Teaching as an Aspect of Promotion and Tenure

The Fall 2021 report of the FAS Tenure Track Review Committee recommended several measures to ensure "that teaching, advising, and mentoring are important in the promotion process," including "building into the faculty life-cycle … opportunities for ongoing feedback and improvement; providing more concrete guidance to tenure-track faculty about how to critically examine and continually improve their teaching, advising, and mentoring for promotion reviews; gathering more complete and objective data from which informed evaluation and decisions can be made; and supporting tenured faculty in their greater engagement with tenure-track colleagues on these issues." While the Bok Center does not play a role in evaluating teaching, we are delighted to help both individual faculty and departments draft teaching statements, create teaching portfolios, and launch peer observation schemes designed to create opportunities for open discourse, constructive feedback, and shared vocabularies around teaching.

We would suggest that a robust review of a faculty colleague’s teaching, whether for tenure and promotion (in the case of a tenure-track appointment) or reappointment (in the case of a non-tenure-track appointment), draw upon at least four kinds of data:

  1. The candidate’s teaching materials, including a selection of syllabi, representative assignment prompts, lesson plans, etc. A careful reading of these kinds of documents will yield at least three kinds of useful evidence about a candidate’s teaching practices: (1) the extent to which they have developed a coherent theory of how to develop their students’ knowledge and skills across a 14-week term; (2) the extent to which they are transparent with students about their objectives, expectations, and approach to teaching the material at hand; and (3) the tone and climate that they intend to cultivate in their teaching.
    > Learn more about our support for faculty developing teaching materials

  2. Student evaluations of the candidate’s teaching, most typically those found in the Q Guide, though other modalities of student feedback are also welcome. It is true that student evaluations are incomplete or imperfect as indicators of teaching effectiveness; students may not be in a position to perceive, for example, how the material they have just learned will prove essential in a future semester. But they do yield important insights into the degree to which students have understood the instructor’s objectives and expectations, as well as the degree to which they felt included in the classroom environment and motivated by the instructor’s investment in their learning.
    > Make an appointment to reflect on feedback from a previous semester
  3. Peer observations of the candidate’s teaching, ideally conducted by faculty who are both experienced in teaching in similar curricular contexts and trained in a standardized observational protocol. The evidence accumulated through peer observation both (1) triangulates or corroborates the candidate’s course materials, allowing the department to assess how well the candidate translates their professed commitments into the live classroom, and (2) enhances the data present in student feedback, by supplementing the students’ experience of the candidate’s teaching with the professional expertise of a colleague who is better positioned to recognize when and how the candidate made choices in terms of the material covered and the approach taken.
    > Learn more about our peer observation protocols
    > Request an individual class observation
  4. The candidate’s own teaching statement. In addition to providing another window onto the candidate’s priorities and practices, the teaching statement gives the committee a window into the candidate’s capacity for reflection, perhaps the most essential attribute of effective instructors. An orientation toward meaningful self-reflection allows teachers, first of all, to identify their limitations, and to correct and grow from their mistakes. But it is also the capacity that allows them to identify and articulate those practices that are working well, so that they may expand upon them in their own practice and share them with colleagues in the department and beyond.
    > Read our general advice about teaching statements
    > Request a consultation about your teaching statement or portfolio