Findings from a National Study of IR Work Tasks

A Focus on Senior IR/IE Leaders

TTasks-Icon.pnghe Association for Institutional Research (AIR) is engaged in a variety of efforts to document the current state of institutional research. The intent of these combined efforts is to better understand the field and includes this study of IR work tasks and the forthcoming National Study of Institutional Research Offices (part of the Improving and Transforming Institutional Research in Postsecondary Education initiative).

What tasks are common in the work of senior institutional research (IR) leaders? How do tasks differ by IR office size?

As part of the effort to document the current state of IR, AIR sought to identify the tasks involved in the work of IR across all titles and variations represented in its membership. This work, which started in 2012, was led by long-term AIR member and Past President Fred Lillibridge. The questions that guided the inquiry included: What skills and abilities do search committees seek when hiring institutional researchers? What tasks are included in AIR members’ work?

In order to explore these questions, position descriptions and announcements for vacant positions—contributed by AIR members—were used to create a draft typology of IR work tasks. The tasks collected represented a wide view of IR as a key educational field grounded in data and decisions, and highlighted the fact that IR professionals are engaged in work that is broader than IR.

A total of 1,451 IR-related tasks were shared with AIR members in a survey format to determine the relevance of the tasks and the frequency with which the tasks are done, and to identify who does the work entailed with the tasks.

The first in-depth exploration of the data from this study focused on the tasks relevant to the work of senior IR and senior institutional effectiveness (IE) leaders. The intent of the high-level review of one segment of the survey data was to provide an example of the rich information available in this vast data set. As such, analyses revealed the specific tasks senior IR/IE leaders perform to varying degrees overall, as well as the frequency with which certain tasks are performed in IR offices of different sizes.

Key findings include that (1) there is much variance in the duties assigned to IR/IE directors; (2) there are some commonalities across director roles; and (3) some duties are noticeably different based on the size of the IR office. These findings can help institutions when developing position descriptions for IR and benchmarking salaries. Also, this information can be useful when IR staff members plan their professional development for director positions and inform how duties might change when moving between IR offices of different sizes. Most notably, the results show that being an IR director requires breadth and depth of duties that make this a challenging position.

Readers are invited to download the complete report, Defining Institutional Research: Findings from a National Study of IR Work Tasks—A Focus on Senior IR/IE Leaders. 



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