JTE v2n1 - Department Executive Officers' Administrative Roles and Responsibilities In Industry/Technology Education

Department Executive Officers' Administrative Roles and Responsibilities In Industry/Technology Education

William Paige and William Wolansky

There is extensive literature devoted to the roles, responsibilities, tasks, and changing expectations of departmental executive officers (DEOs) at the college or university level. Several conditions have changed regarding the roles and responsibilities of these department chairpersons or heads in the last two decades.

The role is becoming more complex because of rapid social and economic changes. The role is also becoming more diverse as departments get larger and interrelationships with other academic departments are encouraged. These increased pressures on the DEO, may be the reason there also is evidence of a higher turnover rate. With increased responsibilities, there is a need for better administrative preparation to meet the demands of current conditions. Strategic planning, assessment, staff development, resource allocations, and cost benefit analysis forecasting call for more formal preparation. The most critical concern is that there is insufficient knowledge regarding the DEOs responsibilities now and in the future to effectively prepare people for this position.

Coffin (1979) reported that department executive officers, whether designated as heads or chairs of departments, constitute the largest proportion of administrators in universities. The immediate responsibilities of the department executive officer are most critical to the welfare and efficient functioning of an academic department. Research by Wolansky (1978) made particular note of the fact that: "For the most part, the departmental exective officer is appointed principally by virtue of his/her academic achievement and intellectual standing rather than proven managerial ability" (p. 55).

There is a need to re-examine the criteria for screening and selecting DEOs who would best serve the contemporary administrative needs of a department. For example, several other criteria for screening and selecting DEOs that may be as important as academic achievement are: program development, public relations, administrative style, communication skills, leadership, and professional involvement. However, lacking empirical evidence delineating the critical roles and tasks of a DEO, it is equally difficult to prescribe reliable and valid criteria for the selection process. This study attempted to discover what responsibilities the current Industry/Technology Education DEOs perceived as critical to their functioning in such positions. The DEO's represented departments identified through the Industrial Teacher Education Directory which is inclusive of a diversity of industry/technology education programs.

John Bennett (1982) reported that "Serving as a department chairperson has become both more important and more difficult in recent years. Many of the factors that have given the position greater significance have also aggravated its burdens" (p. 53). Lee and VanHorn (1983) observed that the increasing sophistication and costs of academic programs coupled with inflation and decreasing government financial support, have led to a much stronger demand for greater attention to operational efficiency.

Turner (1983) and McLaughlin, Montgomery and Malpass (1975) have provided evidence that few department executive officers had any administrative experience before assuming their leadership role at the department level. When considering the nature of the role of the DEO and the ever increasing magnitude and complexity of responsibilities associated with this position, it is unfortunate that little effort is made to prepare people for the task. McKeachie (1972) observed that "even though the department chairmen are the key individuals in determining the educational success of the colleges and universities, they have remained generally ill-equipped, inadequately supported, and more to be pitied than censured" (p. 48). It is quite evident that DEOs are increasingly being faced with an enlargement of responsibilities and dwindling of resources which lead to increased job related pressures. Also, the increasing diversity of constituencies served by academic departments forces the DEO to be knowledgeable and functional in a variety of arenas. These constituencies include students and alumni, colleagues, legislators, taxpayers, and employers. The DEO must accommodate the expectations of each which calls for administrative and political astuteness. The ability to reach acceptable compromises on critical issues is paramount. Frequently, faculty and students are not aware of the pressures and expectations placed on their DEO. The position of a DEO is in a constant flux, at times requiring immediate attention to the most pressing problems. Such unexpected demands contribute to frustration and high turnover rate.

There is ample evidence of a high turnover rate among department executive officers. Heimler (1967), Falk (1979), and Jennerich (1981) suggested that the high turnover rate was, in part, due to the value-conflicts, frustrations and ambiguities of the role. Roach (1976) indicated that "...80% of administrative decisions are made at the department level" (p. 15). He also observed that even as the DEO "...shifts from a purely subject-matter specialist to a planner and developer of department programs, he still remains an instructional catalyst, resource allocator, arbitrator/human relations expert, and a partner in shaping the institutional goals and mission" (p. 15). Finding out what the critical roles and tasks of department executive officers are at a given time, may be helpful in the process of screening and selecting DEOs. However, research relating to possible future changes in administrative responsibilities of department executive officers as compared to the present is almost nonexistent. Unless administrative responsibilities of a DEO are identified, prioritized, and validated, it is unlikely that appropriate preparation will be provided. This study was conducted with the intent of creating an initial data base of the administrative responsibilities of DEOs in industry/technology education. This seems essential to enable researchers to monitor the continual evolution of the DEO's role.


The specific purpose of this study actually was threefold: First, to develop a profile of department executive officers of industry/technology education according to their job title as head or chair, type of department, years of administrative experience and extent of formal administrative preparation; second, to determine DEO's perceived importance of various administrative responsibilities; third, to investigate whether or not there were any significant changes taking place in the duties of department executive officers in industry/technology education. There was also an interest in examining the perceptions of relatively new DEOs as compared to those with more extensive experiences.


The methods employed in conducting and reporting this research included: (a) the development of an instrument, (b) the identification of a study sample, and (c) a sequence of procedures for analyzing the data.


The instrument used in this study was developed based on the instrumentation and the results of previous studies conducted by Wolansky (1978), Price (1977), Roach (1976), and Smart (1976). These studies concluded that a department executive officer's major administrative responsibilities included: department governance, curriculum development, faculty development, student affairs, budgeting and control, quality of work life such as faculty welfare and work environment, public relations, facilities management and fund raising. These nine categories seemed most inclusive in viewing the DEOs role as an administrator in its broadest context.

Embodied within the nine categories are various skills or administrative duties such as working with committees, coping with departmental and campus politics, and building alliances. Twenty-nine tasks were identified as representative of a wide range of administrative duties and were compiled from those administrative duties identified in the literature. A listing of these 29 tasks is provided later in the text. It must be recognized that the above nine categories of administrative responsibilities and the list of 29 tasks may still not be all inclusive. For purposes of this study, no attempt was made to identify any of the 29 tasks as being specifically related to any one of the nine categories.

The questions that were selected from previous studies and the additional items in the form of questions based on the 29 tasks were combined and formatted into the final instrument. This instrument then was validated for inclusiveness of content by a jury of eight senior DEOs from major universities. Jury members were selected on the basis of their extensive experience as DEOs and their reputation as national leaders in the field.


The population consisted of all chairs and heads of departments that offer degrees in industry/technology teacher education listed in the 1985-86 Industrial Teacher Education Directory (Dennis, 1985). The sample included a total of 104 DEOs from the eastern, mid-western, and western regions of the country. These regions were established by first designating the Mississippi Valley Industrial Teacher Education Conference membership boundaries as the mid-western region. The other two regions were composed of those states lying east or west of the Midwest region. There were a total of 35 DEOs in the east and west, and 34 in the Midwest. This stratification was done because the researchers were interested in discovering if any regional differences actually existed.

Sixty of the original 104 surveys were returned. Fifty-eight of these were found to be usable. No follow-up of nonrespondents was attempted due to the time of the academic year when the survey was distributed which was during the latter part of the Spring semester. The late mailing may have contributed to the relatively low response. Since this study was concerned primarily with DEOs having responsibility for teacher education programs, it was considered that the group would be reasonably homogeneous and therefore a small sample would be acceptable for providing necessary data for analysis. It is recognized however, that the results may have been biased by the number of nonrespondents. Therefore, caution should be exercised in interpreting the results.


Instrumentation was developed as reported, the sample was drawn as described, and the instruments were mailed late in the Spring semester of 1986. The DEOs were asked to provide demographic data and to rank the nine categories of administrative responsibilities as to their relative importance. They also were asked to report the time they devoted to the nine categories and to the 29 tasks contained within and to indicate their perceptions of whether this time on task was changing. Collection, coding and analysis of data followed after the decision was made that an adequate return of the sample from each region was available. The statistical analyses included percentage distribution, rank order, ANOVA, Pearson Product Moment Correlation and The Scheffe Multiple Range procedure.


In an attempt to develop a profile of DEOs in industry/technology education, the respondents were asked to provide demographic information. Results are reported in Table 1.



--------------------------------------------- Characteristics N Percentage --------------------------------------------- Total Years of Professional Experience 1 to 5 years 17 29.3 6 to 10 years 15 25.9 11 to 15 years 11 18.9 16 and over 15 25.9 --------------------------------------------- TOTAL 58 100.0 --------------------------------------------- Previous College Administrative Experience Yes 26 44.8 No 32 55.2 --------------------------------------------- TOTAL 58 100.0 --------------------------------------------- Years of Previous College Administrative Ex- perience None 32 55.2 1 to 4 years 15 25.9 5 to 9 years 5 8.6 10 or more 4 6.9 No response to question 2 3.4 --------------------------------------------- TOTAL 58 100.0 --------------------------------------------- Number of Semester Credit Hours of Administrative Courses 0 semester credit hours 2 3.5 1-3 semester credit hours 4 7.0 4-7 semester credit hours 7 12.0 8-11 semester credit hours 15 25.9 12 or more semester credit hours 30 51.6 --------------------------------------------- TOTAL 58 100 --------------------------------------------- Age 0 - 29 0 0.0 30 - 34 9 15.5 35 - 39 8 13.8 40 - 44 17 29.3 45 - 49 18 31.0 50 - above 6 10.4 --------------------------------------------- TOTAL 58 100.0 ---------------------------------------------

The majority (53.4%) of DEOs had the official title of chair. When asked if they had any previous administrative experience at the college level, 32, or 55.2% indicated that they did not. Of the 26 respondents who had previous administrative experience, 24 responded to the question regarding the number of years of the previous experience. The majority with previous administrative experience (62.5%) reported having from one to four years experience. However, 13 of the 32 with no previous college administrative experience reported having had administrative experience at the secondary school level. Over half (51.6%) of the respondents reported having taken 12 or more semester credit hours of administrative courses. Nearly 60% of the respondents were between the ages of 40 and 49, while no one was under the age of 29.

The relative importance of the nine categories of administrative responsibilities was determined by having the respondents rank order the nine categories. The results are presented in Table 2. Since the mean is more widely used and better understood than other ways of designating central tendency, the authors decided to present the data in this manner rather than the median.



---------------------------------------------------- Responsibility Category N M-rank SD ---------------------------------------------------- General Department Governace 58 2.62 2.09 Curriculum Development 58 3.20 2.01 Budgeting & Control 58 3.62 2.08 Faculty Development 58 4.06 1.89 Student Matters 58 4.44 2.59 Quality of Work Life 58 5.31 2.50 Public Relations Management 58 5.43 2.66 Facilties Management 58 5.44 2.27 Fund-raising Activities 58 7.17 2.64 ----------------------------------------------------

Within the nine identified administrative roles and responsibilities, the top five were (a) general departmental governance, (b) curriculum development, (c) budgeting and control, (d) faculty development, and (e) student matters.

After ranking the nine categories of administrative responsibilities as to their relative importance, the respondents were asked to indicate the amount of time they devoted to each category. The resulting meantime distribution is summarized in Table 3. The decision was made to express the average time that a DEO devoted per week to a particular category recognizing that the time DEOs would devote to a particular category is dependent on many factors. For example, in the early and latter parts of a semester a DEO may spend considerable time with student affairs while spending almost no time in this category during the middle of a semester. Several respondents elected not to complete parts or all of this section of the questionnaire, therefore, the N for these data ranged from 42 to 46.



---------------------------------------------------- Responsibility Category N M (hours) SD ---------------------------------------------------- General Department Governace 44 9.37 4.86 Student Matters 43 7.47 3.84 Public Relations 43 7.30 4.73 Quality of Work/Life 44 6.72 4.19 Faculty Development 46 5.99 4.09 Budgeting 45 4.96 3.51 Curriculum Development 45 4.77 3.16 Facilities Management 42 3.79 3.06 Fund-raising 43 2.85 2.76 ----------------------------------------------------- TOTAL 53.22 -----------------------------------------------------

The DEOs reported spending an average of 53.22 hours per week attending to their administrative roles and responsibilities. This finding is corroborated by Coffin (1979) and Sharpe (1955). This demanding schedule implies extended hours per day, extended hours per week, or both. DEOs spent most of their time attending to five categories: (a) general department governance, (b) student matters, (c) public relations, (d) quality of work life, and (e) faculty development. As indicated in Table 3, a DEO devotes approximately 37 hours or 69% of a 53.22 hour work week to the top five categories of administrative responsibilities. These reported hours do not include the time devoted to the other nonadministrative functions such as teaching, research or service. One limitation of this study was that the researchers did not address the nonadministrative functions of DEO's.

While the DEOs are currently devoting a considerable amount of time to the above categories, they also were asked to provide their perceptions regarding spending more time, the same amount of time, or less time on these tasks in the future. The respondents reported (Table 4) that they expect to spend an increased amount of time on the following: departmental governance, curriculum development, budget and control, faculty development, and student matters. It is interesting to note that departmental governance is recognized as the most important category and governance tasks such as preparing department budgets, assigning teaching loads, and planning and conducting departmental meetings are also perceived as consuming a growing percentage of their time. This increase in time devoted to departmental governance may result from the fact that 68% of the responding DEOs administer multiprogram departments that provide preparation for teacher education, industry, vocational education, safety, etc.



--------------------------------------------------------------- More Same Less Time Time Time Task * Description N (%) (%) (%) --------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Interpreting the philosophy 55 36.4 45.4 18.2 and goals of Ind. Ed. & Tech. 2. Explaining university and 56 45.5 49.0 3.5 departmental policies to faculty and students 3. Stimulating and rewarding 54 37.0 51.9 11.1 innovative ideas/efforts 4. Preparing departmental budgets 58 62.2 29.2 8.6 and monitoring expenditures 5. Preparing specifications for 53 32.0 34.0 34.0 new equipment and facilities 6. Planning, delegating & directing 55 41.8 47.3 10.9 program activities 7. Seeking graduate assistantship 56 48.2 41.1 10.7 through grants, projects/gifts 8. Monitoring advances in tech- 55 54.5 34.5 10.9 nology that positively impact curriculum innovations 9. Planning periodic review of 54 44.4 46.3 9.3 curriculum offerings/programs 10. Assisting faculty members in 54 22.2 64.8 13.0 solving problems relating to teaching/nonteaching tasks 11. Redesigning and retooling 53 41.5 41.5 17.0 instructional equipment and physical facilities 12. Screening and admission of 53 26.4 56.6 17.0 students with sound educa- tional background 13. Keeping records on equipment 53 26.4 52.8 20.8 and instructional supplies 14. Soliciting donations of 49 36.7 49.0 14.3 teaching materials 15. Pursuing issues relating 53 35.8 52.8 11.4 tenure/promotion and reappointment 16. Maintaining faculty and 52 61.5 34.6 3.8 students' morale 17. Assisting faculty to 53 45.3 45.3 9.4 embark on self-renewal programs 18. Assigning teaching and 50 62.0 56.0 18.0 research loads to staff 19. Supervising classroom 52 15.7 46.2 38.5 teaching & projects 20. Monitoring the performance 54 24.1 51.8 24.1 of duties in which the teachers worked out their own schedules 21. Seeking affiliation of dept. 53 37.7 39.6 22.7 to reputable associations 22. Organizing periodic exhibition 48 14.6 41.7 43.7 of laboratory products 23. Initiating teacher production 49 18.4 51.1 30.5 of teaching aids 24. Supporting/assisting students' 44 6.8 50.0 43.2 fund-raising efforts 25. Striving for state, national/ 53 43.4 35.8 20.8 international recognition of departmental programs 26. Planning & teaching own class; 57 l38.6 38.6 22.8 research and publications 27. Enlisting the cooperation of 49 46.9 38.8 14.3 business/industrial leaders 28. Seeking trial demonstration of 47 29.8 48.9 21.3 modern teaching equipment and latest instructional models 29. Planning/conducting 57 71.9 24.6 3.5 departmental meetings; attending university administrative meetings ---------------------------------------------

The third purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not the DEOs perceived changes in administrative roles and responsibilities and if differences existed between regions. The independent variables for this part of the study included (a) type of department [single or multiple program], (b) years of administrative experience, and (c) number of semester credit hours of administrative courses.

While examining whether differences existed between DEOs with varying years of administrative experience and the weekly time devoted to the nine administrative categories of responsibilities, no significant difference was found at the .05 alpha probability level. Similarly, no significant regional differences were found for any of the three independent variables. When examining the data for category 3, "Public Relations," in isolation, there was a significant difference between groups based on years of professional experience. Results are shown in Tables 5 and 6.



--------------------------------------------- Experience N M SD hours/week --------------------------------------------- 1 to 5 years 13 7.85 4.62 6 to 10 years 10 5.37 3.53 11 to 15 years 8 11.44 5.34 16 or more years 12 5.58 3.80 ---------------------------------------------



----------------------------------------------------------- Mean Source df Squares F F-prob ----------------------------------------------------------- Between/Within groups 3 71.1464 3.8197* 0.017 Within groups 39 18.6264 ------------------------------------------------------------ *p Heimler

(1967) and Jennerich (1981) and also may be attributed to the fact that the majority of the DEOs are appointed as chairs for a term of five or fewer years, making it more likely that some would not wish to serve a second term.

Among the most encouraging findings was that 51.6% of the respondents reported having taken 12 or more semester credits of administrative courses. This study did not attempt to identify the specific administrative courses that currently are being provided, however, the results of this study suggest a need exists for more administrative coursework directed toward departmental governance, budget and control, and faculty development. Such additional preparation may take on a variety of forms. The needs of the administration in a particular region may best serve as the immediate basis for additional study.

There was a discrepancy regarding the relative importance of some of the nine categories of administrative responsibilities listed in Table 2, and the amount of time devoted to these responsibilities listed in Table 3. While a particular category may be ranked as important in terms of a DEO's responsibility, the time devoted to that specific category may or may not be consistent. For example, the DEOs ranked curriculum development second in importance, but devoted only 4.77 hours/week to this category which ranked seventh in terms of time devoted to this role. There was agreement, however, on the importance and the time devoted to the category of governance. This finding is in keeping with Lee and VanHorn (1983) who observed that the increasing sophistication and costs of academic programs, coupled with inflation and decreasing government financial support, have led to a much stronger demand for greater attention to operational efficiency.

After reviewing the related literature and examining the results of this survey, the authors are convinced that limited insights and a lack of consensus about the administrative roles and responsibilities of DEOs of industry/technology education still exists. This view is shared by Edmunds (1987). He suggested that "More indepth studies need to be undertaken to determine the types of changes that have and are taking place. Additional research efforts might include identifying (a) the characteristics of successful leaders, (b) the external and internal influences upon the role of the administrator, (c) the current channels used to become a departmental leader, (d) the relationship between job satisfaction and future leadership development, and (e) the differences, if any, between leadership training for industrial teacher education administrators and that of other educational area leaders. DEOs represent both sets of interests--teaching and administration." While the authors agree with Edmunds' views, it is most important to realize that if the DEO is to lead and influence others, the motivation must come from the commitment to the discipline itself.

William Paige is Associate Professor, Industrial Education & Technology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. William Wolansky is Professor, Industrial Education & Technology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.


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Journal of Technology Education Volume 2, Number 1 Fall 1990