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October 1, 1993
Vol. 51
No. 2

Measuring Shared Decision Making

    Two instruments may help schools more accurately assess teacher involvement in decision making.

    Instructional Strategies
      Teacher participation in shared decision making surfaced as a dominant theme in the reform and restructuring movements in the late 1980s, but controversy still persists over the best way to measure teacher involvement.
      Gathering information for planning and monitoring purposes can enhance shared decision making in schools. Some have taken the approach that plans can be designed by collecting data on what is already occurring or not occurring (Russell et al. 1992). Others have focused on surveying teachers about practices they would prefer (Smylie 1992).
      Our recent research indicates that a combination of these approaches yields the best information (Ferrara 1992, Ferrara and Repa 1992). From the combined data, a third measure can be calculated—the difference between what is happening and the expectations. Difference measures can then be used to uncover the greatest areas of need (see, for example, Alutto and Belasco 1972, Bacharach et al. 1990, Conley 1991a and b, Mohrman et al. 1978).
      Additionally, we discovered that it is important to describe decision-making involvement in terms of both the extent of decision making and the way in which decision making is occurring. Finally, the number of categories and the number of items needed to be expanded to reflect decisions as they actually occur in schools (Conley 1991a).
      As a result, we developed the Teacher Decision-making Instrument (TDI), a 68-item survey with 8 categories of decision making: planning, policy, curriculum/instruction, pupil personnel, staff personnel, staff development, school/community, and budget/management. The TDI can be used for follow-up analyses and for comparisons between responses of teachers and administrators.
      A brief example taken from a sample of New York State teachers demonstrates the richness of information that can be generated (see fig. 1) [figure currently unavailable]. The means of the three items taken from three of the eight categories in the TDI indicated that teachers have more participation in selecting instructional materials (4.4), less in setting building-level goals (2.6), and least in cutting monies from budgets (1.5). They desire participation in the same relative order (5.1, 4.2, 3.9).
      The percentages across an item indicated the way in which teachers felt the decisions were being made or wanted them to be made. Decision makers can use this information for planning purposes. In the current example, teachers shared, delegated, or autonomously made decisions in selecting instructional materials and desired slightly more sharing or autonomy than they had. Setting building-level goals occurred mostly through some form of administrative decision making, but teachers preferred more sharing. Cutting monies from budgets was done mostly by administrators without input, but teachers wanted involvement through sharing or group input.
      Looking at difference scores, we see that the area of greatest difference is cutting monies from budgets, with setting building-level goals showing a moderate difference, and selecting instructional materials indicating the least difference. We contend that relative degree of difference is the most useful measure when choosing areas for sharing decisions and that investigating differences in the kinds of input is critical in determining how to expand teachers' involvement in decision making.
      Our success with the TDI led us to develop the Shared Education Decisions Survey (SEDS) for use by those on decision-making councils at schools, including administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, community members, and school board members. SEDS contains 92 decisions within 10 categories, the 8 measured in the TDI, plus 2 new categories: parental involvement and plant management. Both instruments have demonstrated high reliability.
      References

      Alutto, J. A., and J. A. Belasco. (1972). “A Typology for Participation in Organizational Decision Making.” Administrative Science Quarterly 17: 117–125.

      Bacharach, S. B., P. Bamberger, S. C. Conley, and S. Bauer. (1990). “The Dimensionality of Decision Participation in Educational Organizations: The Value of a Multi-Domain Approach.” Educational Administration Quarterly 26, 2: 126–167.

      Conley, S. C. (1991a). “Review of Research on Teacher Participation in School Decision Making.” In Review of Research in Education, edited by G. Grant. Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association.

      Conley, S. C. (1991b). Personal communication.

      Ferrara, D. L. (1992). “Teacher Perceptions of Participation in Shared Decision Making in New York State.” Doctoral diss., New York University, New York.

      Ferrara D. L., and J. T. Repa. (October 17, 1992). “Planning for Shared Decision Making via Quantitative Assessment: Methodology and Implications.” International Society for Educational Planning, Virginia Beach, Va.

      Mohrman, A. M., Jr, R. A. Cooke, and S. A. Mohrman. (1978). “Participation in Decision Making: A Multidimensional Perspective.” Educational Administration Quarterly 14: 13–29.

      Russell, J. J., B. S. Cooper, and R. B. Greenblatt. (1992). “How Do You Measure Shared Decision Making?” Educational Leadership 50, 1: 39–40.

      Smylie, M. A. (Spring 1992). “Teacher Participation in School Decision Making: Assessing Willingness to Participate.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 14, 1: 53–67.

      Donna L. Ferrara has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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