With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to create unique challenges for instructors and students, the Office of the Provost is urging academic units to “be mindful and explicit about the context of the term,” when using fall term course evaluations in teaching personnel considerations.

Review of an instructor’s evaluations, which are used in promotion and tenure considerations, should take into account the pandemic’s effects overall and on the individual’s teaching situation, the special needs and circumstances of students and faculty, the effects of technology limitations and other relevant matters, according to the Provost’s Office.

In addition to eight standard universitywide questions that typically appear on all evaluations, the following three questions have been added to all end-of-term evaluations:

  • A multiple-choice question asking students how they participated in the course, with answer choices that include “attended most sessions synchronously online (e.g., in a Zoom meeting),” “attended most sessions asynchronously online (e.g., completing modules/videos),” “attended most sessions in person” and “attended some of the class sessions in person and some class sessions online.”
  • An open-ended response question asking what teaching methods worked well given the format of the course.
  • An open-ended response question asking students to share their greatest challenges to their learning in the course’s format.

“Course evaluations are just one of the indicators we use to measure teacher performance,” said Susan M. Collins, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We know this semester has come with considerable challenges for our instructors, and we want to make sure that our process for reviewing course evaluations reflects those challenges.”

The guidance aligns with recent recommendations made by an ad hoc group of faculty and staff tasked with considering what modifications should be included in course evaluations due to the particular circumstances of this semester.

Collins established the group after the university first modified the evaluation process last winter. That’s when classes on the Ann Arbor campus shifted abruptly to remote alternative formats amid rising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

In its final report, the group stated that the shift to remote and hybrid teaching has required faculty to spend considerably more time than is typical rethinking their pedagogy and connecting with their students.

The group also argued that innovative teaching methods are more important than ever, and academic units should recognize that while not every innovation will be successful, the work is critical for better understanding how to teach effectively under disruptive conditions.

Students complete the evaluations from Nov. 18-Dec. 9, and reports will be available to instructors by the end of December. Fall 2020 course evaluations will not be reported at the university level, but may be reported through individual school or college reporting systems at the discretion of the dean.

As such, the fall term course evaluation data will not be accessible to students through ATLAS, a qualitative analysis software that organizes, analyzes, reports and visualizes data.

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