Workers in all industries have struggled with efforts to document informal learning experiences for formal performance evaluations and promotion and tenure boards. While it is simple enough to acknowledge informal learning accounts for a large portion of work-based improvement and progress, it is difficult to prove and support. Higher Education performance evaluations and tenure processes are different at each institution, with some embracing the affordances of a networked learning environment. A replicable documentation process is needed in order to further advance the acceptance of informal learning, and reward the participants for their efforts, which are often extended beyond the work place.
Evaluating Performance in a Networked World
The 360 degree feedback evaluation is one way organizations capture data internally to develop a holistic picture of the performance of an individual, through peer, supervisor and self-reflection. In a networked world, these data are more difficult to capture. Supervisors do not necessarily have access to a worker’s network of personal and professional contacts who contribute to performance improvement. As workers increase numbers of connections and strengthen individual relationships outside the organization, it will become critical for organizations to be able to capture the data and evaluate the nature of those relationships.
Role of Digital Documentation
Web-based or electronic documentation of performance, including CV’s, tenure applications, and electronic portfolios is reaching the mainstream. However, it is difficult to determine how to document and evaluate the role of networked learning in performance improvement. There are many aggregation tools to collect and distribute social network and publication feeds, but none are currently capable of delivering the fine-tuned information needed to give a clear picture of a worker’s ability, effort and influence. This collection effort must still be completed manually, in that the pieces of the document must be selected individually. The process is tedious, but necessary in order to show the effect of network participation.
Rewarding Open Teaching in Higher Education
Networked learning often leads to Open Teaching, a practice identified by open architecture, open experiences and the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). Open Teaching practices extend the learning outside the organization, community and nation. Traditional performance and tenure evaluation methods cannot capture the influence and extended reach of Open Teaching practices. The benefits frequently ripple far beyond the originating institution, and internal evaluation procedures cannot document these effects. In order to further promote and reward this model of teaching and learning, replicable evaluation procedures must be developed and piloted.
Open Feedback Request Form
One potential step in the direction of documenting and rewarding informal learning for higher education performance and tenure evaluations is an open feedback request form. This type of form collects testimonials and narratives of external network participants influenced by the participating worker. The process is replicable, yet the solution must include changes to the weight given to particular elements of the evaluation process. Presently, Dr. Alec Couros of the University of Regina is standing for tenure and submitting an electronic tenure application. Dr. Jon Becker, of Virginia Commonwealth University has created an open feedback request form soliciting commentary and narratives from external participants in Dr. Couros’ teaching and learning network. The form includes two questions:
- What have you learned from/with Dr. Alec Couros?
- In what ways have you shared what you learned from/with Dr. Alec Couros?
Dr. Becker will collect and analyze the data and submit the results to Dr. Couros or his tenure committee. The form is being promoted through network connections on Twitter and in individual blogs. Visit Dr. Becker’s blog to view the form, participate in the process and help shape the future of Higher Education performance evaluations.