Annual review for faculty provides an excellent opportunity for department heads/directors and peers to support the development of faculty careers. It is critical that these are conducted in a constructive, fair, and transparent manner.
Academic unit leaders are required by ABOR-PM-6-201, UHAP 3.201 and 4A.2 policies to complete faculty annual performance reviews on a regular timeline, completing all meetings between faculty members and administrative heads/directors at least once every 12 months. As currently stated in UHAP policy, the focus of the faculty annual performance review is (i) to involve faculty members in the design and evaluation of their own objectives and goals; (ii) to assess faculty activity through peer review; (iii) to understand faculty activity that contributes to the university; (iv) to document faculty activity; and (v) to recognize and maximize special talents of faculty.
Following are recommendations for formative approaches to annual review meetings that emphasize career development and planning.
Best Practices for Faculty Shared Governance Annual Reviews at the Unit Level
- Peer review committees should be elected among faculty within the unit. There should be regular changes in the composition of the committee.
- Not all faculty have the same breakdown of workload (% devoted to research, teaching, clinical, extension, or service). It is important to consider faculty workload distribution as part of annual review feedback.
- Regular review and updates of the annual review criteria in areas of research, teaching, clinical, extension, and service are recommended. See here for more information on the current views of inclusive scholarship. Criteria varies by track and by rank.
Suggestions for Peer Review Formative Comments
- Identify outstanding achievements
- Feasibility of proposed goals for upcoming year
- Provide suggestions on professional resources, mentors, and development opportunities to facilitate achieving goals
- Comment on timeline of goals that were not completed and recommendations to address goals that were not met
- Workload distribution should be considered in review and comments included on annual review
- Make sure to use appropriate pronouns
- Be aware of unconscious bias. See here for recommendations about how to minimize or eliminate bias in language:
- How to Avoid Racial Bias in Reference Letters | The Muse
- Avoiding Bias in Recommendation Letters | Center for Research and Fellowships | Georgetown University
- Avoiding Bias in Letters of Recommendation | UCSF Medical Education
- Avoid Implicit Gender Bias in Recommendation Letters | Columbia University | Earth Institute
- Anti-Racism Action Guide: Reducing Bias in Recommendation Letters, Candidate Evaluations and Assessments of Academic Products | Emory University School of Medicine
- Gender Bias Calculator: Letters of Recommendation | Lehigh University ADVANCE
Recommendations for Holistic Evaluation of Teaching
Nationally, many institutions are re-examining how they evaluate teaching (National Academies of Sciences, 2020). There is often a disconnect between student learning and how well students believe they are learning in a class situation (for one example, see Deslauriers et al., 2019), and meta-analyses across a variety of disciplines demonstrate that student course-survey results correlate only weakly with student learning outcomes (Uttl et al., 2017). The growing prevalence of evidence-based teaching methods is prompting institutions to re-examine how student end-of-course surveys provide insight into the student experience in collaborative and student-centered classrooms, and to ask what other evidence should be used to document teaching effectiveness. Best-practice recommendations from research, advocated by researchers and professional societies (see American Sociological Association, 2019), include:
- For end-of-course student surveys, use questions that focus on the student experience to decrease the impact of student bias toward instructors who do not fit their internal vision for a “typical” instructor;
- Avoid comparisons of student-survey responses between different instructors and difference classes;
- De-emphasize student survey results in annual review and promotion/tenure decisions;
- Departments should engage in conversations about what constitutes excellent teaching in their disciplines, and what evidence can be used to document teaching excellence. For examples of what this might look like, please refer to the University of Kansas and University of Colorado, Boulder Teaching Evaluation Frameworks.
- For performance reviews, promotion and tenure reviews and hiring/rehiring decisions, use multiple sources of evidence (including peer observation by trained observers, review of course materials, instructor reflection, reports on student learning outcomes, etc.).
The University of Arizona end-of-course student surveys were called Teacher-Course Evaluations (TCEs) up through Fall 2019. At the end of fall semester 2019, a new set of questions, termed Student Course Surveys, was administered. The new questions were developed by a committee of UArizona faculty members and refined through focus groups (with students and instructors) and pilot studies prior to full implementation.
Recommendations for Heads and Directors for Annual Review Meetings:
Slides that were presented at the November 2022 HeadsUp meeting on Annual Review can be found here.
- Start with positive feedback and strengths. Make sure this is a two-way conversation. Ask faculty to highlight 1-2 of their accomplishments during the past year.
- Ask questions for an honest conversation about how teaching, research, service, or other activity was affected by COVID-19 pandemic or the racial pandemic. (See handout from Malish et al., 2020 for specific questions related to teaching, research and service in regard to pandemic alterations in workload)
- Take an expansive view of what counts. Consider preparatory work that will lead to future activity, acknowledge quick changes to address pandemic topics (COVID-19 or racism), recognize additional service activities related to workgroups for topics of COVID-19 or racism pandemics. See here for more information on inclusive scholarship and current trends in higher education.
- Make and refine goals for the coming year and discuss long-term plans over a 3-year period for each section of their workload. This process can help faculty set and prioritize work goals for 2023.
- Discuss how short-term goals will lead to long-term outcomes. Taking a long-term vision helps to contextualize the current year’s activity. Quantifiable aspects of productivity fluctuate over time, which at times may leave faculty feeling unappreciated. Many faculty activities require several years to reach completion, and thus annual metrics may be misleading if they are not placed within a longer-term context.
Useful Reading on Best Practices for Faculty Performance Reviews:
- 7 Ways Performance Reviews Are Misaligned With Learning Science |Inside Higher Ed
- Reassessing Faculty Assessment | Inside Higher Ed
- The Joint Faculty and Heads Task Force on Salary Equity and Annual Performance Reviews of Faculty | Report
- In the Wake of COVID-19, Academia Needs New Solutions to Ensure Gender Equity | Malish et al. (2020) article | PNAS
- Promotion and Tenure Innovation and Entrepreneurship Coalition Recommendations | Carter et al. | Science
Extraordinary circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have caused disruptions to faculty in their teaching, research/scholarship/ creative activity, and service goals during 2021. These challenging circumstances have resulted in many of our faculty making unique contributions to address the pandemic that include public scholarship or quick changes in their scholarship and teaching. Yet, many faculty are facing additional challenges related COVID-19 such as health concerns, extra caregiving duties, and financial troubles, which are personal matters and thus not typically included in annual file narratives. For articles on pandemic impact on academics see:
- Gender Inequality in Research Productivity During the COVID-19 Pandemic | SSRN
- Black Workers Face Two of the Most Lethal Preexisting Conditions for Coronavirus—Racism and Economic Inequality | Economic Policy Institute
- How Peer Review Could Improve Our Teaching | The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Everything About How We Evaluate Teaching Needs a Makeover | The Chronicle of Higher Education