Research Proposal: Effects of Understaffing in DoDEA

Research Proposal: Effects of Understaffing in DoDEA


The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is a civilian agency that falls Under the United States Department of Defense and is tasked with the management of schools for military-connected children in the United States and abroad, at the American military bases across the globe. DoDEA’s mission statement indicates an agency that is geared towards the imparting of knowledge in students who have military collections (DoDEA, 2019). This is made necessary given that military-connected children tend to have psychological problems that are associated with having their parents serve the country, especially in cases where parents are deployed to risky missions abroad. Issues such as family syndrome, are prevalent within this group of students in as much as statistics indicate that they are some of the most performing individuals (Tunac De Pedro et al., 2011). The Agency has restructured in recent years, to improve on leadership that is aimed at increasing educational outcomes within these institutions. Centers for Instructional Leadership (CIL) is in charge of a region, under Director for student excellence hence provide professional leadership development to Instructional Support specialists (ISS’s). Superintendents and principals call ISS’s for Data Based Strategies to drive academic achievements and other educational needs. As seen, each school is under a district, which then falls under a regional CIL, Under a Director of Excellence.

Problem Statement

DoDEA’s workforce is made up of 15,873 whereas most of the workforce is mainly female, which makes up an estimated 78 percent. These figures do not match up primarily to a large number of students in the schools both locally and abroad. Additionally, there is a continued low level of male participation in the teaching force, which is indicative of understaffing levels. Understaffing in education has been identified to have adverse effects on education outcomes as teachers are more likely to be overworked, given that low levels of the teaching staff require the student ratio per teacher to be stretched for each student to get some interactive time with the teacher. The stretched proportions, therefore, lower the quality of education available for a student. At the same time, given the psychological conditions that these students undergo, there is need to have special programs to help with counselling in DoDEA schools as well as provide additional special programs to special needs students and children in a manner that is consistent with educational standards, allowing them to integrate in the school environment similar to students without military connections (Beardslee, 2013; Richardson et al., 2011). This research proposal, therefore, seeks to understand the issue of understaffing in DoDEA affiliated schools and the associated adverse effects of understaffing in such institutions.

Research Objectives and Aims

The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors that contribute to understaffing in the DoDEA schools and recommend viable strategies towards the mitigation of this issue to eliminate the adverse effects of understaffing on students and the societies in which they come from. The research findings and results will be instrumental in shaping the future course of staffing in DoDEA. Administrators will be in a position to understand the causes of understaffing and its harmful effects, while at the same time obtain the potential solutions to the problem aimed at promoting quality education within the scope of the DoDEA. Apart from understanding the effects and causes of understaffing, the research will also help with the advancement of scholarly excellence within the field of education since it would serve as a reliable source of research data and information on the topic staffing in educational institutions. The study has strong relevance to the society since it will address the concerns as well as the strategies that are key in the process of delivering enhanced quality education to students within the DoDEA schools.

Project Significance

DoDEA institutions are established to help ensure quality education to children with military-connections. Military connection implies having a mother, father or guardian in the military; thus such children are entitled to attend to the base schools within which their parents and custodians are situated. As previously stated, the family syndrome may put a military personnel’s career in jeopardy; hence it is essential that they are kept near their families. On the other hand, their children may exhibit behavioral disorders if left in environments where they do not have contact with one or both of their parents who are serving in the military. However, when in the base schools, it is crucial that these children receive a quality education that is at par with the quality of education received by their counterparts without military connections. However, understaffing threatens to hinder the attainment of quality education in DoDEA.

This research is therefore significant in addressing this risk, recommending possible solutions as well as making it relevant to educational institutions and government educational administrators who have the power to initiate additional research into the matter or focus on creating policies that are geared towards meeting required staffing levels in DoDEA. This is significant since it will improve the quality education received by the respective students and the research will also be a reference for future reference to other future researchers who would wish to address this particular topic or other related topics as well. Finally, this study will help my concentration within the Human Resource and Employment Relations (HRER) curriculum by providing an insight into some of the significant effects of understaffing, more so in public institutions which are often plagued with this problem.

Action Research Approach

This research employs the steps found in the action research approach. Firstly, the project focusses on the issue of understaffing in DoDEA, its cause and effects. This research will then clarify human resource theories involved in staffing. This step will then be following by establishing the relevant questions for the study which will be employed in the fourth step which consists of the collection of data. An analysis of the data will then be conducted before the reporting of the findings occurs, which will then prompt all relevant parties to take informed action.

Data collection plan

Quantitative methods of data collection

Data that is in numbers, quantities or values can be acquired through quantitative methods of data collection. The methods include; interviews, quantitative surveys, and quantitative observations.


Interviews are a method of data collection that can be carried out face to face, as computer-assisted interviews that are known as computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), telephone and web-based interviews. There has to be a set of standard interview questions that have been prepared beforehand. The questions can be administered to teachers, principals, and directors of execution.

Quantitative surveys

These kinds of studies are comprised of closed questions. Principals and teachers will have to answer the questions using the provided options. Quantitative reviews are useful as they can reach many responders for better results.

Quantitative observations

A trained observer can implement this observation method. The trained observer is to make observations by being part of the setting. He or she can check for the number of teachers, school hours, number of lessons in a day among other necessary quantitative data.

Revision of documents

School documents will be revised for the collection of quantitative data on the teachers, students, schools and lessons.

Qualitative methods of data collection

Data collection through qualitative methods is essential for the collection of data which helps in the comprehension or gives insight on any motivations or underlying means for the matter at hand. The qualitative methods include; focus groups, face to face interviews, qualitative observations and qualitative surveys.

Focus groups

Focus groups are a data collection method where data is gathered from group discussions. The focus groups are usually made up of around ten to a maximum of thirteen members and a minimum of three. A moderator ought to be present in the discussions. The moderator is to assemble the group members who may be teachers and principals in this case. He or she is to then introduce a topic on the concerns about understaffing in DoDEA and gather qualitative data from the debate or discussions. This method makes it possible to collect descriptive, detailed and a wide range of responses.

Qualitative surveys

Qualitative surveys can be carried out via web-based questionnaires or paper questionnaires. Web-based questionnaires are administered by uploading inquiries to a site where the respondents can answer the open-ended questions electronically. This method is quick. Paper surveys or questionnaires in qualitative data collection are usually composed of open-ended questions. The respondents will be expected to give definitive and detailed answers.

Face to face interviews

The interviewer is to have a one on one interaction with the interviewee in this case. The interview can be unstructured or informal, but for more straightforward analysis, the interviewer may opt to standardize or have a semi-structured interview. This is a suitable method for collecting more detailed data.


This is another qualitative method of data collection where a trained observer is to be used. The trained observer is to immerse himself or herself in the DoDEA educational setting for the collection of data. The observer is to carefully watch every activity and persons in the context while jotting down notes or utilizing other tools for recording the collected data.

Challenges in data collection

Both the qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection possess some problems. For instance, data analysis can be quite tedious as well as time-consuming due to the full range of answers from many respondents in paper surveys or questionnaires. Another challenge is that training personnel such as the observers, interviewers and focus group moderators could be quite costly. Observations may also be prone to biasness while revision of documents is a method that is reliant on the quality of the papers.

Importance of data towards potential solutions

The data collected plays an essential role in possible solutions. For instance, the data will improve and facilitate the decision-making process. It will enable DoDEA to decide on the resources and their quantity required in solving the understaffing problem. Data also raises the quality of the results that are expected.

Literature Review

Several scholars agree that understaffing cannot have a positive effect on an organization. Its effects go both ways. Firstly, there is that impact and attitudes on the leadership, impact, and effects on the employees themselves and finally, impact on service delivery. Collectively has implications on all levels of the organization do not sit well with the organization’s objectives, but instead, they threaten to impede the attainment of the aims, objectives, and goals. On the other hand, causes of understaffing tend to vary, with the public sector organizations suffering the most due to the loss of human resource to more competitive and lucrative corporate or private sector firms.

On Effects on Employees and Organizational Performance

Hudson and Shen (2015) in an attempt to establish a multidimensional conceptualization of understaffing, state that workers in most of the organizations they interviewed claim that understaffing is the primary stressor in their work lives. This is as a result of individuals having to pick up additional roles higher than what an employee would ordinarily partake in a fully staffed situation. However, they note that there various types of understaffing, which are differentially related to workplace outcomes. In Ganster and Dwyer (1995), the authors tend to hold a divergent view from that in Hudson and Shen (2005) claiming that the effects of understaffing in white-collar occupations, increased tasks perceptions and higher performance as compared to blue collar jobs. However, when it came to the group level analysis where individuals were supposed to perceive and carry out tasks as a unit, there was a reduction in organizational performance. In the educational sector, these sentiments are equally echoed by Kibaara and Mbaabu (2016) who state that understaffing within the teaching results in an increased load for practitioners, who at best are often deprived of their ability to fully deliver to their potential, as this tends to surmount to overworking. In the same vein, students are therefore denied an opportunity to holistic learning which connotes a failure towards attaining organizational goals as found in previous studies (e.g., Ganster & Dwyer, 1995; Hudson & Shen, 2015).

On the Managerial level

Engetou (2017), however, provides a managerial perspective towards the understaffing debacle, stating that staffing influences the implementation of management policies. As such, a lower than required level in the staffing of individuals will impede the application of such policies. Given that an organization is a networked entity, the failed implementation of managerial procedures will in effect hinder the attainment of organizational goals and objectives as found in Kibaara and Mbaabu (2016) and Hudson and Shen (2005)

Alternative Solutions Analysis

Alternative 1. Design and implement processes that support evaluate and reward employees

Rewarding employees for exemplary performance and efforts put into work affect their morale within the work environment and in most cases will affect the turnover rates. When individuals feel motivated for their efforts, they are more likely to remain in the workplace. As such, DoDEA should come up with methods of identifying performers and offering rewards and recognition. Blanket rewards fail to hit the point since all individuals are treated the same, whereas their efforts are entirely different. The top performers will feel that their efforts are ignored; hence they are more likely to take their talents elsewhere, resulting in a decrease in staff and understaffing in the process. This advantageous since it eliminates the costs of recruiting and orientating new staff. Additionally, it helps keep the already present members who despite feeling overburdened realize that their efforts do not go to waste. However, it can only be employed in areas where the understaffing issue is not quite heavy, while at the same time the organization sands a risk of blowing up its payroll by paying more to the individuals.

Alternative 2. Embrace a diversified and culturally responsible recruitment

More than sixty percent of DoDEA staff, and more precisely teachers are of white ethnicity. This highlights a racial imbalance in the workforce which tends to scare away other potential employees from various races (DoDEA, 2019). While this is not to be blamed on the human resource tasked with staffing and employment, it is important to note that they can employ a multiethnic approach towards the hiring issue. Firstly, the students are from mixed races, as they are a representative of the US military; hence their teachers should equally be missed for equity and equality. Increasing more slots for other qualified persons from different ethnicities should help raise the staff levels to the levels required to efficiently impart knowledge on the students without creating pressure on the teachers, while at the same time raising student-teacher interaction since the teacher-student ratios will be lower (Tunac De Pedro, et al., 2011; Richardson, et al., 2011).

Alternative 3. Tracking Employees

Whenever employees are understaffed, overworking becomes a common phenomenon. This may partially be caused by lack of setting clear goals within the organization, which is further generated by a lack of awareness by the employer on the employee’s plight. Monitoring, therefore, can help realize which areas are overstretching the employee’s abilities as well as understand which employees are not fully engaged to help redistribute the human resources to other regions, offloading some of the burdens from other employees. However, tracking does not solve the understaffing issue but instead, provides a measure through which the leadership can equitably share organizational roles amongst the available employees without overburdening any of them. However, this may result in suits where an employee feels that the employer employed unorthodox means in the tracking process.

Solutions Costs and Benefits

The Cost-benefit analysis attaches financial estimates on each possible solution, while at the same time viewing the benefits from the solutions if undertaken. For a solution to be viable, its benefits must surpass its potential costs. Hover, in this case, when faced with multiple decisions, the solution with the highest benefit to cost ratio is to be determined and selected as the potential solution.


Cost/Benefit Analysis

Designing and implementing processes that support and evaluate and reward employees within an organization, is less costly that recruitment is given that such a task is bestowed upon the leadership. However, the reward system increases the payroll which varies according to the situation which makes it costly to implement. On the other hand, it helps increase employee motivation lowering turnover rates. It is important to note that turnover demands recruitment which in itself is an expensive venture, concerning the designing and implementing a reward system.

Employing a culturally diverse recruitment process will help increase the staffing levels, while at the same time create a balance at the workplace as an all-inclusive environment. This will positively impact students that come from non-white communities since the climate will be ethnically balanced. However, selective recruitment in a bid to create a sense of inclusivity at the workplace is quite expensive, given that not all minorities are in a position to produce individuals with the required expertise to handle the jobs at DoDEA. This may, therefore, necessitate more training necessary to suit them up for the tasks ahead making it more expensive in the process.

Finally, tracking employees is an easy way of tapping into the workforce’ and monitoring issues such as time wastage while at the same time, giving the leadership power to adjust schedules to allow the few individuals fill in the gaps as better mitigation strategies are thought of. However, while such acts are not illegal, there are instances where the employee may overstep in the whole process, to the point of infringing into the employees’ rights. Should the employee detect, a lawsuit may ensue which may have negative repercussions and financial damages that will automatically be way higher than the cost of carrying out surveillance on the employees.


Recommended Solution

The Decision Matrix

With three viable solutions, a decision matrix should help establish the best approach to eliminate the harmful effects of understaffing. The quantification of variables impacted by each decision eliminates emotion and knee-jerk decision making to an actual problem. While employing similar factors in the estimation of the best choice, the following factors help determine one solution to recommend to the management and policymakers. The weights are assigned to highlight which decision criteria are more important than others. On the other hand, a high score per factor against each weight is favorable, while a low score is negative.






Criterion Weight Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3
Potential Impact on Organization’s Performance 3  




Ease to Implement 1 3(X1)=3 2(X1)=2 1(X1)=1
Benefit/Cost Relationship 2 3(X2)=6 5(X2)=10 3(X2)=6
Implementation Speed 1 5(X1)=5 3(X1)=3 5(X1)=5
Acceptance by Members 1 3(X1)=3 5(X1)=5 1(X1)=1
Total Rating   32 35 22




5 = high

3 = medium

1 = low

From the decision matrix above, the second alternative, embracing a culturally diversified approach in recruitment is, therefore, the recommended solution. This is because the alternative’s scores against the weights are very high when it comes to organizational performance, which in this case is geared towards alleviating the adverse effects of understaffing on organizational performance. However, while the implementation speed is low due to procedures and paperwork necessary to ensure that such an approach is embraced as a policy, the benefit/cost relationship is high in the long run. A culturally diversified workforce will ensure that the organization’s mission, which is to impart knowledge in the best way possible among military-connected children is achieved. Given that the students are from different cultural backgrounds having a culturally diversified workforce will help create a sense of belonging, which at best will influence the outcomes of students from minority groups. Furthermore, it will also help raise the staffing levels of the workforce at DoDEA.

Importance of Each Criterion

As already seen, one of the effects of understaffing is a reduction or low organization performance. As such, the first criterion used to weigh alternatives is based on the potential impact of choice on an organizations performance. An option with high potential is highly recommended, in as much as the decision is based on the total score of an alternative against each weight.

Secondly, the Ease and speed of implementation, determine how much efforts an alternative will take up in ensuring that the organization’s functions are normalized and the adverse effects of understaffing eliminated. It is important to note that each option has a pathway through the organizational leadership structure through which it can be implemented. For instance, bureaucracy and politics may affect the Implementation of one alternative over the other. As such, an option with a medium to a high score on the ease and speed of implementation weights would be highly recommended.

Thirdly the Benefit/Cost relationship indicates how much a possible solution is worth and the potential benefits from such an action. It could be viewed as profits from an investment where an investment with the highest returns is considered the most viable. However, in this situation, alternative 1, which involves rewarding employees as a source of motivation tends to increase its benefits in the long run and is way cheaper than alternative 2. On the other hand alternative two is quite costly to implement but should it be successful, it would be beneficial in the long run given that it will not only eliminate the problem of cultural bias but will reduce the adverse effects of organizational understaffing by increasing staff levels in all DoDEA schools. Finally, acceptance by members is a critical factor since these are the individuals that make sure and the implementation of a solution succeeds or fails.

Barriers to implementation

Several factors may hinder the implementation of culturally diverse recruitment of the staff in DoDEA, which would raise staffing levels while increasing the number of employees from minority groups. One of the hindrances is the resistance to change. The DoDEA may not be flexible enough to allow assimilation or evolution towards a culture that is more diverse. The opposition may limit the advantage of the new perspective as the minorities in the workforce may be forced to bear the burden of changing. The other factor is communication barriers. The evolution of the DoDEA workforce towards a broader cultural diversity may result in a reduction in the effectiveness and synergy of the workgroups. This lack of efficiency is because miscommunication within the workforce due to the varied forms of expression in different cultures may occur. Homophily is another factor that is a barrier to diversity in the DoDEA staff. Homophily is the tendency of persons to prefer association with individuals who are similar to them. In DoDEA’s case, most of the staff are white. It may be therefore hard to break homophily among them to accommodate and work effectively with individuals from other cultures or races.

Measures to overcome the barriers

To effectively implement cultural diversification in DoDEA staff, some steps have to be put in place to overcome the obstacles. For instance, the existing staff ought to be given proper orientation on the plans to increase diversity in the organization. This orientation will prepare them mentally; hence the assimilation process will be more straightforward. The second measure should break the communication barrier. This can be made possible by helping the staff understand the importance of cultural diversity in the organization’s workforce. They should also be walked through knowing the forms of expression used in different cultures to reduce conflicts as a result of poor communication or understanding. This will increase the effectiveness and the general output of the staff. The homophily barrier also needs to be overcome. The existing workforce ought to prepare themselves for the changes in diversity. They should make themselves flexible enough to break comfort in familiarity and be adventurous and accommodating enough to work with people from other cultures.

Implementation plan

Definition of objective

This implementation seeks to handle the problem of understaffing in DoDEA. More staff are to be recruited while considering cultural diversification in the organization.

The implementation of the objective ought to kick off in the next three weeks and be completed in a maximum of six months. Allocation of resources is an integral part of the implementation. The financial department ought to allocate sufficient funds for the entire project including funds for the recruitment of new staff. The human resource department should also see to the provision of adequate personnel to carry out the plan. Every school principal is to see to the proper training of the existing staff on the upcoming changes. The workforce is to be prepared to let go of any homophily or resistance to change to accommodate the new staff from diversified cultures. The trainers are also to teach the staff on how to handle cultural diversity at work especially the different forms of expression.

Metrics and evaluation of success

One metric for success will be the evaluation of quantitative data and qualitative data. The quantitative data can be student performance. There will be a success if student performance has increased while there is maximum class attendance by the teaching staff and proper curriculum coverage. Qualitative data can be acquired through interviews, focus groups or qualitative surveys. Success will be indicated of the organization’s staff have increased effectiveness and reduced conflicts while maintaining a cultural understanding. Evaluation of the project’s success can be done through the analysis of reviews. Success will be indicated if there is an improvement in the student and staff performance in both the end term reviews and end of academic year reviews.


Every United States military personnel, just like any other citizen, deserves an opportunity to be close to his or her family members. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) has made this possible by managing education for children who are military-connected in different the United States military bases around the world. This mission is, however, put in jeopardy by issues such as understaffing, lack of psychological counseling for the students as well as lack of facilities and staff to handle special needs students. This research proposal has therefore evaluated the understaffing problem and provided solutions for it.

Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection are used in this case. The quantitative methods of gathering data include; interviews, quantitative surveys, quantitative observations and revision of documents. Focus groups, qualitative studies, face to face interviews and observations are examples of qualitative techniques of gathering data. The collection of data is faced with challenges such as biasness in observations, time-consuming and tedious data analysis in paper surveys or questionnaires and high costs incurred in the training of data collection personnel like interviewers, observers and focus group moderators. The data collected plays a significant role in decision-making processes.

Some alternative solutions to understaffing are provided. They include; embracing diversified and culturally responsible recruitment, tracking of employees and the designing as well as the implementation of processes that support, evaluate and reward employees. Embracing diversified and culturally responsible recruitment is the recommended solution. This recommended solution is faced with barriers such as homophily, resistance to change and communication barrier. These barriers can be overcome through the implementation of measured like the proper training of the staff on how to handle cultural diversity at work. The implementation plan covers the objectives of the project and allocation of the necessary resources which include; funds and personnel. Student and staff performance serve as a success metric while the end of term and end of academic year reviews help in the evaluation of the project success.


Executive review

The department of defense education activity (DoDEA) has significantly helped in the maintenance of the family unit by managing schools that cater for the education of military-connected children not only the United States but also other worldwide American military bases. Since its establishment, DoDEA has sought to impart knowledge on the children who are military-connected while keeping them closer to their military parents who are in different missions. This system has helped in the reduction of psychological problems for the children whose parents may be in risky missions.

However, the issue of understaffing in DoDEA has raised concerns. The female staff makes up around seventy-eight percent of the workforce which is a substantial number when compared to that of males. This has resulted in the generally low quality of education offered to the students. There is also a need to provide counseling services to the students due to the psychological conditions that they go through. The organization has to provide resources necessary for taking care of the special needs students. This research proposal, therefore, analyses the problem of understaffing in the organization, the effects, solution and how to implement the solution.

There are several alternative solutions to the understaffing issue in DoDEA. The recommended solution, however, is just one among the alternatives. The solution is that the organization has to carry out the recruitment of more staff in the schools. The recruitment ought to have the element of cultural diversity. The diversity will ensure that children from different cultures or ethnicities do not feel left out or out of place. The collected results ease any decision-making process to handle the problem. The data makes it easy to know the resources required for the project and how many slots need to be filled. This recommended solution not only calls for an increase in staffing but also diversification of the workforce. The solution is, therefore, most likely to improve the performance of the student’s as well as their cultural understanding. DoDEA ought to, therefore, consider the implementation of this solution to achieve its objectives.




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