Faculty Evaluation as a Creative Response to Technology

**The most recent version of this article is at http://horizon.unc.edu/ts/default.asp?show=article&id=00912 **

Go to critical reviews
Go to original version
Go to previous version w/ reviews

The information age is precipitating educational transformation. The print-culture definition of the professor as a master of disciplinary knowledge is challenged by a knowledge explosion that "prevents most of us from being true experts" (Glidden, 1997). A key implication of this transformation is that university goals and assessment need to be re-defined as we reinvent teaching, learning, and service in response to the challenges of Information Technology (IT). We face the task of creating a new culture of accountability that empowers each of its members to take responsibility for achieving institutional IT goals as valued members of a team

Creating A Culture of Accountability

The image of the lone professor meditating on a relatively stable body of knowledge, producing books as an outcome, is no longer a viable model. Information is increasing exponentially and has a shelf-life of approximately two years. A new model of the teacher is emerging in both traditional and corporate universities. Meister (1999) states it well:

The corporate university’s real goal is to prepare all of an organization’s employees to take full advantage of these emerging changes and to institutionalize a culture of continuous learning aligned to the organization’s core business strategies….


[T]he shelf-life of knowledge is becoming increasingly shorter, thereby necessitating a workforce poised for continuous learning.

In the temporally compressed environment of the information age, the new image of the professor is that of the coach who focuses learning and models scholarly attitudes for a community of life-long learners (Glidden).

The new image of the professor is leading to new models of goal-setting and assessment. Conners and Smith (1999) offer a new definition to guide assessment:

Our definition of accountability—a personal commitment to get results—differs markedly from accountability associated with fault-finding or blame. True accountability generates power, momentum and teamwork. In a Culture of Accountability, people hold themselves and one another accountable for thinking and acting in the manner necessary to achieve key company results…. They assume ownership of the results their function must achieve, be it delivering new products or delivering employees’ mail.

This new view of assessment stresses the importance of each person as a member of an institutional team Conners challenges the pattern of fault-finding assessment focused on a final product:

Sometimes managers try to solve the problem by changing the results….
They raise the bar, hoping that tougher goals will motivate better performance.
Or they lower the bar, hoping that people will at least achieve something and feel good about it.

Such assessment strategies are counter -productive. They focus on the product rather than the people who produce it.

This "result oriented approach" to assessment tends to give personnel a negative image of themselves, it promotes anxiety, it fails to recognize individual strengths, and it fosters a competition which diffuses the energies of the workforce. The "personal accountabilty model" seeks to build positive images and to empower persons in a cooperative effort to achieve instituational goals. Conners continues:

Peoples’ experience in a company creates their beliefs about the company.

Their beliefs in turn dictate their actions on the job, and those actions produce certain results. The way to change a work force is through a powerful experience of training that changes beliefs and behavior. This enables workers to produce better results.

Simply stated, as persons recognize the value of their unique contributions, however menial, to the institutional team, they are motivated to invest themselves in achieving the goals of the institution. A team-orientied culture of accountability is needed to meet the challenges of the IT revolution in which tasks will increasingly exceed the abilities of even the most gifted individuals.

Implementing IT Accountability

The current focus of assessment in the university is both individualistic and "results oriented." It is also "failure oriented." The General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors writes:

Indeed the passion in the current insistence on measuring merit suggests its ultimate flaw. It is more secure in its ability to punish than to reward. The emphasis on failure over success is, after all, the dark side of meritocracy (Burgan, 1999).

A "results oriented" reward system tends to create a small cadre of "winners" in the midst of a large community of implicit "losers." If this type of assessment is applied to IT, we will create a class of IT experts in the midst of a faculty that is not invested in our IT goals and may even actively oppose IT. We must create a better climate for IT.

Assessment can be a powerful tool for creating positive beliefs about the university as it responds to the challenge of IT. Good assessment of IT should reinforce faculty confidence in the goal statements of the university by rewarding all acts that actualize the new IT goals. The focus should be upon what each faculty can contribute to the implementation of the goals, within the context of his or her unique abilities and interests, as a member of an academic team.

Clearly faculty must be rewarded for:

and the like. But, there should also be rewards for the small steps taken by persons learning to use IT, thereby encouraging additional experimentation and skills development. All professors should be rewarded for entering into cooperative IT activities at a level appropriate to their teaching, research, or service tasks.

A general implementation of IT goals presents a challenge. Faculty are specialists in the skills and methods of print culture. There is a natural tendency for us take a retrospective view in the development of assessment plans and to act as if the IT revolution were only a refinement of print culture-- for example, limiting IT assessment to guidelines which equate publications in e-journals with their print counterparts (MLA, 1996). This must be resisted. We must embrace the revolution’s potential for new modes of scholarship and accept the challenge of training our faculties in an area that did not exist when most attended graduate school. Given our training, it is only natural that there should be a widespread fear of the new, technological age (Bollentin, 1998; Massy and Zemsky, 1995). IT culture must be "sold" to faculty as the university redefines its goals lest many faculty perceive the revolution as a threat and respond with opposition.

The university cannot afford to procrastinate. We are no longer the sole provider of graduate education. In 1988 there were only 400 CUs (Meister). Eight corporations offered 20 college degree programs (Gordon, 1995). Today, there are over 1600 CUs! In the face of this competition, the reengineering of higher education and the reinvention of teaching and learning is an unavoidable imperative (Stahlke and Nyce, 1996). Clinging to old strategies will cripple the university in the new marketplace. We can be leaders, however, if we are creative in the setting of inclusive IT goals. Using new team-orientied "personal accountability" assessment procedures, we can create an exciting new institutional culture in which the potential of the IT revolution is explored and implemented in new forms of teaching, scholarship, and service.


Bollentin, Wendy Rickard (January/February, 1998). Can IT Improve Education? Educom Review. Retrieved May 3, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/review/reviewArticles/33150.html

Burgan, Mary (1999). Merit. ACADEME, March-April 1999, 112.

Conners, Roger and Smith, Tom (March/April, 1999). Creating a ‘Culture of Accountability’. Corporate University Review. Retrieved April 14, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.traininguniversity.com/magazine/current/feature3.html  

Ehrmann, Stephen C. (1997). Ivory Tower. Silicon Basement: Transforming the College. Retrieved April 12, 1999 from the World Wide Web:  http://www.engrng.pitt.edu/~fie97/Ehrmann_paper.html

Glidden, Robert (1997), Modern Technology in the American University: Challenges and Opportunities. Retrieved May 3, 1999 from the World Wide Web:  http://www.ohiou.edu/president/reports/Berlinlect.html

Gordon, Edward E. (1995), A Renaissance for Learning in American Business. Retrieved April 12,1999 from the World Wide Web:  http://www.traininguniversity.com/magazine/nov_dec95/renaissance.html

Massy, William F. and Zemsky, Robert (June, 1995). Using IT to Enhance Academic Productivity. Retrieved April 12, 1999 from the World Wide Web:   http://www.educause.edu/nlii/keydocs/massy.html

Meister, Jeanne C. (April, 1999). How To Design A Corporate University. Retrieved April 29, 1999 from the World Wide Web:   http://www2.lotus.com/products/learningspace.nsf

Modern Language Association (April, 1996). Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work in the Modern Languages. Retrieved April 22, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.mla.org/reports/ccet/ccet_guidelines.htm

Stahlke, F.W. and Nyce, James M. (1996), Reengineering Higher Education: Reinventing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved September 13, 1999 from the World Wide Web:

Critical Reviews

Critic M

Overall, it is a good piece but I think readers need more detail about what constitutes "a team-oriented culture of accountability."  I'm not sure listing such things as credit for web publishing, moderating web discussion groups, etc. really defines this suggested assessment approach.