Managerial control of faculty by physical education department chairpersons

Internet-published Paper

Sather, B. A. (2004). Managerial control of faculty by physical education department chairpersons. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX.


Managerial control in university academic departments is problematic because professors are specialized workers who require a unique managerial approach (Abbott, 1988; Alvesson, 1993; Freidson, 1986; Raelin, 1991, 2003). The purpose of the study was to analyze and explain the current managerial control practices of chairpersons in university physical education departments and to determine the perceived outcomes of these practices. To accomplish this, the researcher collected qualitative data at five universities in the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities that offer doctoral degrees in physical education. The researcher conducted semistructured interviews with department chairpersons, faculty, and administrative assistants. Each interview was digitally audio recorded and transcribed soon after the interview. The researcher identified common managerial control practices in the departments using a qualitative inductive analysis technique and triangulation. Six major themes emerged from the analysis: (a) Department chairpersons relied on existing controls in higher education and initiated very few innovative or unique managerial control procedures; (b) formal control procedures were mandated by administrators above the department chairperson level and were seen as a required formality by both faculty and chairpersons; (c) the departments continued to operate and flourish under the current paradigm of management control in higher education although faculty voiced some concerns about management processes; (d) faculty admired chairpersons who exhibited characteristics of a facilitator rather than a controller; (e) faculty and chairpersons failed to work as a cohesive group toward development and accomplishment of departmental mission and goals; (f) measuring department progress and outcomes along with providing feedback varied greatly between and among the institutions studied. The researcher recommends two managerial control models for physical education departments: Raelin’s (2003) distribution of autonomy and Gmelch and Miskin’s (1993) model of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Furthermore, both faculty and staff would benefit from a more faculty-inclusive approach to management, particularly with departmental planning. Efforts should also be made to diminish the separating effects of subdisciplines. The researcher provides a list of best practices found in the study as examples for other departments. Chairpersons of physical education departments should improve their managerial control techniques to accommodate the current atmosphere of accountability in higher education.

April 2004