Best Practices

The following section is intended to raise questions and provide guidance in the initial phase of the System’s implementation including clarifying the purpose, identifying and preparing respondents, and considering use of additional questions.

Taking a few moments now to consider how the Feedback System for Chairs (i.e., the System) is going to be used or how it fits into an existing assessment plan will go a long way toward using it to its fullest potential. 

Section One

Clarify Purpose

First, it is critical that you consider the purpose for implementing the System. Is it being used in combination with other data and feedback to make summative decisions? Is it to guide professional development? Is it being used to make administrative decisions? Are there particular issues or trends in your department that you cannot quite identify that need to be addressed?

Consider using the IDEA Feedback System as part of a routine, ongoing assessment plan. Campuses risk creating the impression that the evaluation/feedback process is tied to poor performance if a survey is only administered when there is a “problem.” In addition, while it can be used as part of the summative judgment process, the IDEA Feedback System is designed to guide formative improvement. When the System is being used to make administrative decisions, IDEA strongly recommends that other sources of evidence beyond the IDEA tool be used and that survey participants be appropriately informed of its use.

Write a purpose statement and list other sources of evidence that may be used if the IDEA Feedback System is intended for use as one part of a summative evaluation process.

Identify Respondents

Identify those individuals who will be contacted to complete the Faculty Perceptions of Chair survey. Make sure that there are at least two individuals who will complete the survey when asked. To protect the confidentiality of the respondents, a minimum of two respondents is required. Will you include adjunct faculty in the survey?

Identifying who should be asked to complete a survey is not as simple a task as it might first appear. Often political considerations interfere with gaining the most useful and valid information. In general, only those individuals who have had enough exposure to the chair to provide useful feedback about that individual should be asked to complete a survey. Criteria for removal of individuals from the list to be surveyed should be created for transparency.

Create a list of potential respondents (include roles if that would be helpful for internal tracking).

Consider Additional Questions 

Are there specific questions related to department climate, culture, specific needs, or issues that you would like to include? Are there specific initiatives or changes at the division or institutional levels that affect your department? A maximum of 20 additional custom questions can be added to the Faculty Perceptions of Chair survey.

Use of individual questions does not have to be directly related to the individual being rated. This is a good opportunity to collect other information that may be relevant to the department without having to conduct another survey. There is an added advantage to adding such questions due to the relatively high response rate of this instrument compared to more general campus climate or issues surveys.

Draft additional questions. There is a place on the Survey Request Form to enter the actual questions you wish to have added to your survey.

Prepare Respondents

You or the appropriate institutional designee should inform respondents by email at least one week before the survey start date informing them that they will receive the Faculty Perceptions of Chair survey from IDEA. This is also a good way to test the accuracy of the rater email addresses before submitting them to IDEA. Depending on the institution and intended use of the data, communication regarding the process may come from the individual being rated, his/her superior, a human resources contact, or an administrative assistant.

It is recommended that the communiqué:

  • Inform the respondents of the intended purpose of the Feedback System for Chairs 
  • Emphasize the value and importance of thoughtful, honest and respectful feedback 
  • Establish trust by ensuring confidentiality of individual respondents (refer to Confidentiality Statement) 
  • Inform respondents that all comments to open ended questions will be provided verbatim 
  • Summarize other sources of evidence (if any) that will be used in the evaluation process Indicate if, how, what and to whom results will be disseminated 
  • Provide a description of the survey process 
  • Draft notes or specific information that you would like to include, and identify who will write and who will send the email. A Sample Letter to Faculty is located at the end of this document.

Establish Communication Plan to Share Results

There is no clear right or wrong approach to providing survey results to relevant constituencies, but it must be considered thoughtfully and determined prior to the survey administration. It is recommended that the “official” survey results be distributed in a consistent fashion. This is especially important when a group of individuals is being surveyed at a similar time for a similar purpose (e.g., all of the chairs in a college).

If the results are to be provided beyond the chair and his or her supervisor, it is important to determine how they will be conveyed and to whom. 

  • How will the results be communicated? Determine if a written or verbal summary will be provided. If the results will be provided in writing, care should be taken because the results may be distributed beyond the intended audience – especially if they are distributed electronically. 
  • Who will prepare the summary? It is typical for the summary to be prepared collaboratively with the individual who was rated and his or her supervisor. 
  • Can the chair provide additional information about his or her results? For example, chairs have provided more detailed survey results to their faculty at department meetings and described their plans for improvement at that time. 
  • Are there legal restrictions related to dissemination of survey results? Create your communication plan. Identify who will send the communication and what it will include.

Section II: Implementation

Complete the Chair Self-Assessment:

Analyze the Report:

The report, transcription of comments, and summary of (optional) additional question responses are prepared and distributed via email to the Primary Contact indicated on the Survey Request Form within 10 working days following the survey administration end date. The report provides data and information in the form of interactive tables and charts, and concludes with an executive summary of strengths, recommended areas for improvement, and suggested resources for development. A gap-score analysis is included that compares the chair’s self-assessment with faculty ratings. Chairs are encouraged to discuss the report with a trusted colleague or mentor, depending on the particular circumstances, and to embrace individual strengths as well as consider recommendations for improvement.

A primary purpose of the IDEA Feedback System is to encourage reflection intended to elicit higher performance. The chair being rated as well as the immediate supervisor should consider the following questions and schedule a time free from interruptions in a comfortable setting to discuss the results and how they might be used to support future development.

  • What results were affirming?
  • What results were surprising?
  • What may have been of concern?
  • How will this information be used to guide professional development efforts?
  • What accounts for any gaps in perception between the chair self-assessment and faculty ratings?
  • What are the next steps?

Use this space to write your initial thoughts. Come back to this page after a few days have passed and provide additional thoughts and insight on the report findings. Include one positive take-away message, one area that you will focus on for improvement, and at least one concrete action item that will support your growth and development.

Share the Results

It is critical that you share the results in a manner that is consistent with what was told to faculty (and constituents) at the start of the process and in accordance with the communication plan that was established.

The report is provided as an html report. If the chair or his or her supervisor wishes to archive or share the report, refer to the instructions below on how to save the file.

To share the report:

  • The chair (or designee) clicks the emailed link to view the report.
  • While looking at the report, right click on the screen anywhere.
  • Select “Save As.”
  • Select the option of saving as “Webpage, Complete.”
  • Name the file and select the location to save. (IDEA suggests using a standardized naming system to ease the burden on those looking at multiple files, such as “SmithJ.PSY.Fall13”).


Sample Letter to Faculty:

Dear Colleagues,

Every [insert timing] our campus solicits systematic feedback about our chairs. As part of my [or insert name of administrator] overall rating, I am requesting your input. Next week you will receive an email from IDEA requesting your participation in a survey to provide feedback to me [or insert name of chair]. The email will provide you with specific directions. The Faculty Perceptions of Chair survey will be available for you to complete until [insert survey end date]. You can expect email reminders from IDEA until you have completed the survey.

The results will be aggregated and provided to me and [insert who will see the results] in one report. The information will be used primarily to

Since confidentiality is always a concern with this type of process, I have attached a Confidentiality Statement provided by IDEA. If you have additional questions about the logistics of the process, please contact [insert campus contact name].

As always, I value your input and feedback and strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to participate in the survey. The results will be most meaningful if everyone provides input.

[insert name

A balanced evaluation

Whenever you are trying to learn about something, multiple sources of information are almost always best. Faculty do not want to be judged, nor should they be, only on the basis of student feedback, for instance, and Chairs should also be evaluated by collecting data from a number of sources. The feedback gathered from other individuals at the institution through the Feedback System for Chairs is an important source of information about how well the Chair is performing, but this feedback should be just one part of a more comprehensive approach to making final judgments about performance. Variables such as meeting set goals, effectively managing outcomes (like accreditation compliance), having a balanced budget, and even self-evaluations are examples of outcomes that can be evaluated and compiled into a comprehensive, multi-faceted evaluation.

That evaluation also should consider context. Were circumstances particularly difficult during the period of evaluation for instance (a change in administration, a campus controversy, etc.) or did the Chair take-on a monumental task that was not part of their original duties? When combined with other sources of data and considered in context, the Feedback System for Chairs is part of a comprehensive system of evaluation that can lead the Chair to areas for improvement and help others make summative decisions.