Performance Appraisal in Higher Education: Comparing Departments of Management with Other Business Units

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Performance Appraisal in Higher Education: Comparing Departments of Management with Other Business Units

The study reported here extends our knowledge of personnel practice in the public sector by looking at faculty performance evaluation in U.S. business schools. This study examined not only the relative importance of teaching, research, and institutional service, but also the emphasis placed by administrators upon the many performance activities within teaching, research, and service. For example, within the research category, the importance of published articles, other publications, and many forms of non-published research were examined. And for teaching performance, the relative weights given to student inputs, peer evaluation, and certain data on the courses taught were considered. In addition, the study reported here compared evaluation practices of departments of management with those of other departments within the typical business school.

Recent concerns about American higher education indicate that U.S. business schools need to evaluate their faculty on a more thorough and objective basis. The issues in question here are important, and are being raised by a growing number of critics from several business education constituencies.

First of all, the very relevance of business education has been questioned.(1) Specifically, business schools are said to be graduating narrow task specialists rather than the creative leaders needed in today's global organization. Graduates can apply highly technical quantitative models but supposedly are unprepared to respond to a world economy. Hayes and Abernathy(2) report that the business student today is taught a preference for analytic detachment rather than a feel for real-world business problems; they also charge that graduates are led to focus on short-term cost reduction rather than creativity, development, and a long-run commitment to customers and employees. In a similar vein, Cheit(3) reports concerns that business schools today are too quantitative, too theoretical, and too removed from real business and organizational problems. Among other things, he calls for further internationalization of the business curriculum and a better balance between cognitive and non-cognitive skills in business higher education--the important non-cognitive or "affective" skills include the communication, motivation, and leadership areas.

A second reason to improve faculty evaluation has to do with the apparent lack of affirmative action in today's business schools. Recent research shows quite clearly that the promotion rate for female assistant professors is less than four-fifths of that for males.(4) Such a disparity in treatment is called "adverse impact" by the federal Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures; its presence is considered a sign of probable discrimination. And despite a reduced emphasis upon affirmative action by the recent preseidential administration, university administrators need to consider that these Uniform Guidelines may be applied to their personnel decisions.(5)

Yet a third reason to improve faculty performance appraisal comes from the business school administrators themselves. For example, Cornwell(6) found that, even though these administrators felt evaluation of teaching was important, they largely ignored approaches other than the traditional student ratings. Approaches recognized as useful, but seldom used by these same administrators, included the review of course syllabi and the use of classroom visits by the department chair. Overall, these respondents did seem to recognize that the faculty evaluation process could be more objective. The problem was not a lack of methodology, but the absence of motivation and resources, especially time.

The final impetus for improved evaluation of business faculty involves the tenure situation in American universities today. Although the tenure ratio for faculty in the business area is not known, research shows that about three-fourths of university faculty in general have tenure. …