Budget cuts delay new evaluation system

A new teaching evaluation system replacing the Carolina Course Review will see only limited use this semester because of budget cuts.

"We don't have the money to actually create the system this year," Ed Neal of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) said at an Oct. 8 Faculty Council meeting. CTL is charged with administering the new evaluation, which the Faculty Council approved last spring.

Widespread use of the evaluation was to begin this semester, but instead only one College of Arts and Sciences department will use it in full and some others will use a portion.

That's because only one of three full-time positions needed to support the system was funded for 1999-2000, and none of the requested $131,359 -- including $22,952 for start-up costs -- made the budget. Dollars saved by the cuts went toward closing the University's $6.8 million budget shortfall for this year.

Dubbed the "3-Set Evaluation System" by CTL, the new tool is modeled on one used by the University of Michigan. It generates three reports: one for department chairs to use in evaluating faculty members for renewal, promotion and tenure; one for students to use in picking their courses; and one for instructors to use in guiding efforts aimed at improving their teaching.

The first two reports are based on sets of standardized questions, whereas the third report is based on a menu of CTL-developed questions that instructors may add as they deem appropriate.

Only the first two reports are required, although the one generated for students will not figure in personnel matters -- its results will be posted on the Student Government web site. Instructors will get all three reports.

Other than a test run of the entire 3-Set Evaluation System this fall in the psychology department, only the first report will be used in a pilot program for College of Arts and Sciences departments without their own evaluation tools.

The program will cover courses taught by faculty members who must be evaluated for personnel matters. Graduate teaching assistants and teaching fellows whose continued employment may be affected by their course evaluations, as well as those looking to bolster their teaching portfolios, also can take part in the pilot.

At full implementation, the 3-Set Evaluation System will enable instructors to customize evaluations for individual courses by generating the optional third report. That wasn't possible with the Carolina Course Review (CCR), a standardized questionnaire that was adopted or rejected by a whole department.

CTL will help instructors develop course-specific questions for the third report. It also will administer entire evaluations, a task that will include analyzing data and generating and issuing reports.

In the absence of the new system's full implementation, departments not needing to evaluate instructors for personnel reasons may use evaluation tools they've developed themselves or a basic evaluation form/analysis spreadsheet available at CTL's web site

According to Neal, full implementation of the 3-Set Evaluation System will depend on funding. Provost Richard "Dick" Richardson said he's trying to cobble together dollars but the going is tough.

"We're talking about very limited dollars right now in availability," he said.

The need for a new method for students to evaluate courses stemmed from the Faculty Council raising concerns in the spring of 1998 about the CCR, the student-developed method used since the 1970s.

Those concerns included skewed scores, especially in small classes, and the use of such scores in making personnel and salary decisions. Faculty members also voiced concern that the raw data from the course review was posted on the Internet.

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