SWF Primer: Evaluation Factors (Part Two)

[Again, a preface to communicate my sincere regret that this post pertains almost exclusively to Full-Time faculty at Ontario Colleges. It is absolutely shameful that the work associated with the preparation and evaluation of classes taught by contract faculty is not measured, despite repeated efforts by partial-load and full-time faculty — as a union — to remedy this disgusting inequity. In an upcoming post I will try to relate some of the SWF issues discussed here to the work of contract faculty.]

So, I wanted to follow up on my last post, in which I outlined the different evaluation factors, as presented in the Collective Agreement.

Today, I wanted to show how they appear on a SWF (Standard Workload Form), and what a SWF communicates to full-time faculty about the time that they are provided, to provide evaluation and feedback to students in all of their classes.

Let’s start by taking a sample SWF, which I have highlighted in different colours. I recognize that they may be formatted differently in different colleges, although they should all contain all of the information in the sample SWF provided on pp. 85-86 (e-pages 89-90) of the Collective Agreement.

The parts that are of significance for the purposes of a discussion of evaluation factors are in blue and pink. The blue column identifies the breakdown of evaluation factors for each of the classes assigned, and the pink translates that breakdown into a number of hours provided for evaluation and feedback.

So let’s start with the totals and work our way backwards: Our hypothetical professor from a hypothetical semester long, long ago is assigned to teach five sections of class (three different preps for what it’s worth), responsible for evaluating and providing feedback on the work of a grand total of 173 students in all of the classes, combined.

And to do all of the evaluation for all of the students in all of the classes, our hypothetical teacher is provided with a total of 12.47 hours weekly, for each of the weeks covered by this workload assignment. (This is shown on the bottom row of the left pink column.)

Looking upward from that row, we can see that the five sections are each allocated a specific amount of time for all of their evaluation/feedback needs — anywhere from 2.23 hours to 2.61 hours.

But let me focus on the fourth row of the classes — the section that is attributed 2.41 hours weekly for evaluation / feedback. That section has a class size of 38, yet the hypothetical professor is attributed LESS time to evaluate those 38 students than they receive to teach the 35 students in the course directly below it.

So how can a class have 8% more students, but provide a professor with 8% less time to grade and provide feedback on their assessments? The answer lies in the evaluation factors, which we see broken down by percentage in the blue columns.

(Class #1 has 70% of its assessments listed as Essay-type, 20% as Routine/Assisted and 10% as In-Process. Class #2 has 75%, 0%, 25% of the assessment under each category, and Class #3 is broken down as only 50% Essay-type and 25% for each of Routine/Assisted and In-Process.)

(As a reminder, the terms “Essay”, “Routine/Assisted” and “In-Process” to describe types of evaluation can be misleading; explanations of each are provided in the previous post.)

An increase in the percentage of “Routine/Assisted” or (especially) “In-Process” evaluation types and a corollary reduction in the percentage of “Essay”-type evaluation means that faculty will be attributed less time to evaluate more students.

So, when I was a member of a Workload Monitoring Group, one of the most common questions that I used to get was, “How can my class sizes keep going up and up, but my total workload remains the same on the SWF? The answer was most frequently that the classes in question were being credited with less “Essay”-type evaluation and more “Routine/Assisted” or “In-Process”.

Which could be absolutely fine, if the nature of the course’s evaluation was discussed between the professors who teach the class and the manager, as both faculty and management have agreed must happen (cf. Article 11.01 E3), and they came to an agreement about what types of assessments the course material requires. That conversation should see the manager asking the professor what kind of assessments and feedback would be needed, in order to determine (and promote) students’ achievement of the course outcomes, and should see both parties agreeing upon the appropriate breakdown of evaluation factors for the assignments administered to the students.

(There’s one more step, but I’ll come to that in an upcoming post.)

The problem is when the evaluation factors fail to accurately reflect the work that is completed by the students in a class, and in turn the work that must be performed by that class’ teacher. If online courses are given “in-process” evaluation factors when it is impossible for the teacher to evaluate the students and provide them with feedback during the class time, then that teacher is denied the time that they need to evaluate the students’ actual work, and those students are in turn cheated out of the feedback that they — and Ontario taxpayers — are paying for.

If the evaluation time provided on a SWF is insufficient to meet students’ needs, then faculty are left with two options: a) Perform uncredited, unacknowledged, unpaid labour to provide the students with the feedback that they deserve and need (Just like Contract faculty!) or b) Spend only the time that they are attributed for the task of evaluating students, regardless of whether that time is sufficient to meet student needs.

As ever, please submit corrections, questions, and rants to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com. Any letters posted in whole or in part will have identifying information removed.

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