You are here: American University Provost Office of the Dean of Faculty Term Faculty SIS Guidelines for Reappointment and Promotion of Term Faculty

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January 2019

Criteria For the Evaluation of Term Faculty in the School of International Service

(Approved by Provost July 2019)

Purpose & General Guidelines

The American University Faculty Manual calls for all departments or schools (a.k.a. “teaching units” and “academic units” respectively) to develop guidelines establishing the overall contributions expected of all term faculty candidates for reappointment and promotion, in accordance with the “General Criteria for Evaluation of Term Faculty” outlined in section 15 of the Manual.

Being an effective member of the SIS community, as well as planning a career at the school, requires detailed, clear and transparent guidance on how SIS will evaluate one’s work. The purpose of this document is to establish school-wide criteria and processes for the appointment, reappointment, and promotion evaluations of faculty on both term faculty promotion sequences. These include the Professorial Lecturer sequence (Instructor, Professorial Lecturer, Senior Professorial Lecturer, and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer) and the Term Professor sequence (Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor). [ref: Faculty Manual, 45-47]

These guidelines also cover Post-Doctoral Fellows, In-Residence faculty, and Emeriti. As the Faculty Manual states, “All in-residence faculty should be matched to a rank within one of the term-faculty promotion sequences” [ref: Faculty Manual, 53].

Every term faculty appointment or reappointment should serve to enhance the quality of the university and the school. Term faculty members must demonstrate teaching effectiveness, currency in the field, and a willingness to take on their fair share of service to the university and the school. As members of the learned profession responsible for educating the community, the university expects faculty members to exhibit civility, collegiality, and respect for different points of view in the academic community [ref: Faculty Manual, 50]. In particular, faculty at SIS should, in all aspects of their work, show commitment to the values of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

For the purposes of reappointment, the reviewing bodies consider three categories for evaluation – teaching, service, and currency – based on the file for action. Each of these areas of faculty impact is vital to their performance, and teaching is typically chief among them. SIS recognizes that term faculty may have significant responsibilities that call for teaching to be considered equal to the other categories (e.g. program directors).    

The rest of this document is organized as follows. The ‘categories of evaluation’ section describes in greater detail the various criteria used to assess Term Faculty, that is to say Teaching, Service, Currency, and when relevant, Scholarship. Such an outline seeks to provide greater clarity to both applicants and reviewers for the reappointment and promotion process. The second section, ‘the reappointment process’, provides an overview of the various steps involved in this procedure. A separate internal SIS document gives a more detailed description of the steps, which includes, for instance, the required materials in a file for action, specifying the right of response during the review process, and the possibility of requesting more materials from applicants at different stages. The third section, ‘the promotion process’, covers the expectations and requirements for candidates who are seeking promotion in either of the two sequences - the Professorial Lecturer and Term Professor sequences. It also clarifies the rules for Term Faculty seeking to move from one sequence to another. The separate internal SIS document mentioned above also provides a more detailed description of the steps involved in the promotion application.

I. Categories of Evaluation

Evaluation of Teaching
Contribution to student learning is paramount for all faculty, including Term, who should strive to be excellent teachers. As the Faculty Manual states, “Excellent teaching enables students to acquire knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and become active participants in the learning process.” [ref: Faculty Manual, 50] 

To the extent possible, any evaluation of teaching effectiveness should consider these three dimensions.

1. Knowledge and Skills Acquisition: Faculty employ pedagogical strategies that facilitate the successful mastery of the course content. Toward that end, at a minimum, teaching should align learning objectives, the course materials, assignments, and class activities. Effective teaching conveys knowledge and skills that prepare students for subsequent stages and steps in their academic and/or professional development.      

2. Critical Thinking Development: Teaching students how to think critically involves the evaluation of arguments and knowledge claims as well as materials such as data, facts, observable phenomenon, and research findings from multiple perspectives. Strong critical thinkers are able to draw reasonable conclusions from a range of information and discriminate between useful and less useful data to solve a problem or make a decision. Typically, effective teaching advances important skills and abilities that a student must acquire, strengthen and maintain to be a strong critical thinker: analysis, communication, creativity and open-mindedness, and problem-solving.

3. Active Participation: Active participation can be promoted via varied strategies and techniques, such as student engagement during lectures, class discussion, group activities, and writing exercises. All participants should have the opportunity to contribute, although not necessarily in the same way. Developing an active learning community promotes collective responsibility, and supports alignment of individual, team and school goals. Central to a participatory environment is the tone and climate of the learning space and maintenance of a civil, respectful and safe environment for all. 

As the Faculty Manual states, “evaluation metrics must extend beyond student evaluations of teaching” [ref: Faculty Manual, 49]. Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) are imperfect and insufficient for assessing teaching effectiveness. There is a growing body of knowledge regarding bias in teacher evaluation literature. Bias has been documented due to a variety of overt and more nuanced characteristics.

The mean scores of teaching evaluations should not be considered in isolation. Reviewers must consider the context of SET scores as detailed in the faculty’s reappointment or promotion file. Contextual factors are circumstances largely beyond the faculty's control that may have had an impact on teaching and learning or their teaching evaluations. Contextual factors can include, among others, attributes of the course, unconscious biases, and/or individual faculty circumstances. For example, some course and teaching evaluation related factors can include but are not limited to: distribution of scores, type of course (e.g. methods or required courses), median and mean scores relative to like courses, class sizes, size of overall teaching portfolio, and other factors (e.g. lead time for course preparation).

Teaching effectiveness can be documented in a variety of ways beyond SETs, including

  • Peer observation
  • Pedagogical innovations in use of classroom formats, active and experiential learning exercises
  • New curricular initiatives
  • Syllabus and assignment design

Evaluation of Service
Term faculty play a central role in the governance of the School and the university. Engagement through service is an essential component of faculty responsibility. It also an opportunity for faculty professional development and contributions to the SIS and university communities. A successful school and university depend on all members of the faculty doing their ‘fair share’ of service. Service includes service to students, service to academic programs, service to the school, and service to the university.   

A purpose of the ‘fair share’ standard is to “enable faculty members to decline service requests beyond one’s fair share” (SIS Service Matrix). The ‘fair share’ of service by a term faculty member is therefore deemed met or not

The Service Matrix is, for the purpose of assessment, the baseline for identifying opportunities and assessing service. The Service Matrix should be regularly updated with input from the elected representatives of the term faculty. 

An assessment of fair share of service should cover the totality of service provided during the faculty’s current contract and (when applicable) the last year of their prior contract. As per procedure, if a Term faculty takes on, during a given year, service beyond what the matrix requires, the additional contribution counts toward meeting their fair share in subsequent years being assessed (i.e. it is ‘banked’). Therefore, banking is also available to Term Faculty on a one-year contract, conditional on their reappointment. Faculty should be explicit in their file about their distribution of service across the years being assessed.

However, the service matrix may not capture the totality of a faculty member’s service. Faculty who fall short of meeting their fair share formally under the Service Matrix should provide additional information about their contributions or mitigating circumstances. These may include, among others,

A. Evidence of “willingness to serve” [ref: Faculty Manual, 51] such as standing unsuccessfully for election to service committees.

B. Mentoring and advising of students [ref: Faculty Manual 51], including letters of reference.

C. Participating in program, school, or university sponsored activities not listed on the matrix (e.g. course assessment; Sophomore Pathways Event; Grad Day). 

For (B) and (C), faculty should estimate the total hours spent on each type of contribution. Applicants do not need to provide supporting documentation in their files. However, documentation, where possible, should be provided on request from reviewers.

The service matrix provides information for fair share expectations for ‘Term Faculty Holding Significant Administrative Positions.’   

Evaluation of Currency
The faculty manual states that all term faculty must demonstrate currency in their field. Currency typically means remaining current and up-to-date in one’s professional life [ref: Faculty Manual, 50]. “Achieving currency in the field may include a wide range of activities depending on the academic unit and the individual appointment” [ref: Provost Memo to Deans, 3/26/18]. 

The purpose of demonstrating currency is for term faculty to highlight and be recognized for their contributions to the intellectual life of the school. It is not intended to be an undue burden requiring term faculty to complete additional work, but instead to report how they remain engaged in their subjects of expertise. Faculty may demonstrate their currency in a number of ways, including (but not limited to) using any examples of any of the sample activities listed below. For the purpose of reappointment, there is no hierarchy between the listed sample of activities.     

Currency typically consists of professional development in the areas of teaching, research and scholarship, practice, professional engagement, and/or creative activities. SIS recognizes that many term faculty conduct research, publish, contribute to the scholarly profile of the school, innovate pedagogically, and practice professionally. Participation in these activities and their translation to teaching and advising are evidence of currency. The currency section of a file for action should link these activities to teaching or other primary responsibilities.

Some examples of evidence of currency include, but are not limited to, the following categories and activities:

Research and Scholarship activities:

  • scholarship, research, and publications
  • engagement with the academic field (e.g. manuscript review, panel participation, conference participation)
  • grant development

Practice:

  • giving briefings, conducting trainings, and engagement with external organizations in the public, private and non-profit sector
  • forms of public outreach and education (e.g. talks, lectures, panels, etc)

Professional and Public Engagement:

  • consulting and contract work
  • media publications and appearances (e.g. op-eds, blogs, interviews, podcasts) 

Teaching:

  • up-to-date syllabi
  • pedagogical innovation and new instructional modalities
  • participation in training in the field of teaching
  • Publication and presentation of teaching materials

Evaluation of Scholarship
Scholarship is not a basis for evaluating reappointment for term faculty on either promotion sequence. The exception is for faculty that choose to highlight their scholarship as evidence of ‘Currency.’ 

For the purposes of promotion to the ranks of Term associate professor and Term professor, the criteria for evaluation of research are essentially the same as for a tenure line faculty member’s promotion. Faculty should refer to any relevant sections of the Faculty Manual and the scholarship section of the SIS-Tenure-and-Promotion-Guidelines, including the criteria of holding promise for greater future impact. One difference is that there is no “clock” for meeting those criteria. 

II. The Reappointment Process

The reappointment process is administered by the SIS Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. Typically, the review of reappointment applications occurs during the fall semester for both multi-year application and one-year applications. Occasionally, however, faculty will still apply for reappointment in the spring semester.

Per the Faculty Manual, reappointments for term faculty may extend from one to five years. There is no limit on the number of such reappointments.

Reappointments are contingent upon the satisfaction of the specific criteria in these Guidelines (which elaborate on the Faculty Manual’s “General Criteria for Evaluation of Term Faculty”) as well as “the enrollments and other needs of the teaching or academic unit, and the instructional resources of the university” [ref: Faculty Manual, 44].  The specific expectations for particular ranks are outlined in the “Academic Ranks and Qualifications for Term Faculty” section of the Faculty Manual [see Appendix I].

Faculty should request a reappointment for 1-5 years. The various reviewers of files will determine on a file-by-file basis the duration of reappointment. The final decision on duration of appointment rests with the Dean of Faculty (DoF).

As a general rule, term faculty can start to apply for a multi-year appointment after they have completed one year of service at AU on a full-time basis. In addition, granting multi-year contracts requires showing a demonstrable need for the classes that the applicant has taught in the past (or can teach), for the duration of the requested reappointment time. This process of determining the demonstrable need for classes should happen through iterative consultation between the Designated Program Director (DPD), the Subcommittee on Term Faculty Actions, and the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.

Before preparing reappointment materials, the faculty should consult well in advance with the Designated Program Director and/or Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs to discuss reappointment length and receive guidance on building a strong file for action. 

Typically, a strong reappointment file will detail and contextualize past service, teaching, and currency since the last time the faculty member applied for reappointment. The reappointment file will also explain why, for the duration of the requested reappointment, the faculty is expected to meet the criteria in these Guidelines (teaching effectiveness, fair share service, currency, and scholarship when applicable). 

III. The Promotion Process

Faculty may request promotion whether or not they are seeking reappointment. If the request coincides with a request for reappointment, the faculty’s File for Action may combine materials for reappointment and promotion, though distinct evaluation processes exist for each request. Faculty seeking to combine reappointment with promotion should be mindful that their memo makes both requests explicit and provides all necessary information to review both requests. Alternatively, faculty may choose to write separate memos for each requested action.

Faculty seeking promotion must outline their cumulative contributions to the school and university community over the duration of their time at American University. These contributions should align with the rank descriptions set out in the Faculty Manual and reproduced in the Appendix.    

Term faculty may request promotion within a promotion sequence (e.g. Professorial Lecturer to Senior Professorial Lecturer, Term Assistant Professor to Term Associate Professor) or by moving from one promotion sequence to another (e.g. Professorial Lecturer to Term Associate Professor, Term Assistant Professor to Senior Professorial Lecturer). Term faculty may not apply to “skip a rank” [ref: Faculty Manual, 48]. According to the Faculty Manual it is not possible to move from Professional Lecturer or Senior Professional Lecturer to Term Assistant Professor, except in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Provost.

A move from term assistant professor to professorial lecturer is considered a lateral move, and as the Faculty Manual states, does not fall under the promotion process and “can be approved at the academic unit level with review by the dean of faculty.” In contrast, “a move from term assistant professor to senior professorial lecturer involves a promotion, and therefore must proceed according to the promotion review procedures” [ref: Faculty Manual, 49]. Similarly, a move such as one from senior professorial lecturer to term associate professor must be approved through the promotion process. 

The term faculty initiates the request for promotion. Before preparing their promotion file materials, the faculty should review the specific criteria associated with each rank in the faculty manual (see Appendix I) and consult with the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and their DPD.

Faculty should also attend to the manual’s guidelines regarding length of service in a given rank prior to promotion. The manual states, for example, that “Professorial lecturers who meet the criteria for senior professorial lecturer customarily may apply for promotion to that rank after five years as professorial lecturer” and in turn that “senior professorial lecturers who meet the criteria for Hurst senior professorial lecturer may apply for promotion to that rank after five years as senior professorial lecturer” [ref: Faculty Manual, 45-46]. Length of service is, however, no guarantee of promotion if other relevant criteria are not demonstrated as “promotions will not be based on length of service” [ref: Faculty Manual, 48]. Further, a term assistant professor “with an exceptional record” may seek promotion to term associate professor prior to completing six years at assistant rank [ref. Faculty Manual, 48]. 

The File for Action should typically include evidence of teaching effectiveness, service, currency, and, if seeking promotion to term associate professor or term professor, scholarship. Specifically, the applicant’s memo and supporting documentation must demonstrate that the applicant has met or exceeded the specific criteria associated with the rank to which they are seeking promotion as outlined in the AU Faculty Manual. These ranks and their associated criteria can be found in Appendix I. Faculty may request for a teaching observation to support their claims of teaching effectiveness and to supplement student teaching evaluations. 

Whether switching to the Term Professor sequence or advancing within it, faculty requesting promotion to Term Associate Professor and Term Professor must follow Section 11 of the AU Faculty Manual, the scholarship section of the SIS-Tenure-and-Promotion-Guidelines, and process instructions from the Committee on Faculty Actions (CFA). Applicants should note that the Faculty Manual requires applicants to these positions to demonstrate a commitment to scholarship and provide external letters of recommendations explaining how the applicant’s research “contributes significantly to the field” and “raises the academic quality of the university.” [ref: Faculty Manual, 38].

Emeriti/Emeritae Status

Term faculty retiring after extended service to SIS and the university may apply for emeriti/emeritae status. The Faculty Manual states with regard to emeriti/emeritae term faculty that (section 16, p. 53-54): “Emeritus and emerita status is an honor generally conferred on retiring faculty members after active service of approximately ten years or more. Usually a designated committee or faculty member from the candidate’s teaching unit or academic unit initiates the process with a brief letter of commendation to the dean of faculty. The faculty member’s chair and dean may add letters before the provost makes a decision. … Faculty emeriti and emeritae who teach for the university after retirement shall be accorded the title of emeritus or emerita in residence.”

Appendix I - Full Time Term Faculty Ranks (see Faculty Manual pp. 45-47)

Professorial Lecturer Promotion Sequence
i. Instructor/Librarian
The rank of instructor/librarian customarily applies to a one-semester or one-year appointment of term faculty members who do not hold a terminal degree in their field. This rank also may be applied to positions that fill specific, temporary teaching needs, as determined by teaching units in accordance with instructional resources. Reappointments are possible, subject to annual review. Teaching and academic units evaluate instructors primarily on their teaching and, if applicable, service to the teaching unit or academic unit. Instructors/librarians who meet the criteria for professorial lecturer/librarian may apply for promotion to that rank.

ii. Professorial Lecturer/Librarian
Term faculty members are customarily awarded the initial rank of professorial lecturer/librarian if they hold the terminal degree in their field or have professional experience and achievement equivalent to a terminal degree. Appointees at this rank demonstrate the potential to achieve excellence in teaching and primary responsibilities, including service to the teaching unit, academic unit, and university, such as mentoring and advising of students. Professorial lecturers/librarians who meet the criteria for senior professorial lecturer/librarian customarily may apply for promotion to that rank after five years as professorial lecturer/librarian. Unlike their tenure-peers, however, Professorial Lecturers can be reappointed in the absence of such promotion.

iii. Senior Professorial Lecturer/Librarian
In addition to meeting the criteria for the rank of professorial lecturer/librarian, an appointee at the rank of senior professorial lecturer/librarian demonstrates excellence as a teacher and strong engagement with the university community. The faculty member customarily will bring a proven record of service and of mentoring and advising students. However, new faculty members with extensive professional experience but little direct teaching experience may be appointed at this rank. Senior professorial lecturers/librarians who meet the criteria for Hurst senior professorial lecturer/librarian may apply for promotion to that rank after five years as senior professorial lecturer/librarian. In exceptional cases, promotion to Hurst senior professorial lecturer/librarian may be pursued after three years as senior professorial lecturer/librarian.

iv. Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer/Librarian
This rank, named for American University’s founder, reflects significant achievement and expectations of leadership. In addition to meeting the criteria for the rank of senior professorial lecturer/librarian, an appointee at the rank of Hurst senior professorial lecturer/librarian customarily will have demonstrated meritorious performance through sustained excellence in teaching and in service internally to the university and/or externally in their profession or field of scholarship. New faculty members whose distinguished careers have made them established leaders in their fields also may be appointed at this rank.

Term Professor Promotion Sequence
i. Assistant Professor or Assistant Librarian
Customarily no new term assistant professors will be appointed. Only under extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the provost, might a new term assistant professor be appointed. In most circumstances, existing appointees at this rank hold an earned doctorate or the highest degree customary in the field. In extraordinary circumstances, an appointee may have professional experience equivalent to the highest degrefe in the field. Appointees at this rank demonstrate the potential to achieve excellence in teaching/primary responsibilities, internal service, and scholarly activities. Faculty at the term assistant professor or term assistant librarian rank who meet the criteria for associate professor may apply for promotion to that rank after six years. Unlike their tenure-peers, however, Term Assistant Professors can be reappointed in the absence of such promotion.

ii. Associate Professor or Associate Librarian
In addition to meeting the criteria for the rank of assistant professor or assistant librarian, the faculty member meets the same criteria as a tenure-line associate professor. Those criteria consist of demonstrating high quality as a teacher; engagement with students in and outside the classroom; high quality in the performance of primary responsibilities (for library faculty); significant scholarly accomplishments appropriate to the field; professional recognition and growth; and potential for a career of sustained scholarly distinction and/or prominent accomplishments. Customarily, the faculty member has a significant proven record of teaching/primary responsibilities (for library faculty), participating in internal and external service, and mentoring and advising students.

iii. Professor or Librarian
In addition to meeting the criteria for the rank of associate professor or associate librarian, the faculty member meets the same criteria as a tenure-line professor. Those criteria consist of continuing excellent scholarship and/or prominent accomplishments in the field, high-quality teaching/performance of primary responsibilities (for library faculty), continuing active engagement with students in and outside the classroom, continuing relevant and effective internal and external service, and evidence of the potential to sustain excellence in all of these areas.

Appendix II - Postdoctoral Appointments
Postdoctoral fellow appointments are made on an annual basis and are normally renewable, so long as funding is available, for no more than five years. In the case of postdoctoral fellows funded on grants, the grant PI(s) will serve as the fellow’s research mentor and will formally recommend reappointment to the department chair, dean and provost.

Postdoctoral fellows will be assessed primarily on the basis of their research productivity during the term of appointment, although assessment of teaching is expected in the case of fellows whose letters of appointment specify teaching duties. In all cases, postdoctoral fellows need only submit an up-to-date CV, a brief summary of their annual accomplishments in the areas of research and (if applicable) teaching, and appropriate teaching documentation such as syllabi, a peer observation report, and SET results (if applicable).