Approaching my fifth cycle through the annual Retention, Tenure, and Promotion (RTP) review process, I found Robert Diamond's manual to be well organized, concise, and quite beneficial. It provides useful tips for faculty at all stages of the tenure and promotion process, from those just beginning their academic careers to senior faculty called upon to evaluate their junior colleagues. Beyond sound practical advice, Diamond's work also provides a provocative framework for assessing the relationship between institutional priorities and faculty reward systems, a theme that is clearly relevant to the current political climate of the California State University system. It is also a theme that has been central in Diamond's recent career: he is Director of the National Project on Institutional Priorities and Faculty Rewards as well as Assistant Vice Chancellor, Director of the Center for Instructional Development, and Professor of Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation, and Higher Education at Syracuse University.
The book itself is divided into two parts, "Process" and "Resources." The "Process" section is similarly divided into two chapters, "Planning Ahead" and "Documenting Your Work." Even with four years of experience in compiling material for annual reviews, I gained some valuable insights about how to synthesize my experience as I prepare to present my case for tenure and promotion. First, Diamond emphasizes the importance of familiarizing oneself with the procedures and criteria unique to each institution, particularly in terms of the types of documentation that will be expected. While simple and straightforward, his comprehensive overview of the general types of things that one might include helped me to think about how I could more effectively organize a portfolio of my teaching and professional work.
More significantly, the chapter on planning continues with a suggestion that faculty review the institutional mission statement, school or departmental mission statements, disciplinary statements that outline the work of faculty in a particular field, collective bargaining agreements relating to promotion and tenure, and regional accreditation standards. Becoming familiar with these documents early in their careers can help faculty to establish priorities in their scholarly work, to collect relevant materials as they progress through their probationary years and, finally, to demonstrate the alignment between their accomplishments and the stated mission and values of their institutions.
Diamond also advises faculty members to focus and sustain their research inquiries, to be aware of the importance of good citizenship, and to get help from mentors both within and outside of one's department. He points out that the nature of one's interpersonal relations with peers is becoming increasingly important in the tenure process. And, of course, finding a helpful mentor is essential, particularly in clarifying the relationship between official policy and actual practice regarding expectations for tenure and promotion.
Although the definition of what counts as scholarly work may be changing, Diamond suggests that review committees seek evidence of "depth and long-term commitment that centers and integrates one's professional work" (9). In connection with the Syracuse Center for Instructional Development, he worked with a number of task forces representing various professional and disciplinary associations "to consider ways in which the full range of faculty work can be recognized and valued within institutional reward systems" (30). Many of these associations have published statements that broaden the traditional definitions of scholarly or professional work. Examples of these statements from disciplines such as History, Business, Chemistry, Theater, Mathematics, Religion, and Geography are available in Part II (Resources). Even if examples from one's own field are not provided, the breadth of activities included in these statements is instructive, particularly in terms of how one might create more effective links between teaching and research interests. A comprehensive collection of such statements has been published by the American Association for Higher Education.
In the second chapter, "Documenting Your Work," Diamond provides useful and comprehensive examples of how to establish both quality and significance in professional work and service activities. Most interesting are his suggestions relating to the documentation of teaching effectiveness, along with other activities relating to student learning, most notably advising. Recognizing the limitations of student evaluations in providing a comprehensive assessment of teaching, Diamond describes a variety of tools that faculty might use to assess their contribution to student learning, including self-assessment, classroom observations, structured interviews, and student evaluations of specific course materials and assignments, among others. He also summarizes characteristics that should be considered in one's assessment. A comprehensive teaching portfolio might include examples of syllabi, assignments, student papers, and even external evidence of student accomplishment.
It is in the area of student advising that conflicts between institutional expectations and the reward system are most apparent, and I appreciate Diamond's effort to include advising as an essential part of the overall portfolio. Acknowledging that the weight placed on this component of faculty service varies significantly from institution to institution, he points out that methods for evaluating the effectiveness of student advising have been developed, and he includes in the Resource section part of a survey instrument developed by ACT to assess academic advising. While I question whether such instruments are necessary or effective, I do believe that good advising is critical to the success of our students and that it is far too often invisible in the annual review process, not to mention considerations of merit pay.
Diamond's work comes across primarily as an effort to support faculty as they move through the tenure and promotion process. As indicated by several of his comments and by his work with the Project on Institutional Priorities and Faculty Rewards, it is clear that he is also committed to enhancing the importance of teaching in the review process as well as expanding the definition of scholarly work, particularly as it impacts student learning. While this general commitment is echoed in the mission statements of both the CSU as a whole and Sonoma State in particular, and in numerous initiatives from the Institute for Teaching and Learning, the reward structure still tends to emphasize research and other professional activities, often at the expense of student learning.
I was intrigued, therefore, by an article summarizing a
1998 workshop that Diamond conducted on Institutional Priorities and Faculty Rewards. He begins with a discussion of the need for comprehensive revision of the curriculum, suggesting that "teaching itself is poorly positioned to produce higher-order learning if seventy percent of all courses are lectures and most student evaluation tests for simple recall and recognition of facts." Since faculty priorities depend upon the tenure and promotion system, he argues that change begins with administrative support for curricular reform, along with "a clear institutional mission statement," in the articulation of which "every faculty member and administrator has to be involved."
According to Diamond, this bottom-up approach to developing the mission statement "will be sensitive to differences: those between the disciplines, between different faculty, and between faculty at different stages in their career." It is questionable whether such sensitivity is even possible in a large, multi-campus system like the CSU, which seems incapable of recognizing differences even among the various campuses. However, the idea of involving faculty and administration in a comprehensive reevaluation of our mission seems timely. In that way, faculty would have some input into the formulation of the criteria by which their work will be evaluated and rewarded, which could ultimately make the process more meaningful for everyone concerned, including the students.
Posted February 4, 2002
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©2002 by Debora Hammond.