Criteria for Faculty Personnel Decisions

Criteria for Faculty Personnel Decisions

State University of New York at Oswego

This document offers clarification of the five criteria used in personnel decisions for faculty members at SUNY Oswego.  The five criteria were adopted by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (1989) and are published in Article XII, Title A of the Policies of the Board of Trustees.  Campus expectations in relation to each criterion are described below.

Faculty members are encouraged to use this document to understand the expectations of SUNY and of SUNY Oswego.  When preparing their documentation for personnel decisions, faculty members will be expected to reflect on the meaning of their accomplishments in each of the five criteria.  Departments and divisional committees will use these criteria to guide their evaluations of candidates’ accomplishments and to make recommendations to the appropriate dean and Provost regarding renewal of term appointments beyond second year, continuing appointments, promotions, and discretionary salary increases.

I.    MASTERY OF SUBJECT MATTER - as demonstrated by such things as advanced degrees, licenses, honors, awards and reputation in the subject matter field.

In most cases, “mastery of subject matter” is demonstrated at the beginning of one’s career by a terminal degree appropriate to the field.  At SUNY Oswego a terminal degree or the expectation of completion in a specified period of time is a condition of initial appointment.  Occasionally, a reputation as a distinguished teaching scholar/creative artist or as a professional with eminent stature represents “mastery of subject matter.” Only in those unusual circumstances will a faculty member be considered for promotion or continuing appointment without having earned the appropriate terminal degree. 

Over the course of one’s career, we expect faculty members to continue to maintain currency (mastery) in their field(s).  This can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as by continuing accomplishments in peer-reviewed venues, pursuing professional development, earning and maintaining licenses, and/or being recognized by special commendations, awards, or honors.  This mastery will also be demonstrated by accomplishments in the other criteria.

II.    EFFECTIVENESS OF TEACHING - as demonstrated by such things as judgment of colleagues, development of teaching materials or new courses, and student reaction (as determined from surveys), interviews, and classroom observation.

Teaching is the primary responsibility of faculty members at SUNY Oswego.  For personnel decisions, documented teaching effectiveness is essential.  In addition to the student evaluations of their courses, faculty members will submit peer evaluations of their teaching, course materials, self-evaluations, information on advising and other teaching related activities (all explained more fully below).  Information should be collected regularly from multiple sources in order to demonstrate continuing improvements and effectiveness.    

Among the elements to be evaluated in this criterion are knowledge of subject matter, pedagogical skills for various learning styles, active engagement of students, ability to stimulate thinking, enthusiastic devotion to student learning, integrity, versatility, and willingness to incorporate department and College instructional goals. Evidence of ongoing innovation in teaching approaches, the use of new technologies, the development of new materials, the inclusion of diverse perspectives, the incorporation of service learning or practical projects, and/or the teaching of courses via distance education can be considered.  Most importantly, faculty members will show a focus on student learning.  Candidates for advanced ranks will present successful teaching skills and will be role models to others.

It should be noted that evaluation of teaching effectiveness is not limited to contributions for home departments or programs.  It will also take into account any teaching contributions of the faculty member to interdisciplinary programs, to programs outside their home department, to General Education, and/or to other college-wide programs, both on and off campus, in all modes of instruction. 

A.          Student Evaluations:

The regular administration of student evaluations in courses late in the semester is important for identifying areas of teaching strengths and areas for improvement.  While there is no standard student evaluation form to be used in all departments at Oswego, each department will specify how student feedback is to be collected to maintain the integrity and the usefulness of feedback from students.  Forms for evaluation may include both numerical and essay responses from students.  Untenured full-time faculty members need to be evaluated by their students every semester (preferably every course); tenured faculty members are encouraged to use student evaluations regularly for purposes of continuing improvements and applications for promotion and DSI.  All faculty members will have access to their own results after submission of grades in order to identify areas for improvements the next time a course will be taught.  Untenured faculty members are encouraged to discuss results with department chairs or faculty mentors and to seek understanding of departmental expectations for teaching effectiveness.  In documentation for personnel decisions, candidates will reflect on the meaning of their results.

In personnel decisions, summaries of the results of student evaluations from throughout the review period will be one type of evidence considered in determining teaching effectiveness.   In no case will student evaluations be the only basis for determining a faculty member's teaching ability.  In making their recommendations, departments and division committees will review the faculty member’s student evaluations and the faculty member’s reflections on their meaning for evidence of teaching strengths and increasing effectiveness in teaching ability over time.  Committees may also choose to compare results over time and/or to evaluate the circumstances that influenced the particular faculty member’s results. 

B.    Class Materials and Teaching Objectives:

Faculty members are encouraged to present materials from their courses that can provide evidence of their teaching practices and proficiency.  Materials such as syllabi, sample tests, writing assignments, sample student responses (with instructor feedback), patterns of enrollments, and the like are important evidence.  Candidates may also submit as evidence a statement of their objectives in various courses and an explanation of their teaching methods.  Printed copies of such statements distributed to students should be included.  Some reflections on these materials will be included in the self-evaluation provided.    

For personnel recommendations, committees will review sample materials for evidence of high expectations of student performance, knowledge of subject matter, learning outcomes, engaging teaching approaches, and a supportive and encouraging learning environment.  Committees will consider the candidate’s objectives and own evaluations of the materials.

C.    Peer Judgments of Classroom Teaching:

Faculty members will have their teaching reviewed by departmental/program colleagues through classroom visits.  When appropriate, these visits can be used for helping faculty members to improve their teaching through informal discussions afterwards.  It may be helpful to invite someone from outside the department for these informal reviews.  However, when the visits are for the purpose of personnel evaluations, the peer observations by department/program colleagues will be written, and copies will be forwarded to the faculty member, department chair and committees making personnel recommendations. These evaluations will address the effectiveness of the class activities on the day of the visit for promoting student learning.  Faculty members and their department chairs should work together to arrange a sufficient number of visits (at least one for every evaluation during the probationary period) to demonstrate the level of teaching effectiveness and continuing improvements.  Visits will be arranged in advance.  Alternative arrangements need to be made for classes that are offered in other modes of delivery than face-to-face on campus.

In making personnel recommendations, committees will review the peer evaluations of class teaching.  Peer judgments of classroom teaching must constitute a part of the evaluation of teaching ability in every recommendation affecting promotion and/or continuing appointment.  Peer judgments of teaching ability may, of course, be formed by associations between colleagues entirely outside the classroom, such as during work or pedagogical activities or grants, but written descriptions of these activities will not substitute for evaluations based on direct observations of teaching.

D.      Advising, Mentoring, and Scholarly Activities with Students, and other evidence:

Since teaching also takes place outside the classroom, there are a variety of activities to be considered as part of teaching effectiveness. Advising is a very important responsibility outside the classroom, and faculty members can demonstrate effectiveness in advising through student feedback and/or self-evaluations of their performance as an advisor.  Engaging students in advanced scholarly and creative activities or mentoring them in internships or service learning is also strong evidence of a commitment to students’ learning beyond the classes one teaches.  Faculty members are also encouraged to be involved in sponsoring or advising student organizations and department clubs, in mentoring students who are not their advisees, in participating in student activities, in leading field trips, or in participating in academic programming in residence halls. 

Finally, a faculty member may also cite contributions to curriculum development, individual course development work, public lectures, presentations at faculty seminars, team-teaching courses, or offering guest lectures in another teacher's class as evidence of his/her teaching ability.  Grants for curriculum development may provide evidence of a candidate's creative approach to teaching.

Departments and committees will evaluate the evidence of successful advising and other teaching-related activities beyond the classroom as part of the evidence of teaching effectiveness, looking for indicators of the same good teaching characteristics as are mentioned in sections above.

III.    SCHOLARLY ABILITY - as demonstrated by such things as success in developing and carrying out significant research work in the subject matter field, contribution to the arts, publications and reputation among colleagues.

SUNY Oswego values faculty members who are teacher-mentor-scholars.  Therefore, all faculty members are expected to show evidence of consistent engagement in scholarly or creative activities, as defined by departmental and disciplinary criteria. Faculty are encouraged to include students in their scholarly and creative activities in ways appropriate to the work and to their students’ development.

Various approaches to scholarly activity are acceptable, including the scholarship of discovery, of synthesis, of application, and of teaching (Boyer).  The scholarship of teaching is very appropriate for faculty members in our College.  Successful external research grants are also evidence of activity.  Scholarly and creative activities appropriate for this criterion will receive peer or public review through, for example, acceptance in scholarly journals, invitations for presentations/ performances, juried exhibitions, professional reviews, or public responses.

Faculty members are encouraged to consult with their department chairs or mentors for a full understanding of departmental and disciplinary expectations regarding the appropriate type, quality and quantity of scholarly and creative work for personnel decisions.  For personnel reviews, faculty members will submit copies of their scholarly or creative works and any related reviews.  If works have been accepted, but are not yet published, presented, or performed, conclusive documentation must be provided to support those commitments. Faculty members’ self-evaluations will include reflections on their scholarly or creative agenda, including a statement about their goals, their development as a scholar or creative artist, and the progression of their work since their dissertation or last evaluation.

In making personnel recommendations, departments and divisional committees will assess the quality of the scholarly or creative works based on any peer reviews or citations of them, the venues of their presentation (quality of journal, rank of exhibition, size of conference, etc.), the faculty member’s explanations, and the committee members’ own judgments.  The receipt of an external grant for the support of scholarly research or creative activity can be corroborative evidence of one's recognition as a scholar, writer, or artist.  Particular care needs to be taken in personnel evaluations in regard to work based on expertise beyond the department and discipline and in regard to work that may challenge what are presently accepted as "the boundaries of a discipline." All scholarly and creative works should be evaluated on the basis of their significance and impact on the intellectual or artistic community and as evidence of the faculty member’s intellectual vitality and knowledge.   The quantity of work completed is not sufficient evidence of achievement in this criterion, although it is a measure of “consistent engagement.”  Above all, committees should be evaluating the quality of the body of the work as appropriate to the personnel recommendation being made.

IV.    EFFECTIVENESS IN UNIVERSITY SERVICE - as demonstrated by such things as college and university public service, committee work, administrative work, work with students in addition to formal teacher-student relationships, and work with the local community that enhances or requires the faculty member's professional expertise. 

Faculty members are expected to contribute to the vitality of SUNY Oswego through active participation in governance and other work related to the business of the College as well as through contributions to our community and region and/or to professional associations.  On campus, faculty members may assume responsibilities and participate in committee or task force work at the department, college, campus, and university levels as appropriate to their rank.  In the community, faculty members are encouraged to share their expertise on boards and committees and service activities.  For their professional organizations, faculty members may, for example, assume leadership responsibilities, serve on editorial boards, review grants, write book reviews, and/or provide other services.  A simple list of service activities, however, will not be sufficient to demonstrate effective service.  Candidates will explain their contributions and provide any evidence of the level and quality of their participation, such as recognition of their efforts, relevant correspondence, reports produced, etc. Collegiality (see page 7) is an attribute of effectiveness in university service.

 

In personnel recommendations, departments and committees will evaluate service activities in relation to the degree of an individual's participation in them and level of responsibility.  Evaluators will take into account the nature and amount of effort and the quality of the contributions.  Recommendations for advanced ranks or continuing appointment will comment on the individual’s increasing participation over time and increasing leadership in the area of service.

V.    CONTINUING GROWTH - as demonstrated by such things as reading, research or other activities to keep abreast of current developments in his/her fields and being able to handle successfully increased responsibility.

In a community of scholars, professional reflection and development is ongoing in relation to all areas of responsibilities.  Faculty members can demonstrate a commitment to continuing growth through participation in on-campus or off-campus workshops, conferences, or study programs.  Grant activities, continuing research, and other studies are also part of professional development.  Faculty members can demonstrate continuing growth by showing evidence of participation in professional development activities and through reflections on the ways in which the development activities have led to improvements in their teaching, advances in their scholarly or creative activities, or effectiveness in service.  Departments and committees will evaluate the quality and intentionality of professional development activities pursued.

Information Regarding Continuing Appointment and Promotion to Advanced Ranks

The qualifications for promotion to the rank of associate or full professor differ from those for continuing appointment.  A recommendation for continuing appointment signifies that the faculty member has been appropriately successful in the five criteria and the expectation that the faculty member will continue to grow in accomplishments in the five criteria over the course of his/her career.  A recommendation for promotion signifies that the faculty member has achieved the level of accomplishments in all five criteria appropriate to departmental, College, and discipline expectations for the new rank.  Promotion to a higher rank cannot occur before there are significant and sustained advances to an appropriate level beyond the accomplishments of the earlier rank.

SUNY Oswego is foremost a teaching campus; consequently, it is very important that those who hold advanced ranks demonstrate reputation and leadership in teaching and pedagogy.  We expect faculty members in advanced ranks to be known by students and colleagues as excellent teachers--committed to engaging students in their learning, and versatile with many pedagogical skills.  Students and colleagues can seek their advice and mentorship in learning and teaching. Faculty members in advanced ranks may exert leadership in advancing programs for student learning and success (such as suggesting improvements in advising approaches, expanding student scholarly or creative activities, organizing revisions to programs, and so forth).

Faculty members are also expected to be consistently engaged in scholarly and creative work as appropriate for a comprehensive institution.  Early in their careers, faculty members are establishing a scholarly or creative agenda that will result in several peer-reviewed accomplishments appropriate to their department and discipline.  We expect faculty in advanced ranks to be known and respected for their scholarly and creative accomplishments by peers in their chosen fields.  Their accomplishments continue to increase over time, making their expertise known by their peers (such as would be reflected in invitations to be on panels, acceptance in peer-reviewed venues, awards, and so forth).  The stature and reputation expected for promotion to full professor will be more extensive than that expected of an associate professor.

Service is an important responsibility at all ranks but the level and quality expected will be greater in advanced ranks than for junior faculty members.  For continuing appointment, faculty members must be involved in some activities beyond the department, although most of the service will be at the department level.  Senior faculty will demonstrate leadership or substantive participation in activities of importance to the campus and/or external communities, such as serving as department chair or on a professional board.  Their participation on committees or other projects will be widely sought.  They will be known for the quality of their service by colleagues and community or professional peers.

Accomplishments in relation to Mastery of Subject Matter and Continuing Growth will also be considered in decisions as explained on earlier pages.  In regard to promotions, it is expected that faculty members will have accomplishments sufficient to demonstrate sustained currency/mastery after the last promotion and continuing professional development activities pursued over time.

In making personnel recommendations, it is important for departments and divisional committees to remember that SUNY Oswego is committed to the free exchange and healthy debate of ideas within a civil and collegial environment. To this end, it is desirable to engage faculty who possess divergent points of view and styles of expression and who share those views in civil and professional ways.  Every faculty member has the freedom to criticize and advocate changes in existing theories, beliefs, programs, policies, and institutions; moreover, every faculty member has the right to support any colleague whose academic freedom is threatened.  Academic freedom means that truth can be sought and expressed in one’s teaching, in one’s research and creative work, in one’s service to the institution, and in the debate of ideas.

Given this openness to discussion and disagreement, it is important that faculty members interact with one another in a civil and collegial manner.  Collegiality is a professional characteristic, not a personal characteristic, and should not be confused with sociability or likeability.  Care must be taken not to confuse “difference” with lack of collegiality.  Collegiality relates to the professional performance of a faculty member’s duties.  When balanced with the faculty member’s right to academic freedom, the expectation of collegial behavior does not mean conformity to a particular set of views.  Concerns relevant to collegiality must be narrowly construed and might, for example, include questions such as these: Do the candidate’s professional abilities and relationships with colleagues enhance the achievement of the department or college’s mission and long term goals?  Does the candidate show the ability and willingness to engage in the shared academic and administrative tasks of the department or unit?  Does the candidate participate with reason and knowledge in discussions of departmental/unit policies and programs?  Does the candidate maintain high standards of professional integrity?  Does the candidate act in a professional manner and show colleagues and students due respect in public?

Therefore, in personnel recommendations, department and divisional committees will evaluate the faculty member’s ability to work with other members of the academic community to achieve discipline, department, college and university goals in a professional manner that is respectful of others.  Since collegiality is important in all ranks, it is important that junior faculty as well as senior faculty demonstrate these characteristics.

Finally, faculty members and those making personnel recommendations are reminded that each individual brings a different combination of skills and abilities to his/her academic career and, thus, will create success in the five criteria in individual ways.  Faculty members are urged to seek suggestions for success in the five criteria through discussions of annual plans, discussions with mentors, workshops, and/or other means for understanding expectations.  Those making personnel recommendations will evaluate each faculty member on his/her own merits, weighing all accomplishments seriously and collegially in making their recommendations.

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