A follow up on COACHE faculty survey results

Assistant provost for faculty development Tera Jordan led a workshop discussion Sept. 27 with faculty on some key data from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Faculty Satisfaction Survey administered in 2021. Faculty have participated in the survey since 2006 with tenure, tenure-eligible and term faculty taking part to gain an overview of the faculty experience.

Among Iowa State's 1,527 eligible faculty, 56% completed the survey, significantly higher than the overall rate of 42%. Results were compared to the traditional five peer institutions ISU leaders selected -- North Carolina State, Purdue, Texas Tech, University of California, Davis and Virginia Tech.

Faculty were asked standard and custom questions. Iowa State's custom questions inquired about the response to the pandemic, faculty development and faculty mentoring.

Jordan and executive director for institutional research Karen Zunkel said the COACHE survey provides a vast amount of information, and they only discussed a small portion of it. The results are used as a guide to inform initiatives for growth, Jordan said.

"We use it to assess needs, develop action plans and implement best practices to strengthen hiring, promotion, retention, our campus climate and diversity," she said.


Results were divided into 25 categories on a five-point Likert scale – ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree -- with eight key benchmarks, which comprise the mean of several five-point survey questions that share a common theme. The benchmarks are:

  • Nature of work
  • Resources and support
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • Leadership
  • Governance
  • Department collegiality
  • Teamwork and mentoring
  • Appreciation and recognition

Faculty satisfaction was highest with the quality of colleagues, cost of living and academic freedom. The least favorable aspects included compensation, geographic location, lack of diversity and too many assignments and service.

"Compensation and too many assignments and service were also the top least favorable aspects for our peer institutions," Jordan said. "That doesn't mean we don't have to continue to work in these areas, but it does say we are not the only ones."

ISU is in the top two of the peer group in 19 categories, in the middle in five and in the bottom of one -- department collegiality -- where it ranked fifth out of six.

"This is a small sample and what COACHE does is a comparison, not a statistical analysis," Zunkel said. "Everyone in the cohort is feeling positive, it is just a matter of how positive they are feeling."

Closer look

Zunkel focused on responses to department collegiality. The survey defined it as: A faculty member's sense of "fit" among their colleagues, their personal interactions with colleagues, and whether their colleagues "pitch in" when needed and support work-life balance.

Faculty responses ranged between 3.6 and 4.2 on the five-point scale, giving ISU a score of 3.75. The top three among the peer five scored 3.79.

Eighty-seven percent of faculty agreed their colleagues were committed to diversity and inclusion, the highest marks in the peer group. Eighty-nine percent agreed meeting times were compatible with their personal needs. Only 79% of faculty were satisfied with their sense of fit, and 83% agreed that colleagues pitch in when needed.

Zunkel also shared responses to department collegiality from surveys in 2014, 2017 and 2021. Each category improved from 2014 to 2017 before dipping in 2021, largely because of the pandemic, Zunkel said. The lone exception was "meeting times compatible with personal needs" as more virtual meeting options were offered.

"If we are all sitting in our homes doing our work how collegial do we feel?" Zunkel asked.

The data

Some of the categories in which ISU ranked first among its peer group:

  • 97% were satisfied with the health benefits
  • 94% were satisfied with their assigned teaching schedule
  • 94% were satisfied with time spent on outreach
  • 90% were satisfied with their office space
  • 90% were satisfied with family medical or parental leave policies
  • 86% were satisfied with the pace of decision making from the president and provost

Some categories identified for improvement:

  • 69% were satisfied with how the teaching load is distributed
  • 67% were satisfied with time spent on administrative tasks
  • 66% agreed important decisions are not made until there was a consensus
  • 64% were satisfied with availability of course release for research
  • 58% were satisfied with child care
  • 53% were satisfied with their department addressing substandard performance