Evaluating Educational Research
Evaluating Educational Research
Task Force Charge

Task Force on Evaluating Educational Research, Scholarship, and Teaching in Postsecondary Education

Two of the more significant changes that have occurred over the last generation have wide-ranging implications for the evaluation of scholarly work in all disciplinary and professional fields of inquiry.   First, technology has presaged a sea-change in the dissemination of knowledge.  Whereas on-line journals were unheard of a generation ago, today they are commonplace.  Although a few academics may have penned an op-ed in a newspaper for general readership in the past, today one’s work and ideas can go viral in a matter of hours.

Second, the severe, extended economic recession has made those in colleges and universities as well as public policymakers think more critically about performance appraisals in general and tenure in particular.  The decision to provide lifetime employment for an individual via tenure always has been thoughtfully deliberated; the financial implications of such decisions, however, have taken on increased import in the context of the economic difficulties many private and public postsecondary institutions are experiencing and expect to continue to experience into the future.

Tenure protects academic freedom.  It is the position of AERA that academic freedom is a bedrock principle of the association and for all of higher education.  How institutions evaluate individuals on the tenure-track always deserves investigation, arguably now more than ever.  In some institutions teaching has taken on increased importance, but it is generally the task that is least well evaluated.  On-line teaching, research, and publication has grown considerably but few institutions have developed specific policies about how to evaluate the use of new media.  Alternative definitions of research, the importance of inter-disciplinary research, to whom the research should be addressed, and how its impact is appropriately addressed, are topics also being debated.  Peer review of tenure candidates has taken on increased importance in some institutions but less in others; also, how one even defines ‘peer’ is now being discussed in associations such as anthropology, sociology and history.

Departments, Schools and Colleges of Education have not been immune from these changes.  Indeed, those who work in the field of education are particularly impacted by the shifting standards for tenure for multiple reasons: For one, the scholarship of teaching is fundamental to education faculty.  Scholars’ engagement with and efforts to impact multiple constituencies – policymakers, teachers, families, to name but a few – also may take up considerable effort.  Publication in practice-based journals and newer publishing outlets (including on-line outlets) may have greater reach and impact than standard journals and presses for some faculty at some institutions. 

The goal of this task force is to offer recommendations pertaining to the evaluation of research, scholarship and teaching for faculty in the field education.  The objectives are:

  1. To suggest transparent ways to evaluate a scholar’s teaching, including evaluations that recognizes use of new media;
  2. To suggest protean definitions of scholarship that enable reward for work that is beyond the single-authored  article or monograph;
  3. To consider the ramifications of new media as vehicles for publication and dissemination; 
  4. To recommend how community engagement might be utilized as a criterion for tenure;
  5. To consider best practices on how to design and carry out transparent processes that lead to equitable evaluation systems of faculty research and scholarship with particular attention to gender and racial equity; and
  6. To recommend best practices for departments, schools and AERA about how to support early career faculty so that they receive adequate guidance in their careers.
Task Force Members

Jim Fairweather (Chair)
Educational Administration
Michigan State University

Christine A. Stanley
Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity
Texas A&M University

Marilyn Cochran-Smith
John E. Cawthorne Millenium Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools
Boston College

David Labaree
Professor of Education
Stanford University

Estela Bensimon
Professor, Higher Education
Co-Director, Center for Urban Education
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California

Ana Martinez Aleman
Associate Professor, Higher Education Department Chair, Educational Administration
Boston College