Faculty Review: Common Problems

  • Inconsistent Reports of Peer Observation of Teaching: Although not formally required by University policy, ideally peer observations would occur on an annual basis, not just during reappointment years. Some colleges have a requirement for annual evaluations, so DEO should consult their collegiate guidelines on this matter. Although the candidate should be involved in the process, the DEO is responsible for ensuring that the observations take place. (Some reviews have implied that it is the candidate's responsibility to initiate these evaluations, but that is not the case.)
  • Poor Timing of Comments: Professor Y should be first author of a majority of her/his publications" is a more helpful statement if it is introduced in the first few years of the probationary period than in the last year pre-tenure when there is little time for Professor Y to effect a change. In the final year pre-tenure, reference to previous statements about a problem may be warranted: "As has been stated in several past annual reviews, it is the department's expectation that Professor Y should be first author of a majority of her/his publications. While progress has been made, we continue to have concerns about the small number of first-authored articles.
  • Lack of Feedback / Input from Faculty of a Secondary Department: Both departments should provide written feedback annually when a secondary (joint) appointment is greater than 0% and for reappointment reviews in the case of 0% secondary appointments. Although the breadth of the review will vary depending on the faculty member’s activities and percent appointment, a signature alone is not sufficient for annual reviews of a real-time appointment. In the case of 0% re-appointments, the review does not need to be lengthy, but should include a brief description and evaluation of the faculty member’s activity in the department and, if appropriate, an explicit statement that the affiliation continues to be beneficial so that department wishes to renew the appointment. A signature alone is sufficient for "continuation" reviews of 0% joint appointees.
  • No Description of Evaluation Process: The relevant questions to be answered are on the Annual Review Form. As stated earlier, this section may be somewhat "boilerplate," but should be modified for each individual review. For example, a long statement that U, V, W, X, Y, and Z may have been part of the review process is not as informative to either the faculty member or those outside the department as a briefer statement that U, W, and Z occurred in this particular faculty member’s review.
  • Inadequate Reappointment Review: The University Operations Manual requires that the reappointment review (typically for 3 years at the mid-point of the probationary period) be "a full-scale departmental-collegiate review" (see OM Section III-10.1a(4)(b)). Whereas a faculty committee may conduct a continuation review, the departmental faculty as a whole should be involved in reappointment reviews, with a clear decision making process for renewal of the appointment. The OM states, "…only if the faculty member’s teaching effectiveness and research productivity and potential are deemed of such a quality that an affirmative tenure decision is likely to be made three years later, should something other than a terminal appointment be tendered." This is a heavy burden, and a reappointment review should be sufficiently comprehensive to enable departmental faculty to make an informed decision about whether a positive tenure decision is likely.
  • Failure to Include CV with Reappointment Reviews: When an annual review results in a faculty member being reappointed (typically for 3 years at the mid-point of the probationary period), a current CV must accompany the review.
  • Vague Exhortations to More or Better Work: It is important to inform faculty members of deficits. However, statements that could be made to all probationary faculty are not helpful; they do not convey whether a specific deficit is being addressed or whether the review simply is stating a general and obvious principle. For example:
    • Weak:
      • "Dr. K should endeavor to increase her/his number of peer-reviewed publications."
      • "It will be important for Dr. W to document a record of effective teaching."
    • Better:
      • “Dr. K has fewer peer-reviewed publications than expected at this stage; a significant increase in productivity will be needed for a positive tenure review."
      • “Dr. W has forgotten to collect ACE forms in some classes. Although peer observations of Dr. W’s teaching were positive, it will be important for him/her to document a record of effective teaching from the student perspective as well.”
  • Pure Evaluation without Description or Providing the Evidentiary Basis: Providing faculty members with information about how you arrived at your evaluation helps them to monitor future progress. For example:
    • Weak:
      • "You have done a very good job teaching in all of your courses"
      • "Your research is right on track."
    • Better:
      • "You have done a very good job teaching in all of your courses as evidenced by your excellent ACE scores and positive student comments" or "According to the faculty who observed your classes, you have done a very good job teaching in all of your courses."
      • "You have an appropriate number of publications in high quality journals for this stage of your career." or "Congratulations on your recent invitation to present your work in a national forum. This invitation indicates your work is beginning to receive wide recognition, which is an important element in a positive promotion decision."
  • Pure Descriptive without Evaluative Feedback: Description is important, especially for those outside the department to understand faculty member's activities. However, both those outside the department and the faculty member also need to know whether what they have done is adequate, below average, or stellar. For example:
    • Weak:
      • "Dr. J has done X, Y, and Z."
      • "Dr. M has taught A, B, and C, with ACE scores ranging from x.x to y.y."
      • "You are co-chairing two Ph.D. dissertation committees."
    • Better:
      • "Dr. J has done X, Y, and Z. This is an excellent (poor) record to date."
      • "Dr. M has taught A, B, and C, with ACE scores ranging from x.x to y.y. This is an appropriate range of classes and these are excellent (poor) ratings for these courses."
      • "You are co-chairing two Ph.D. dissertation committees which is appropriate for this stage of your career. Within the next year or two, however, you should seek to be the sole mentor for a Ph.D. student."