An analysis of the roles and responsibilities of academic department heads in independent schools

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Woollven, Wendy
Based on the premise that a leadership model that supports teachers to improve their practice will have an impact on their instruction and ultimately student learning, an investigation of different academic leadership structures was undertaken, with a specific focus on academic heads of department, the roles they undertake and how they experience these responsibilities. My literature review examined relevant and current research around school leadership, department leadership and the independent school context. Research participants from member schools of the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia completed an online survey that collected demographic data, rankings and level of importance of 45 roles and responsibilities of department heads, and level of satisfaction in their relationships, job satisfaction and efficacy. Organizing department meetings, setting department goals and managing department collaboration were the top three roles that participants undertook, which they also ranked as the most important. Respondents reported strong relationships and support from their administration. Being sufficiently trained and receiving appropriate compensation received the lowest mean responses. A strong correlation was found between job satisfaction and the three questions on support from administration, support from the School Head and receiving sufficient leadership training. Data was further analyzed using the demographics of department specialization, years teaching and school size. Recommendations include improved professional development and compensation for department heads who are being asked to take on the diversity and complexity of roles delegated, while further study is needed into what specific levels currently exist in schools in these two areas.
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