Survey design and implementation

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The survey questions were developed from the dimensions, criteria, and actions required for distributed leadership identified in the Action Self Enabling Reflective Tool (ASERT). This tool recognises four dimensions of distributed leadership- a context of trust and a culture of respect, together with a commitment to a change to a more participatory approach and to the development of collaborative relationships. It also recognises four criteria for distributed leadership - involvement of people, supportive processes, the provision of professional development and the availability of resources. The intersection of these dimensions and criteria identifies sixteen actions (to achieve distributed leadership) underpinned by a reflective, action research processes. 

The survey questions were designed through an action research, iterative process that started with a desk audit of published reports of completed ALTC funded projects that had utilised a distributed leadership approach together with reflection by the project team and reference group members on the findings from the audit. The audit had identified several key issues including instances of repetition, the need to describe distributed leadership, to more clearly clarify intent and to provide respondents with the ability to present their perceptions on the extent to which they had engaged with each of the elements of the ASERT.

This process informed the development of survey questions which were piloted in four/five universities. The pilot process identified the need to provide further clarity in question style, for example, by asking respondents to evidence their answers in relation to a recent learning and teaching change initiative. The final survey was then designed with nine sections that sought to identify the: 

leadership contribution of the respondent,

  • source and impetus for the initiative,
  •  form of participation in the initiative,
  • design and implementation,
  • extent and sustainability of collaboration,
  • extent of professional development provided to build expertise in leadership,
  • extent to which resources were provided,
  •  contribution of the initiative to building leadership capacity and increasing participation in learning and teaching, and
  • respondent conclusions.

The survey was delivered online using Surveymonkey. Given the desire to encourage survey responses from as broad a range of participants as possible (not only formal leaders of learning and teaching), potential participants were contacted in a range of ways. This included an initial presentation to formal leaders on learning and teaching who make up the Council for Australian Directors of Academic Development (CADAD), followed by a direct email invitation to senior leaders of learning and teaching in each Australian university, with a request that the survey be cascaded to relevant people across their institution. Past and present leaders of leadership projects funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council/Office for Learning and Teaching (ALTC/OLT) were contacted via email and conference participants at the 2012 Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia were invited to complete the survey.

The results were subjected to internal reliability and validity tests that confirmed that the structure of the survey was appropriate. The main statistical analysis undertaken were internal reliability tests, descriptive statistics, factor analysis and correlation analysis. This report addresses the descriptive and correlations analysis only. The details of this analysis can be found in the Appendix and only the major results will be discussed below. A full account of the factor analysis and reliability tests will appear in a detailed paper on the design of the survey.