TRUFA President’s Report to the Membership
Much of TRUFA’s work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on the impending mandatory course evaluations, due to begin on Monday, March 21st. In the three videos from last week, I highlighted some key concerns about the implementation of the evaluations, some because they appeared to violate the TRU/TRUFA Memorandum of Settlement signed last July, and some, because, in TRUFA’s view, they threatened the reliability and validity of the evaluation results themselves. Just to recap, here were the major concerns:
- Using student ‘proctors’ to supervise the completion of the questionnaire survey
- Allowing the survey to remain open beyond class time
- Mandating administration of questionnaire only in the final three weeks of the semester
- University providing necessary tools for students to complete the questionnaire
- Allowing Deans to receive individual faculty results
- Using 16 pre-set questions, rather than having departments choose from a question bank
Following a meeting between TRUFA and TRU administrators on March 10th, including the Executive Director of the Centre for Student Engagement and Learning Innovation (CSELI), who is in charge of the development of the questions, and the Director of TRU Institutional Planning and Analysis (IPA), who is in charge of the administration of the evaluations, I can report the following:
- Faculty members will have the choice of using a student ‘proctor’ or having a faculty colleague supervise the evaluations in class. Administration sees the student proctor as simply ensuring that all students have completed the survey, and then notifying the instructor to return to class. TRUFA still feels that it is inappropriate to change long-standing past practice of having an arm’s length supervision.
- TRU claims that the survey cannot be shut down immediately after the class time, because Senate has indicated that students who miss the class must have the ability to complete the survey. What administration has committed to, however, is to invalidate any response after the appointed class time, and only the instructor can authorize a student who has missed the initial class to complete the survey.
- TRU is adamant that the evaluations must be done during the final three weeks of the semester, despite TRUFA’s view that course curriculum should dictate the ideal time in the semester for an evaluation.
- TRU claims that in the pilot evaluations conducted during the Fall, the vast majority of students were able to complete the survey using smart phones or, occasionally, having the instructor book a computer lab or borrow an iPad or tablet from the Centre. However, with 1400 course sections being evaluated in 15 days, it seems likely that providing necessary tools will still be a major problem.
- TRU acknowledges that the every course, every time evaluations are formative, meant to assist faculty to improve their teaching, and, as formative, the results will go only to the individual faculty member and the department Chair. While “Deans may obtain the individual evaluation results for a specific faculty member” (Memorandum of Settlement), any decanal attempt to obtain blanket access to individual results will, in TRUFA’s view, be seen as a fishing expedition. Further, TRUFA believes that these results can be used for summative purposes only through the Article 7 Performance Review process, and cannot be used by Deans to initiate ‘conversations’ with faculty members, no matter how ‘supportive’ or ‘collegial’ those conversations may appear to be.
- TRU has committed to continuing to develop a bank or inventory of questions from which departments may choose the most discipline-appropriate for the 16 questions in Part Two of the questionnaire. Because the inventory is not complete, no studio, lab, field, practicum or clinical courses will be evaluated during this semester. TRUFA encourages all programs, disciplines and departments to develop appropriate questions to add to the inventory.
Given the nearly two month-delay in having IPA process the results of the evaluations, TRUFA is concerned about meeting the needs of faculty who require teaching evaluations for the purposes of tenure-track renewal or Right of First Refusal for future sessional work. When asked about the Moodle-based questionnaires, which have been used for Performance Review Committee assessments, Tracy Penny Light said that they have been shut down, but there may be an opportunity to resurrect them. TRUFA’s performance review observer, Lloyd Bennett, will investigate.
Failures of Governance
Over the past week, TRUFA has learned that administrators are making major changes to programs without following either Collective Agreement provisions or Senate procedures. These changes have included suspension of intake for a program, elimination of courses that were approved by Senate, and radical restructuring of a program that would violate Senate approved goals. In all cases, the changes have been made or are being contemplated without any adherence to the need to follow appropriate program change provisions through the Educational Programs Committee, the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee or, in some cases, Senate itself. TRUFA will be following up with the Provost and make sure that she realizes that a failure to abide by governance procedures is a serious violation.
TRUFA AGM—Executive Positions
On Tuesday April 26th, TRUFA will be holding its Annual General Meeting. The TRUFA Constitution and By-Laws specifies that a representative from each of the nine TRU Faculties and Schools must be elected prior to the AGM by the faculty members in those academic units to serve on the TRUFA Executive. Other Executive positions are elected at the AGM itself. I would urge you to consider running for these Faculty/School representative positions. If you are interested, please notify Marian Griffin (firstname.lastname@example.org). Should an election be necessary, TRUFA will arrange for an on-line vote through FluidSurveys.
Tom Friedman, TRUFA President