2018 BENCHMARKS PARTICIPANT
Sociology has long had concerns about inherent biases in student evaluations and considers Benchmarks an opportunity to create a more equitable system. Like other departments, it has not had formal criteria for peer observations of teaching. Rather, an evaluator visits a class and writes a synopsis of the observations. The department has used a point system for evaluating teaching and advising, taking into account such factors as instructor attendance in class, a syllabus with course requirements, and a 2.5 minimum average on elements of student surveys of teaching.
The department team, which included a graduate student, began adapting the Benchmarks rubric in the spring, identifying potential sources of evidence for each category. Those include narrative descriptions of teaching practices, course syllabi, grade distributions, feedback from assessment of core classes, and letters from students. It struggled with how best to measure effective mentoring but over the summer gathered information from students about their mentoring experiences. It plans to draw on that information as it makes final adaptations to the rubric before testing it this fall. The team plans to recruit two reviewers and a faculty member who will be reviewed to test the rubric. The sociology team also plans to draw on its disciplinary expertise as it creates a new evaluation process, examining the Benchmarks process as a sociological system that will yield insights about the evaluation of teaching. Finally, they plans to share their insights so that other departments can benefit from sociology’s work in adapting the rubric.