- Evaluation of Teaching
- Student Evaluations
Evaluations are given to the instructors who hand them out to
their classes in the last two weeks of each semester. The evaluation
forms consists of two categories of questions: questions about
lectures, textbooks, lab and field trips, papers/projects,
examinations and relative time expenditure, which are primarily used
to provide feedback to the individual instructor about the course;
and questions about the instructor, which are used by the department
in evaluation. These responses are recorded on a categorical scale.
Additional space is provided for written comments.
The data are used in preparing promotion and tenure cases and
constitute a portion of the teaching profile on each faculty member.
Some department chairs, at their discretion, use them in annual
salary discussions with the Dean. Because the form has not been
significantly altered in several decades, we have a stable sample
from which the teaching evolution of an individual faculty member can
be charted over time. For this reason, there is significant
opposition to any substantial changes in the evaluation forms.
Some standardization is needed, however, in the manner in which
the evaluations are handed out and in the compilation and
presentation of the summary evaluation data. The department's
Teaching Committee is considering these issues at present.
- Peer Review and Teaching Portfolios.
Peer review primarily takes place through the use of multiple
instructors for a course. This is a very common practice within our
interdisciplinary department, in which concepts from several
different subject areas (geology and hydrology, for example) are
integrated in a single course. A new faculty member is frequently
paired with an experienced teacher who has taught that course in the
There are several major advantages to this approach. First, there
is immediate feedback to the instructor. Second, there is an implied
component of mentoring involved. Third, the process is informal and
is considered to be preferable to a top-down "Big Brother" approach.
Finally, the interaction takes place over an entire semester and
provides more useful data than a single-lecture "snapshot" from an
observer or a videotaped lecture. Observations from these informal
evaluations are incorporated into the Promotion and Tenure
- Rewards for Teaching Excellence and Improvement
Several actions should be taken to improve the climate for
teaching within the department. These fall into two broad categories:
support and recognition.
Current support for teaching, particularly at the undergraduate
level, relies upon ETF/HEET funds for purchase of major equipment.
These funds should be augmented by a small pool of money available on
an annual basis to instructors in all laboratory courses. These funds
would be used for small purchases that do not fit the requirements of
the ETF program but that would substantially improve the quality of
teaching. Examples include maps, replacements for glassware, and
chemicals. Similar amounts of money available on request for lecture
courses could allow instructors to develop class demonstrations or
purchase slides or videos.
The department must be committed to recognition of teaching
excellence, both within the University and the Commonwealth. A
comprehensive listing of annual awards must be maintained by the
chairman's office, and nominations sought from the department in a
timely fashion. These awards include Alumni Council teaching awards,
SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Member awards, and Virginia Scientist of
the Year award. Every effort should be made to nominate faculty from
the department for these awards.
- Report on Development of Teaching
We appear to have no organized system by which to advise and guide
new Assistant Professors into developing a productive teaching niche
that also allows them to establish their research programs quickly
and successfully. In some instances, senior faculty have voluntarily
assumed the role of advisor and mentor for new Assistant Professors,
but in other instances such guidance was only obtained after being
sought by the Assistant Professor. While not formalized, we attempt
to secure the first semester without teaching for new faculty, and to
some extent to spread the development of each new faculty member's
slate of courses over more than one year. Recently, we have involved
new Assistant Professors in teaching the introductory courses for
majors in their first year. We have no organized program to evaluate
teaching by new Assistant Professors, except via the student teaching
evaluations. Therefore, we have little basis to make suggestions to
improve the teaching of Assistant Professors.
Our new and nearly adopted Procedures for Promotion and Tenure
suggests that we encourage junior faculty to establish a
"...mentoring relationship with one or two senior faculty...". This
relationship is envisioned to include the senior faculty member
providing guidance on the development of a junior faculty member's
teaching niche, and specific advice on teaching techniques. However,
this mentoring relationship is described as "...consensual and
informal...," not an obligation of the senior faculty to the junior
1) that a specific senior faculty member be identified as a mentor
for each new Assistant Professor immediately upon joining the
faculty; 2) that the junior faculty member, in consultation with
their mentor, the Chair, and other faculty with related teaching
interests, develop a 3-year plan for teaching that firmly establishes
the junior faculty member's teaching niche and steers the junior
faculty member away from developing more than one new course in any
academic year; 3) that junior faculty be encouraged to develop as
their first course a 400 or 500 level course in the specialty and
that they rotate into the appropriate introductory course for majors
in their second year; and 4) that an opportunity to co-teach with a
senior faculty member be scheduled early in the teaching career of