Nebraska Network 21


Date of this Version

October 1999


Institutions of higher education need to rethink the ways they recognize, support, evaluate and reward academic work in order to make their formal systems receptive to change and to ensure equitable treatment of faculty and staff. This should be linked with a return to collaborative governance structures and leadership practices that set priorities and assign work with the active participation of the concerned members of the academic community. Better ways of setting priorities and assigning work are basic to effective evaluation and reward systems.

These general propositions can be divided into seven recommendations:

1. Higher education institutions should evaluate and reward all major forms of academic work. In particular, scholarship and creativity should be redefined to be inclusive of more forms of academic work.

2. Each faculty member should have an individualized position description which should include all the major portions of faculty members' assignment. Position descriptions should be flexible and subject to annual revision through negotiations with unit administrators.

3. While all forms of academic work should be recognized, it is appropriate to expect faculty to demonstrate scholarship and creativity as central components in the evaluation of their research, teaching and outreach.

4. Teaching should be seen as an activity with a central scholarly component closely linked with research and as a complex set of activities that promote learning to a wide variety of audiences.

5 . Participation in major service and outreach projects, research and teaching as described in the faculty member's position description should be evaluated, supported and rewarded in analogous ways.

6. Evaluation and assessment procedures should be objective and equitable but also cost effective in terms of faculty and staff time.

7. The governance structures and leadership practices of higher education should ensure that work priorities are set wisely through practices that include the full participation of appropriate faculty and staff.

In short, the academic work that is important to an institution should be recognized, supported and rewarded in ways that encourage high-quality performance and ensure the fair treatment ofthe faculty and staff asked to perform the work. All projects and, in particular, new initiatives should be undertaken and planned with the active participation of all those who have expertise on the topic and who will have to do the work involved. It is recognized that, to a large extent, improvements are always possible. Every phrase of these general recommendations opens out into a host of problems, particularly in a time when some aspects of academic work are changing rapidly. The remaining chapters of this report represent an exploration of the issues raised by these general recommendations.