Return to

What do we plan to do in the future to revise the language we have just accepted?

Our department perceives the language we have created for evaluating computer-related work as provisional. It is therefore likely that, within the next five years, we will need to convene a committee to consider a more thorough revision of the whole set of TP&R Guidelines--a revision that will take more thorough cognizance of the integral role of computers in English academic activity. I believe that this revision will probably go one of three ways:

  1. by experience, trial, and argument, we will build up a sufficient body of case law to develop a consensus as to the categories or types of computer-related activities, where they are to fit into the traditional categories, and how they are to be valued and weighted;
  2. by the same means, we will decide that computer-related activities must be treated as a separate category (since, in too many cases such activities encompass more than one of the traditional categories or fall outside those categories altogether); or,
  3. our experience will force us to consider altering or replacing the traditional categories of academic activity.

There are several ways in which we might organize new categories for the evaluation of all academic activities, including computer-related activities; I will suggest two. New categories might be based on the size of the audience affected by an activity (the number of people actually engaged with or affected by the activity, its process, or its product) and the audience's scope (departmental / institutional / regional / national / international). A category such as multimedia package, which implies that it was developed for a required course and used annually by several hundred local students, might carry the same weight in the tenure evaluation as a print publication in a regional journal that has a circulation of several hundred copies. Though the scope of the audience for the journal is larger, the size of the audience for the multimedia package is larger. New categories might also incorporate evaluation of both process and product, measuring the process of authoring a multimedia instructional package as equivalent to the process of authoring an article for print publication; or measuring the value of time spent participating in online discussion groups ("process") by how that participation contributes to teaching or research.

In the coming years, these and other options for large revision of our TP&R guidelines will, I believe, become the subjects of discussion and argument, both in our department and across the profession. As my colleague Kevin Stein has written in our department's "Statement on MLA Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work,"

As technology and its applications evolve, so will the means of presenting and evaluating how faculty apply that technology in their professional lives. Current guidelines will no doubt give way to future guidelines revised and renewed to reflect evolving standards.

(The full text of this passage can be found in the first paragraph of the "Statement.") However, I do not expect that the next stage in developing guidelines for evaluating computer-related work will go as smoothly as the first, since new guidelines will involve actually evaluating our experience of working with the technology, and deciding just what about it is valuable -- and how specific activities and kinds of activity are to be valued.

I believe that we will, as a profession, gradually arrive at a consensus on standards for evaluating computer related work. But that consensus will only emerge as computer use continues to grow and we see the value of computer-related professional work over the course of years. However, no matter how detailed and explicit our guidelines for evaluating computer-related work become, the burden of argument will, I expect, always remain on the candidate. As long as the institutions of tenure and promotion endure, no one will be awarded either without having to make a case--even computers won't change that.

Return to

Go to


Last revised February 6, 1997