Recognizing “Open” in Tenure and Promotion at UBC
During Open Education Week I had an opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at a joint Simon Fraser University (SFU) and University of British Columbia (UBC) event. During the panel, one of the speakers announced an exciting update at UBC, the inclusion of language recognizing open educational resources in the institution’s tenure and promotion guide. Driven by effective student government advocacy, this change highlights the importance of tenure and promotion as a way for institutions to incentivize open practices, and will hopefully provide a model for others to follow.
The OER language applies to UBC’s Educational Leadership Stream for tenure and promotion, which evaluates candidates based on “activity taken at UBC and elsewhere to advance innovation in teaching and learning with impact beyond one’s classroom.” Open educational resources are now listed as a type of evidence that candidates in this stream could present for evaluation, which creates a way for faculty to get formally recognized for engaging in OER activities.
Excerpt from the UBC Guide to Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Procedures (RPT):
Evidence of educational leadership is required for tenure/promotion in the Educational Leadership stream… It can include, but is not limited to…Contributions to the practice and theory of teaching and learning literature, including publications in peer-reviewed and professional journals, conference publications, book chapters, textbooks and open education repositories / resources.
I had an opportunity to speak to Daniel Munro, former Associate VP Academic and University Affairs at the AMS Student Society of UBC Vancouver, who led the charge. The idea to recognize “open” in tenure and promotion was sparked during a conversation with the President of the UBC Faculty Association. Since the guide already highlighted a number of actions that can be counted towards tenure and promotion, Daniel recognized this as an opportunity to highlight open educational practices for those in the Education Leadership Stream. Daniel met with the chair of the Senior Appointments Committee (SAC), which oversaw the revision process of the RPT guide, who agreed to bring the proposed change to the committee.
Daniel shared that the guide is the official document outlining what can count towards reappointment, tenure, and promotion, and therefore faculty members may alter their teaching and research practices to help advance their careers. “I think for some people this change is not that big of a deal. But this was an important step for institutional visibility. Having it explicitly listed there is important for institutional endorsement and one that faculty will be taking very seriously,” said Munro.
I also spoke with Dr. Christina Hendricks, Professor of Teaching in the Department of Philosophy at UBC, a long-time open education practitioner who received tenure through the stream impacted by this change. Dr. Hendricks said that this change is significant because it recognizes the value of open practice in the tenure evaluation for teaching track professors at UBC. “Including open in the list of examples for educational leadership is important because it brings it to the forefront. When I went up for promotion, I took a risk because engaging in open practice was not listed as an example of educational leadership, but not everyone is going to do that. Whereas if it’s strictly laid out it raises the profile for those who haven’t thought about open education and also shows that it is valued by the university as being a form of educational leadership,” she said.
While this change will not affect everyone seeking tenure and promotion at UBC, formally recognizing open educational resources as a contribution toward educational leadership sets UBC apart as a leader in its commitment to open educational practices. Amongst the informal scholarly culture of teaching and learning, junior faculty will hopefully now be encouraged to explore open educational practices and senior colleagues may look for this type of evidence when assessing the quality and impact of someone else’s teaching; and of course, students like Daniel will directly benefit from the greater commitment to open educational practices.