By: Kate Willink, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs
A department’s ability to make high-quality decisions is dependent on the quality of deliberation that precedes the choices made as a department. There is considerable historical and empirical evidence that the quality of interaction is the single most important determinant of the decision-making success or failure of a group. This is because the way group members talk about the problems, options, and consequences affects the way they think about those problems, options, and consequences, which ultimately determines the quality of final choices they make as a group.
Using a few concepts and strategies of DDM, we have seen first-hand how these strategies help groups make better decisions and ensure that all members feel they have been fairly treated and authentically empowered. There is a wealth of research evidence demonstrating that these strategies can produce better decisions and create programs and policies that have lasting impact. Click here for a handout that explains the DDM process.
Using DDM in PTR Committee Deliberations
Research shows that promotion, tenure, and reappointment committees are areas of significant faculty discretion and are important sites to leverage, check, and structure faculty discretionary spaces to help support equitable decision making (O’Meara 2020). Additionally, our COACHE data shows that clarity on expectations for promotion to full is a growth area for DU. Informed both by national research and DU-specific data, we designed a DDM pilot, and several units now routinely use DDM in PTR with success. This can be used in both department and, school and college deliberations.
Why use DDM?
- PTR is one of the most consequential decisions we make. It is also one of the most difficult. It is imperative that this process be widely considered to be fair, equitable, legitimate, and reasonable. We believe that incorporating some proven DDM practices can make it more so.
- Research and experience tell us that a PTR process that is seen as less than fair and reasonable can engender significant negative effects: chilling effects on who goes up for T&P, with disproportionate effects for women and faculty of color; long-lasting negative effects on unit and department climate; and profound effects on how teaching, research and service are valued and embodied.
- So far, we have focused our thinking and designing on three potential sources of tension in the PTR process: the degree to which criteria are made explicit and openly discussed, the variability in who serves on P&T committees, and the facilitation of the deliberations.
- This reflection leads us to believe that the PTR process can be improved by introducing a few DDM best practices:
- pre-decision deliberation on criteria;
- interaction norms that ensure all members have equal speaking time and that counteract the effects of formal and informal power differences between committee members;
- Assigned roles—facilitator, timekeeper, and process monitor
Click here to learn about the Graduate School of Social Work’s (GSSW) process in year one and year two.
Hiring new colleagues is another important decision-making moment where pre-decision deliberation on criteria can promote fairness and consistency. Clear interactional norms can also help reduce formal and informal power dynamics, which are most troubling when there is disagreement among committee members, especially among different faculty ranks and series.
This article explains of the Department of Sociology & Criminology used DDM to promote fairness and rigor in their search process.
Curricular Revisions and Other Consequential Departmental Decisions
DDM is not a panacea. Used intentionally, especially in difficult decision-making situations, it can help promote authenticity in group decision making. Read here to learn how the Department of Communication Studies uses DDM in their department meetings and have incorporated it in their bylaws.
How to do DDM:
There is an evergreen asynchronous virtual training on how to use DDM in PTR decisions available through Academic Impressions.
To access all materials, including the recording:
- Click this link: https://www.academicimpressions.com/my-account/my-content/
(you will be prompted to login to your user account if you aren’t already signed in)
- Click the blue “view” button beside the event name to access the recording and supplemental materials.
All DU faculty and staff have free access to Academic Impressions materials and information. Here are details on how faculty can activate their membership.