Another professorial teaching stream model: McMaster University

The other day, we told you about the “teaching stream” professoriate at the University of Toronto. Today, we want to let you know about “teaching-track faculty” at McMaster University. Both universities provide models that are helping to guide ongoing discussions about the future of teaching faculty here at the University of Waterloo.

Here are some details from the 2012 McMaster University policy on “Academic appointment, tenure and promotion” (PDF).

  • At McMaster, teaching-track faculty are expected to be “excellent teachers” and “to keep abreast of developments in the discipline in which they teach.”
  • McMaster’s policy notes that teaching and scholarship are complementary activities in a “research-intensive institution.” 
  • Scholarship in the teaching track is to have a special focus on teaching and pedagogy, so that these faculty members are especially encouraged to engage in activities such as curriculum development and evaluation; mentoring; and research into the efficacy of different pedagogical approaches.
  • In the fifth year of their appointment, Teaching-track Assistant Professors are evaluated for permanence, and they may apply for promotion to Teaching-track Associate Professor and, eventually, to Teaching-track Professor.
  • For promotion to Associate Professor in the teaching track, candidates must demonstrate “significant external recognition” in such areas as: continuing excellence in teaching practice; having teaching innovations adopted by others; assisting or leading curriculum development; presentations and scholarship on teaching or pedagogy; mentoring of other teachers; research on pedagogical and related issues; and/or leadership in experiential learning beyond the classroom.
  • Promotion to Professor in the teaching track requires that candidates demonstrate “a national or international reputation” for specific teaching and teaching related contributions.

Here at Waterloo, the policies on faculty appointments (#76) and tenure and promotion (#77) are both being updated. For FAUW, the aim of this process is to create a career path and clear expectations for teaching faculty members at Waterloo.

McMaster’s and Toronto’s well established policies are helpful to the policy drafting committee since each recognises and rewards the contributions of teaching-track faculty members, while providing models for fair and rigorous evaluation processes.

One thought on “Another professorial teaching stream model: McMaster University

  1. Establishing a career path for lecturers is the easy part. Harder questions abound.
    1. Are the fancy teaching ranks at other universities widely used or are they avoided by hiring precarious teachers? There are any number of collective-agreement clauses or policies which look great on paper but which are not actually followed in practice.
    2. Does it make sense for 1/8 of all faculty members to research the one topic of pedagogy? At Waterloo, this would be the largest single research undertaking of the whole school if all lecturers need to advance themselves via pedagogical innovations. Some of the best teaching is pedagogically designed once and repeated successfully for long periods of time. Do we want to encourage constant fiddling at the edges for the sake of career advancement?
    3. What kind of pedagogy research do you get from faculty with little time or funding for this activity? Lecturers at Waterloo typically have between zero and 1/5 of their time available to research. A commitment to research funding at a level of 1/8 of faculty seems unlikely.
    4. What is the real utility and causal direction of the research-teaching symbiosis and will the implicit separation into topic researchers and pedagogy researchers enhance or damage this utility?
    5. Without the artificial split in merit evaluations between scholarship applied to ‘teaching’ and scholarship applied to ‘research’, do we even need a separate rank for teaching-intensive faculty? Would it be better to just properly assess scholarship in total and let people more flexibly adjust what they do at different points in their careers?


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