The Application of a 360-Degree Feedback Managerial Development Program in Higher Education: The Florida Model

By Armstrong, Terry; Blake, Shelly Y. et al. | Education, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Application of a 360-Degree Feedback Managerial Development Program in Higher Education: The Florida Model


Armstrong, Terry, Blake, Shelly Y., Piotrowski, Chris, Education


With the current focus on accountability in higher education, it seems likely that major administrative functions will need to adapt to external demands. Colleges and universities will no longer be immune to the stakeholders of higher education, i.e., students, faculty, administrators, legislators, and taxpayers (Halpern & Reich, 1999). In this view, higher educational institutions will function more like corporations and competitive business enterprises. It is our position that high-level administrative personnel will come under increasing scrutiny, from various constituencies, to function cost-effectively. With the success of 360 [degrees] feedback approaches in the business world (Tornow & London, 1998; Waldman & Atwater, 1998), the authors began to lay the groundwork to introduce a 360 [degrees] feedback model for administrator improvement and self-growth. This program proved effective and was well received by participants for its emphasis on managerial development (in contrast to managerial evaluation). This innovative approach, at the University of West Florida, is the first effort in Florida's state university system to implement a 360 [degrees] model to enhance managerial (administrative) effectiveness (see Blake, Armstrong, & Vallianos, 1998).

360 [degrees] feedback, also known as multirater or collateral feedback, is one of the major focus areas in the field of applied psychology and contemporary organizations are implementing 360 [degrees] feedback systems as part of their managerial development programs (Dunnette, 1998; Greguras & Robie, 1998). Yet applications of 360 [degrees] feedback models have not found their way into higher education, particularly in the area of development of leadership skills in colleges and universities. Research findings from the business community confirm that the 360-degree feedback process provides self-insight and leads to the enhancement of managerial proficiency and leadership skills. So why have 360 [degrees] feedback programs not found a home in colleges and universities across the country? Some evidence points to the fact that from a practical standpoint the feasibility of educational administrator evaluation programs has been questioned (McGowan, Eichelberger, & Nelson, 1994). Specifically, managerial developmental models have been criticized due to their lack of amenability in bureaucratic systems like higher education (Lang, 1983). At the same time, financial austerity due to escalating costs and decreases in governmental support have led to increased accountability in higher education (Reid, 1982). In this regard, both internal and external political pressures are demanding not only administrative competency but also organizational-institutional efficacy.

360 [degrees] Feedback in Higher Education

Ripple (1980) was the first to discuss the importance of developing personal talents and managerial skills in college and university administrators via an upward, downward, and parallel evaluation process. However, there has been little consensus on the critical managerial skills and leadership styles or competency-based models that would be most beneficial to academic administrators. In a creative approach, Bland, Edwards, and Kuhi (1994) assessed academic administrators via colleague feedback at the University of Minnesota; participants reported that the "insight" program proved useful in the development of leadership skills. In recent years, several studies of academic settings reported on the benefits of using a 360 [degrees] feedback model for leadership skills with high school principals and in a sample of nursing faculty (Manatt, 1997; Triolo, 1997).

Duties of Departmental Chairs

The first edition of the book, Chairing the Academic Department, was published in 1981, but the literature base in this area had its beginning during the 1950s. Interest in the functions and responsibilities of college and university chairpersons accelerated during the 1960s and 1970s, while research in the 1980s and 1990s has focused on the adapting role and innovative managerial skills required for expanding job functions and ever-changing societal, political, and marketplace demands. …

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