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March 16, 2017

Group wants change in how teaching is evaluated

A University Senate ad hoc committee’s recommendation that Pitt move away from using student evaluations — which measure student satisfaction — as a measure of teaching effectiveness when evaluating faculty in annual reviews or for determining raises, promotion and tenure, is on its way to the provost.

Faculty Assembly on March 14 approved the Senate ad hoc committee on evaluation and assessment of faculty teaching’s resolution with one abstention and none opposed.

The resolution, presented by the ad hoc committee’s co-chair Alex Jones:

• Recommends that the provost develop a policy “to move away from using student surveys (including Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching surveys) as a method for evaluating teaching effectiveness and student learning for the purposes of annual review, raises, promotion and tenure.”

• Encourages unit leaders to seek alternative methods for better assessment and evaluation of faculty teaching for those purposes in consultation with groups such as the University Center for Teaching and Learning, the Learning Research and Development Center and the Engineering Education Research Center.

• Calls for recognition of both the importance of student satisfaction and the inherent biases (such as race, gender, course level and whether the course is required or an elective) that can affect survey scores. “Reasonable and transparent benchmarking of student survey scores at the unit level that considers these biases should also be a priority.”

• Seeks to allow faculty to substitute “defensibly appropriate” methods for assessing teaching effectiveness, as opposed to the mandated use of OMET surveys for that purpose. Jones said faculty evaluations of teaching often rely solely or primarily on OMET results. He told the Assembly the committee opted to recommend that on-campus experts be consulted, rather than propose a specific alternative.

The resolution can be viewed at


The Senate has turned its attention to multiple facets of faculty evaluation this year.

In advance of the Senate plenary session on the role of research metrics in faculty evaluation, librarians Berenika Webster of the University Library System and Andrea Ketchum of the Health Sciences Library System presented a workshop on bibliometric tools, “What Bibliometrics Tells Us About the Research Enterprise,” following Faculty Assembly’s March 14 meeting.

The Senate plenary session is set for noon-3 p.m. March 29 in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. Details are posted at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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