A recent arbitration award between the Ryerson Faculty Association and Ryerson University sets a significant precedent for academic staff across the country on the use of anonymous student questionnaires. Arbitrator William Kaplan found that student evaluations are biased and unreliable, and ordered that the collective agreement at Ryerson be amended to ensure that results of student questionnaires are not used in measuring teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.
As part of the decision, Kaplan writes, “The expert evidence convincingly establishes a few other things, the most important of which is that the best way to assess teaching effectiveness is through the careful assessment of the teaching dossier and in-class peer evaluations… That evidence, as earlier noted, was virtually uncontradicted. It establishes, with little ambiguity, that a key tool in assessing teaching effectiveness is flawed, while the use of averages is fundamentally and irreparably flawed. It bears repeating: the expert evidence called by the Association was not challenged in any legally or factually significant way.”
This decision is important primarily because it contributes to the evolving jurisprudence around teaching evaluations, and reflects changes in the sector regarding how teaching evaluations are used. You can read the full decision here.
While eliminating inequities in teaching evaluations is never going to be an easy gain in bargaining, we hope that this award will be helpful in ensuring that our next Collective Agreement reflects a more evidence-based understanding of how Course Experience Surveys are best used in career progress decisions here at UVic.
- Richard L. Freishtat, Expert Report on Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET). Prepared for the Ryerson Faculty Association and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. September 30, 2016.
- Philip B. Stark, Expert Report on Student Evaluations of Teaching (Faculty Course Surveys). Prepared for the Ryerson Faculty Association and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. October 10, 2016.