College of LAS « Illinois


Section Section III.5

Endorsed by the Executive Committee
Approved by the Dean February 1999


These guidelines set out expectations for departments' active involvement with junior faculty during the probationary period. They call on development of procedures and practices fitting the discipline and department culture through which junior faculty will be made aware of departmental, college and campus promotion and tenure requirements and their responsibilities during the probationary period. The guidelines ask departments to do this within an approach that supports faculty development. We set very high standards for promotion and tenure, and those standards need to be understood by untenured faculty, but equally important, we want junior faculty to understand that we share their desires to build highly successful careers here. Rigorous evaluation is wholly compatible with active engagement and faculty development. Junior faculty deserve not only to clearly understand our expectations, but also to be made aware of sources of support available within the department and campus and to receive feedback from knowledgeable senior colleagues that is well-grounded, timely and helpful. Special emphasis is given in these guidelines to the third-year review, and they encompass and amplify on guidance in the Provost's Communication No. 13, "Review of Faculty in Year Three of the Probationary Period". These guidelines have grown out of annual oversight discussions of the third-year review letters by the LAS College Executive Committee and have been reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee.

  1. Specific LAS College Guidelines for Third-Year Evaluation Letters of Probationary Faculty
    1. The letter should be addressed to the faculty member from the unit executive officer and copied to the dean. That copy is due no later than April 1.
    2. The letter should clearly specify the mechanics of the review process. For candidates with split appointments, this should include a summary of the process of consultation between units (see attached LAS and campus policies on coordination in joint appointments).
    3. The letter should make clear that this is a mid-course evaluation to provide guidance for the probationary faculty member's continuing development and cannot guarantee the outcome of the final review for promotion and tenure. Specific assurances regarding support for promotion and tenure should be avoided.
    4. The letter should be based on a review using criteria that will be applied in the final tenure review. These criteria are set forth most clearly in the Provost's Communication No. 9, "Promotion and Tenure." LAS College reviews for tenure emphasize assessments of the documented quality of teaching and the potential to become a leading scholar in one's field as demonstrated through peer evaluations of research achievements and publications.
    5. The letter should critically assess research, including thoughtfully evaluating the major scholarly products of the faculty member's research, the record of teaching and any areas for improvement, and assessment of the faculty member's service and development as a campus citizen. The letter should specifically address the quality and projected impact of the candidate's research. In addition to commenting on areas of strength, focused discussion should be given to those areas needing attention. The letter should explain clearly and directly the expectations that are held for promotion and tenure and where scholarly emphasis should be placed in the years immediately ahead.

      Because the commentary will be substantive, it will necessarily be based on systematic assessments by colleagues who are knowledgeable about the candidate's area of scholarship and on multiple forms of evaluation of the faculty member's teaching.

      The review should reflect the results of ongoing engagement with the probationary faculty member, rather than a first-time assessment.

      Where a committee report has been prepared as the core of the evaluation, the letter from the executive officer should provide a synthesis of key points and specific advice.
    6. The copy of the letter forwarded to the Dean should include as attachments (a) an ICES printout of all courses/instructor evaluations to date as required for promotion and tenure papers, and (b) a summary developed by the faculty member of the factual record of research/publication, teaching, and service following the guidelines for preparation of promotion dossiers.
    7. Third-year evaluations are reviewed by the Executive Committee which functions as the College's promotion and tenure committee.
  2. Background and Amplification
    1. Departmental Responsibilities: Active Engagement and Systematic Feedback

      The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences sets as a general expectation that all units housing tenure-track faculty will actively engage untenured faculty and initiate systematic and thoughtful discussion concerning expectations for promotion and tenure and provide accurate feedback regarding progress in meeting those expectations.
      1. Each LAS unit should discuss and clarify its expectations for promotion and tenure and should develop clear guidelines for discipline-based achievements in research, teaching and service that realize the guidelines set forth in Provost's Communication No. 9, "Promotion and Tenure." These Campus guidelines state that a recommendation for indefinite tenure ultimately must be based upon (a) an assessment that a candidate has made contributions of an appropriate magnitude and quality in research, teaching, and service, (b) has demonstrated a high likelihood of sustaining contributions to the field and to the department, and (c) that granting indefinite tenure will be in the best interest of the University of Illinois. LAS College reviews for tenure place emphasis on the realization of excellence in teaching and the high potential of the probationary faculty member to become a leading scholar in his or her field as demonstrated through research achievements and publications. Pretenure reviews and feedback should be made to help guide and support the career development of the untenured faculty member. All such reviews should be made with the ultimate criteria for promotion and tenure clearly in mind.
      2. As stated in Provost's Communication No. 13, "It is the responsibility of the department or equivalent academic unit to inform all faculty members of campus and college criteria for advancement in rank. If a unit has adopted additional criteria, these should also be communicated to faculty members. In addition to information about criteria for advancement, faculty members should receive information about the process used for promotion and tenure reviews, including the separate reviews that take place at the department, college and campus levels." Departments should take special care to provide the above information to untenured faculty within their first semester on campus. The College further asks that a procedure be developed for assuring that the expectations for promotion and tenure and the processes and timing for reviews are not merely distributed, but thoroughly discussed with new faculty.

      3. Each unit should have specific written procedures approved by the appropriate faculty group for conducting the review of untenured faculty in the third year of their probationary period. Units are also encouraged to develop policies for providing written feedback at other points across the probationary period. As noted below, annual written feedback is encouraged. Unit procedures should provide for coordination and collaboration between units in producing evaluations for untenured faculty with joint appointments. (Please see the LAS policy statement: Recommended Guidelines for Appointment and Review Procedures for Faculty Members with Budgeted Joint Appointments in Two or More Units.) Mechanisms that provide integrated, rather than separate, reports of assessment and expectation are encouraged.
      4. Each unit should also develop a set of practices that fit the discipline and the unit's culture that effectively engages and provides regular feedback and advice to each untenured faculty to support his or her development as a scholar, teacher and university citizen. It is important that the unit recognize its responsibility to be proactive in engaging and giving feedback to untenured faculty. This may take any form that is appropriate to the traditions and organization of the unit, including regular discussions between the unit executive officer and the faculty member, a program of mentoring that systematically connects the untenured faculty member with a specific senior faculty member, less formal mentoring approaches through which junior faculty are engaged with senior faculty, and the like. The development of appropriate mechanisms are strongly encouraged for cultivating the candidate's development in each of the areas of performance on which tenure is granted (scholarship, teaching, and service).
      5. It also is important that the department establish practices that make junior faculty aware both that it is the faculty member's responsibility to develop successful programs of research, teaching and service and that the University seeks to facilitate the faculty's success in these endeavors through providing a rich array of support for research, teaching improvement, outreach activities and personal development. Probationary faculty should be made aware of specific available support that may be relevant to their needs in research, teaching or service.
      6. The College encourages development of approaches that give timely and regular feedback on performance through both informal and formal channels. An annual letter providing feedback to untenured faculty is encouraged. Such letters should be retained in departmental files and should not be forwarded to the College, except as is required for the Campus-mandated third year review.
    2. General Considerations of Importance in Third-Year Evaluations and Other Evaluations During the Probationary Period
      1. All guidance and evaluations provided untenured faculty during the probationary period should reflect development of materials as a basis for evaluation and the application of criteria in line with those used in the final promotion-and-tenure review. Thus it is advisable that the faculty member develop and annually add to a summary of the factual record of research/publication, teaching, and service following the guidelines for preparation of promotion dossiers (this effectively translates the CV into a common format familiar to reviewing bodies). This factual record provides a sound beginning point for systematic assessment and focuses both the probationary faculty member and reviewers on the record of accomplishment directly relevant to promotion and tenure.

        Communication No.13 makes clear that third-year reviews, and by implication other reviews during the probationary period, should be carried out systematically with attention to each aspect of the individual's performance on which the final tenure decision will be based. Pre-tenure evaluations should consistently apply the criteria that will be used in the final tenure-and-promotion review and should establish appropriate continuity across year-to-year reviews.
      2. Feedback during the probationary period should involve both oral discussions and formal written letters, including the required third-year letter. Communication No.13 emphasizes the importance in identifying both strengths and weaknesses in evaluation processes. In specific reference to the third-year review, Communication No. 13 stresses that "fairness to the candidate requires that the review be as candid as possible about shortcomings so the candidate has an opportunity to correct his or her course before an ultimate recommendation must be made. Strengths similarly should be stated. Expectations for the coming years should be clearly laid out in the written evaluation report."
      3. All tenured faculty in a unit share in the responsibility of facilitating the development of its probationary faculty. However, to assure effective communication, it is wise to designate a single individual (most often the unit executive officer) to transmit formal feedback so the principal points of evaluation are stated unambiguously and clear guidance is provided to the probationary faculty member. If an evaluation involves a committee report, the executive officer's or Committee Chair's letter transmitting it should identify the central points of evaluation and advice.
      4. Evaluations and feedback across the probationary period should critically assess research, including thoughtfully evaluating the major scholarly products of the faculty member's research. To the degree possible, this assessment should be carried out with rigor similar to that applied in evaluating the work as will be done at the point a decision on the final tenure recommendation is made. The advantage of pre-tenure assessments are that they provide opportunities to explain clearly and directly the expectations that are held for promotion and tenure and what work will need to be accomplished in the years before the final tenure review. Clear guidance should be given for where scholarly effort can best be focused. In most cases the assessment of the research and writing will be made by senior departmental colleagues in the area of the untenured faculty member. However, at the discretion of the unit the advice may be sought of evaluators from outside the campus.
      5. Evaluations and feedback across the probationary period also should critically assess teaching and comment on how teaching can be improved. Probationary faculty will be well advised to develop portfolios documenting their teaching records, and departments are encouraged to make assessments of teaching using multiple modes of evaluation, including ICES ratings from students, interviews with graduate and undergraduate students, evaluation of syllabi and materials, multiple classroom observations over time and courses, candidate self-assessments, etc. Where teaching difficulties are identified, units should develop plans calculated to facilitate the candidate's development as a teacher (actions might involve shifts in teaching assignments, a program of systematic classroom observation and feedback, identification of colleagues whom the candidate should consult to discuss teaching performance, use of the support from the Office of Instructional Resources, etc.).
      6. Assessments across the probationary period should include discuss of the probationary faculty member's opportunities for contribution in service and for development as a citizen of the campus. It is the responsibility of every department to promote the development of attitudes of institutional responsibility and to provide mechanisms through which untenured faculty can develop as contributing members of the campus community. While it is important to make service assignments that appropriately engage untenured faculty in the affairs of the unit, such assignments should be appropriate in the context of overall responsibilities so that development in teaching and research are not placed at jeopardy.

Updated April 2003