The Role of Academic Management

Academic Management is a broad term and it can have various shades of meaning depending on the context you are in. In English Language Teaching, it usually refers to the positions of Academic Director, Director of Studies as well as Senior Teacher and Assistant Director of Studies.

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This of course varies from school to school. In one school, a Senior Teacher may partake in key academic decisions, such as syllabus design or choosing a coursebook. In another school, a Senior Teacher might be nothing more than someone whose job is to ensure the teaching staff are completing their admin duties in a timely manner.

The exact role and responsibility of an Academic Manager will always vary from school to school. However, it is arguable that there are overarching features that all such managerial roles have in common. What are these features? How do they apply to management in ELT? Keep reading to find out…

Reflecting on the Past

When it comes to trying to understand what the role of an Academic Manager is, it is imperative that the person fulfilling the role reflect not only on their actions and decisions but that they also look back to when they were on the receiving end of such decisions.

When you were a teacher, what function did the academic management play in your school? Was it effective for the teaching team and the day-to-day running of the school? Were there any decisions or procedures which you recall with distain or that you were particularly fond of? What would you have done differently to have improved things?

It is important to reflect on the performance of your previous managers, so that you can not only take away what they did well but also identify any errors or misjudgments they made and learn from them. It is that old adage of not letting history repeat itself.

Two-Way Communication

The role you fulfill will always require you to convey information to the teaching team as well as assigning tasks to teachers. However, this channel of communication should not be one-way.

A teacher should feel comfortable enough to be able to ask an ADoS or a DoS to help them with completing tasks. For example: when a teacher is really busy with additional marking or covering a sick teacher, they should feel that they can turn to academic management for support with serious areas, such lesson planning, as well as more mundane items, like getting help with photocopying lesson materials.

The role of academic management isn’t just one of dishing out the jobs: it is also about helping staff complete those jobs. If that means that the DoS has to get their hands dirty and role up their sleeves, then so be it. At the end of the day, the efforts of the management as well as the teachers are all in aid of one common goal: the school and the clients.

Facilitating Performance

The function and role of the institution is to provide quality teaching to the clients. The higher you move up the career ladder, the more removed you are from the day-to-day teaching in the school. This doesn’t mean you are less responsible for the successful teaching of the learners. In fact, it means you are even more responsible.

This additional level of responsibility can often be interpreted by academic managers as the reason why it is their job to police teaching staff in their teaching and admin duties. By checking teachers are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are ensuring that the school is functioning aptly for its clients.

Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The role Academic Management is supposed to play in all of this is ensuring that the school is functioning in such a way that the teaching staff can do their job with ease and minimum difficulties. For example: when teachers don’t have the necessary materials, when they can’t get the photocopier working and when the internet is down, it isn’t the DoS’s job to appoint someone to deal with those problems, it is their job to fix those problems.

Academic Management have the time and the resources to deal with the running of the school – teachers don’t. When you need a new timetable written up, don’t give it to a teacher who has five 90 minute classes – give it to yourself, not only because you have the time but because you are then making the school work better for your teaching staff.

Conclusion

In short, running a school from an academic perspective is not about identifying which tasks need completing and then dishing them out to staff to the lower rungs, it is about making sure everything is in place so that the teachers can come in and do their job to the best of their abilities, with minimum stress and obstacles.

 

4 thoughts on “The Role of Academic Management

  1. Hi Anthony,

    Reading your post I was finding some things quite familiar and others which I thought were a dream. In my career, at the small language school where I mostly work, the academic management consisted, until September of this year, of a Director of Studies, who was responsible for pretty much anything to do with clients and teachers, assessment, reports, schedules, choice of books, etc. They were always really busy but also very helpful and friendly. They could be addressed if we, teachers, needed help with methodology or anything else. However, they would never go as far as planning our lessons or making photocopies – that is the dream part.
    What I always felt as very important is their role of an intermediary between the teachers and the school owners/managers. And it is this role, in fact, that I consider the hardest part of the job, the existence on both sides of the barrier and the constant balancing between being the teachers’ partial ally while being part of the management. How successfully this is done depends not only on the Academic Manager’s personality and will, but also, I feel, on their job description. In other words, is their role solely the provision of quality control or is it quality control and professional development of the team of teachers? However, these are sensitive issues and not something I’d like to go into right now.
    What I would be really interested to learn is the different experience of other teachers around the world. Some questions: 1, Which of these affect and define the work of Academic Management: size of school, geographic position, school owners/executive management, school policy, anything else? 2, How did the teachers who took the role of academic managers feel about the transformation? What did they have to change? What do they like or dislike?
    Cheers
    Kamila

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    1. Hi Kamila,

      Thank you for the comment. Your not the first person to mention the important position a DoS plays, as an intermediary between the teaching staff and the Director. This was recently pointed out to me by a colleague in Buenos Aires. However, it is a position I’ve never noticed myself: as far as I can see, the DoS has always been the employee of the Director and does as told to.

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