Faculty preparation for academic evaluation


  • Lil Miedzinski,

  • Meridith Marks,

  • J Charles Morrison

Lil Miedzinski, 2E4.17 Walter Mackenzie Health Sciences Center, University of Alberta, 114 Street and 84 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta TG6 2B7, Canada. Tel: 00 1 780 407 7313; Fax: 00 1 780 407 7137; E-mail: lil.miedzinski@ualberta.ca

Context and setting

At most universities in North America, the evaluation of a faculty member’s academic activities is generally performed by a committee consisting of senior academics and elected representatives. The Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta developed an academic promotions workshop for its faculty members, who include clinician-teachers/educators, clinician-investigators and basic scientists.

Why the idea was necessary

A number of faculty members, both junior and senior, are poorly informed regarding the requirements for academic evaluation, the role of the Faculty Evaluation Committee (FEC), and how they should document their scholarly activities for promotion and tenure purposes.

What was done

A half-day promotion workshop was developed and implemented. Workshop participants are provided with explicit information regarding the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry’s evaluation promotion and tenure guidelines. Templates for both a ‘clinical dossier’ and an ‘administrative dossier’ demonstrate how academic scholarship in these domains might be presented. The workshop participants then assume the role of an FEC to review three fictitious faculty applications, of which two are assessed for tenure and promotion to associate professorship and one for promotion to full professorship. Of the tenure applicants, one is a clinician-teacher and the other is a basic scientist. The professorial candidate is a clinician-investigator. The cases presented are not model applications, but, rather, applications likely to evoke discussion. In addition to the workshop participants, the mock FEC includes senior faculty ‘plants’ who provide critical assessments of the documentation. Existing chairs and senior administrators play the roles of the presenting department. After discussing the applications, the mock FEC, using secret ballots, makes a recommendation for or against promotion.

Evaluation of results and impact

Since 2000 the Department of Medicine has offered this workshop once or twice yearly. Increasingly, requests from other departments have been accommodated and the workshop has evolved to a Faculty-wide endeavour. To date, 148 individuals from 19 departments have participated, with a 70 : 30 ratio of assistant :  associate professors.

Ratings have been uniformly positive, with all evaluating participants recommending the workshop.

Comments from participants reflect the quality and relevance of the workshop:

  •  ‘…very useful to hear the “planted” criticisms…’
  •  ‘…reinforced how critical documentation is … emphasised how scholarly work is viewed by others...’
  •  ‘…should be [a] mandatory part of the introduction of new faculty…’
  •  ‘…wish I had done this sooner…’ and
  •  ‘…I have a much better idea how to prepare junior divisional members. I would recommend they all go through this before their third year assessment.’

This workshop has proven to be useful to faculty members, divisional directors and departmental chairs. It has allowed participants to more objectively assess the scholarly contributions required for academic promotion and to understand how to present their contributions for assessment by others.