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Developing a Comprehensive Departmental System of Evaluation

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The routine use of all of the evaluation methods listed is not recommended. Rather, it is suggested that departments develop comprehensive systems which use these different teaching evaluation methods selectively and appropriately to assess the quality of instruction and to provide a valid picture of an individual’s teaching. The basic elements of a comprehensive system are:

Instructor consent
Teaching evaluations should only be done with knowledge and consent of the instructor.

Teaching committee
It is recommended that departments, when possible, establish teaching committees to monitor the quality of instruction and conduct teaching evaluations.

Teaching files
In order to develop a continuous record of evaluation, it is recommended that all departments maintain teaching files for all faculty. Systematic student ratings, course materials, and other information relating to teaching would be placed in the file on an ongoing basis. Such materials can then be used by the faculty member or department to construct a teaching dossier, or portfolio whenever one is needed.

Regular evaluations
In many departments, end-of-course student ratings and faculty self-reviews are sufficient for regular evaluation.

Special evaluations
It is not necessary to evaluate in great detail all courses taught by all faculty every quarter. Extensive evaluations using classroom visits or interviews with students should be reserved for instructors who request additional evaluation in order to improve his/her teaching, or when a department has questions about the quality of teaching for critical personnel decisions.  Extensive evaluation is also appropriate for new course development or at times of major curriculum reorganization or development.

Different department systems
Teaching assignments vary within and between departments, and it is expected that departments will develop their own systems which emphasize different evaluation methods. The following section contains an example of a particular departmental evaluation system.

Information for students
Certain information from the comprehensive evaluation system can be useful for students in program planning and course selection. Information about the course organization, reading, grading and test procedures, previous student evaluations and faculty comments about their course might be provided to students with the instructor’s consent.

A comprehensive system of teaching evaluation will require more time and effort than our current methods, but the additional effort to develop a credible and equitable system is well worth it. Many faculty believe that such decisions warrant a comparable commitment of time. More importantly, given the potential impact on the faculty member’s professional career, especially with the increased attention given to university instruction and its outcomes, evaluation of teaching effectiveness merits a serious commitment from everyone involved to provide an accurate and fair assessment. Perhaps most importantly, the process helps everyone on the faculty to become more effective teachers.

Both departmental instructional programs and faculty teaching assignments vary widely. A single fixed set of rules and procedures for evaluation cannot meet the needs of all departments. However, the principles outlined in table 1.3 should provide a useful framework on which departments can build their own evaluation program. 

Table 1.3        An Example of a Departmental System

Department X is a moderate sized department (35 FTE) with large
undergraduate and graduate programs. Because there are many TA-run
discussion sections in the large lecture and lab courses, graduate
teaching assistants are an important part of the instructional
effort. The department has a Teaching Committee to monitor the
evaluation system and to advise faculty on teaching.

Instructor Teaching Files
Files are maintained for all faculty by the staff person who
handles academic personnel. Faculty are asked to put copies of
all syllabi, other instructional materials, evaluations, and the
like, in their teaching file. Faculty are required to get
systematic student ratings for all of their courses using a
standard form for the evaluation.

Senior and Alumni Surveys
As part of periodic Academic Senate Reviews, the department has
surveyed seniors and alumni about both the program and the
quality of faculty instruction. The results for all faculty are
summarized and placed in the teaching files.

Faculty Portfolio or Dossier Preparation
Faculty under consideration for merit increases or promotion are
asked to prepare a reflective teaching narrative. The narrative
includes a self-appraisal in which faculty are asked for self-
ratings and comments on student ratings, as well as a teaching
activities report in a standard format. Faculty have access to
all materials in their teaching file when preparing their dossier
and should carefully select appropriate samples for the
appendices to their narrative.

Special Review Reports
Faculty at critical career points: tenure decisions, full
professor, professor VI, and also for some accelerated
advancements, receive a more careful review using group
interviews with students, classroom visits, solicited letters
from alumni, or other methods depending on what is most
appropriate for the teaching responsibilities of the faculty
member under consideration. When possible, these special
procedures are carried over the year or so preceding the review
for advancement.

Teaching/Learning Consultation

Faculty may request special reviews for teaching improvement
purposes at any time. Also, the department may suggest to some
faculty, based on their departmental review, that they should
obtain diagnostic appraisal and assistance using the various
programs offered by the department, or the campus Faculty
Consultation Program.

Departmental Committees
The department review procedure for advancement use an ad-hoc
subcommittee. All of the material collected for teaching,
research, and service is evaluated by this committee and a report
and recommendation is made to the full department which votes on
the appointment.

Teaching Colloquium
All candidates for departmental hiring are required to give a
teaching colloquium as part of the interview process. Students,
graduates and faculty are invited to attend and vote on the
candidate’s performance.

Suggested Reading:

Arreola, Raoul. 2000. Developing a Comprehensive Faculty Evaluation System: A Handbook for College Faculty and Administrators on Designing and Operating a Comprehensive Faculty Evaluation System. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co., Inc.

Seldin, P. et al. 1999. Changing Practices in Evaluation Teaching: a Practical Guide to Improved Faculty Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. 


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