The RTP and me

Students usually don't give much thought to the hoops instructors jump through to reach their mighty positions in the college classroom. Sometimes you'd like to know a little about qualifications, sure, and sometimes you wonder just how the prof ever got hired at all. But usually you assume the teacher has the adequate background, is doing a good job, and will be at NDSU forever. Or at least, until you graduate.

Faculty don't always feel so confident, though. NDSU is like most universities, hiring faculty based on the tenure-track system. This means if you're taken on in a tenure-track position (usually you need a Ph.D.), after about five years you can apply for tenure. You get it, and you become a full-fledged member of "the academy" at the university. You don't, and you have one grace year to job-hunt.

What do you have to do to deserve tenure? Depends. On the university, on the department, on your collegiality--that is, on how well you get along with people. (Note: in the professional world, it never hurts to be friendly and considerate. People who like you will be more willing to support your ideas. People who don't will sabotage them.) You're expected to demonstrate your competence, normally in three areas: teaching, research, and service. Not necessarily in that order.

At NDSU, university officials are encouraging faculty to demonstrate their teaching competence by maintaining a Reflective Teaching Portfolio, or RTP. In this portfolio we need to explain our philosophy of teaching, and include sample tests, syllabi, class exercises, awards, videotaped lectures, student work, letters from admirers, and basically anything that makes us sound competent. Including, yes, student evaluations.How important are student evaluations? Again, depends, but for new instructors they are important enough. Of course, there is a tendency for instructors suffering from bad evaluations to discount their worth, and certainly what students think is only one of many criteria. But despite what you may assume, you DO count in our evaluation.Evaluation?

Yes, sooner or later we leave school, but we never get away from those damned report cards.

Copyright 2004 by Ross F. Collins <>