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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 29: Review your performance

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Performance review and associated changes to the ways you do things are critical means of preserving and improving your academic capabilities. Most universities have now formalized a raft of review processes for students and academics. These include, for example, student and peer evaluations of teaching, regular assessments of research output, and annual performance reviews. Although many of these forms of evaluation have intrinsic problems (see, for example, Shevlin et al., 2000; Spooren et al., 2015) and have sometimes become so ‘routinized’ as to lose much of their meaning and purpose (see Spiller and Harris, 2013), they are often vital components of promotion, tenure and other career-related decision-making processes. They can also be useful formative assessment tools for your professional development (Ballantyne et al., 2000). So, instead of joining those of your colleagues who regard formal reviews as an unfortunate, time-wasting and flawed imposition from your university’s human resources division, look at them as providing a valuable opportunity to gather intelligence about how your students, supervisors and colleagues regard your relative performance and to uncover ways of improving that performance. And, of course, do use the results of such reviews to enhance your work! Reviews are of little practical use if they do not prompt improvement.

In light of the value of self-review, conduct some appraisals of your own to complement or supplement institution-initiated instruments. For example, your university’s student evaluations of teaching may not present an opportunity to evaluate specific teaching initiatives or aspects...

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