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Evaluating Faculty During the Pandemic: Guidance for Reviewers and Supervisors

During the pandemic period, circumstances beyond our control have affected both the distribution of faculty effort and overall faculty productivity. These changes also affect the amount of information available to assess a faculty member’s performance and trajectory; those assessments will likely be based on less information than in the past.  We cannot simply rely on our traditional milestones and markers but must take care to evaluate the faculty member’s record in light of the challenges created by the pandemic.

While the information available to make these important decisions about annual performance and/or tenure progress has changed, our standards have not changed. Accounting for the pandemic-based challenges that faculty have faced is not a “lowering of the bar.” The University still expects excellence, as demonstrated by visible, meaningful, and impactful contributions in all areas of a faculty member’s responsibilities.

The question is, “How will we evaluate the effort and impact of faculty who have borne highly varied disruptions to their work during the pandemic?” To that end, we will assess the quality and impact of their work holistically and in its overall context, including what was possible and what was required of them under the conditions of the past year. We will also calibrate expectations to the adjusted workloads faculty have submitted using the post-hoc workload calculators. While in a real sense this is what we expect every year in the evaluation of faculty members for annual evaluations and for promotion and tenure, it has never been more important than now given the widely differing ways that COVID-19 has affected individual faculty. What follows is guidance that is widely available at other institutions and thus reflects a consensus in the higher education community.

How to Consider Pandemic Impacts

Key Principles

Key Principles

For fair and equitable assessment of each faculty member’s impact and potential, evaluation decisions should be:

    • Individual (as always)
    • Holistic (as always)
    • Forward-looking (a faculty member’s future potential)
    • Discipline-specific, discipline-informed (they know best what has been possible)
    • Conditioned on the workload assignments (as always) and any post-hoc adjustments (per the Policy Appendix)

According to the Faculty Evaluation Procedural Appendix, evaluators must

  1. Explicitly acknowledge in the evaluation document/instrument that the Faculty member’s work was conducted in an Affected Term and that (for Mixed-Workload Faculty) their workload percentages were subject to post-hoc adjustment in conformity with the process outlined herein.
    • Apply evaluative criteria to the Faculty member’s performance and productivity conditioned on the adjusted workload assignments.  (See §3.3 and §4.14 of Policy 4340.)  It is possible, for example, that the Faculty member under evaluation has a revised Service workload assignment as low as 0%; in that case, any Service productivity should be rated as Exceeds Expectations.  
    • Acknowledge the COVID impact on specific activities and adjust evaluative criteria appropriately.  For example, a conference paper that was accepted but never delivered, due to the cancellation of the conference, should be given special consideration such that the faculty member is held harmless for factors beyond their control.


Whether or not a faculty member chooses to include a Pandemic Impact Statement, evaluators should consider the impacts of the pandemic in ways that advance inclusive attribution of contributions and accomplishments and minimize biases. They should take into account the context and challenges that a faculty member has faced, how they have mitigated these challenges, and how they plan to adaptively manage ongoing effects moving forward. Reviewers should recognize that faculty workload may have looked very different during the pandemic and extend the benefit of the doubt that the candidate prioritized their efforts given their unique challenges.

Please use the following guidelines for reviewing faculty activities and the optional Pandemic Impact Statement:

  • The optional Pandemic Impact Statement should be acknowledged as an important part of the faculty member’s annual evaluation materials. Read it carefully to contextualize the faculty member’s case.
  • The stated impacts should be accepted as truth.
  • The faculty member’s accomplishments must be evaluated based on the information that is provided. Do not make inferences or judgments about a candidate’s situation.
  • The work that a faculty member produced must be evaluated based on quality and its impact on the field, not simply on the quantity of work.
  • The specific impacts noted in F180 and/or described in the optional Pandemic Impact Statement must be considered only in relation to the faculty member who has submitted it. Making comparisons among faculty members can introduce bias.
  • Recognize that the impacts of COVID have varied greatly among faculty. Attend to how the faculty member has responded to those challenges.
  • Recognize that impacts may be ongoing, and may even be changing over time. Some impacts may affect a faculty member’s work for many years to come.

General Suggestions for Evaluators

  • The annual review process offers an additional opportunity to check in with your faculty members. Be proactive in asking faculty members what they need to sustain their work, what adaptations they have made and/or might be able to make moving forward, and what has been positive and/or unexpected.  
  • Engage in and facilitate mentoring conversations among your faculty, recognizing that one size does not fit all. If needed, prioritize conversations with faculty coming up for promotion, both tenure-line and non-tenure-eligible faculty.  
  • It will be important to consider how you make assignments (e.g., new courses, overloads, committee work) given what you have learned from the annual review and your conversations with faculty. As appropriate, offer flexibility as needed. 
  • Continue to support hybrid meeting formats to include as many of your faculty as possible.  
  • Foster departmental community discussions.
  • Become familiar with the increasing literature on impacts of and adaptations in response to COVID-19 on your discipline.    
  • Be aware of and acknowledge the unevenness of the pandemic’s impact on certain subpopulations of faculty (e.g., caregivers). 
    • Explore the differential impacts on different groups of faculty (e.g., faculty of color, women with young children or faculty with elder caretaking responsibilities). 
    • Know that while not all faculty may wish to document or disclose health or caregiving impacts, caregiving responsibilities reflect the disparate impact COVID-19 had on work-time for faculty members.
  • Be aware that not all faculty have had the same access to spaces, equipment, and/or high-speed internet.
  • Seek to build awareness and camaraderie among colleagues to develop a shared context for faculty evaluations. 
  • Count COVID-19 related contributions that changed or increased workload (e.g., support and mentoring for remote instruction, increased advising, service, public engagement, pivots in research, scholarship and creative work). For example: 
    • Participation in professional development activities to adapt and improve teaching and learning practices, with examples of changes made to courses. 
    • Mentorship of peers or other leadership for teaching and learning efforts. 
    • Efforts undertaken to support student learning and success under difficult conditions. 
    • Faculty with higher advising loads or who are seen as more accessible to students have often spent increased time advising, mentoring, and simply providing student emotional support. Note that the research suggests that women and faculty of color are disproportionately impacted. 

Suggestions for Assessing Performance in Each Area

Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring

  • Teaching during the pandemic, regardless of modality, was challenging for all faculty and teaching in multiple modalities increased these challenges. 
  • Be sure to discuss and acknowledge the extraordinary teaching efforts and responses to COVID-19, and consider emphasizing what faculty learned about teaching during this time.
    • What might be included as extraordinary?
      • Managing non-traditional instruction to students (remote or hybrid)
      • Course redesign to include use of an LMS and/or remote active learning
      • Assisting others with their transition to online or hybrid delivery
      • Attending workshops or other trainings to become remote capable
  • Best practices indicate that comprehensive evaluations of teaching, learning, and mentoring include a review of multiple sources of information. Importantly, the pandemic is an opportunity to ensure that we think beyond the student course evaluation.  
  • Additional evidence can include peer reviews, teaching/course design and materials, attainment of course learning outcomes, and/or faculty members’ self-assessment. 
  • For a helpful resource that provides additional information see: Implementing a Framework for Assessing Teaching Effectiveness (IFATE) on the CTL’s website.
  • What might result from you paying attention to the diversity of approaches across faculty during this discussion?
    • identify opportunities for mutual mentoring
    • showcase innovations by suggesting particular faculty share their approaches with the unit via brief presentations at a faculty meeting or a virtual teaching brown-bag

Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work

  • Consider counting, with the same weight, canceled/ postponed/ virtual conferences, invited talks, etc. 
  • Document interruptions that might have impacted the record (e.g., lab closures, unavailability of human subjects, inability to travel to field sites, interruptions in manuscript review timeframes or other press disruptions, exhibition or conference cancellations). 
  • Support faculty in creating a plan to address short and medium-term impacts on research efforts, such as impacts related to travel restriction, lab closures, etc.  
  • Some faculty have been very productive during the pandemic and some have identified new research opportunities or been brought into research teams for specific expertise. 
  • This is an important time to provide information, cultivate appreciation for support needed, recognize and acknowledge the disruptions faculty face, and to reassure faculty that you seek to foster informed perspectives about the variety of ways each faculty member and their program has been affected.
    • promote understanding of tenure-clock extension process
    • as appropriate, for standardly high achievers impacted by COVID-19 circumstances, normalize the temporary effect.
    • document disruptions to scholarship    
    • consider recalibrating any explicitly stated expectations in unit guidelines and documenting that for the time period adopted
    • possibly give greater weight to the quality and impact of published research versus the quantity of research produced
    • do not compare or contrast faculty
      • however, as you listen to faculty consider ways you might encourage mutual mentoring/mentoring

Service and Leadership

  • Document internal and external service requirements related to the pandemic. Service in some areas may have increased while service in other areas may have decreased or ceased.  
  • Consider whether a faculty member contributed to pandemic solutions in the department, college/school, university, or professional organization. 
  • Special considerations might be given to contributions that advanced unit-wide teaching and learning during the pandemic and/or to service efforts that utilized faculty expertise in support of community responses to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Pandemic-related changes to internal and external service commitments will vary.
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