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Jacobs proposes 2 new initiatives

Teresa Fralish | Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Major revisions to the faculty tenure process and publication of modified course evaluations could be on the horizon, according to a presentation by associate provost Dennis Jacobs at Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting. Jacobs addressed the entire senate on the tenure process and spoke to a joint meeting of the Faculty Affairs and Student Affairs Committees about the teacher course evaluation issue. On both topics, he put forth initiatives that would significantly change the way both academic procedures currently operate. In regards to the TCE issue, Jacobs proposed the creation of a new mechanism for providing students with helpful information about class offerings, rather than publishing TCEs in their current format. “I want to address the question of how can we help to improve the process of how students choose courses,” Jacobs said. The new format would likely comprise a separate set of very specific, multiple-choice questions and would be administered to students simultaneously with the traditional TCE. However, students would be told that answers to the separate questions only would be available to students for the purpose of choosing courses. “It gets around some of the issues that an NDToday doesn’t get around,” Jacobs said in reference to NDToday.com, a student-run website that maintains student reviews of professors. “What I’m proposing are two sets of questions. This has in a sense a different purpose [than TCEs].”Eventually, the responses would be available in an online format students could access when registering for classes. “The idea would be to implant this in Irishlink,” Jacobs said. Faculty members expressed several concerns about the proposal’s implementation and specifics but appeared generally receptive to the concept. Last spring, senate debated and ultimately failed to pass a resolution to permit TCE publication, due to a variety of faculty concerns. On the topic of the tenure, Jacobs proposed adding a major new component on teaching to the review process for faculty tenure candidates. “There should be some view, some look, at what impact it’s having on the mind of the student,” Jacobs said of teaching. As part of an effort to emphasize teaching in the tenure process, Jacobs discussed including a packet of work on two classes taught by the faculty candidate. “We need to find improved ways to evaluate teaching,” said Jacobs. He said the initiative developed of out of administrations concerns that TCEs did not adequately represent teaching quality in tenure reviews. The packet would include examples of students’ graded projects, exams or papers and possible evaluations from other professors who would observe the candidate’s classes, Jacobs explained. The teaching evaluation would vary from department to department, depending on the nature of the discipline and likely would not be implemented for at least 3 years, Jacobs explained. “It needs to be quite adaptable,” he said. On both initiatives, Jacobs said he was generally pleased by the faculty response and expected both proposals to move forward for further discussion with the faculty and his office.”I would say it was very productive,” Jacobs said after the meeting. “On the [TCE] proposal I didn’t hear tonight any major issues.”John Robinson, chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, said he envisioned proposing a new TCE resolution to senate probably after winter break.