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William Henk

Marquette University (WI)

The Longevity of Education Deans

Shelley B. Wepner & William A. Henk

The professional literature on the lifespan of education deans in their positions indicates that they serve in the role four to six years on average. We discovered a similar finding when we conducted a study through AACTE about education deans’ perceptions of essential characteristics for contributing to their success. More than two-thirds had been in their current position for five years or less (Wepner et al., in press). By the same token, though, we found that one-third of the education deans stayed in their positions much longer. These findings piqued our interest in the construct of longevity in the education deanship and inspired us to conduct a qualitative study, with the assistance of AACTE, of the factors contributing to the length of time education deans remain in office. 

We believed that the construct deserved study because endurance in this demanding administrative capacity would presumably exert an impact on the welfare of schools and colleges of education. In a related vein, resilience as an education dean would seem to signify a reasonable indicator of sustained effectiveness, while brevity in the job might suggest the reverse. We also pursued the construct with the understanding that the roles and responsibilities of education deans, while resembling other academic deans, do present some markedly unique challenges that might affect longevity, and that there would be value for those in positions to affect education deans’ tenures positively, whether central administrators, peers, faculty or staff, to better understand the factors that promote longevity.        

Exploring the Longevity of Education Deans

What factors contribute most to the longevity of education deans in their positions? Are there optimal lengths of time for these academic administrators to stay in their roles, and if so, how long and why? What are the personal and professional benefits or downsides of remaining in the role of education dean for an extended period?

These questions are among those emerging from a national survey on deans’ ways of thinking, being, and acting that revealed generally limited lengths of service in the deanship. The survey results have inspired a new line of research on factors contributing to deans’ longevity in the role, which may be important for critical initiatives to have a viable lifespan and for deans and their stakeholders to continue to be gratified.

Education Deans Sought for Focus Groups

UPDATE: Please sign up for a focus group by December 21.

What factors contribute most to the longevity of education deans in their positions? Are there optimal lengths of time for education deans to stay in their roles, and if so, how long and why? What are the personal and professional benefits of remaining in the role as education dean for an extended period?

We invite currently serving education deans who have at least 7 years of experience in this role to participate in one of several focus groups. These focus group sessions, supported by AACTE, will last 45 to 60 minutes and will be conducted during the weeks of January 8 and January 15, 2018, using electronic conferencing technology.

Education Deans’ Beliefs: Follow-Up Survey

Deadline extended: Please respond by December 2

The study of the education deanship and what is perceived as contributing to success in that key role is both timely and imperative. Such research can help standing deans reflect on their own characteristics and practices and perhaps adapt them to better effect. It can also assist prospective deans in understanding what capabilities figure to be necessary in increasing their leadership effectiveness should they assume these roles.

We invite your participation this month in a national survey, the “Deans’ Performance Belief Survey,” supported by AACTE. The purpose of this survey is to gauge education deans’ beliefs about the ways of thinking, being, and acting that are essential for doing their jobs.

Survey Invitation: What Do Education Deans Believe?

Very little is known about education deans’ perceptions of what they think is important for their actual, effective performance on the job. To address this knowledge gap, we invite deans to participate in a national survey, which we are conducting with AACTE’s support, that will tap education deans’ beliefs about their essential ways of thinking, being, and acting.

But first, here is some more background. In short, effective leadership of a school, college, or department of education (SCDE) is vital in light of both internal and external forces that provide significant challenges for these academic units. For instance, in the realm of teacher preparation, education deans and directors must articulate their role as leaders of change in the field. This charge includes determining ways to provide concrete evidence of how their programs broaden and deepen the learning and mastery of their teacher and leadership candidates, and also the learning that takes place in the classrooms of their graduates.

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