Start of main content

Supporting Excellence in Teaching at East Tennessee State University

Description

                                                                                Supporting Excellence in Teaching at East Tennessee State University

                                                                                                                Report of the Teaching Work Group

                                                                                                                              September 16, 2016

 

Alison Barton

 

Department of Teaching and Learning

Rhonda Brodrick

 

Nursing Undergraduate Programs

Patrick Brown

 

Department of Health Sciences

Randy Byington

 

Department of Allied Health Sciences

Chris Dula

 

Department of Psychology

Cerrone Foster

 

Department of Biological Sciences

Jeff Gold

 

Department of Philosophy and Humanities

Travis Graves

 

Department of Art and Design

Amy Johnson

 

Quality Enhancement Plan

Tom Kwasigroch

 

Department of Biomedical Sciences

Jamie McGill

 

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Lorianne Mitchell

 

Department of Management and Marketing

Brian Odle

 

Department of Pharmacy Practice

Josh Reid

 

Department of Literature and Languages

Kelly Price-Rhea

 

Department of Management and Marketing

Craig Wassinger

 

Department of Physical Therapy

 

Executive Summary

In September 2015 Provost Bert Bach convened a group of faculty representing all levels of education—undergraduate, graduate and professional—and asked them to review support for ETSU’s teaching mission and propose ways to advance teaching excellence.  Supporting Excellence in Teaching at East Tennessee State University presents the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1         Improve student assessment of instruction so it provides more timely, reliable and actionable feedback.

Recommendation 2         Create university-wide resources for peer review of teaching.

Recommendation 3         Develop an instructional assessment that reviews multiple aspects of teaching and kinds of information.

Recommendation 4         Establish a center dedicated to improving and supporting teaching.

Recommendation 5         Adopt staffing, workload and pay practices that enable excellence in teaching.

Recommendation 6         Revise ETSU’s mission statement to affirm the value and centrality of teaching.

Recommendation 7         Require faculty to participate in instructional development.

Recommendation 8         Provide infrastructure to enable best-practice teaching methods in all courses.

Recommendation 9         Communicate expectations for teaching to faculty at the time of hire and in conjunction with annual evaluations and tenure and promotion.

Recommendation 10       Increase opportunities to recognize excellence in teaching.


Posted on: 9/19/2016
Closes on: 10/21/2016
Archived on: 10/21/2017

Primary Documents


The Request for Comments has been closed

Comments


My Public Comments on

Supporting Excellence in Teaching at East Tennessee State University, October 19, 2016

 

I am deeply appreciative of the work of the Teaching Work Group as well as the charge by Dr. Bach to review ETSU’s support for its teaching mission.  It would be a meaningful improvement indeed if the university teaching mission were to be more strongly supported and highly regarded. I think the report is a  major and critical step in that direction and I agree with a majority of the recommendations and sub-recommendations.  I also think that the document needs some further sculpting if its function is, in fact, to place greater value on faculty teaching activity.  I offer some recommendations below for the Work Group to consider. 

First, order matters.  The sequence of recommendations will send its own message about how the faculty who do the teaching are valued, as opposed to hoe the abstraction of “teaching” as the valued.  I was troubled that the first recommendations were about how to improve evaluation faculty, and not how to support, motivate, and recognize them. I suggest that the report’s top three recommendations belong near the bottom of the list.  Below is my suggestion for reordering.

  1. Adopt staffing, workload and pay practices that enable excellence in teaching. (Recommendation 5)        
  2. Revise ETSU’s mission statement to affirm the value and centrality of teaching. (Recommendation 6)        
  3. Provide infrastructure to enable best-practice teaching methods in all courses. (Recommendation 8)
  4. Increase opportunities to recognize excellence in teaching.  (Recommendation 10)
  5. Establish a center dedicated to improving and supporting teaching. (Recommendation 4)
  6. Require faculty to participate in instructional development. (Recommendation 7)
  7. Develop an instructional assessment that reviews multiple aspects of teaching and kinds of information.  (Recommendation 3)
  8. Create university-wide resources for peer review of teaching.  (Recommendation 2) 
  9. Improve student assessment of instruction so it provides more timely, reliable and actionable feedback. (Recommendation 1)
  10. Communicate expectations for teaching to faculty at the time of hire and in conjunction with annual evaluations and tenure and promotion.  (Recommendation 9)

Regarding the group’s Rec. 1 (which I think should be Rec 9).  I think we need to be more suspicious of SAIs than we are invested in them, given studies (one very recent one shared among the chairs and cited by Mark Giroux above) indicating that evaluations of teaching are unreliable in determining teaching quality, for a variety of reasons.  I wonder if this recommendation reflects the experience of the work group.  I find them useful as a professor and a chair in that they sometimes can help to identify potential “red flags” but I don’t assign them much telling weight generally.  Also, I have serious concerns about the two rounds of SAIs taking up so much class time; I can’t imagine classes held in winter months dealing with snow days and then having to relinquish additional class time.  Also, it seems strange to double up on a process that that students already are unresponsive to unless faculty can cajole students into filling them out, which then troubles validity again.

Regarding the groups’ Rec. 2 (which I think should be Rec 8).    The system used for peer reviews needs to be significantly improved to be useful and to move it beyond peer applause.

Regarding the groups’ Rec. 3 (which I think should be Rec 7).  I haven’t read an individual teaching philosophy yet that told me something useful or unique about the teacher.  I have, however, found that a great majority of them are very similar.  I’m not convinced these are useful or drive teaching excellence.

Regarding the group’s Rec 5. (which I think should be Rec. 1). I applaud the recommendations here; they are the most urgent and significant of the lot.  I suggest adding a point (perhaps within point 5.5, for example) that the Provost and the Deans support departments through adequate staffing that enables  departments to move excellent faculty from upper division courses where their excellence, experience, and expertise is needed, and in many cases cannot be replaced by part-time faculty or the full-time faculty at hand.  Most departments do not have the flexibility needed to follow this recommendation.

Regarding the group’s Rec. 7 (which I think should be Rec. 6).  I support efforts to ensure that faculty are focused on continuous improvement in teaching.  At least two matters would have to be addressed before requiring CIDs is feasible:  the university would need to invest resources in developing many and varied CID opportunities, and the expectation for number of CIDs would have to be reasonable and manageable, and much consideration needs to be put into the latter.

Regarding the group’s Rec. 8 (which I think should be Rec. 3). I have never gotten a sense from my faculty who teach large lecture courses (and perhaps other department large courses are different) that more than one GA is needed, or that breakouts within the large lecture would be feasible, even with multiple GAs.  If this recommendation is to go forward, it will have to include a sub-recommendation addressing the institution supplying the department with the additional GAs this would require.  Given that GAs are not inexpensive for the university to fund, I suspect this recommendation defeats much of the purpose of the large lecture format.

Regarding the group’s Rec. 9 (which I think should be Rec. 10).  The preceding recommendations, esp the group’s Recs. 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10, would of course need to be in place in order for this recommendation to have teeth.



Commentor: Amber Kinser
Submitted on: 10/19/2016
On behalf of: Individual Administrator

I would like to add a suggestion, that ETSU join the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. There is a fee to join as an institution, but would cost considerably less than having an entire center devoted to faculty development. I have colleagues at other institutions who rave about the NCFDD.

What I like about the offerings is the variety - some also focused on writing and research, successfully getting tenure, etc.



Commentor: Stacey Williams
Submitted on: 10/18/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

Apologies if this comment appears twice.  The website logged me out while I was trying to enter it the first time.  

While I believe the committee has made a good-faith effort to identify strategies for improving the quality of teaching at ETSU, I, like my colleagues, have concerns about the premises on which the proposals are based.  Here are a few of those reservations:

  • I'd like people who propose the use of metrics to reward and/or punish knowledge workers-- essentially, what's being done with SAIs-- to refute the critique of this practice offered by Robert Austin in Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations (c. 1996, Dorset House Publishing)  In Measuring, Austin uses a combination of economic models of employee motivation and case studies to argue that incomplete and/or imperfect measurements of employee performance, as a rule, produce worse results--in terms of an organization's ability to meet its goals--than a classic, classic, "delegational" strategy for employee management.  Essentially, Austin concludes that
    • simple metrics are easily gamed -- though Austin doesn't say so, in academics, this,  I believe, typically takes the form of grade inflation
    • more realisitic metrics quickly become too complex to understand, let alone implement
  • With regard to the motivational devices proposed in the report
    • W. Edwards Deming, the guy who helped put statistical quality control on the map-- David Halberstam's The Reckoning is a good account of Deming's ascendancy-- viewed individual employee rewards for excellence as divisive:  practices that tend to create resentment rather than to promote cooperation and a focus on shared institutional goals among an organization's employees.
    • Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister, the authors of Peopleware, the classic study of people management in the software industry, treat simplistic motivational devices like (potentially) "tips of the week" as demotivators as well: indicators that management regard employees as being too stupid to understand how to their jobs.
  • While I understand the thinking behind requiring all faculty to participate in instructional development, I see this sort of institutionalized process as one of the fastest ways to garner ill will among those of us who are already working hard at our crafts and trying to incorporate what we learn from our student into our teaching.  We need time to implement what we know how to do but are hard pressed to do far more than we need yet another drain on our time.
  • As for the establishment of yet another ETSU center in this era of declining revenues and spiraling    student fees, I, too, am concerned about whether this is the best use of ETSU's monies and energies.     If anything, I'd rather see ETSU focus on implementing a managerial process like DevOps (see Kim et    al.'s The Phoenix Project) that attempts to improve overall institutional productivity by
    • eliminating rework-- e.g., the bouncing and needless resubmission of paperwork between departments and administrative offices (which our department has experienced)
    • improving communication between consumers of administrative processes and producers in terms of the producers' hearing and implementing our requests for improvement
    • encouraging innovation, in the form of frequent, small improvements

If ETSU could improve its operations to where it could provide more resources for the academic function, then it might be possible to improve teaching by freeing monies to provide release time to faculty to improve their teaching; to pay higher wages to attract stronger teachers and researchers; and to improve the infrastructure for content delivery, as proposed by the committee.  If time, as Peter Denning asserts in The Effective Executive, is the most valuable resource that executives possess-- including those of us who teach, for we function like executives--then focusing on initiatives that would afford us more time would seem to be the most effective way of improving teaching at ETSU.



Commentor: Phillip Pfeiffer
Submitted on: 10/15/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

Thank you to the Teaching Work Group for all the hard work creating this report. My overall assessment is that this report provides many sound recommendations to support teaching excellence, but I do have a few comments/concerns.

Recommendation 1- The steps to improve the SAI process is solving the wrong problem. The SAI process itself is the problem. Identifying ways to receive timely, reliable, and actionable feedback should be done in a manner different that via SAIs. For example, I ask my students for mid-semester feedback on the course with 3 simple questions: "What is helping you learn?" "What is hurting your learning?" and "What recommended changes do you have for the course." I tally the feedback and use it to assist me in making changes in current or future semesters. My students seem to appreciate the changes I immediately make in reaction to their feedback.

Recommendation 7- I think the word "require" is too strong even though I think the 3 year time frame is reasonable. Attending an instructional development workshop/class does not necessarily impact teaching performance. If the activity is required, then it may just be another "hoop" to jump through versus an opportunity to learn something and apply it to classroom instruction.

Recommendation 10.1- Providing incentives for faculty who participate in teaching improvement activities could be enhanced by adding a component as "and who demonstrte implementation in the classroom."

Thank you, again, for the group's focus on excellence in teaching. I think these recommendations are worthwhile!

 



Commentor: Kelly Atkins
Submitted on: 10/13/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am opposed to adding busy work, which this appears to do. I would just like to say "ditto" to Christopher Pritchett's entire post. It sums up my sentiments quite well. 



Commentor: Andrea Clements
Submitted on: 10/12/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

While other members of the College of Public Health will (and have) commented, these comments are submitted on behalf of the Leadership Council of the College:

1)  We strongly endorse the importance of excellent teaching, and appreciate the Committee's efforts in this regard;

2)  We are concerned that in the absence of reliable metrics, it is difficult to recognize, incentivize and reward "excellence" in teaching;

3)  We feel that many of the proposed interventions are overly centralized, paperwork-intensive, and mandatory, and might benefit from being framed as optional resources for the Colleges and Departments to use to address identified probelms and challenges;

4)  While we understsand the motivation to have a "center" for improving and supporting teaching, we are concerned about a) the cost of creating and maintaining such a center; b) whether a single center can provide the appropriate level of support given the widely disparate ways that teachers can be deemed to be 'excellent' and c) how this center will differ from ETSU's previous experience with such a support mechanism;

5)  We would recommend that additioanl attention be given to providing feedback in "real time" to students (some sort of "what we heard/what we did report") so that students better appreciate that the SAI is a part of a larger quality improvement process;

We hope that these comments will not be seen as negative.  Rather we hope that they contribute to producing an even better final product.

Thank you for your work on this project and for the opportunity to comment.  

 



Commentor: Randy Wykoff
Submitted on: 10/11/2016
On behalf of: College of Public Health Leadership Council

Many thanks to all members of the teaching work group for the significant time and energy they've clearly expended here. 

Insofar as this document can be understood as offering recommendations to help ETSU instructors (adjunt, lecturers, tenure-track, tenured) become better, and even excellent, teachers, then I'm very much in favour of it. There is a lot in the proposal that I like. However, I have two concerns:

1) there is an assumption at work in some parts of the document, that excellence in teaching is reasonably uniform across disciplines and colleges. I am suspicious of the assumption. In my experience effective teaching starts by thinking hard about the particular ideas or information I intend to share, then reflecting on how I can best present those specific ideas in ways that students are likely to find helpful, as well as reflecting on what worked more or less well in the past. Insofar as the document encourages faculty to participate in teaching development activities, recommends creating a pool of "expert reviewers", supposes that expectations for teaching can be clearly articulated, and so on, I'm concerned that style is being emphasized at the expense of content. In addition, we know that styles will have to vary according to the objectives of different classes. In my department we talk about what's working well in different classes, and learn from each other, but I don't assume that these would export well to lots of other disciplines.

2) more importantly to me, it is clearly assumed in parts of the document that excellence in teaching can be reliably measured and that we can objectively distinguish excellent teachers from average teachers. Unfortunately the document includes no reason to suppose that this is in fact achievable and there are good reasons to suspect that it is not. As others have noted, below, it is well-known that SAIs are a hopelessly unreliable indicator of teaching effectiveness. They might have value to individual instructors. They might help us identify individual faculty who are struggling. They do not reliably identify effective teaching. Similarly, peer reviews can be hugely useful, but there are so many reviewers, reviewing so many colleagues, that they again provide no useful basis for comparisons. The document includes a long list of additional lines of evidence that faculty should be encouraged to submit. I don't object to their inclusion on promotion applications, FARs, etc., if they are understood as providing evidence that someone is doing their job well. However, they should not be used as evidence that one instructor is more excellent than another. Choosing to spend one's time assembling, and persuasively presenting, lots of evidence so as to demonstrate teaching excellence is not the same as being an excellent teacher. Motivating faculty to spend their time in this way draws them away from more important tasks and still provides, at best, very weak evidence of who are our genuinely exceptional teachers. 



Commentor: David Harker
Submitted on: 10/7/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

More a question than comment.  WIll the same guidelines apply to the College of Medicine clinical and non-clinical faculty who teach and assess medical students?



Commentor: Catherine Peeples
Submitted on: 10/5/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

There is an article that appeared recently on insidehighered.com

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/21/new-study-could-be-another-nail-coffin-validity-student-evaluations-teaching

entitled  "Zero Correlation Between Evaluations and Learning"

which summarizes the latest studies which show no correlation versus Student Evaluations and Learning.  With this and the strong gender bias that studies show exists with Student Evaluations, it seems to make more sense to eliminate Student Evaluations from any list of teaching recommendations.



Commentor: Mark Giroux
Submitted on: 10/3/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

The current draft of the "Supporting Excellence in Teaching at ETSU" is lacking some key components.
It is lacking sections on:

1) Faculty Qualifications and Credentials
2) Academic Integrity
3) Independent Assessment of Learning

I suggest adding the following three Recommendations:

Recommendation #1: Increase the fraction of faculty at ETSU with terminal degrees in the subject taught.

This is one of the criteria by which colleges are ranked on educational quality (for example, it is used in the U.S. News and World Report rankings).   It is a measure of the depth of knowledge of the faculty.   Over the last decade, a larger and larger fraction of our courses are being taught by low-paid adjunct faculty or non-tenure-track lecturers.   For example, according to the ETSU Catalog, in 2007 93% of the full-time faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences were tenured/tenure-track.  In contrast, in 2015 only 83% of the full-time Arts and Sciences faculty listed in the Catalog are tenured/tenure-track.      

One of the goals of the ETSU Strategic Plan should be to increase the percent of competitively-paid tenure-track faculty with terminal degrees in their field.

A large fraction of highly qualified faculty could be used as a marketing tool to recruit students.

For a listing of the qualifications of faculty at ETSU, see:

http://ftcs-server.etsu.edu/ftcs/  

A related goal of the Strategic Plan should be to decrease the percentage of classes taught by faculty who do not officially meet the minimum faculty qualification requirements for Southern Association of Colleges (SACS) accreditation.   SACS requires a minimum of 18 graduate semester hours in the teaching discipline.  

Recommendation #2:  Maintain Academic Integrity

In the effort to retain students and improve our graduation rate, academic integrity must not be forgotten.  Grades assigned to students should reflect their mastery of the subject.  The topic of grading is not discussed in the current draft of the "Excellence in Teaching" document.  Grading is one of the most difficult and most stressful components of teaching, yet is also one of the most important.      If corporations who hire ETSU graduates are disappointed in their skills, they will be less likely to hire ETSU graduates in the future.   If our graduates get accepted into highly-ranked graduate programs, but cannot handle the material, the graduate schools are less likely to accept our students in the future.  If a medical school is disappointed in the background of student coming from ETSU, they are less likely to accept ETSU graduates.  Our reputation as a University hinges on the integrity of our grading.

I have some specific recommendations that may help limit grade inflation:

a) At the end of each semester, the University might provide the Department Chairs and the Deans with histograms of final course grades for each section of each class.  This would provide an easy visual way for these administrators to see at a glance whether one instructor or one class has a wildly different grade distribution compared to other classes of similar level.

b) For peer evaluations of teaching, explicitly require the reviewer to review the exams, assignments, syllabi, and final grade distributions for the classes.  Peer evaluation should go beyond sitting in a class and commenting on lecturing technique.   In some cases, copies of graded final exams or graded final assignments might be reviewed to determine the level of the course and the extent of student learning.   As much as possible, peer reviewers should be expert in the subject being reviewed, ideally people who have taught the course or a similar course before.

Recommendation #3: Utilize independent methods of assessing student learning.   The proposed new Center of Excellence in Teaching should work closely with the ETSU Center for Academic Achievement on this goal.   Many Departments already require graduating seniors to take Major Field Exams, a standardized test designed to measure competence in a particular field.   Alternatively, Departments might monitor Graduate Record Exam scores for their graduating seniors going to graduate school, or results on the Praxis subject exam (a standardized exam for judging content knowledge for people intending to become high school teachers).



Commentor: Beverly Smith
Submitted on: 10/3/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

It should be no surprise that a university strives for teaching excellence. Many institutions have adopted, or are developing, statements about Faculty effectiveness in the class room (see University of Michigan [http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/guidelines] as an appropriate example).  As indicated by several other universities, the Faculty that a university employs should be professionals and able to perform the duties they were hired. It is solely the role of Faculty, individual Colleges, and Departments to establish and implement practices appropriate to the needs of their student population.  It is an overreach and abuse of power for an Administrator(s), combined with an exploratory committee, to dictate how other Faculty should teach. This set of recommendations commoditizes teaching, is inflammatory, insulting, discriminatory, and most importantly unethical. Otherwise, it’s OK.

 

Let’s start with recommendation 1.  This would put even more focus on the antiquated practice of student evaluation of instruction, a practice that is increasingly given a minimal role in overall teaching effectiveness.  This is flawed on multiple levels. First off, an appropriately designed course should have no room for multiple time slots for SAI’s.  Furthermore, I fail to understand why this university has not caught up to the times with regard to the failed attempts to use SAI’s as a major Faculty evaluation tool. The reliance on SAI’s to evaluate Faculty effectiveness is flawed and a brief literature search, of publicly available documents, clearly indicates that student evaluations only be a minimal part of a Faculty evaluation.

 

SAI’s are frequently used by Faculty as a metric of their supposed greatness as a teacher. This is erroneous thinking and is merely a way for self-promotion of Faculty wishing to be more popular to the Students. If the Faculty doesn’t know the material well or doesn’t have the expertise to teach a course, then they shouldn’t be teaching the course.  A good educator is one who imparts knowledge to Students, while some Faculty may not have had “training in teaching”, it is their responsibility to try and achieve some level of competence. I would also posit that certain disciplines require a certain amount of rigor in the curriculum (think science and math). Having Faculty water down their courses to better their SAI’s would mean that our Students would not be getting a college education. I firmly believe that our Students deserve a real college education.

 

As for recommendation 2, peer review can be an extremely valuable tool, but needs to be specific to the Department.  It would be a ridiculous idea, given that a Math professor would have a difficult time reviewing an English Faculty member and vice versa. Each department has specific basic principles that govern their given field and to assume that everyone has commonality is absurd.   As for the pool of “expert reviewers”, what qualifies a person to offer “specialized training”?  Is that published?  Are they published?  This section only offers a glimpse of Departmental ownership of the process in section 2.4, once again commoditizing teaching as a defined product.

 

Recommendation 3 has even more focus on SAI’s.  Really, more with the SAI’s?  Come on guys, let it go, it’s a survey of opinion. Nothing more. 

 

Recommendation 4 offers what potentially could be a good resource.   While a center that may help Faculty develop alternate teaching skills, or career advancement would be a nice resource, like the ARC is to Students, it should be a resource pursued at the Faculty’s option.

 

Recommendation 5 – Where do you plan to acquire the funding for sections 5.1., 5.2, and 5.3.  Also, time AND funding for section 5.6?  I would caution creating another Administrative unit, another set of “middle managers”, in the environment of flat enrollment that currently exists. 

 

I find it amusing that Recommendation 7 talks about diversity, but this document by nature, prevents diversity in teaching and discriminates against Faculty who do not rely on “innovative teaching”. Recommendation 7 is the most insulting of all the recommendations and should result in the ire of all Faculty that value academic freedom and intellectual integrity. Many Faculty have been teaching for years and have honed their craft. Young Faculty should have the freedom to explore the ways in which they prefer to teach. This recommendation, in particular, would provide only the ideology of the “instructors”, the so called “experts”, teaching how to teach.  How would they incorporate diverse ideas about teaching?  Is what I do we do in the research lab, 60+ hours a week, expert teaching?  How about my students that have left ETSU, and Appalachia, for Graduate Programs at some of the best universities in the country?   Were they “expertly taught”?

 

An Academic “participates in teaching improvement activities” every 3 minutes, not every 3 years (7.1).  An Academic always applies “ideas and skills gained” (7.2).  My publications are my “documentation of instructional development activities” (7.3).  Though I would not deny it to others, I may not need your “3-day orientation” (7.4), nor is compensation an Academics’ primary concern (7.5).

 

As for the rest of the recommendations, teaching is an honored profession. No medal or award is enough to reward excellence in teaching. If this is not enough find another job.

 

The entire document is filled with busy work for Faculty that takes away time from Faculty preparing content for especially fast-moving fields such as the sciences and scholarly activities (particularly research!).  It is a shame that Administrators and Faculty do not focus on the quality of education and scholarship of the Faculty. Faculty that engage in research and scholarly activities can help ETSU distinguish itself from other universities and help achieve the mission of the university. However, little work has been done to improve the infrastructure for any research activities in the basic sciences. Our Students will learn best when an academic environment that relies on discovery and curiosity is created and when Faculty are allowed to incorporate Students into their research activities.

 

If there are Faculty who believe they are expert teachers, that in and of itself, is arrogant and flawed. We are always learning how to teach. As a Scientist, I am constantly having to learn new information and new techniques.  Determining how to explain that information to Students, whether in the classroom or the laboratory is often time-consuming and difficult. My biggest concern is that anytime one Faculty member thinks they know better how to teach there is the setup of everyone to fail, our Students included. As the university has a mission to educate the region, this document fails on multiple levels and should be a discussion within individual departments. Blanket statements seldom work and given that our Students are not well versed in science and math, we should be doing more in terms of content and clarity than the recommendations in this proposal.  This proposal does little except to accentuate the commoditization of education.



Commentor: Christopher Pritchett
Submitted on: 9/26/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

HIt enter before revisiting this which I wroter earlier -

Recommendation 1:  It is difficult enough to get SAIs completed once, so the idea of trying to get them twice during a semester just seems silly. While I appreciate that peformance data is useful 1) the time to take these in class takes up useful and necessary teaching time and 2) allowing the SAIs to be open through the semester until the end allows a range of opportunities for the instructor to decide when to emphasize the need to complete these to students. That said, we have a lot of online teaching now and the scramble to get to these students does not have face-to-face time in which to get students online to complete SAIs!!  Also, I just don't see the SAIs, the likert sections, as useful performance data. I do prefer the type of commentary, simple and direct, that is noted by Tom Schacht. It is a format that can benefit me a great deal more than the current SAIs.  I also like Tom's suggestion of writing philosphies in a format that can be measureable. 



Commentor: Jane Broderick
Submitted on: 9/23/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

Recommendation 1:  It is difficult enough to get SAIs completed once, so the idea of trying to get them twice during a semester just seems silly. While I appreciate that peformance data is useful 1) the time to take these in class takes up useful and necessary teaching time and 2) allowing the SAIs to be open through the semester until the end allows a range of opportunities for the instructor to decide when to emphasize the need to complete these to students. That said, we have a lot of online teaching now and the scramble to get to these students does not have face-to-face time in which to get students online to complete SAIs!!

Recommendation 2:  I fully believe in reflective practice and yet it is really only successful in my view when there is buy-in from the group as "collaborators in a community of learning."  Work to create and support this within programs seems a much more productive plan.  Buy-in from those being reviewed is necessary for such a process to be effective, which in my view would require a shared process for the development of the reviewing process by all participants (obserers and those being observed), and then ample time for reflection is needed as well. 

Recommendation 3: The center plan seems like it is attempting to transition the QEP. Liaisons, just seems to broad to me to be in close enough range to have an effect.  That top down hierarchy that Tom Shacht mentioned seems problematic.  ALSO, I am not a fan of awards, putting some up for excellence against others. IF highlighting of faculty is to take place it should take into account all faculty and really represent a wide range of faculty each for the particular strategies that work for them on an ongoing basis ...

Recommendation 5:  This doesn't make good sense if geared toward numbers taught.  5.2 speaks to rewarding faculty teaching courses with enrollment but are they really working harder or better than someone who is out in the field recruiting for smaller programs, that might also be financially rewarding to the university in that they are cohort programs?  Many work extremely diligently to maintain small online cohort programs which requires a lot of quality professional relations time and quality teaching to manage.  I DO think we DEFINITELY need to raise the pay for adjunct teachers. I am embarrassed to ask professionals I know in the field to teach in the online cohort program that I coordinate and therefore our cohort students might have to put up with adjunct faculty (when one is needed) who are less than expert in that specific niche in the field. YES rewarding teaching as a path to promotion and tenure is a great idea, particularly at a university like this where teaching is the primary focus and the research infrastructure less able to support a broader range of research.  Course coordinators overseeing adjuncts of several large sections of courses is also a great idea.

Recommendation 6: But OF COURSE!

Recommendation 7:  I am somewhat concerned on this.  For one, I do participate in a lot of PD and always have. The university has offered and all my colleagues participate (FTL, INtopForm, are only two examples). Being in education teaching and how to teach is central to our mission and teaching.  IF I am expected to take a course regularly I should then be able to assert release time from LOTS of the myriad duties that are placed on me. ALL of the faculty in my program are inundated with administrivia work that goes way beyond what we were taught to do, and we do it.  More expectations to me seems to then add on more hours to my already high workload that always goes over the work week hours. I simply do not have time IF I also want to move forward my research and creative activity.  Seriously consider the "time" aspect of this and the need for "reflection time" when learning.  GIVE ample time, release time, for such expectations and the rewards will be much greater in the teaching outcomes!!! Read the research on this ... that reflection time is crucial when learning and applying new knowledge and skills.  Getting extra pay compensation for participation is welcome, and yet, the need for time is also precious. Some blend of this idea and continuous learning communities seems appealing to me. 

Recommendation 8: I am not familiar with large courses enough to comment.

Recommendation 9: Our department guidelines were always very clear.  Perhaps other departments need to work on this. I know that some in our college were too vague for me to make good judgements when I served on the tenure and promotion committee. Consider supporting departments in creating clear guidelines.

Recommendation 10:  I am not a fan of awards as it raises some and keeps others less visible.  Adding more awards sets the stage for external gratification rather than from an internal motivation that could be gained from more collaborative efforts to organize professional learning communities to support individuals continuosly and as such highlight the gifts of many through the sharing / learning that can occur in these settings.

 

Final statements - TIME is an issue with all of this, as noted by me and in others comments.   How will faculty have time for all of this??

 

 

 



Commentor: Jane Broderick
Submitted on: 9/23/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I have spent 25 years teaching students the fundamentals of microbiology and immunology.  To emphasize that SAIs will be  the tool to define the quality of teaching is flawed.  We are predominantly dealing with 18 to 22 year old students that have no criteria for evaluating the quality of my courses.   Should they be asked to evaluate the clarity and organization of these courses?  Absolutely.  But the SAIs many times just become a popularity contest and is determined by the grade the student expects to receive.  My basis for the quality of instruction are those student that have told me that my courses helped them to succeed in professional school and their careers.  In just appears to me reading between the lines that this plan is putting all instruction in a box.  Different disciplines demand different approaches and individualized instruction based on experience and expertise.  After all we do have terminal degrees and do I have to mention academic freedom?  Do I need to improve as an instructor? Yes.  Attempting to model a life-long learner to my students and offer them a quality course has kept me coming back day after day.  That a committee of my peers has developed this document which just adds to the work I must do is disappointing.



Commentor: Eric Mustain
Submitted on: 9/22/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

First - thank you to the committee for tackling this important subject and for the opportunity to provide commentary.

[A] Mission Statement (Recommendation # 6)

I concur with the proposal to update the mission statement (Recommendation 6).

That said, I wonder if the suggested remedy is adequate to the problem. In particular, I wonder if merely updating the mission statement will matter in the absence of sufficient analysis of root cause institutional culture issues. A top-down change to the mission statement may become mere window dressing if we do not understand and address the underlying elements of ETSU culture that allowed us, in the first place, ever to adopt a mission statement that is silent about teaching. How did this silence happen? A similar concern applies to Recommendation # 9 that proposes clear communication of expectations for teaching. What does it say about ETSU’s institutional culture that this presumably fundamental matter should even be a topic of concern?

It has been my impression that the ETSU mission statement has not functioned as a document that we really live by, so much as a document that was created to comply with external requirements that we have a mission statement. The elements of our mission statement are written impersonally, with all action and responsibility expressed in the name of the corporate entity (i.e. “ETSU values…. ETSU endorses…. ETSU affirms …. ETSU offers …. ETSU awards ….) – and there is nothing akin to an oath of office by which any ETSU employee makes even a non-binding promise to act in accord with the mission statement. At worst, to the extent that we appear at times to tolerate action in contradiction to the statement, it is viewed by some as an institutional hypocrisy.

Moreover, our real, functional mission statement does not exist in writing, but is instead expressed informally yet powerfully in the institutional culture – the tacit patterns of assumptions and actions that frame our working lives. If these underlying assumptions and action patterns – the institutional culture in action, not on paper – are not addressed, should we really expect that adding some words to a paper will really matter?

The report of the Teaching Work Group may itself stand as an ironic example of an institutional culture that tacitly devalues teaching. Thus, one might reasonably ask: “Why is the topic of including teaching in the mission statement listed as the 6th recommendation instead of as the 1st recommendation? What does it mean that inclusion of teaching in the mission statement – supposedly our highest and most fundamental expression of values -  does not receive a corresponding place of prominence in the report of a university-wide Teaching Work Group?”

Moreover, I wonder if the initial charge to the committee may itself be instructive as to the nature of some underlying cultural assumptions. As stated in the executive summary (p.1) the committee was asked "to review ETSU's support for its teaching mission." This is fine – but perhaps incomplete. How would the analysis deepen if the reverse question had also been included – that is, if the committee had reviewed not only how ETSU supports teaching, but also how teaching supports ETSU? This unasked parallel question, in turn, invites consideration of whether there is a difference between what our teaching does for “the university” as an institution (i.e. provides a service for which tuition can be charged) and what our teaching does for students and for society. With respect to this latter focus, I would like to see ETSU’s Vision Statement changed from language that emphasizes status and the glory of an exalted state of being (“To be the best regional university in the nation”) to language that emphasizes service and social responsibility (“To operate the best regional university for the nation”).

[B] Student Assessment of Instruction (Recommendation # 1)

The identified themes of timeliness, reliability, and usefulness (“actionable” information) capture the essence of what I have understood to be faculty concerns about the existing SAI system. The proposed recommendations articulate nicely with these themes.

However, I think to make a real difference we can and should muster the courage to perform more radical surgery on the SAI system. In my opinion, this requires nothing less than a paradigm change that would involve abandonment of Likert scales or any similar rating.

Likert-scales as applied to the SAI task provide bureaucratic convenience at the expense of the validity and usefulness of information. The Teaching Work Group recommendations continue to embrace a fiction that the core inadequacy of Likert scales can be remediated by tweaking the edges of the process. Such tweaking is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. In my experience as both a teacher and a student, Likert scales tend to transform the SAI process into a structured exercise in mutually compulsory bullshitting that institutionally disrespects the need for and value of real and genuine communication between teachers and learners.

Indeed, recommendation number 1.5 to “provide guidance to faculty on how to read, interpret, and use SAI results” implicitly condemns of the whole Likert-based SAI structure. If “training” is necessary for otherwise expert teachers to “interpret” what students are saying, then isn’t the perceived need for such training a form of evidence that we are asking the wrong questions and/or are asking them in the wrong way? And if faculty require “training” to interpret SAI’s, does this mean that students require “training” to fill them out? Why can’t we have a system that simply values and seeks plain straight-talk?

The Work Group report implicitly recognizes the inadequacy of the Likert data with the statement that “faculty often report that they learn as much or more from students’ comments as they do from numerical SAI data.”  However, rather than scrapping the Likert items and shifting to a new paradigm, the Work Group proposes to further burden the students by adding a “comment section” to each Likert item “to increase the amount of actionable data instructors get from SAI’s.” If Likert items do not provide actionable data, then why bother burdening students and faculty with the meaningless exercise and wasted effort of manufacturing and submitting these ratings?

A desirable SAI system would provide face-valid and actionable data that did not require special training to produce or understand. I believe such a system could consist of three questions to which students would give a narrative response. Although narrative data can be quantified if that is desired, the burden of any such quantification falls to the reader and cannot be shifted onto the students via the artifice of Likert scales.

To help students reflect on their experiences before writing, a list of potential topics encompassed by the current Likert items could be provided as a prompt to prime students’ thinking about their narratives. However, unlike the Work Group recommendation that would seek comments for every Likert item, I would instruct students to write only about matters that felt important to them. The three questions are designed to elicit feedback that has relatively concrete and direct implications for action and that provides insight into how the issue is important by asking students to explain “why.”

I have used these three questions effectively in my own teaching.  The questions are:

If you took this course again:

 

[1]  "What about the course would you like to remain the same and why?" [A probe intended to identify, understand, and facilitate faculty action on what was valued.]

 

[2]  "What  about the course would you like more of and less of and why?" [A probe intended to identify, understand, and facilitate faculty action where that action would involve a change in the quantity of some feature of the course.]

 

[3]  "What about the course would you like to be different and why?" [A probe intended to identify, understand, and facilitate faculty action where that action would involve a qualitative change in some aspect of the course.]

[C] “Peer Review” of Teaching (Recommendation # 2)

The term “peer review” applies to an important aspect of university life and can be applied to teaching as well as research, publication, grant review, promotion and tenure, professional functioning in non-teaching contexts (such as clinics), and so on.

Because the term “peer review” is used in many contexts that emphasize evaluation over growth and that involve high-stakes, competitive, or even threatening outcomes, I wonder if the committee’s goals might be better served if a different framework were sought, using different language, different metaphors, and different assumptions? By analogy: the term “executive coaching” (implying focus on development of strengths) tends to be experienced as more palatable and acceptable than the term “psychotherapy” (implying a focus on pathology and dysfunction). This difference remains even though both activities may be offered by the same psychological professional and may involve similar activities and methods to clarify goals, eliminate self-defeating ideas and behaviors, and improve ways of relating to others.

The Work Group’s ideas about peer review seem to reflect a laudable expectation that, as teachers, faculty can be teased out of their silos and engaged in a shared pursuit of a common good. From this perspective, is “peer review” the least stigmatizing, most positive, and most effective framework within which to promote relationships by which one person helps another to become the best teacher they can be?

As a threshold matter,  theWork Group envisions a system in which faculty intending to help others are first “trained,” after which they then join a designated “pool” of reviewers. (Rec. 2.1, 2.2). Then, in an explicit nod to the implicitly threatening interpersonal and institutional politics of “peer review” as a euphemism for high-stakes evaluation, the committee recommends that faculty rank be a qualification for service as a reviewer, such that faculty are exposed to review by someone of lower rank.  (Rec. 2.3). I find recommendation 2.3 to be especially ironic, since a requirement that one only be reviewed by faculty of equal or superior rank eviscerates the facial meaning of “peer” review. Indeed, by this criterion, for junior faculty, true “peers” may be excluded from the anticipated helping role.

If there is a particular pedagogy at issue that involves very specific expertise, whether in a particular discipline or with a particular technology, then perhaps such training is a good and necessary idea. However, the issue should be expertise - faculty rank would be irrelevant. For example, although I was a full professor, I never taught an online course. If I elected to do so, I would have happily accepted assistance from any knowledgeable colleague without regard to rank.

A potential cultural risk of the proposed system is that the emphasis on “review” and on “rank” could functionally devolve into a professional caste system in which there are “regular” faculty and then there are “training” faculty. Examples of such caste systems can be found scattered among numerous professions that establish niche areas of expertise that require others to invest of time and money in proprietary training” that, in turn, grants access to special professional status or privileges.

The Work Group’s emphasis on special preparation and training overlooks the ways in which faculty can help each other less formally and even from a position of relative ignorance. Indeed, a Socratic approach to teaching emphasizes what can be learned from disciplined inquiry conducted by a questioner who is not expert in the subject matter under discussion.

Going forward, I would most like to see a system that emphasizes expert support and facilitation (perhaps including the option of a confidential coaching relationship) rather than peer review. Whenever possible, there should be a philosophical emphasis on growth and development over focus on problems and criticism. Rather than a hierarchical and bureaucratized relationship between a “reviewer” and a “reviewee,” I would like to see access to expert assistance in the context of collegial alliances, partnerships, and teamwork. I would like to see creation of cultural and operational infrastructure that reduces faculty isolation and that supports faculty working in mutually supportive team efforts. Such infrastructure could be physical (places and occasions where faculty might gather to learn from each other) as well as virtual (an internal list-serv where any faculty member might post a question for discussion open to any other faculty member). Ideally such a list-serve would have a searchable archive so that past postings on a particular topic could be benefit others in the future and it would permit confidential anonymized discussion of any teaching issue a faculty member might face, from the macro to the micro.

As a final point, Recommendation 2.4 re: generating both universal and discipline-specific “criteria for reviewing teaching” is wonderfully ambitious, but I fear it may be harder to realize   than it is to imagine. In my opinion, any attempts to develop such criteria should tread lightly and should remain vigilant as to the law of unintended consequences. Criteria should aspire to be no more than a floor (not a ceiling), should not be expressed or imposed as a form of orthodoxy, and should strive to embrace diversity of method, lest the burden of well-intended bureaucracy inadvertently stifle creative or innovative approaches to the art of teaching.

[D] Multi-method multi-factorial approach to teaching (Recommendation # 3)

The Work Group recommends that teaching effectiveness be observed from multiple perspectives with multiple methods and that this diversity of approach be mirrored in SAI’s, in the FAP/FAR/FAE process, and in tenure and promotion proceedings. I generally agree with this recommendation and would propose adding the following:            [2] In addition to placing a statement of teaching philosophy in promotion and tenure applications, consideration should be given to requiring faculty to place a link to such a statement on departmental or program webpages and on course syllabi.

[1] Statements of teaching philosophy should be made in a form that lends itself to objective observation and operationalized measurement. A statement that is so abstract that observers cannot agree as to whether it is being implemented is a waste of time.

[2] In addition to placing statements of teaching philosophy in promotion and tenure applications, consideration should be given to placing a link to such statements on departmental or program webpages and on course syllabi.

[3] If integrated with an electronic FAP/FAR/FAE, observations of teaching could yield an aggregated database that could be mined by educational researchers. In this regard, faculty should be encouraged to formulate and articulate teaching philosophies in terms that can be operationalized / measured.

 [E] Teaching Center (Recommendation # 4)

The Work Group recommends elevating the present QEP office and staff into a permanent “Center” that would function as a “one-stop shop” charged with promoting “all instructional development opportunities at ETSU.”

Prior to any decision on this recommendation, I think substantial additional work is advisable. To promote independence of thought and eliminate conflict-of-interest, any additional work should not be led by existing QEP staff or major stakeholders.

First, the discussion in the Work Group report is unbalanced because it focuses entirely on perceived and imagined opportunities. In its one-sided advocacy for the recommended approach, the report does not consider foreseeable obstacles, threats, or potential downside risks. Could the envisioned “one-stop shop” become a giant silo, or worse, a ghetto? Some commenters have already complained that the Work Group’s proposal implicitly devalues research. The comments invite a conversation premised on the idea that research and teaching exist in a competing or opposing relationship. The basis for such a perception should be understood and addressed, lest any efforts to improve teaching result in a research vs teaching arms race.

Second, the report does not include any review or analysis of similar efforts and experiences at other institutions. As such, Recommendation # 4 resembles a grant proposal without a literature review.

Third, the recommendation skirts a serious philosophical question. Does ETSU need yet another administrative entity, another bureaucratic element to centralize a function? Even if the answer is “yes,” is it reasonable to assume that the best approach is to just change the name of the existing QEP Center and re-assign its resources on a permanent basis? Also – what are the risks of mission creep?

Fourth, the Work Group speculated that “many faculty do not take advantage of … instructional development opportunities already available at ETSU, perhaps because they do not know about them.” To address this presumed under-utilization of existing resources, the Work Group envisions a Teaching Center as a base for internal marketing of underutilized opportunities to faculty. However, this is all speculation and ultimately boils down to a faith that if ETSU’s builds it, the faculty will come.

Finally, I would suggest that if this recommendation is implemented, in any form, that the resulting entity be called a “service” rather than a “center” so that the name most accurately reflects its intended function.

[F] Staffing, workload, and pay practices (Recommendation # 5)

RE: Recommendation 5.1 to “staff introductory courses with passionate, expert teachers.” YES!! This is a no-brainer. It is self-defeating to save the university’s best teaching for last. Dessert promised at the end of a meal does not compensate for a nutritionally deficient main course.

Other recommendations about workload and compensation address important matters that, although addressed separately in the report, are deeply interconnected. An intelligent and systematic approach to workload and compensation likely requires an improved system for tracking workload, productivity and the fate of the university’s money (e.g. electronic FAR’s, improved budgeting procedures and transparency).

I would add to the list of recommendations that attention should be paid to how ETSU appoints and uses “volunteers” for teaching. This is particularly applicable to the College of Medicine which has hundreds of people in this role. Although these faculty may be responsible for various aspects of the design and delivery of instruction and the evaluation of students, they are not subjected to credential verification or background checking on the front end, they may lack clearly defined roles and responsibilities, they are not subject to the rights and responsibility of faculty as set forth in the Faculty Handbook (and unlike some other institutions that use volunteers, there is no separate Volunteer Handbook), there is no requirement that teaching by volunteers be evaluated, and these “faculty” are not systematically included on ETSU’s SACS roster as they should be.

[G] Require faculty to participate in instructional development activities (Recommendation # 7)

I like this idea. Virtually all licensed professions now impose a legal requirement for continuing education as a condition of maintaining a license. If being a professor is itself a profession, then it makes sense to expect continuing professional development.

The proposed requirements for an initial orientation and for a continuing education experience once every three years are minimal when compared to the annual requirements imposed on most professions.

I am aware of other comments that complain this recommendation would increase faculty workload. Maybe. On the other hand, increased expertise is often accompanied by greater efficiency in performance.

Moreover, for at least some faculty, perhaps a synergistic win-win solution is possible that could partially allay such concerns. In particular, ETSU could take steps to assure that the required professional development is also vetted and approved for formal continuing education credits applicable to those faculty who already have CE requirements due to professional licensure. Physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, school teachers and administrators, and other licensed faculty could meet their professional CE requirements by participating in approved activities to enhance their professional teaching. This synergy would require coordination with existing ETSU offices that organize and certify professional continuing education credit. The ability to offer such CE credit for teaching-development could also be an added-value in recruiting and retaining adjunct and part-time faculty who hold professional licenses.

[H] Infrastructure

Recommendation 8.1 proposes assignment of one graduate assistant for every 100 students in a course section. No basis is stated for choosing the number “100.” As such, the number appears arbitrary. Moreover, setting any number may conflict with Recommendation 5.5 that departments establish discipline-appropriate “aspirational staffing profiles.”

Recommendation 8.3 proposes to improve efficiency via pooling / sharing of financial, staff, and equipment resources. At one level, this is a straightforward logistics issue. However, at another level, this recommendation may be understood as a commons problem that potentially pits the real or perceived interests of individual units against those of other units or the institution as a whole. Historically (and currently) departments, programs, and colleges may (and do) refuse to cooperate for selfish or ideological reasons. Even when plainly destructive to larger institutional interests, such behavior may be rationalized and even applauded in the name of academic freedom or unit autonomy. Perhaps realization of this recommendation will require that sharing and cooperation become an enforceable norm within ETSU culture.

[I] Recognition

I would caution against any expectations that a recognition and award program will make a meaningful impact on teaching quality at ETSU.

Recognition and rewards are nice – but the most important recognition and rewards come from the activity of teaching itself and from students – not from sources external to the teaching relationship. Just as the best motivation for learning stems from intrinsic rather than extrinsic sources, the best teaching comes from factors in the teacher, including a love of helping other people grow, that cannot be commodified, bought, or sold.



Commentor: Thomas Schacht
Submitted on: 9/22/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

Beyond all the other concerns voiced by others, I am extremely concerned that the proposals presented do NOT take into account the huge increase in faculty workload that will be required. 

In terms of workload, for example, requiring a two to three-day workshop for new faculty is clear in adding time onto the already onerous workload of beginning faculty.  In a second example, requiring faculty attendance at workshops will involve all the individual faculty hours (no length is given), plus time for the trainers and/or other leaders, plus time for follow up and assessment.  In a third example, peer review of teaching will require more hours added to the workload of the faculty who are the chosen reviewers, who one can assume are already busy teachers.  There are several other points in the plan that will add hours here and hours there.  Finally, all of the various and sundry reporting or assessment components in the plan will each require a meaningful amount of faculty time to provide a meaningful assessment. 

Addition of this significant workload will only further discourage faculty participation in scholarly research.   This may be a well-intentioned proposal, but the monoscopic approach fails to account for the reality of multiple demands on faculty time in the academic mission of teaching, RESEARCH and SERVICE to the university. 



Commentor: David Hurley
Submitted on: 9/22/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I strongly support the promotion of teaching excellence and the development of a centralized location for teaching development and training.  I think proposal 10.3 regarding the development of a " distinguished teaching" status is really a great idea. In addition I liked the idea of departments recieving funding to support course coordinators for courses that are taught in multiple sections (5.6).

However, I have reservations regarding the rest of the document.  Currently, it appears to be more putative and regulatory than supportive.  I would much prefer the development of facuty mentorship process/program than the putative set of regulations proposed.  Lastly, I agree with Dr. Duncan's comments.



Commentor: Jonathan Peterson
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I disagree strongly with Rec. 7.  I do not see why professors who have been teaching for decades should be monitored in this fashion.  These recommendations, as Bill Duncan notes, also imply a valuation of teaching above research (rec. 6 is troubling in this respect).  In general the entire packet smacks of yet more bureaucratization at an institution already rife with initiatives and projects.  I have been here long enough to have seen many such initiatives come and go, but not before they wasted much time and effort.  I don't weigh in too often on matters like this but I really object to this one.



Commentor: Kenneth Hall
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I don't think anyone would doubt the value and centrality of teaching at ETSU, or attempts to improve it.  With that said I would strongly urge reconsideration of recommendations four, five, and seven as they stand.  In short, none of these reflect a considered balance between the relative importance of teaching and research in faculty job descriptions, or in terms of the mission of ETSU as a whole.  A center dedicated to improving and supporting teaching might well be a fine resource for campus, but I would prefer to see support for research prioritized over such a center.  Would I like to see excellent teachers paid more?  Absolutely.  I would not choose to pay them more than excellent researchers, though.  Similarly (although I do not support mandatory training in general) I find mandatory participation in instructional development without mandating similar participation in activities designed to facilitate and develop research agendas to be troubling because of the effective prioritization of teaching over research.  

Sincerely,

Bill Duncan

 



Commentor: William Duncan
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am not in support of the recommendations for the following reasons: 

For some faculty across the university, the class sizes are too small for the instructor to even see the SAIs (FERPA regulations restrict this). As a result, for example, instructors teaching  .088 sections (Honors sections of regular classes) don't get feedback from highly motivated students, many music instructors teaching one on one courses miss out, and those teaching experimental courses miss out. Furthermore, even if the enrollment of the course is high, if too few students bother to complete the SAI, then the instructor also does not see the feedback.

Students are not completing SAIs because they don't see the value in them. Asking students to complete two SAIs per class per semester may create annoyance or hostility. Moreover, changing teaching or assignments midway can be more disruptive and lead to confusion.

Having faculty reflect in FARs about the SAIs is not helpful. Many of us do reflect on comments when they are relevant and are thinking often of how to better deliver course content. If we start asking faculty to do this in writing, we're making them defend their practices rather than engage in conversations about teaching. Moreover, students often complain that there is too much writing or that an instructor grades too harshly in GenEd core courses (particularly when the course does not pertain to their major). So, does the instructor decide to shorten the essay requirements because students found the course requirements challenging?

If an instructor has particularly low SAIs and peer evaluations in my department, we have a conversation about how to improve one's teaching. In doing so, I open a dialogue to discover what the instructor feels he/she needs to improve. It is not punitive and does not add to the bureaucracy on campus.

 

My sister who is a professor at San Jose State University has had her statistics class do a project on RateMyProfessor and other student assessment sites. They found that the ratings for instructors correlated with the rating of the perceived easiness of the instructor. 

 

Lastly, I am often astonished at the difference in tone and comments when students are assessing a male or female instructor. 



Commentor: Katherine Weiss
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Chair of Department

I am in full support of the 10 recommendations. However I wish to comment on the tone of the recommendations. It appears it is a group of actions to be implemented for or to the faculty rather than with the faculty. In other words there is no mechanism in place for the faculty to have ongoing feedback and sharing of needs or ideas to continuously improve teaching. I want to encourage regular departmental communication to have discussions about ideas for improving teaching. It is at that level where faculty feel ignored and unimportant to the work of the university.

Bravo for the recommendation to include teaching in the university mission statement. It should also be a focus in fundraising which can enable us to enhance classroom design. It is hard to be innovative in the classroom when seats are nailed to the floor, when students are crammed into rows closely packed, when outside noises are competing with classroom voices for attention, and when class schedules are built into 50 minute modules that don't allow for extended time needed for projects, interactive learning, case studies, etc. Itf this is the infrastructure you mention, I vote yes.



Commentor: Deborah Harley-McClaskey
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

ETSU Surgery wholeheartedly embraces the proposal for faculty development in teaching to promote teaching excellence, but our clinical facukty including associate or affiliate faculty cannot participate in lectureships and seminars during working hours.  We need online faculty development courses with CME credit in order to improve teaching and meet ACGME requirements which will imminently require documentation that our surgica faculty are participating in faculty development seminars annually.  A working private practice surgeon, which 60% of our faculty are, cannot come from Bristol Medical Center or Holston Valley Medical Center where they practice during normal weekday hours to attend university sponsored faculty development programs.  Thanks



Commentor: Joseph Lee
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

These recommendations are an excellent step and the expanded rationale for each recommendation shows that the committee has heard the concerns of students, however for real change to occur, the evaluation must have teeth and consequences for poor performance.  The recommendations focus on faculty entering teaching, which is a good place to begin and work to develop teaching competence.  However, those faculty members with tenure, who have publications to promote, or who are nearing the end of their teaching careers, may circumvent the proposed protocols. I believe there are also faculty at ETSU because of 'political' or strategic placement.



Commentor: Kristine Bowers
Submitted on: 9/21/2016
On behalf of: Individual Staff