Total Makeover: Faculty Evaluation Edition, Part II
July 23, 2021
Editor’s Note: Change is on the horizon. In this three-part series, we’ll talk to three instrumental members of the faculty evaluation process to share what you can expect from course evaluations in the future.
By Alexa K. Haverlah, TLED Content Marketing Intern
“Success is a journey, not a destination,” said the late tennis player Arthur Ashe, the only Black male tennis player to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
You’ve probably heard this phrase before. Maybe you’ve even said it to your students as a form of encouragement, to focus more on their grasp of the material rather than their grades.
But have you embraced it as an ideology with which to measure yourself as an instructor?
Theresa Glenn, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Lead for the Faculty Evaluation/Portfolio Working Group, wants to change faculty evaluations from a time-consuming task into a meaningful opportunity for reflection.
“This is an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and failures and what we can learn from these in order to support student learning and grow as a professional, not just in our discipline but as an instructor,” says Glenn.
A System of Checks and Boxes
“In its current form, [evaluations are] a process of systems and checking boxes,” says Glenn, a stressful and tedious task. Glenn wants to remove the surrounding dread and reconcile the get-it-over-with attitude toward evaluations.
While Glenn acknowledges that some departments are already evaluating faculty in a meaningful way, consistency across the College is needed. “Right now, everyone is doing their own thing,” says Glenn.
Glenn shares three foundational shifts on the journey to creating a more meaningful process and two intended outcomes as a result of this transformational change. Please note that these changes have yet to be officially approved through the Shared Governance process.
Three Foundational Shifts
Shift 1: Future evaluations will align with ACC Faculty Values
The ACC Faculty Values of Teaching, Scholarship, Inclusion, Collaboration, Service, and Empowerment will provide the framework for faculty to reflect how they represent these values in their work.
Example 1: Inclusion
Reflect on how you’ve incorporated teachings from workshops like Discover Your Blind Spots and Keep the Spotlight on Race: Continuing the Conversation into your classroom.
Example 2: Scholarship
Think about how you’ve grown in the subject you teach. What conferences did you attend? Have you read any articles or books or watched any documentaries that expanded your knowledge of your discipline? Did these findings lead you to develop your curriculum?
Example 3: Teaching
Ponder what new challenges you’ve taken on that have helped you to grow as an instructor. Did you try a new approach, like a flipped classroom? Maybe you included digital literacy by talking about Adobe, or you used competency-based training in the classroom.
Visit the ACC Faculty Values page on TLED’s website for more information on the six values.
Shift 2: Evaluations will be guided by the faculty experience at ACC
The current evaluation process is the same for faculty who have taught at ACC for one year as it is for faculty who have taught at ACC for 15 years. Same questions, same expectations.
Future evaluations will be faculty-centric and personalized, meeting the instructor where they’re at in their teaching journey. Faculty will have different expectations of them in relation to their time at ACC.
For instance, first-year faculty should focus on their teaching and how they are connecting with students. Faculty who have been at ACC for 10 or more years might focus more on collaboration, sharing their knowledge with new colleagues or working on community projects between ACC and the broader Austin community.
Shift 3: Evaluations will have a 360° perspective
The previous foundational shifts – aligning evaluations to ACC Faculty Values and tying them to the faculty experience at ACC – require faculty to reflect on their goals, accomplishments, challenges, and failures. Or, what you said you would do, what you did, and what worked or didn’t work.
Faculty self-reflection, along with the student voice, reviewers’ comments and supervisor’s feedback, will provide the 360° perspective.
As for feedback from fellow faculty, Glenn cites a 2018 TLED Faculty Survey that identified faculty wanting more opportunities for peer observation and feedback. However, she says peer observations are a little trickier for departments to implement given the number of faculty that would have to be observed, faculty schedules, and the distance between campuses. The working group is considering options for faculty that do not require actual classroom visits. These innovative approaches to peer feedback would accommodate potential logistical complications.
If you are interested in developing peer-dialogue opportunities, Glenn welcomes your ideas via email at email@example.com.
Two Intended Outcomes
Glenn identifies two intended outcomes as a result of these three foundational shifts. Both outcomes will result in a more meaningful, fair, and equitable evaluation process.
Intended Outcome 1: Consistency
Consistency across the College will lead to a more equitable and transparent process across genders, race, full-time and adjunct faculty, and other identities.
The working group has met and will continue to meet with Dr. Larry Davis, Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer, to ensure equity among all aspects of Faculty Evaluation, and with Dr. Philip Stark, Faculty Forum’s guest speaker in April this year.
A Guiding Rubric will help with consistency across departments and will include built-in flexibility to accommodate differences in size and learning outcomes, for example.
“A key intended outcome is that our work results in a more equitable and transparent process for everybody,” says Glenn. “We know what the standards are, we are working to meet those standards, and we know where to direct our questions when the waters get a little murky.”
Intended Outcome 2: Culture Shift
The second intended outcome is a culture shift away from the summative and punitive to the formative and meaningful.
Adjunct faculty see the current evaluation process as a way for reviewers to tell them they’re doing something wrong, explains Glenn. The new assessment will be more supportive and encouraging of a growth mindset, the belief that success depends on time and effort, according to researcher Carol Dweck who first coined the term in 2015.
With a growth mindset, faculty can be genuine and honest about their successes and failures, and future evaluations will be designed to assist and develop the instructor.
“The evaluation process, to me, is an opportunity for each of us as faculty members to show how we have gone from good to great and what that journey looks like,” says Glenn. “The evaluation process should capture that journey. And we should be excited to go on that journey!”
Glenn is hopeful that an update will be presented to the College this fall, with an official rollout Fall 2022. Before that, don’t miss the next and final installment of this series, coming out in August! We’ll be talking to Gale Spear, Professor of Child Care & Development and Lead of the Student Course Evaluation Working Group, about the student voice in the future faculty evaluation process.