As I stood in line with the rest of my colleagues, I thought about how completely different this experience was already. I have been teaching college English composition courses for eight years, and felt confident with my pedagogical practices and skills. This, however, was new territory.
“This is your flash drive,” the department secretary said. “Make sure to put your complete e-portfolio on this drive so we can evaluate you. You’ll find all the instructions in an email we sent to you.”
I took the flash drive and hurried to my office, both eager and anxious to read the instructions. I can do well with basic classroom technology, but fitting my year’s effort in the classroom into this small device seemed sketchy at best. Left with no choice, I followed suit and completed my e-portfolio. Those in part-time teaching positions are evaluated solely on their pedagogy, so thankfully the task to complete my e-portfolio wasn’t as monumental as it was for my full-time colleagues. Some of them needed months to complete their portfolios.
Part of the portfolio required answering basic self-evaluative questions; what do I see as my role in the department? Did I set out what I hoped to accomplish? What are my future goals?
Additionally, I had to include writing assignment examples and copies of my student evaluations. In all, completing the portfolio only took about a week.
After a couple months, our evaluations were complete. Once again, all the faculty members filed into the conference room to collect their results. Sections were scored by number, with minimal comments on the side. Although I earned with decent scores—improving my use of technology was one suggestion—there was something that didn’t feel right.
At my previous institutions, evaluations didn’t require much from me at all. Most of them consisted of a classroom visit and a meeting with the chair or dean. I signed a paper and it was done until next year.
I hadn’t thought much of my evaluations until my experience with the e-portfolio evaluation.
After I signed the requisite forms, a copy of our results of were handed to us.
“Thank you,” said the head evaluator. “Next, please.”
As I walked back to my office with the score sheet in hand, I realized what felt wrong about this process. There seemed to be no human element whatsoever. I had two minor conversations throughout the whole process, and did not engage in any kind of worthy discussion about improving pedagogical practices. It all felt very technocratic and cold, which is completely against my philosophy in the classroom, where I thrive on developing meaningful relationships with my students. There was nowhere in my e-portfolio where I could showcase the positive environment I create in the classroom or how I engage my students in Socratic questioning. I had always been praised for the culture I create in my classroom, but the e-portfolio evaluation could not account for that.
While I can appreciate the efficiency of the e-portfolio evaluation, I do believe that it should be supplemented with other humanizing elements, because ultimately, you can never upload the true essence of a teacher onto a flash drive.