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Component Two: Providing a Fair and Full Evaluation

Why good evaluation practices matter

  • Evaluation ensures improvement of the academic planning process and the performance of faculty members and their research teams.
  • Evaluation provides the basis for salary adjustments, retention, promotion, and tenure decisions.

 What our survey data tell us about evaluation practices

  • About 71% of tenured and tenure-track respondents agreed that performance expectations are communicated clearly in their department (Faculty Work/Life Survey 2005).
  • About 75% of the tenured and tenure-track respondents agreed that faculty members at Virginia Tech are usually promoted or given opportunities based on good performance. Men are significantly more likely to agree to this statement than women (77% compared to 66%) (Faculty Work/Life Survey 2005).
  • 94% of the pre-tenure respondents to the COACHE Survey indicated that periodic formal performance evaluation was important for their career progress, but only 68% felt that their departments were effective at this important practice (COACHE 2007).
  • “The [evaluation] process seems to work quite well. Junior faculty are invited to serve on the evaluation committee early on in their careers, to get a clear sense of department standards.”
    Beate Schmittmann, Department of Physics, VT
  • While 71% of all tenured and tenure-track faculty members agreed that the requirements for tenure or promotion are clearly articulated in their department (Faculty Work/Life Survey 2005), pre-tenure faculty were much less likely to think so. Only 51% pre-tenure faculty found the tenure standards (performance thresholds) in their departments to be very or somewhat clear (COACHE 2007).

Guidelines for the evaluation process

  • Keep the evaluation focused on the major responsibilities of faculty members. Make sure that all of the evaluation procedures are in writing, are in accordance with the departmental bylaws, and are consistent with the Faculty Handbook.
  • Involve faculty. Careful deliberation in developing and running an evaluation ensures its acceptance by faculty, whose involvement in the evaluation process promotes support of the project.
  • Discuss expectations. The faculty should know what is expected from them and how their work will be judged. Assignments should be consistent with the Faculty Handbook and equitable within the department.
  • Communicate openly. Every faculty member should know and understand the evaluation procedures, criteria, and department standards, as well as institutional policies and procedures with regards to performance evaluation.
  • Develop and refine an evaluation instrument. Constant and continuous modification of the evaluation instrument is most important in promoting the fairness and success of the process.
  • Be flexible. The nature of research, teaching, service, and outreach is discipline-specific, and variable assignments within a discipline are common. It is prudent, therefore, in evaluating faculty, to account for an individual’s contributions to the mission of the department, college, and university.
  • Be judicious. Implementation of a new evaluation system will be threatening to many faculty. Be honest, consistent, and fair in the implementation. Avoid discussions about other faculty members’ productivity with other faculty members who are not involved in the evaluation process. Expect one or two years for the process of acceptance and implementation.
  • Set a context for the individual’s understanding of their performance. Several department heads provide summary data for all faculty as part of the evaluation feedback. This allows the individual to better understand their accomplishments in relation to others. See a sample letter of this type in the Supplemental Materials.