The tenure and promotion packet is the most important document in a tenure-accruing faculty member’s career. How they present themselves in this document will affect the path of their career at their university, therefore it is of utmost importance that the packet be filled out accurately and knowledgably. The focus of this project is not to delve into the highly charged subject of the requirements that make up the tenure decision, however to focus on a faculty member’s ability to prepare the packet with the utmost ease and efficiency.
“Many faculty members commonly report on the lack of precise directions about the preparation and documentation process, and, further often find the dossier process ambiguous and overwhelming. For those who look to the literature for direction, few books and articles exist; and even fewer books and articles direct junior faculty toward specific annual dossier preparation, even though this is a critical step toward earning tenure.’ (Burnham, 2012)
The packet is used at several stages in a tenure-track faculty members’ career. The first time they encounter it is at their 3rd year review and then 3 years later when applying for tenure and promotion. Automaticity is not expected due to infrequent performance of this task.
The packet traditionally moved through the system manually, but the University of Florida is now beta-testing the process in an online environment. The College of Journalism and Communications (COJC) is one of the colleges testing this online process. Since the faculty member fills out the packet two times in a 7 year period, it is imperative that the system be self-explanatory and easy to follow. While they have mentors who help them with understanding what content is necessary in the packet, it is up to the faculty member to compile the information so that if best reflects their body of research, teaching and service.
The advent of the online process has been highlighted the differences and difficulties that faculty experience when compiling their packet. Some of these stem from a lack of comprehending the requirements of each the packet’s sections and some from not understanding how to maneuver the new online process .
There is a felt need from some of the administrators and faculty that everyone is not confident in their ability to maneuver the online packet environment and an anticipated future need that the system will continue to change and continual updating will be needed. Data will be collected for felt and anticipated needs. This study could look at the normative needs related to other colleges on campus, but for the purpose this study, it will confine itself to the COJC. Different institutions and different colleges have a unique set of criteria and requirements for the evaluation process regarding the requirements in thepacket, so it is best not to do comparisons. A comparative need could be done by looking at other journalism colleges, but the bargaining agreement varies from universities so the actual process is different in each place.
The audience for this needs assessment is the faculty at COJC as well as the administrators. College Organization Chart. Personal interviews were conducted with people at different levels in the system to pinpoint the problem areas in the system. They were asked to share their perceptions of the current T&P packet system and offer their critiques or compliments of the online system.
Three administrators were interviewed: an associate dean and two department chairs. Appointments were made with each of the interviewees and the questions were asked and their answers recorded in a notebook.
The administrators were asked the following questions:
- When does a faculty member learn what is expected of him in regard to the packet?
- How does the college help them in their preparation of the packet?
- Is there a mentoring program at the college and how does it work?
- Who does a faculty member ask to learn how to best present themselves in the packet?
- How did you find the usability online system when accessing the candidates packet for review?
- What are the advantages of the online system over the paper-system?
- What are the disadvantages?
The administrators were in agreement that the new faculty learns about the tenure and promotion packet expectations upon hire and agreed that workshops were offered at the college and university level to help them prepare the packet. They felt the college criteria is specific and is available on the college website for review. However they did agree that the college does not talk about the mechanics of the packet preparation.
There was disagreement about the amount and level of mentoring that takes place with the candidate to help them with the system. While the College assigns a mentor and expects month meetings, and an annual meeting with the Chair, this does not seem to be happening with uniformity. Each administrator had different opinions about where the candidate should turn to for advice on best presentation of their packet – some felt it was up to the faculty to seek out tenured members of their department for advice; others were more willing to help the faculty themselves with the review and process.
One administrator commented that they did not understand why some faculty members arrive at their tenure and promotion date and feel completely in the dark about the process while others sail through it without incidence. It seems that the culture the departments is different and that affects how prepared the faculty are.
Administrators use the online system to review the packet and upload their letters of recommendation. The three administrators liked certain aspects of the online system better than the old paper system. Reasons given were: ability to access anywhere, ability to click and scroll in one section instead of having to flip around all the pages trying to find something. Reasons for not liking the system were: Having it more interactive – all the information is stored in a pdf format, rather than in a database or form, making it harder sometimes to understand exactly where you are in the process. Also, all critiqued that it is not always clear what action is supposed to be taken at any given time. The online system requires a series of actions from the administrators and reactions from the faculty, it is not always clear whose turn it is to act.
The fact that the packet is now available online allows the candidate to work on the materials in any location that has internet access. The online process is web-based, so as long as the candidate has a computer or tablet and a connection, they can access the packet and keep up with the steps in the process.
The goal is for candidates to be able to fill out the online tenure and promotion packet correctly and independently.
- Faculty undertaking this process are extremely motivated to complete the packet correctly.
- Mentors help faculty identify the correct information to include packet.
- Faculty attend workshops to help them understand the requirements for tenure and promotion.
- They only go through the process twice in a seven year period, so automaticity is unlikely.
- Faculty work on an immutable deadline to complete their packet.
- They have very busy schedules and do want the online system to encumber the process.
- They must have a Gator ID and be able to know how navigate into the PeopleSoft system.
One faculty member who is currently going through the tenure and promotion process online was asked the following questions:
- Have you prepared the packet before (is this third year review or final T&P?)
- Do you understand what each section of the packet requires of you?
- If you don’t understand a part, what part did you not understand?
- How did you receive the instruction prior to filling out your packet?
- When did you begin working on the actual packet?
- Did you receive enough instruction prior to filling out your packet?
- Do you think the online process was self-explanatory?
- Do you think you need more prior instruction with the online system?
- What problems to you encounter that were specific to the packet being in the online system?
An overview of Learner Interview
The faculty member (an assistant professor) had prepared their 3rd year review in the paper system and was now using the online system. They had a mentor throughout their 7 year career but admitted to not making full use of the situation and only meeting once with the chair and the mentor together. This happened early on in their career and had not happened since the 3rd year review. While they had attended various college and university level workshops, they still were not clear on a few points. One was the definition of ‘peer’ institution in regard to choosing an outside evaluator. They were told that they had to get someone from an AAU university, but that Georgia is a peer institution, so someone from there would be fine too. This confusion led to the candidate spending 3 years cultivating the necessary connections at the universities that were not considered ‘peer’ and when he had to submit names for the outside evaluators, 2 of them were not accepted.
The faculty member did like the online system and was pleased with it overall. He was not clear about the Alert Emails that the system sends whenever a change had been made in the packet (ie – the Chair has uploaded his review letter) as the email comes from “OPT NOTICE” . The faculty member kept thinking these were junk mail and deleted them, because although he did know to expect alert emails, he was not expecting them from and entity called “OPT.” He also was unclear as to when it was his turn to move the packet forward to the next step and where the packet was in the process. Lastly he was not aware that he could add amendments to Section 33 at any time in the process. He thought he had to wait until he had all of his changes, and then needed to upload them all at once.
- All faculty undergoing this process have an education at the doctoral level.
- They are male and female, normally over the age of 25, so they are considered adult learners.
- They are multi-cultural and may or may not be native English speakers, however they are all proficient in the language.
- Their attitudes can vary as to the use of an online system: some may fear confidentiality breaches due to putting the information online, some may think it is a bother to learn another process and would rather just do the system manually, while other more tech-savvy faculty may prefer the lack of paper and the portability of an online system.
The goals of the faculty are to be able to use the online system to complete a correct packet that reflects their body of work, without being hindered by the technology of the online process. They believe the online system is more useful than the manual system, provided it is easy to use and understand. They will be accountable for learning this process as they are highly motivated to prepare a perfect packet and not leave anything out.
As the faculty use this process only 2 times in a 7 year period, there will be little transfer of knowledge and skill. Therefore it is imperative that the instructions and procedures in the online process be precise.
The online tenure and promotion packet has been designed in the university’s ‘Peoplesoft’ system. While this system is known for it’s lack of usability and cumbersome designs, it must be used for security reasons. All of the HR data is stored in this system and as the packet will make use of this information, it must remain in a closed system. There may be an opportunity to use another program and integrate it with the ‘Peoplesoft’ software, making the design of the form more user-friendly and intuitive.
Keesee, G.S., (2012) Andragogy-Adult Learning Theory, Retrieved from http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/30310516/Andragogy–Adult%20Learning%20Theory
Fairweather, J. S., The Ultimate Faculty Evaluation: Promotion and Tenure Decisions. Retrieved from http://edweb.sdsu.edu/bober/montgomery/article01.pdf
Burnham, J.J., Hooper, L.M., Wright, V.H. (April 25, 2012) Top Ten Strategies for preparing the annual tenure and promotion dossier. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/faculty-evaluation/top-10-strategies-for-preparing-the-annual-tenure-and-promotion-dossier/
Perlmutter, D.D. (February 18, 2010) Professionalize Promotion and Tenure. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Professionalize-Promotion-and/64223/
Diamantes, T., Online survey research of faculty attitudes toward promotion and tenure. Retrieved from