The faculty evaluation system at Ohio Wesleyan University is unusual in an important and positive way. At most colleges and universities, personnel decisions about faculty are made by administrative officers who are “above” and to some degree removed from the teaching faculty. At OWU, however, responsibility for those decisions is entrusted to a group of seven faculty members elected by their peers to serve on the Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC).
The Faculty Personnel Committee makes decisions regarding promotion, retention, tenure, and merit. In order to make its decisions, the Faculty Personnel Committee considers each faculty member’s contribution in three major categories: teaching effectiveness, scholarly/professional activities, and service to university and community. Teaching, as you might expect, is the most important.
In its deliberations, FPC considers information from many sources including a “self-report” completed by the faculty member being reviewed, evaluations by other faculty members in the department, the results of the standardized course evaluations that are administered near the end of each semester, in-class observations of teaching by tenured faculty, and course syllabi.
We believe that you, as student board members, can provide important additional information to FPC about the teaching effectiveness of faculty members in your department. You have shown initiative in running for a place on the board; you are active in departmental affairs; you have a sense of the daily workings of the department. We seek your help in this task, perhaps the most important responsibility of student boards and one that is an essential part of attracting, retaining, and advancing the best possible faculty members for the University.
Student board members should consider the dimensions of teaching effectiveness that are most relevant to the functioning of their department, and you may wish to start by considering questions such as the following:
- How do majors and minors in your department view this professor and her/his courses?
- Is this view fair and accurate in your opinion?
- Is this professor known as a good academic advisor?
- Do students seek this professor out for advice on careers and course planning?
- Do majors seek this person out for independent studies and other special projects?
- Does this person have the ability to attract and stimulate all types of students (different levels, different backgrounds, etc.)?
Please do not allow these few examples to dominate your evaluation. You should think independently about what is important in the teaching/learning relationships in your department.
Your evaluations will have maximum impact when:
- the board produces only one evaluation for each faculty member being considered;
- all board members contribute to, and sign, each evaluation;
- the document includes examples to support your comments;
- the document is thorough and well written; and
- the information does not merely repeat what is available from other sources, such as those mentioned in the cover memo.
The process of gathering this information is determined by the board. Some boards informally survey the majors and minors in their departments; others conduct a formal survey by mail or by group meeting. Your board should consider what characteristics are most valued in a teacher in your discipline and then determine how to gather information about them.
If you are considering visiting the classes of faculty under review to gather information, you should discuss the possibility with the department chair first, and you MUST check with the instructor, who has the option of granting or denying permission for a class visit. Please be aware that a faculty member’s decision to deny a visit should not be considered a negative factor in the evaluation, since there may be many pedagogical reasons that a faculty member may not want the disruption of a visit.
You may find that you do not have much information on a particular professor, perhaps because that professor is relatively new. In that case, you should offer what you know and then explain that you possess a limited amount of objective information.
If there is disagreement among members of your board on a significant point, then simply acknowledge that fact in the document. Board members who hold an opposing viewpoint may enter a minority report in the spaces provided for comments.
You must keep the contents of your evaluations confidential, and you can be assured that your comments will be held in strict confidence by the committee members. The Confidentiality Statement elaborates on this important issue. Please note that committee members do not have access to their own file; neither do they read files nor discuss cases of members of their own departments who are being evaluated.
Remember either to delete your evaluation files once they have been submitted or store them in a secure place. Generally it is not necessary to keep files for more than two years. In order to assist future members of your department’s board, you might consider keeping a list of procedures and approaches to gathering evaluation data.
Evaluation Materials Available for Your Use
Your evaluation portal should contain links to the rating forms for every faculty member you’re being asked to evaluate and to Part I of the faculty member’s Self-Report. If no self -report link is included, the faculty member may not have submitted one by the deadline or has elected not to submit a self-report but should be evaluated anyway. For all reviews except tenure, faculty evaluations are based on activities for the last three years only, so you should not consider events, achievements, or issues that existed more than three years ago.
Categories of Evaluation
The online evaluation form for each professor indicates the reason for this year’s evaluation. Not all faculty members are evaluated each year, and the circumstances may be different for those who are evaluated in any year. First-year faculty will not be evaluated until spring, and you will be contacted again at that time. So that you may understand the nature of the decisions that the Faculty Personnel Committee faces, we provide a brief description of categories of evaluation in the Glossary of Terms.
If a faculty member in your department is eligible for retention or tenure and you have special concerns that cannot be adequately addressed on the evaluation forms, you may request a meeting with the Faculty Personnel Committee. Your request should be made at the time you submit your evaluation. The meeting will occur shortly thereafter.
Submission of Evaluation
All evaluations should be submitted online using the URL below. Please be sure to provide the names of those who contributed to the evaluation.
Glossary of Terms
The personnel system at OWU uses several terms that may be unfamiliar to you. Please read this section to familiarize yourself with the meaning of merit, promotion, retention, tenure, and self-report.
Merit: Every three years, about one-third of all faculty are reviewed for a merit pay increase. About three-quarterse of those eligible are granted merit. Thus, although Faculty Personnel Committee members believe that the majority of faculty at OWU are very good, merit cannot be awarded to all good professors. It is reserved for about three-quarters of the eligible faculty for their especially good work during the preceding three years.
Promotion: There are four academic levels, or ranks, of the faculty: Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Full Professor. Most faculty are hired as an Assistant Professor. Over the course of an academic career, most persons are promoted to Associate Professor, and some will eventually be promoted to Full Professor. The criteria for promotion include both number of years of service at the current rank and the quality of work at OWU. Thus not everyone is promoted at the same relative time in a career. It is an honor to be promoted, and it also includes financial reward.
Retention: The first few years of a faculty member’s appointment are probationary years. For these persons, an annual decision is made regarding whether or not to retain (rehire) them for the following year. These decisions become increasingly important as the probationary period comes to an end and the tenure decision approaches.
Tenure: Tenure is a status conferred on faculty members who perform successfully during a probationary period (the first years of their appointment at OWU). Tenure is granted to those whose presence and efforts will clearly strengthen the department and the University for decades to come. Ultimately, tenure means that the University makes a permanent commitment to the professor. Those who are not granted tenure may not continue to teach at OWU.
Self-Report: When OWU faculty members are eligible for promotion, retention, tenure, and/or merit recognition, they are asked by FPC to write a self report that includes information about their teaching effectiveness, scholarly/professional activities, and service to university and community. Student boards receive the portion of the self report dealing with teaching effectiveness.