As part of the educational assessment process, faculty evaluation attempts to assess and quantify the effectiveness of teaching professionals. Turn to Faculty Focus for tips and techniques.
Reading students’ comments on official end-of-term evaluations—or worse, online at sites like RateMyProfessors.com—can be depressing, often even demoralizing. So it’s understandable that some faculty look only at the quantitative ratings; others skim the written section; and many others have vowed to never again read the public online comments. It’s simply too painful.
How else might you respond? Here are seven suggestions for soothing the sting from even the most hurtful student comments:
Two concerns are often raised when department chairs attempt to address breaches of collegiality through the faculty evaluation process. The first is whether they’re permitted to do so at all, since very few faculty handbooks list collegiality as a criterion for reviews. The second is whether evaluation is an effective means of dealing with these challenges, since collegiality is often regarded as something highly subjective and not measurable or verifiable in any consistent way. The first of these concerns can be dealt with rather quickly, while the second will require a much more extended discussion.
With an increasing number of rating systems now online, the question of who completes those surveys (since not all students do) is one with important implications. Are those students dissatisfied with the course and the instruction they received more likely to fill out the online surveys? If so, that could bias the results downward. But if those students satisfied with the course are more likely to evaluate it, that could interject bias in the opposite direction.
October 12 - Do Students Like Your Communication Style?
Should instructors care whether or not students find their exchanges satisfying? They should, because as this research (and previous studies) document, those levels of satisfaction correlate positively and significantly with something these researchers call “affective learning.” Affective learning involves student feelings and emotions toward the subject matter and the teacher.
Incredible changes have occurred in the brief 25 years I have spent as a professor in higher education. In the area of technology alone, significant innovations have impacted the way people work, play, and learn. The benefits these technological advances bring to faculty and students are incalculable.
Yet, some areas of higher education have undergone very little change.
July 30 - Three Steps to Better Course Evaluations
With each semester’s end comes the often-dreaded course evaluation process. Will the students be gentle and offer constructive criticism, or will their comments be harsh and punitive? What do students really want out of a course, anyway? A better time to think about course evaluations is at the beginning of the semester. At that point, an instructor can be proactive in three areas that I have found lead to better course evaluations.
Assembling the annual tenure and promotion dossier to best represent one’s teaching, research, and service can be overwhelming and anxiety-ridden for some junior faculty. Yet, prior to earning tenure, junior faculty in colleges and universities across the country spend untold hours preparing the annual dossier to present and illustrate accomplishments and productivity across teaching, research, and service.
Whose problem is it when there is a perception that the performance of a faculty or staff member has not been satisfactory? Consider the following scenario. A chairperson is conducting an annual performance appraisal of a faculty member and says, “Your teaching seems to have been quite good this year, based on both student and peer evaluations. Your research productivity exceeded our institutional expectations. And you served on more than your share of departmental committees, worked with the recommended number of advisees, and even chaired an important search for us. But there’s still this lingering perception out there that you’re just not a team player, that you put your own agenda ahead of the department’s. I’m worried that that’s going to hurt you when you come up for promotion in a few years. I’m not saying that this is my opinion or that it’s even justified; I’m just saying that it’s a common perception.”
Our institution has recently completed its third year of personnel reviews that rely completely on electronic portfolios. All retention, promotion, and instructional academic staff rehiring decisions now depend on electronic portfolios drawn from a common source, as do all internal annual reports and some external reports.
December 14 - Beware of Faculty Promotion and Tenure Pitfalls
Controversies surrounding promotion and tenure can lead to legal trouble for departments and institutions. It’s up to academic leaders to guard against possible pitfalls by adopting, disseminating, and implementing equitable policies.