Faculty Senate reassesses impact of student grades on employment – ​​Iowa State Daily

The Faculty Senate is seeking to examine how departments use student grades to assess professional performance after professors expressed that grades carried too much weight.

Each semester, students can complete an evaluation of their courses and teachers. Faculty student grades are included in a professor’s end-of-year evaluation by the Chairs. These ratings are considered for hiring, promotions and tenure, as well as contract renewals.

In faculty members’ written evaluations, some chairs will overweight the grades and treat them as final, said Sen. Dave Peterson, professor of political science.

“They’re used for everything,” Peterson told The Daily. “So when they’re misused, it creates sort of systematic problems. This is perhaps the most consistent complaint from professors, not just in the state of Iowa. All teachers around the world are unhappy with the way they are used.

In 2019, a working group was created to propose improvements to the assessments, such as changing terminology, but the working group came to a halt due to the pandemic. The Senate heard a presentation from the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Sarah Marcketti, on the recommendations of the task force, which aim to improve the assessment, evaluation and promotion of effective teaching .

On the Senate floor, Peterson proposed that each department create a rubric by which teaching is assessed as a whole.

“I don’t think department heads are doing this maliciously, department heads are overworked, and that [student evaluations] is timely,” Peterson told the Senate during Tuesday’s meeting. “So having that document would make it really helpful for some consistency and give faculty the ability to push back when proper policies aren’t being followed.”

The rubric could include teaching evaluations, teaching philosophical narratives, peer review, course development and more. Peterson said departments should be able to agree on the best evaluation factors, and as soon as someone is hired, they can figure out what the standards are.

Although the rubrics proposal is not yet before the Senate as an official matter, Faculty Senate Chairman Jon Perkins said he will speak to the board of trustees and “get in motion on the change”.

“Obviously you are all involved and invested in this; we all are, okay,” Perkins said. “Because we want to be great teachers.”

Create a “step-by-step” non-disciplinary corrective process

The Senate also proceeded to the first reading of an article seeking to modify the non-disciplinary corrective measures policy for faculty. Currently, the faculty manual allows department heads to send a non-disciplinary letter requesting the faculty member to review certain disciplinary procedures or undergo training. No punishment comes with the letter.

“The non-disciplinary corrective action policy currently in the manual is very short, doesn’t include a lot of detail,” said Senator Steve Freeman, a university professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. “Therefore, it’s very confusing for professors and administrators to figure out how to use it appropriately.”

Faculty members had reported to the appeals committee that the policy was not being interpreted correctly and that presidents were using it as a disciplinary measure of some kind, said Senator Olena Watanabe, an associate professor in the accounting department. Watanabe represents the Ivy College of Business on the Judicial and Appeals Council, which originated the legislation.

Due to the confusion, this created additional work for the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee serves as a resource for faculty who feel they have been treated unfairly regarding pay, promotion, tenure, and other employment-related issues, according to the website of the Senate of the Faculty.

“We have tried to make it even clearer in this policy that there can be no punishment or discipline without going through our conduct process,” Freeman said. “So they are not appealable if done correctly. If a faculty member believes a policy has been violated, policy violations may be appealed. So there is always recourse to professors who feel that the policy is not being used correctly.

The Faculty Senate has proposed a three-step process beginning with a conversation between the department chair and the faculty member. Then there are progressive steps to correct driving issues before formal driving charges can be filed, such as a letter and warning. If the new process passes, Freeman said the Senate would also offer training for faculty and chairs to provide everyone with an understanding of the change.

The remedial process is not an allegation, therefore the action is not appealable. In cases of genuine misconduct, there is a different process listed in the faculty handbook.

“When there is genuine misconduct like sexual harassment or discrimination, we have separate chapters in the faculty handbook and separate procedures to address it, and it has to go through those channels,” Watanabe said. “It gives chairs the opportunity to steer their professors towards a better working environment.”

These progressive non-disciplinary actions may apply to student-related issues such as student grade feedback.

“We just hope it will be a better process and allow presidents to better communicate with their faculty,” Watanabe said. “Whatever issue may arise, whether it’s related to resources or student communication, it can be resolved earlier and more productively.” »

Ann Smiley-Oyen, an associate professor of kinesiology, said she liked the changes to the process, but asked the Senate to consider clarifying the time aspect of each step. Currently, the language imposes a five-day deadline for faculty members to meet with a department head after a written warning. While the rest of the language indicates that the process must be completed within a reasonable time or there is no time requirement at all.

Freeman said the committee would consider how to clarify the timeliness of the process.

“The reason there was a specific timeline for the written warning is that we hope we don’t get there, but if we do get there, we need to make sure it’s phased in,” Freeman said.

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