rewards/recognition.

I have shared a sample White Paper which can be used to inform the faculty about, and charge a task force to conduct this activity.   One of the easier ways for the task force to approach this conversation is to ask the faculty in what way a new faculty hire should add value to the institution, and therefore, what characteristics we would value in a candidate.  This removes individual bias and enables the faculty to have a generic, discipline independent conversation.  These characteristics can be hard to operationalize, and are poor measures of productivity.  The faculty should therefore also be asked to provide a non-exclusive list of examples about how these characteristics might be operationalized.  For example, the faculty may decide a new member should place high importance on being an excellent educator.  For clarity, they might divide this into excellence in instructional delivery, instructional design, curricular development, and various forms of learning assessment.  As operational examples of these values they might list respectively:

  • Creates a classroom environment conducive to intellectual growth by setting the tone for civility, tolerance, inclusivity, and mutual respect where students are encouraged and safe in expressing diverse view.
  • Integrates content and activities within the course that serve the learning outcomes of dependent programs.
  • Develops new courses in their fields to serve programmatic needs.
  • Employs multiple (direct and indirect) methods to assess student learning outcomes.

Having conducted this exercise at multiple institutions I have found that it works best if the task force first establishes the list of characteristics and corresponding activities through a round of focus groups, and then conducts a second round of focus groups to determine the metrics that would inform the institution about the status of each value/set of activities, and how we might reinforce its importance within the institution through recognition and rewards.  I have also found it to be a good practice to conduct separate focus groups in each college/school.  A good general approach within the focus groups is to first provide an overview of the task and why it is important to the institution, and then have faculty write individual characteristics and associated activities within each theme on a sticky note.  The sticky notes can then be placed on wall mounted sheets of paper, and organized into groups by the participants which can be discussed with, and refined by audience input.  The groups of sticky notes can then be distilled into all-encompassing statements.  Distilling the focus group’s output down to a simple document will be challenging.  The use of a qualitative data analysis program such as NVivo may help identify themes under which individual faculty input can be categorized, however using this software requires some expertise and training.  Staff in the offices of Institutional Research or Learning Assessment, and faculty in psychology or sociology, are likely sources of this expertise.  In addition to the broad themes shown in the sample report, the task force at Fort Hays State University grouped the activities by those expected at the department, university, and community levels, which may be useful to the faculty.

A sample output from this process can be found in the file sharing repository.  I would suggest that this complete document not be shared with a newly charged task force, as it may feel to the group that the administration is imposing the results.  It may however, be useful to select a few lines and delete the others, to provide a sample of the type of report you would like back from the group.  You could also share the entire document with the chair so it can provide them with greater guidance through the process.

I would suggest that once a consensus document has been developed it may be:

  • Distributed widely, and published in a public part of the university’s web site.
  • Shared, via a link, in all job advertisements, to inform candidates of the culture and expectations of the institution.
  • Incorporated into a charge to a new task force formed to distill, from this comprehensive document, a new hire rubric which can be used by faculty search committees to conduct a more thorough assessment of potential hires values and capabilities.  This rubric should be limited to about ten dimensions if it is to be useful to the process.  I have addressed this in the article on Building a World-class faculty.
  • Incorporated into a charge to the University Tenure and Promotion committee(s) to look at their standards and processes to determine how aligned they are.
  • Shared with students as part of orientation so they know what is expected of faculty, and have a much greater appreciation for the role of faculty at a university.
  • Discussed at staff meetings in all divisions, so that opportunities for collaboration and mutual support can be elucidated.

 

CC BY-NC 4.0 Creating Congruence Between the Faculty Role and Institutional Expectations, Recognitions and Rewards by geglynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

CC BY-NC 4.0 Creating Congruence Between the Faculty Role and Institutional Expectations, Recognitions and Rewards by geglynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.



Categories: Chief Academic Affairs Office Staff, Dean’s Office Staff (Deans, Executive Deans, Associate/Assistant Deans, etc.), Department Chair Office Staff (Chairs, Assistant Chairs, Program Directors, etc.), Featured, President’s Office Staff

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