When the College implemented new procedures for evaluating part-time faculty, many part-time faculty and others throughout the College asked P-fac to state an official position on our concerns about the new plan. At its meeting on November 3, 2008, the P-fac Steering Committee unanimously adopted the following statement:
The College administration has implemented an evaluation policy for part-time faculty that it says meets the terms of our contract. We disagree. They have said the policy will first be administered to a relatively small group and be reevaluated at the end of the semester. We believe the policy will prove unworkable and has the potential to be unjust.
Remembering that the contractually defined goal was for a college-wide, multidimensional, fair evaluation system, P-fac has numerous reasons for finding the new policy unsatisfactory:
The only unifying elements are the forms used to report the evaluation. These forms use terms of evaluation that are so vague as to be meaningless. What does “meets expectations” mean? Where does the line go that determines a faculty member has not met expectations? And why is there no provision for faculty who exceed expectations? The official “College-wide Criteria” are also left undefined. Terms like “demonstrates mastery of course content,” “effectively facilitates student learning” “grades appropriately and consistently” and “uses entire class time for student learning” do not define or establish criteria; they are entirely open to an individual evaluator’s interpretation. This system throws all of the responsibility for definition and standard-setting back onto the departments and establishes no college-wide criteria, merely formulaic procedures.
The “menu” of methods to be used has many flaws. Remember, the evaluation need use only two menu items for the initial evaluation during the first year of teaching; only three are required subsequently during the faculty member’s career. Written teaching materials “specific to the faculty member”(such as assignments) and representative samples of student work are on the menu, but there is no requirement that either of these be chosen by the evaluator. Student evaluations are on the list and highly likely to be used, since they are easy. Yet the College plans to continue the entirely voluntary online student evaluations, meaning a faculty member could keep or lose a job based on as few as five (or even fewer for smaller classes) responses! And of course, these are likely to be from disgruntled students displeased with their grades. “Tell your students how important the evaluations are” simply does not qualify as a means of making results comprehensive. Unless evaluations are required of all students in a class, they are an unfair evaluation method. Meanwhile, since student self-assessments are also on the menu, a person’s job could be lost based solely on student input, a highly unprofessional idea. According to the program guidelines, students will simply be asked to respond to the official course objectives, which are often phrased in academese. While this procedure may have some value in evaluating course objectives, it has little value in evaluating faculty. Furthermore, P-fac was expressly assured in the past that this method would “never” be used to evaluate faculty.
Classroom visits are back on the menu. After months of insisting that classroom observations were totally impracticable, the administration has reinstated “classroom visits.” These are the old-fashioned kind conducted for 20 minutes or so by a chair or the chair’s designee. The only improvement is that faculty members can complain to their dean if they don’t receive advance notice, or the visitor does not use the approved form.
Little has been done to improve the quality of evaluators. The chair may designate “any” tenured or tenure-track faculty as an evaluator, despite many protests by P-fac. While a short training session is being offered about proper forms and procedures, no qualitative training about how to evaluate is required. Furthermore, no meeting between the evaluator and evaluatee is required. Any education specialist can tell you that this is completely contrary to best practices.
Faculty do have a right to see and write a response to the evaluation report. And they may submit self-evaluation materials if they wish– but there is no provision that these materials will actually be considered in the evaluation, or even read, unless the chair or designated evaluator chooses to do so. So these measures, while slightly better than nothing, do not compensate for the obvious flaws in comprehensiveness and fairness of the new program.
At meetings with the Steering Committee on January 14 and 15, 2009, Provost Steve Kapelke and Vice President for Academic Affairs Louise Love agreed to meet again with the Steering Committee at the end of spring semester 2009 to review the evaluation process as used during fall 2008 and spring 2009. Meanwhile, P-fac encourages all part-time faculty and all departments to carefully observe the implementation of the policy and do just what the administration asks: report any problems or suggestions to the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Planning at ext. 7026. And keep P-fac informed, too, at ext. 7485.