Management Leading Programs page 2


Role of a Department or Program Head (continued)
The Head must be loyal and supportive to faculty members and students. It is extremely important that the Head encourage, acknowledge and compliment faculty members and students on every appropriate occasion. It is only weak leadership that seeks to elevate themselves. They are the ones who most often attempt to lead by authority of position, and they seldom have the respect of either students or faculty members.

Equally so, faculty must be supportive of leadership, and if they are not, then there should be new leadership. It is important that faculty be unified to successfully deal with administration and competition with other departments or programs within the college or institution.

One of the more important qualities that separates the Head from most faculty members is an ability to overview the entire program, to plan and project it several years into the future to identify goals and deal with change. Many teachers are interested only in their field of expertise or courses. Any program that is not in some degree of flux each year is going to eventually stagnate. The responsibility of the Head goes beyond relying on faculty recommendations for change, improving the program or formulating new curricula. It is critical for the Head to generate ideas or goals which are brought to the faculty, preferably in writing, for discussion and decision. There may be occasions where it is necessary for a Head to overrule faculty members or make a decision without consultation. Knowing when to consult or on what occasions to act independently is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of the position. Leadership can make better decisions if they follow the rule of doing what is in the common good.

It is essential that the Head have ongoing formal and informal communications with faculty members individually and collectively. Regularly scheduled staff meetings are almost mandatory. The Head does not have to be personally proficient in every aspect of the program, but the Head must know what is required for an effective educational program. It is the responsibility of the Head to recruit the mix of faculty that collectively make the Graphic Design program well balanced and comprehensive with high standards.

An important function of the Head is guidance and development of young teachers and new instructors. This usually means spending time counseling them about teaching, values, objectives and passing on experience. Young teachers tend to be enthusiastic but naive, and in their enthusiasm, they may go astray in the classroom. The Head might discuss and advise on course problems before they are presented to students or attend critiques. It is extremely important that young or new teachers feel a part of the faculty and that they are included in all aspects of program operations.

The Head must be able to be firm with administrators, faculty and students when it is necessary. There is always room for negotiation but there also is a point where further adjustment is destructive. In instances where students should be dropped from the program, when faculty members are out of line or should not be supported for RPT, the Head must deal with these problems promptly, directly and firmly. The Head must be principled, and willing to accept the consequences of adhering to principles. To not do so is to risk losing the respect of those whom they respect.

What may be a serious flaw in education currently is the tendency for upper administrators to judge the ability to teach on the basis of individual accomplishments and student evaluations. This might include how many awards, exhibits, books or articles a person has done; it might be related to reputation based on the quality of personal work or particular commissions that have been highly publicized, or some other similar criteria. Student evaluation of teachers is relied upon much too heavily by administrators.

Student evaluations of teachers are based more on likes and dislikes than being a true reflection of teaching ability. Students simply do not have the perspective to make an accurate assessment of teaching. Because of the pressure by administration for high teaching scores, and because student evaluations play such an important part in retention, promotion or tenure, teachers may be corrupted into being more concerned about student evaluations than teaching. In this instance, student evaluation of teaching becomes counterproductive to its intent. Peer evaluation (within the program) and an administrative evaluation should have equal weight with student evaluations.

A better gauge of teaching abilities for me is the effectiveness of the individual to communicate with students, to have and teach worthy values, to be demanding of student performance, to be a good role model and to respect and work with colleagues in the program for the common good of students.

If the objective of education is student learning, it stands to reason that criteria for evaluating teachers, individually and collectively, should be based on student performance in school and growth after graduation. It is my observation that faculty as an instructional team dealing with the entire Graphic Design program is more germane to quality of student education than to individual teacher accomplishments in the studio, academia or profession. Sometimes this includes faculty members who might not be particularly articulate but who have devised other means for communicating with students. There are teachers who are dedicated to education but have weak records in research or professional accomplishment. If their contribution to the over all program warrants it, the Department or Program Head along with other faculty members are obliged to aggressively support these teachers during review or tenure time. It is best to educate administration and the appropriate committees as to the value and importance of these individuals before the fact rather than during or after the fact.

The quality of a Graphic Design program lies in the cohesiveness of the entire faculty based on common goals, values and mutual respect. This does not imply leadership surrounded by clones. Ideally, there should be some balance of personalities, expertise, interests and teaching styles. The key ingredient within the instructional team is respect for one another. Faculty members do not have to agree on everything or even like one another, but there must be mutual respect.

One divisive faculty member can be devastating to an entire program, students and other faculty members. It has been my experience that when teachers are reluctant to participate fully in the review process or fail to interact with other faculty members, there is a serious personnel problem. It is also evident that there are going to be additional problems in the future such as a split in faculty, undermining of colleagues or program, and division among students. One person expressed their reason for not participating as, "I don't want other teachers commenting on work done in my classes, so I don't talk about work done in their classes." Whatever the reasons, it invariably reflects insecurity. The irony of the situation is, that within my experience, almost every one of these individuals was an excellent teacher with abilities and expertise that the rest of us could never match. The reason why individuals choose to be divisive is difficult to comprehend because it is so destructive. Usually it is attributable to some combination of jealousy, insecurity, ambition, fear, competition or ego. However, when this situation develops, it should be dealt with directly and firmly as it is so pertinent to the overall good of program, students and faculty.

Indications of a Destructive Teacher >


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