How’s My Teaching?

Is my teaching “Outstanding”, “Satisfactory”, or “Unsatisfactory”? These are the only three categories that can be used in the assessment of a member’s teaching under the terms of our Collective Agreement [Article 15.6.10]. Whether your teaching is being evaluated or you are participating in the evaluation of a colleague’s teaching, the assessment must place the performance in one of these three categories. ‘Pretty Good’ or ‘Could be Better’ are not acceptable categories.

In the last round of negotiations we agreed to an extensive new clause on the ‘Evaluation of Teaching Performance’ [Article 15.6] that sets out both the procedures for evaluation and the categories of performance for that assessment. Members will note that the categories correspond to the criteria required for promotion and tenure. For example, in order to be eligible for promotion to Associate Professor applicants must demonstrate a ‘successful experience in university teaching’ [Article 12.1.12] which corresponds to the ‘satisfactory’ category under Teaching Performance.

The clause was designed to address the tendency of administrators to rely, in a rather inconsistent manner, on student opinion survey results as ‘the’ measure of teaching performance. We inserted language in Article 15.6.12 that clearly states that “course evaluations provide only one source of information regarding student experiences and degree of satisfaction with respect to an Employee’s teaching performance”. The clause further insists that the Union reserves the ‘right to challenge the use of information’ derived from any course evaluation questionnaire. In addition, Article 16.6.6 stipulates that “no person or committees assessing an Employee’s teaching performance shall rely entirely on information gathered from ‘course evaluations’ unless no other information has been provided”.

The onus is, therefore, on individual faculty members to provide any further information that could be useful in providing a full picture of the member’s teaching performance. Article 15.6 is helpful in this regard since it defines teaching activities [15.6.2] and outlines the type of information that should be consulted when evaluating teaching [15.6.6]. This would include, but is not limited to the following:

  1. The type and nature of courses taught, including class size,
  2. The nature of the subject matter,
  3. The experience of the instructor with the course, and the number of new course preparations assigned to the instructor,
  4. The quality and utility of pedagogical materials prepared by the Employee, the Employee’s contributions in the areas of pedagogical development and innovation,
  5. The opinions of students, including quantitative summary information gathered through a “course evaluation” questionnaire as per 15.6.12 of this Collective Agreement.
  6. Any and all information submitted …by the Employee being evaluated, such as observations based upon classroom visitations (under Article 15.6.11 classroom visitations require the Employee’s advanced consent).

Our Collective Agreement, then, offers members considerable opportunity to contribute to the assessment of their teaching performance. It should be noted, however, that it also obliges anyone making an assessment of teaching performance to provide a statement identifying the information consulted and the results of the analysis of that information [15.6.9]. Ultimately, though, it must be determined if an individual’s teaching is ‘outstanding’, ‘satisfactory’, or ‘unsatisfactory’.

If any member has any questions or concerns regarding the ‘Teaching Performance’ clause, or any other article of the Collective Agreement, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the SMUFU Executive.