September 17th, 2008

Faculty Evaluation Serves Institutional, Individual Needs

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The challenge of faculty evaluation is to simultaneously foster faculty development and fulfill the institution’s goals and mission, says Larry Braskamp, professor of Education at Loyola University Chicago and advocate of a humanistic approach to faculty evaluation.

“Evaluation involves setting the culture and climate for faculty to develop, and it has to take on an openness and respect for the individual to experiment and fail. You encourage faculty members to self-assess. It doesn’t involve a lot of bureaucracy. It’s more a relationship between the faculty member and his or her peers and with the department chair and dean,” Braskamp says.

Braskamp uses the description “sitting beside” to describe this faculty evaluation method. Its goals are to humanize the process, understand as well as to judge, enhance role of colleagues, build community, increase respect for diversity, demonstrate individual accountability, and promote mutual and collective accountability.

Sitting beside involves three activities:

  • setting expectations
  • collecting evidence
  • using the evidence to for institutional and individual purposes.

Evaluation should consider each faculty member’s performance in four areas:

  • teaching — instructing, advising, supervising, guiding, and mentoring students; developing learning activities; developing as a teacher
  • research and creative activities — conducting research, producing creative works, editing and managing creative works, leading and managing funded research and creative projects.
  • outreach/professional practice/engagement — conducting applied research and evaluation, disseminating knowledge, developing new products, practices, clinical procedures, participating in partnerships with other agencies, performing clinical service
  • citizenship — contributing to the local campus; contributing to disciplinary and professional associations and societies; contributing to civic, political, religious, and other communities.

Braskamp says that faculty evaluation should recognize that faculty will engage in different kinds of activities depending on their individual goals and that these goals change throughout one’s career. “It’s very important that the individual and the institution sit down annually to negotiate — I use that term in a very positive way not a legal way – what the institution expects of the faculty member and what the faculty member expects from the institution to help him or her grow professionally. It’s an ongoing development process both for the individual and the institution.”

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Evaluation should consider both merit and worth.

Merit is the extent to which faculty compare with their peers nationally in terms of productivity (research grants, publications, etc.).

Worth refers to the value the faculty member brings to the institution. “Worth is locally determined, and if one doesn’t know what the priorities of an institution are, it’s hard to know what is worthwhile,” Braskamp says.

Braskamp says that institutions should focus more on worth and less on merit. “In some ways we are much more merit-oriented than worth-oriented. If a faculty member does research, they generally get promoted, which is a merit-based thing. At the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Harvard, faculty worth is scholarship. But if you’re at a small community college, then what’s a lot more important is the extent to which that person is part of that community.”

The evaluation process should incorporate a variety of sources of information, including rating scales, interviews, written essays, observations, checklists, “anything that would help construct a collage of a person’s performance,” Braskamp says. “I argue for a portfolio approach to faculty assessment and development because faculty are very complicated and develop in different ways at different times in their careers.”

Sitting down with faculty on a regular basis helps establish an ongoing relationship in which assessment is not seen as some bureaucratic necessity but as an opportunity for faculty and administrators to talk about how things are going and what is expected of them, Braskamp says.