The Impact Of Faculty Appraisal At Tertiary Level: Two Exploratory Case Studies

Mercer, Justine Elizabeth (2004). The Impact Of Faculty Appraisal At Tertiary Level: Two Exploratory Case Studies. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the impact of faculty appraisal at Rihab University and Al Fanar College, two federal Higher Education institutions in the same Middle Eastern country. It uses a case study approach intended to generate grounded theory from 38 semi-structured interviews, with appraisers and appraisees, alongside documentary analysis, participant observation and researcher reflection.

The aim of the research is to determine firstly, how far each particular appraisal system is reported to embody paradigms (meaning goals and values, key assumptions, and management ethos) of professionalism and / or managerialism, and secondly, how far each particular system is said by informants to be appropriate to an educational context.

On a more general level, it also looks at the extent to which changes in HE management in 'the West', principally, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia and New Zealand, find resonance in a Middle Eastern context, where HE institutions are staffed predominantly by people from those same Western countries, but are subject to quite different employment laws and practices.

It concludes that although appraisers and appraisees both report a need for appraisal in educational contexts, there is little, if any, correlation between faculty appraisal and improved teaching or learning, most probably because feedback from the process is almost exclusively numerical, and very much oriented towards maintaining minimum standards of technical competency, rather than facilitating individualized, flexible and creative professional development. It suggests that such a state of affairs is not inherent in any appraisal system, per se, but is rather a function of the more general micro-political climate of any particular organisation. That is to say, any appraisal system simultaneously reflects and reinforces the underlying management structures and ethos of an institution.

In the case of both Rihab and Al Fanar, these structures were said to be considerably more authoritarian than would normally be expected in Western countries, for a variety of reasons, including an acute lack of trade unions, tenure, industrial tribunals and legal safeguards. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that the considerable antipathy many appraisees displayed towards the appraisal systems at Rihab and Al Fanar was more the result of these contextual factors than the particular procedures adopted by each institution. In other words, evaluative appraisal was not seen as automatically undermining pedagogy or professionalism, a very common complaint in much of the previous literature. Instead, it was seen as offering a potentially useful strategy for enhancing educational practices, but only in contexts where employees are protected from the misuse of management power by a variety of legal constraints.

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