Faculty Evaluate Evaluations

BY CRAIG VASEY AND LINDA CARROLL

This is a guest post by Craig Vasey and Linda Carroll. Craig Vasey is professor of philosophy and chair of the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion at the University of Mary Washington. He is a former member of the AAUP’s national council and current chair of the Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication. Linda Carroll is professor of Italian at Tulane University and a member of the AAUP’s Executive Committee.

Concerns about the evaluation of teaching have grown in recent years: decision-making, especially who is included in it; the instrument(s) used and who creates it or them; who evaluates; the availability of the results to various parties and who decides it; the use of the results by various parties; and the long-term effects of various forms of evaluation on the educational program and on all faculty members and especially on those in contingent positions lacking the protections of tenure. The AAUP Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication decided that it would be useful to faculty members to gather information and faculty views on these issues and that the most comprehensive understanding would be achieved through a questionnaire distributed nationally to as many faculty members as possible.

blogVaseyCarrollThe questionnaire was sent in digital form to about 140,000 faculty members and over 9,000 responded. We have summarized the results in a new Academe article, “How Do We Evaluate Teaching?” The thoughtfulness of the comments gave us much to reflect on and showed how widespread concerns about these issues are in the context of the increasing corporatization of institutions of higher education, with the concomitant mentality that administrators are CEOs and that students are customers. Additional concerns center on social media that permit students to make anonymous public comments on faculty members and on increasing evidence of biases of various kinds in student evaluations.

The most helpful contents of the responses, to my mind, involved means by which the faculty can maintain their role as professionals and maintain educational standards by being primary decision-makers in issues of evaluation, by conducting peer evaluation of teaching, by designing instruments calibrated both to the subject matter and to the type of course (first-year survey, senior seminar), by establishing instructional and achievement standards within the department and in the context of national standards in the field, by participating in field-related pedagogical activities, and by ensuring that all faculty members of all contract types be afforded the opportunity to participate in pedagogical activities.

Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.

 

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