Probationary Review: Teaching Stream

This procedure is for all teaching stream faculty in continuing appointments covered under the 2015 Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (PPAA).

Probationary Review Process Overview

Step 1

Confirm correct timeline for Probationary Review for each of your Assistant Professors, Teaching Stream.

Step 2

Read relevant policy and divisional teaching guidelines and consider divisional/departmental practices and norms. Begin to gather documents for the dossier. See the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (PPAA), Section VII: 30(vii) and (viii).

Step 3

Inform candidate of upcoming Review no later than May 1.

Step 4

Establish Review Committee and set meeting dates.

Step 5

Advise faculty member on preparation of dossier which is normally submitted no earlier than June 30.

Step 6

Conduct the review and gather any additional materials that may be required.

Step 7

Committee prepares written report for the Chair or Dean with recommendations regarding a second probationary appointment, and where appropriate, areas requiring improvement.

Step 8

Dean or Chair notifies faculty member of recommendation in writing of the outcome of the Review no later than December 31.

Step 9

Follow-up to ensure candidate receives appropriate support to act on feedback from the committee.

Guidelines for the Probationary Review Process

Relevant Policies

The information in this manual provides guidance on implementing policy but in all instances, the policies are binding and take precedence over the information provided in this manual.

See the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (2015), Section VII: 30(vii) and (viii).

Please note that the PPAA states that the procedures of the Review Committee “cannot be rigidly defined for the University as a whole.” Rather, it states that “the procedures of the review committee should be flexibly designed by each division or department with the aim of eliciting and considering all possible relevant information.”

Timing of the Probationary Review

Sample Letter Notifying Candidate of the Probationary Review

See the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (2015), Section VII: 30(vii).

Teaching stream contracts normally begin on July 1. The initial contract is four years. For those faculty members with start dates at other times in the year, the start of their probationary process will be determined by the calendar year in which they began their appointment. Appointees to teaching stream positions must receive their Probationary Review between May 1 of the third year of their contract and December 31 of their fourth year. Normally, no later than May 1, the appointee should be notified of the upcoming Review. The appointee will not normally be required to submit the Review material prior to June 30. Notice that the contract will or will not be renewed on the following July 1 must be given in writing no later than December 31. For example:

  • May 1, 2017 begins the period during which the Probationary Review for Assistant Professors, Teaching Stream in 2014 must take place.
  • By December 31, 2017, Assistant Professors, Teaching Stream in 2014 must be informed in writing of the outcome of the Probationary Review.

The results of the Probationary Review are either:

  • a new two-year contract beginning July 1 or
  • notice of termination effective June 30 of their current four-year contract.

Composition of the Probationary Review Committee

The Probationary Review Committee should be appointed by the Unit Head. The Committee itself should be chaired by a designate (in general, the Unit Head is seen to have a mentoring role with new faculty and the practice in most divisions is to have the Committee chaired by someone else). It is recommended that the Committee be made up of at least three members with continuing appointments, (tenured or teaching stream). In the case of faculty with budgetary cross-appointments, the Review Committee will be appointed jointly by the respective unit heads.

Documentation Required

At a minimum, the Unit Head should arrange to have the following documentation made available to the Review Committee:

  • An updated CV (to be supplied by the candidate).
  • A teaching dossier and teaching statement (to be supplied by the candidate).
  • An account of the pedagogical/professional activity which has been completed or undertaken since the initial appointment (to be supplied by the candidate).
  • Report of a classroom visit or other teaching observation.
  • Student evaluations of all courses taught by the candidate.
  • Signed opinions of individual students if these are available. In their absence, individual emails can be included.
  • Written comments from colleagues formally or informally acquainted with the appointee’s teaching or pedagogical/professional activity.
  • Other materials as required by the Committee.

Conducting the Review

The PPAA states: “…the procedures of the review should be made known to the candidate, but they cannot be rigidly defined for the University as a whole. Rather the procedures should be flexibly designed by each division or department with the aim of eliciting and considering all possible relevant information and should include a classroom visit or other teaching observation.”

The Committee should consider all the documentation before it and may choose to obtain more information (e.g., comments from colleagues who have co-taught or engaged in pedagogical/professional activity with the candidate, if these are not included in the documentation supplied).

The Committee should be satisfied that it has enough information to make a recommendation to the Unit Head on the following basis:

  • Has the appointee’s performance been sufficiently satisfactory for a second probationary appointment to be recommended?
  • If reappointment is recommended, what counselling should be given to the appointee to assist him or her to improve areas of weakness and maintain areas of strength?

See the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (2015), Section VII: 30(vii).

The Committee’s report to the Unit Head should focus on these two questions. The Committee should make a recommendation based on the evidence provided either to renew or not to renew the faculty member’s contract and provide advice to the faculty member on their performance since the time of their appointment to the teaching stream.

After the Review

After considering the Probationary Review Committee’s report and recommendation, the Unit Head should notify the faculty member in writing no later than December 31 that their contract is to be renewed for another two years starting the following July 1 or that their contract will not be renewed and will end on the following June 30, providing reasons and feedback on the decision.

If the recommendation is to not renew the faculty member’s contract, please consult the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments (2015), Section VII: 30(viii).

Read more about the Unit Head’s role in mentoring and counselling the faculty member in better practices in conducting a probationary review.

Following a successful Probationary Review, the faculty member will be offered an academic term to focus on preparing for Continuing Status Review and to address any advice from the Probationary Review. Normally, this term will not include assigned teaching above half of the normal teaching assignments or service but, with the candidate’s agreement, the term may include more than half of the normal teaching assignments or some assigned service, in order to reflect feedback from the Probationary Review.

Better Practices in Conducting a Probationary Review

Probationary Reviews are conducted at the unit level and will be informed by divisional and disciplinary practices. As a result, many of the better practices which occur will be specific to a particular division or unit. Unit Heads are encouraged to speak with their colleagues about successful approaches to conducting Probationary Reviews in order to develop their own list of better practices. More generally, the following suggestions may be helpful:

Feedback From the Probationary Review

  • Evidence in support of the recommendation should be cited in the written notification to the faculty member, and the rationale for the recommendation should be given based on the criteria described in conducting the review.
  • If the contract is being extended, the Unit Head should review carefully the counselling or advice that the Committee is recommending the faculty member be given and add their comments or suggestions to ensure that the faculty member receives the best advice the unit can provide.
  • Where it might be helpful, excerpts from the Review Committee’s report could be included in the letter to the faculty member.
  • If the counselling recommended involves followup on the part of the department, it is the responsibility of the Unit Head to see that this is done.

Mentoring of the Faculty Member

  • Assign all new faculty members a mentor prior to their arrival at the University.
  • Make mentoring of new faculty members a regular part of their early years in the division/department. Provide them with a sense of the divisional/departmental culture and expectations for performance.
  • Start early in assisting new faculty members to gather appropriate materials and provide them with clear guidelines about what should be included and how to frame their teaching statements and assemble their teaching dossiers.
  • Clarify for new faculty members the relationship between the Probationary Review and the Continuing Status Review. The Probationary Review assesses whether a candidate’s performance has been sufficiently satisfactory to warrant a renewal of their contract for a further two years. It also provides advice to the candidate about strengths and weaknesses. However, it should not predict or comment on the Continuing Status Review.
  • Ensure that the new faculty member is meeting regularly with their appointed mentor and that a beneficial relationship is developing.

After the Review

  • In the event of a positive decision by the Review Committee, the Unit Head should take a significant role in ensuring that the recommendations of the Committee are clearly conveyed to the faculty member and are acted upon. Regular review meetings may be an effective way to help the faculty member work towards their goals.
  • In the event of a decision by the Review Committee that a faculty member’s contract should not be renewed, the Unit Head should continue in the role of mentor, providing career advice and alternatives for the faculty member.
  • If the faculty member has a mentor, this person should be encouraged to continue in their role.