Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Jay R. Dee

Second Advisor

Dwight E Giles

Third Advisor

Charmian B Sperling


Dwindling resources, the challenges of providing postsecondary remedial education, and an environment that emphasizes outcomes assessment are realities that confront the community college department chair. The role of the department chair is particularly challenging in the community college context due to accountability pressures, fiscal constraints, and the need to foster success for a diverse student population. This qualitative study examined how 13 community college department chairs perceived and enacted the department chair role in three purposefully-selected community colleges. This study used semi-structured interviews to examine the ways that chairs understood and enacted curriculum leadership within the broader context of the department chair role within their institutional settings. Two key questions guided this study. First, how do department chairs at the community college perceive and enact the department chair role? Second, how do community college department chairs enact curriculum leadership for their academic units? The study also sought to explain curriculum leadership from a conceptual framework grounded in organizational role theory, which suggests that organizational behavior is a function of the personal characteristics of the role incumbent (in this case, department chairs), the characteristics of the roles that people occupy, and the characteristics of the organizational context in which they work. The framework takes into consideration both the functions and the context of the role to understand the complexities of the department chair's curriculum leadership role. Key findings of the study indicate that there are differences in how department chairs provide curriculum leadership for their academic units. Chairs of accredited programs exhibited higher levels of curriculum leadership, while chairs of discipline-based departments tended to provide more management of the curriculum than leadership. In addition, findings indicate that not only did chairs enter the role with limited administrative experience, but they also were not formally socialized to the role. This lack of socialization for department chairs could interfere with role enactment and limit the extent to which chairs engage in curriculum leadership. Finally, the multiple and complex responsibilities of the department chair role may lead to role overload and interfere with the enactment of the curriculum leadership role of the chair.


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