An Examination of the Use of Portfolios for Faculty Evaluation at Community Colleges

Article excerpt

This study provides community college leaders with insights regarding how administrators and faculty members perceive faculty portfolios as an evaluation tool in two-year colleges. Utilizing a qualitative design, this study focused on perceptions of administrators and faculty members regarding the use of portfolios as the primary instrument for faculty evaluation. Overall, faculty and administrators found portfolios useful when the process encouraged and allowed for faculty self-reflection and honest feedback from administrators.

Background

While community colleges are required to evaluate faculty for accreditation, the development and, more importantly, the utilization of a faculty evaluation system have become crucial issues in educational institutions (Centra, 1993; McKeachie, 1990). The best faculty evaluation programs, according to Cohen & Brawer (2008), are those designed to improve teaching rather than to determine who receives tenure or salary increases. Boyer (1987) observed that one mark of a good college was its faculty evaluation program. Centra (1993) declared that poor evaluation leads to unfair judgments, while good evaluations provide decision-makers with information necessary for informed choices and teachers with useful feedback for improvement. Centra also noted that constructive reviews from administrators in conjunction with self-reflection could add value to the evaluation process.

Previous studies have focused primarily on faculty evaluation using student and peer evaluations. A review of the literature suggests that student evaluations and peer evaluations are one-dimensional in evaluation. Faculty portfolios, on the other hand, require a comprehensive development process that encourages faculty members to reflect on all aspects of their jobs (Seldin, 2004). Reis and Villaume (2002) reported the use of portfolios facilitated increased skills related to lesson planning, organization, and time management. Additionally, Willis and Davies (2002) identified portfolios as a tool for improving teacher education programs. Portfolios have also served as a tool for documenting teacher performance against state and national standards. This study, however, was designed to identify how community college administrators and faculty perceive faculty portfolios as an evaluation tool.

The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) strives to insure a comprehensive faculty evaluation plan where all stakeholders recognize the value of the evaluation process. Traditionally, faculty evaluations included student evaluations, comments from peer instructors, video and audiotapes, classroom observations, and analysis of course materials. Portfolios were initially recognized as a tool for faculty evaluation when self -reflection from the faculty member was identified as an essential factor in the evaluation process.

Methodology

This study utilizes a qualitative design to examine the perceptions of administrators and faculty members regarding the use of portfolios as the primary instrument for faculty evaluation at four community colleges located in North Carolina. The four community colleges that participated in this study are among just nine of 58 community colleges in the state that use faculty portfolios. Of the nine community colleges, five use faculty portfolios as part of their faculty evaluation process while the remainder used portfolios for excellence in teaching awards, merit pay, promotions, or faculty improvement plans. The four institutions participating in this study had used portfolios for faculty evaluation for a minimum of three years and a maximum of nine years. The colleges differed somewhat in how faculty portfolios were used, the contents of the portfolio, the length of time using faculty portfolios, and geographic location.

The initial interview questions elicited administrators and faculty perceptions of 1) the use of portfolios for faculty evaluation, 2) the accuracy of portfolios for faculty evaluation, and 3) the use of portfolios to improve instruction. …