Observations on the Association's 1975 Statement on Teaching Evaluation

Article excerpt

The following observations were approved for publication by the Association's Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication in May 2005 on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the AAUP's adoption of the Statement on Teaching Evaluation. Comments are welcome and should be addressed to the AAUP's Washington office.


The Statement on Teaching Evaluation remains sound policy, and its guidance "for arriving at fair judgments of a faculty member's teaching" continues to be invaluable.1 The world of higher education has changed significantly, however, since the publication of the statement thirty years ago. The proportion of part-time and non-tenure-track faculty appointments has grown to more than 60 percent of all faculty appointments; student evaluations of teaching are increasingly relied upon in decisions about renewal, tenure, promotion, post-tenure review, and salary increases; new computer-based tools have been developed to administer, disseminate, and interpret student evaluations of teaching; and corporate forms of governance are threatening to dominate higher education.2 In light of these new and important changes to higher education, we thought it desirable to bring forth these comments.


The. Statement on Teaching Evaluation was published in 1975 "as a guide to proper teaching evaluation methods and their appropriate uses in personnel decisions." It recommended that colleges and universities and their academic departments have clear, written policies about expectations concerning teaching, and provide support for meeting those expectations. The statement emphasized that descriptions of a professor's teaching and data about the teaching obtained from other sources must be accurate. It cautioned that "the full dimensions of teaching should not be slighted in the desire to arrive at usable data and systematic practices." The statement further recommended that the faculty member being assessed have a meaningful role in the evaluation process, and it called for faculty members to have the primary, although not the exclusive, role in evaluating an individual faculty member's performance as a teacher. Last, it urged that "factual data, student opinion, and colleague judgments should be central in the formal procedures for review, which should involve faculty discussion and vote."

Since the statement's publication, a growing body of scholarship, supplemented by extensive experience, has developed in the areas of effective teaching and learning strategies, the role of teaching centers in assisting faculty to enhance their teaching, and the evaluation of teaching by faculty peers and students.3 Both this scholarship and experience show that faculty members share pedagogical and evaluation materials with colleagues; that self-evaluation, assessment by teams of faculty members, and student evaluations provide a regular flow of data that facilitates continual improvement in teaching; and that technology has contributed new tools with which teachers may assess and improve their teaching and conduct student evaluations.4 In addition, the dissemination of evaluations of teaching can provide students with useful information with which to plan their course of study, and offers faculty peers and administrators a richer body of material on which to base judgments of professional merit.

Two key issues identified in the 1975 statement continue, however, to trouble the evaluation of teaching: how best to ensure that evaluations of teaching provide accurate information about the effectiveness of teaching and how to ensure that faculty have the primary responsibility for devising and implementing teaching evaluations. We will offer the following comments on these two issues, and will then turn to an issue of academic freedom.

The ever-expanding use of and reliance on, teaching evaluations since 1975 have given rise to an abundance of data about classroom performance. …