Role transitioning of newly appointed department chairs in institutions of higher education in Texas



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Texas Tech University


The role of academic administrator is vital to institutions of higher education as institutions redirect their efforts and create climates conducive for establishing cooperation and collaboration among divergent constituencies. The purpose of this study was an exploration of the process of role transitioning of newly appointed department/division chairs in institutions of higher education in Texas within the theoretical framework of organizational socialization.

Six research questions were addressed: (1) profile participants, (2) inquire about the differences between 2- and 4-year institutions, (3) investigate variables that might be associated with the length of time it took chairs to feel comfortable in their new role, (4) assess the existence of relationships between encounter variables, (5) identify relationships between anticipation, encounter and adaptation variables, and (6) explore the efficacy of a path diagram depicting the process of role transitioning of the newly appointed chairs in the study.

Data were gathered from 102 participants using a questionnaire that incorporated Morton's (1993) Socialization-Related Learning Instrument and items developed by the researcher. Data analyses included univariate, bivariate, and multivariate methods.

Findings of particular interest were: (1) chairs continue to function in a dual role of faculty and academic administrator; (2) rather than temporary, most chairs' appointments were ongoing; and, (3) with little formal training/development available, chairs learned their roles through informal and self-guided means. The encounter variable, "Organizational Milieu," was found significantly related to the variable "Workplace Learning: Learning from Insiders." Four variables were identified as having a statistically significant relationship to the criterion variable "Adaptation": (1) "Organizational Milieu," (2) "Workplace Learning: Learning from Insiders," (3) "Mastery: Knowing the Rules," and (4) "Mastery: Knowing the Power Structure." They accounted for approximately 41% of the variance in the chairs reported "Adaptation" to the new role. The path diagram depicting the process of role transitioning, although not fitting the data well, was found to have potential while each of the seven indirect paths contained in the path diagram were found to be significant.

To facilitate role transitioning, institutions were encouraged to develop programs to better prepare and support the learning efforts of chairs. In addition, it was suggested that chairs be proactive in seeking professional development opportunities as well as establish and nurture organizational interpersonal relationships.



Community colleges -- Texas, Universities and colleges -- Texas -- Departments, Social role, Departmental chairmen (Universities) -- Texas, Educational leadership