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

Volume 2, Number 1
Fall 1990

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 execu-
          tive officers (DEOs) at the college or uni-
          versity level.  Several conditions have
          changed regarding the roles and responsibil-
          ities of these department chairpersons or
          heads in the last two decades.
               The role is becoming more complex be-
          cause of rapid social and economic changes.
          The role is also becoming more diverse as de-
          partments get larger and interrelationships
          with other academic departments are encour-
          aged.  These increased pressures on the DEO,
          may be the reason there also is evidence of a
          higher turnover rate.  With increased respon-
          sibilities, there is a need for better admin-
          istrative preparation to meet the demands of
          current conditions.  Strategic planning, as-
          sessment, staff development, resource allo-
          cations, and cost benefit analysis
          forecasting call for more formal preparation.
          The most critical concern is that there is
          insufficient knowledge regarding the DEOs re-
          sponsibilities now and in the future to ef-
          fectively 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 func-
          tioning of an academic department.  Research
          by Wolansky (1978) made particular note of
          the fact that:  "For the most part, the de-
          partmental 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 crite-
          ria for screening and selecting DEOs who
          would best serve the contemporary administra-
          tive needs of a department.  For example, se-
          veral other criteria for screening and
          selecting DEOs that may be as important as
          academic achievement are:  program develop-
          ment, public relations, administrative style,
          communication skills, leadership, and profes-
          sional involvement.  However, lacking empir-
          ical 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 po-
          sitions.  The DEO's represented departments
          identified through the Industrial Teacher Ed-
          ucation Directory which is inclusive of a di-
          versity of industry/technology education
               John Bennett (1982) reported that "Serv-
          ing as a department chairperson has become
          both more important and more difficult in re-
          cent 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 increas-
          ing sophistication and costs of academic pro-
          grams 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 mag-
          nitude and complexity of responsibilities as-
          sociated with this position, it is
          unfortunate that little effort is made to
          prepare people for the task.  McKeachie
          (1972) observed that "even though the depart-
          ment chairmen are the key individuals in de-
          termining the educational success of the
          colleges and universities, they have remained
          generally ill-equipped, inadequately sup-
          ported, 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 re-
          sources which lead to increased job related
          pressures.  Also, the increasing diversity of
          constituencies served by academic departments
          forces the DEO to be knowledgeable and func-
          tional in a variety of arenas.  These
          constituencies include students and alumni,
          colleagues, legislators, taxpayers, and em-
          ployers.  The DEO must accommodate the expec-
          tations 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 unex-
          pected demands contribute to frustration and
          high turnover rate.
               There is ample evidence of a high turn-
          over rate among department executive offi-
          cers.  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 plan-
          ner and developer of department programs, he
          still remains an instructional catalyst, re-
          source allocator, arbitrator/human relations
          expert, and a partner in shaping the institu-
          tional goals and mission" (p. 15).  Finding
          out what the critical roles and tasks of de-
          partment executive officers are at a given
          time, may be helpful in the process of
          screening and selecting DEOs.  However, re-
          search 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 pro-
          vided.  This study was conducted with the in-
          tent 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 actu-
          ally was threefold:  First, to develop a pro-
          file of department executive officers of
          industry/technology education according to
          their job title as head or chair, type of de-
          partment, years of administrative experience
          and extent of formal administrative prepara-
          tion;  second, to determine DEO's perceived
          importance of various administrative respon-
          sibilities; 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 com-
          pared to those with more extensive experi-
               The methods employed in conducting and
          reporting this research included: (a) the de-
          velopment of an instrument, (b) the identifi-
          cation 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 develop-
          ment, 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 de-
          partmental and campus politics, and building
          alliances.  Twenty-nine tasks were identified
          as representative of a wide range of adminis-
          trative duties and were compiled from those
          administrative duties identified in the lit-
          erature.  A listing of these 29 tasks is pro-
          vided 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
               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 vali-
          dated 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 Edu-
          cation Directory (Dennis, 1985).  The sample
          included a total of 104 DEOs from the east-
          ern, mid-western, and western regions of the
          country.  These regions were established by
          first designating the Mississippi Valley In-
          dustrial Teacher Education Conference member-
          ship boundaries as the mid-western region.
          The other two regions were composed of those
          states lying east or west of the Midwest re-
          gion.  There were a total of 35 DEOs in the
          east and west, and 34 in the Midwest.  This
          stratification was done because the research-
          ers were interested in discovering if any re-
          gional 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 se-
          mester.  The late mailing may have contrib-
          uted 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 pro-
          viding 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 in-
          terpreting the results.
               Instrumentation was developed as re-
          ported, 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 responsi-
          bilities 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
               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
          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-
            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 Adminis-
            trative 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
            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 of-
          ficial 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 re-
          sponded to the question regarding the number
          of years of the previous experience.  The ma-
          jority with previous administrative experi-
          ence (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 ad-
          ministrative courses.  Nearly 60% of the re-
          spondents were between the ages of 40 and 49,
          while no one was under the age of 29.
               The relative importance of the nine cat-
          egories 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 au-
          thors decided to present the data in this
          manner rather than the median.
          TABLE 2
          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 administra-
          tive 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 ad-
          ministrative responsibilities as to their
          relative importance, the respondents were
          asked to indicate the amount of time they de-
          voted to each category.  The resulting mean-
          time distribution is summarized in Table 3.
          The decision was made to express the average
          time that a DEO devoted per week to a partic-
          ular category recognizing that the time DEOs
          would devote to a particular category is de-
          pendent on many factors.  For example, in the
          early and latter parts of a semester a DEO
          may spend considerable time with student af-
          fairs 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 question-
          naire, therefore, the N for these data ranged
          from 42 to 46.
          TABLE 3
          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 ad-
          ministrative 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 approxi-
          mately 37 hours or 69% of a 53.22 hour work
          week to the top five categories of adminis-
          trative responsibilities.  These reported
          hours do not include the time devoted to the
          other nonadministrative functions such as
          teaching, research or service.  One limita-
          tion of this study was that the researchers
          did not address the nonadministrative func-
          tions of DEO's.
               While the DEOs are currently devoting a
          considerable amount of time to the above cat-
          egories, 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 respond-
          ents reported (Table 4) that they expect to
          spend an increased amount of time on the fol-
          lowing:  departmental governance, curriculum
          development, budget and control, faculty de-
          velopment, and student matters.  It is inter-
          esting to note that departmental governance
          is recognized as the most important category
          and governance tasks such as preparing de-
          partment budgets, assigning teaching loads,
          and planning and conducting departmental
          meetings are also perceived as consuming a
          growing percentage of their time.  This in-
          crease in time devoted to departmental
          governance may result from the fact that 68%
          of the responding DEOs administer multipro-
          gram departments that provide preparation for
          teacher education, industry, vocational edu-
          cation, safety, etc.
          TABLE 4


                                                 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



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



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





               The third purpose of this study was to
          investigate whether or not the DEOs perceived
          changes in administrative roles and responsi-
          bilities and if differences existed between
          regions.  The independent variables for this
          part of the study included (a) type of de-
          partment [single or multiple program], (b)
          years of administrative experience, and (c)
          number of semester credit hours of adminis-
          trative courses.
               While examining whether differences ex-
          isted between DEOs with varying years of ad-
          ministrative experience and the weekly time
          devoted to the nine administrative categories
          of responsibilities, no significant differ-
          ence 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.
          TABLE 5
          Experience                 N      M       SD
          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
          TABLE 6



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
               Among the most encouraging findings was
          that 51.6% of the respondents reported having
          taken 12 or more semester credits of adminis-
          trative 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 addi-
          tional study.
               There was a discrepancy regarding the
          relative importance of some of the nine cate-
          gories of administrative responsibilities
          listed in Table 2, and the amount of time de-
          voted to these responsibilities listed in Ta-
          ble 3.  While a particular category may be
          ranked as important in terms of a DEO's re-
          sponsibility, the time devoted to that spe-
          cific category may or may not be consistent.
          For example, the DEOs ranked curriculum de-
          velopment 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 ob-
          served that the increasing sophistication and
          costs of academic programs, coupled with in-
          flation and decreasing government financial
          support, have led to a much stronger demand
          for greater attention to operational effi-
               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 administra-
          tive 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.  Ad-
          ditional research efforts might include iden-
          tifying (a) the characteristics of successful
          leaders, (b) the external and internal influ-
          ences upon the role of the administrator, (c)
          the current channels used to become a depart-
          mental leader, (d) the relationship between
          job satisfaction and future leadership devel-
          opment, and (e) the differences, if any, be-
          tween leadership training for industrial
          teacher education administrators and that of
          other educational area leaders.  DEOs repre-
          sent both sets of interests--teaching and ad-
          ministration."  While the authors agree with
          Edmunds' views, it is most important to real-
          ize 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, Indus-
          trial Education & Technology, Iowa State Uni-
          versity, Ames, Iowa.  William Wolansky is
          Professor, Industrial Education & Technology,
          Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
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          Permission is given to copy any
          article or graphic provided credit is given and
          the copies are not intended for sale.
Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 1       Fall 1990