Faculty Evaluation: Strengths and Concerns

Article excerpt

The current study helps fill avoid in community college faculty evaluation. It builds upon earlier research by the authors that found major gaps in what is taking place in faculty evaluation versus what educators believe should be done. For the 19-state Higher Learning Commission (previously North Central Association) the largest accrediting association in America, a majority of survey respondents identified faculty development as a need. Though the need is often discussed, too often institutions provide only "lip service," then give little recognition for outstanding teaching and few sanctions for teachers not performing at a satisfactory level

Introduction

Research on tenured faculty evaluation practices in the American community college system is very limited. To help fill the void, the authors conducted a study to determine the status of post-tenure review in the 19-state region of the North Central Association (recently renamed the Higher Learning Commission). The present study concluded in early 2001. Andrews and Licata conducted a similar study ten years ago (1991). Related research in senior colleges and universities is in process through the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), New Pathways IT Project (Licata 1998).

In the early 80s, the National Commission on Higher Education Issues (1982) urged campus administrators to develop periodic post-tenure review systems and make peer review a critical component. A study on evaluation practices in selected community colleges (Licata 1984) reported that both faculty and administrators support having such review practices and agree that evaluation reviews should produce faculty improvement. Despite the support for such policy, faculty and administrators expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of their own evaluation systems. They asserted that review practices paid only lip service to faculty development and competence was not adequately measured (Licata 1984).

In a later report, Andrews and Licata (1991) found that over 70 percent of responding community colleges (199 colleges) within the North Central Association (19 state region) indicated post-tenure evaluation existed in their colleges. Classroom effectiveness ranked as the number one criterion used in evaluations. At that time, chief academic officers and faculty leaders identified two major problems: (1) lack of a reward system for outstanding performance and (2) ineffective implementation of a development plan. Other problem areas included faculty resistance and inadequately trained evaluators. Responses divided almost evenly on the question of evaluation effectiveness, with about one-half indicating effective evaluation systems and the rest indicating ineffective systems or ones of uncertain effectiveness. The main reasons given for uncertainty about the effectiveness include the following: (a) evaluation pays only "lip service" to faculty development, (b) no mechanism exists to measure competence/incompetence, (c) evaluators are not adequately trained, and (d) poor instructors are not placed on warning.

Recommendations for improvement focused on ways to: (a) tie an evaluation system to faculty development and a formative purpose, (b) provide incentives (merit recognition) for excellent performers, and (c) lessen importance of student evaluation.

Faculty leaders within the surveyed institutions overwhelmingly favored periodic performance assessment (97%) and believed that "there should be a faculty development program implemented in conjunction with posttenure evaluation." Surprisingly, over 80 percent also asserted "post-tenure evaluation should lead to the weeding out of incompetent faculty."

Purposes for the study The present study attempts to determine (a) what types of post-tenure evaluation practices presently exist, (b) how effective these practices are, (c) what strengths and weaknesses exist in evaluation systems, and (d) what suggestions could be made for improvement. …