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Annual Faculty Evaluations Changing Amid Pandemic

by Santé Shasko and Nicole Cortino

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The Faculty Welfare Committee is considering new methods to evaluate faculty effectiveness. Professors will continue to utilize OMET student surveys as a means to understand their strengths and what they can improve on; however, student surveys will not be the focus of their evaluations.

Faculty must complete an evaluation every May that outlines what they have done within that academic year. OMET surveys are, traditionally, a large part of this evaluation.

Dr. Timothy Holler, convenor of the Welfare Committee and associate professor of criminal justice, values the OMET surveys for student feedback and encourages his students to fill out the surveys critically.

John Kerlicker, president of the Student Government Association, also values the OMETs.

“OMETs are super beneficial because students can directly tell professors things they like or do not like and things that help them learn. It keeps students engaged and interacting with what experience they want, and they can give feedback,” he said. “I think it’s important for students to be kept involved and asked for input on all things affecting their college experience and education.”

While OMET surveys provide students the opportunity to report on these topics, Dr. Holler finds that students often don’t respond, or if they do, they do not offer any critical feedback on the professors’ teaching.

“Occasionally, a student will provide really good feedback, and we will incorporate that into our evaluations. But it’s not always like that. I had a professor at IUP who got a response on an OMET that said ‘You wear the same shoes every day, buy a new pair of shoes,” Dr. Holler said, “and situations like that happen often on the OMET surveys. That doesn’t give us any indication of how effective we are as professors when teaching. So, we are looking into ways to better assess the teaching effectiveness of faculty members.”

When creating their evaluations, faculty focus on three main areas: teaching, which includes advising and mentoring; professional development, which includes things such as publications they’re featured in, competitive grants they’ve earned, and conference presentations; and service, which can be to the campus or the larger University system.

For the teaching evaluation, faculty provide overviews of their classes. They write about the classes they taught (including the students they had in each class), syllabi, assignment changes, and their transition to online learning, while also addressing their OMET survey scores.

“Then, I go through advising and mentoring, [for example,] what I did for internships. I did the advising sessions. I talk about my recommendation letters. It’s still teaching, but it’s not in the classroom. I add what I do with the criminal justice club here,” Dr. Holler said.

Dr. Holler is a faculty affiliate for the Center for Applied Research (CFAR), and he also addresses the projects he organizes through the CFAR in the second part of his evaluation, as well as a textbook he’s writing.

While these evaluations are thorough, they do not always address the specific strengths and weaknesses of each faculty member. Peer reviewing is another way faculty gain perspective on their effectiveness. This involves faculty members sitting in other classes to watch what the professor is doing, including how they engage the students.

Kerlicker feels that peer evaluations are beneficial to providing faculty an understanding of their effectiveness as he continues his studies in education.

“I’d say that having other professors observe their lectures would be really useful for professors to gauge how they are doing,” Kerlicker said. “I wish more would talk to the education department professors about things they should or should not be doing as well.”

Dr. Holler says that peer reviewing requires lots of work and extra time, but when they are completed, it is worth it.

“We may encourage more peer evaluations. For now, the Welfare Committee is trying to define what every faculty member does because each discipline is specific.” Dr. Holler said. “Writing is different from accounting, which is different from criminal justice.”

Dr. Holler and the rest of the Welfare Committee are considering these differences as they develop new ways to evaluate faculty members.

“How I teach is different from how other faculty teach their classes. We’ve talked about each discipline’s guidelines in terms of how they should be evaluated. This hasn’t happened yet; we are just talking about these,” Dr. Holler said.

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