Senior Educational Consultant
April 30, 2012
By Amy Gross
One reason I am so committed to the work of The IDEA Center is that providing feedback to guide self-reflection and professional development is a common principle underlying all our products and services. We continually ask ourselves, “What can we do to support faculty and administrators to get better at what they do?” Through this, I truly believe the IDEA Center can have a positive impact on the landscape of higher education.
Recently we have focused our research and development efforts on supporting those that lead academic departments at colleges and universities. What have we done?
A Fresh Perspective: Updating the IDEA Feedback for Department Chairs System
Though the name has changed, we have offered the IDEA Feedback for Department Chairs system since 1977. From our research, experience, and feedback from clients, we recently gave that instrument a face lift. Our primary goal was to facilitate deeper personal reflection through building on strengths. The biggest change is the option of including the department chair’s self-rating. This additional piece of information allows the department to compare his or her self-perception with that of the faculty. This can lead to valuable insight about gaps that might need to be addressed to improve effective leadership. Check out the new faculty survey, Chair Information Form, and the updated report!
New Services: Department Chair Coaching and National Seminars
After a department chair receives feedback from their faculty, then what? We know from professional development research that having feedback alone helps us improve, but what can really make a difference is the opportunity to talk to someone about the feedback – and this has certainly been my own professional experience! With that in mind, we initiated the IDEA Department Chair Coaching Service. Because every department chair has unique needs, we have a number of different options – an individual session to talk through IDEA Feedback results, a year-long coaching option for individuals who want to develop and work on their own professional development plans with the support of a coach, and finally, up to six chairs can work as part of a learning community for a year to focus collaboratively on their professional development plans.
On a personal note: We currently have three coaches available to work with chairs—Dan Wheeler, Al Seagren, and Delivee Wright. They are experienced practitioners and authors in areas related to department chair and/or faculty development. I have personally learned so much from them as we worked together to develop the coaching service, that I can only imagine how much department chairs could benefit and grow from a year-long coaching experience with them.
Finally, we have started the IDEA Department Chair Seminar program which is offered twice a year – typically in June and November. Sometimes it is necessary to step away from our daily routine (and interruptions!) in order to focus on ourselves. The seminars provide this opportunity for department chairs. We are privileged to work with national leaders in their field who guide participants through interactive sessions addressing some of the most important (and challenging) aspects of the department chair’s role. We limit registrations to 100, so we are able to keep the learning environment relatively intimate and in-depth for 2 days.
Continuing Service: Academic Chairpersons Conference
I would be remiss if I did not also mention the Academic Chairpersons Conference which we have co-sponsored with the Division of Continuing Education at Kansas State University for nearly 30 years – a great opportunity to share and learn best practices from other department chairs!
The position of academic department chair is one of the most challenging there is. We hope that our work provides some support for their personal reflection and professional development.