Teaching evaluations during a pandemic

Teaching evaluations are an unnerving aspect of the job for untenured faculty and for those going for promotion, and are more so because of the unanticipated move to online instruction forced by COVID-19. Peer evaluators sometimes criticize unfairly or get some facts wrong, and students can be rather harsh. With many of us feeling we might not be doing the best we could because of the pandemic, members are expressing concern that poor teaching evaluations will hamper renewal, tenure and promotion success. 

Don’t panic!

Keep in mind that we will all be struggling with teaching to some extent, and that the 2020-21 evaluations will be assessed with the understanding that this is a difficult situation. If you are going for renewal of probation, for tenure or for promotion (and these processes will take place this year), be sure to address COVID-19 pandemic conditions in your self-assessment. 

Members of Renewal and Tenure Committees and Promotion Committees know how to read teaching evaluations. They can see when outliers are being cranky, they can see improvement over years, and they can see in the self-assessment where individuals are taking steps to improve. Usually where poor teaching evaluations are a problem, it is because the individual has not provided a thoughtful self-assessment in the case file or has not attempted to make improvements over time. If you are not sure how to address negative teaching evaluations, reach out to a mentor for advice.

We can all help to relieve the angst associated with teaching evaluations during the pandemic. Academic units need to consider how to proceed and Colleges should provide guidance for Departments, since approaches to evaluations will need to be adjusted to reflect these unprecedented conditions.

If you have questions, let us know in a reply and someone will contact you.