Guidelines for Evaluation of Teaching Track Faculty

 <Revision of 9/28/2009>


The “Policy on Teaching Track Appointments” describes the School of Computer Science implementation of the University Policy on Lecturer Track Appointments. This document is meant to accompany that one (currently viewable on-line at by providing background and elaboration regarding the evaluation of teaching quality, a critical component of the portfolio used to determine R&P decisions. We also comment on the issue of “pseudo-tenure” as it relates to Teaching Track R&P.


Context:  Over the past decade a wide variety of forms of teaching engagements in both undergraduate and graduate curricula have become central to the core educational mission of CMU. These include traditional lecture-based courses, project-oriented mentoring, distance delivery of courses, and lab-oriented courses. While in the past the teaching performed by CMU faculty was carried out in a classroom setting using traditional lectures, homework, exams, etc., today those instructors find themselves carrying out their educational activities in many new ways. These new ways are in response to a variety of factors, such as new models of education in which mentored, project-based work plays a primary role; new technologies that support distance- and remote-education; and internationalization of educational programs, among others.


Philosophy: Different forms of teaching require different instruments to evaluate their effectiveness. While traditional evaluation of teaching quality has relied on a single university-wide faculty course evaluation (FCE) instrument, today such an approach is inadequate to account for the different kinds of teaching models in use. Carnegie Mellon’s struggle over the last few years to find a satisfactory evaluation instrument for teaching is a strong indicator of this problem.  For example, the specific questions that one might ask students regarding the quality of instruction in a course will likely be different depending on whether the course is taught on-campus in a traditional lecture format, through taped videos in a distance-education setting, or through project mentorship in a project-oriented class.


Teaching Models: To determine the most appropriate instrument(s) for teaching evaluation one must first determine what kind of teaching model is being evaluated. Today we can identify at least the following forms, many of which are used in combination:


Instruments for Evaluation: It is beyond the scope of this document to detail specific instruments for teaching evaluation and their correspondence to teaching models such as those listed above. However, we can identify at least the following forms of evaluation that are currently being used at CMU.


Process: The need to tailor the evaluation instrument to the model of instruction raises the issue of how an SCS Unit should carry out the evaluation of courses taught by its faculty. We recommend the following guidelines:


Pseudo-Tenure: The committee considered the issue of whether the second appointment of a faculty within any teaching track rank should be considered to have more weight and/or a different process from other reappointments within that rank. This is the case, for example, in the Research Track where one of the reappointments is designated as a “pseudo-tenure” decision. Based on University Policy, past history within SCS, and general considerations of the philosophy behind reappointment and promotion in the teaching track, the committee wanted to be clear that no such distinction should be made between appointments within a rank. In particular, the University and SCS have worked hard to make sure that the teaching track is not under the control of a “promotion clock,” as it is important to allow faculty to remain indefinitely at the same level of appointment, if that is their career choice. Additionally, University policy is clear that teaching track appointments carry no guarantees of continued reappointment, and that full evaluations are required at each appointment, promotion and reappointment decision.