Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

What is the role of the faculty member in charge?

The role of the faculty member in charge is to situate the review, for both the reviewers and the students, within the context of 1) the course and 2) the scope and objectives of the project. The faculty member in charge should provide external reviewers (e.g., other faculty from the department, faculty outside the department, practicing professionals) with:

  • a copy of the course syllabus, the project description and the criteria for evaluation to assure that all reviewers have the same background material and are addressing the same set of issues.  Otherwise, reviewers may address issues not covered in the studio, not relevant to the course or project, etc. Some faculty members ask their reviewers to arrive early in order to brief them in advance of the review.
  • a clearly stated set of goals for the review <link> to help frame and guide the conversation between reviewers and students so that everyone is addressing the same goals within the constraints and criteria provided.
  • an articulated set of “ground rules” for the review (e.g., who can speak, about what, when) and for appropriate discussion and feedback.  For example, do you want the reviewers to:
  • talk to the student, the class and/or other reviewers?
  • debate or challenge each other’s comments? build on each other’s comments?
  • provide both positive feedback as well as feedback on what isn’t working? Students can learn just as much from what they’ve “done right,” with an added value that it builds their confidence in certain aspects of their work. However, reviewers frequently have a tendency to focus on and emphasize the negative aspects of a project and fail to leverage the positive features when making recommendations.
  • balance questions with comments during the review to get students to be reflective about what they did, why they did it, etc.? This is particularly important if your goals include helping students learn to be reflective about their work and to become better at extemporaneously responding to questions about their work.
  • avoid vague comments because even when positive, they offer little to guide students toward improvement? This is generally true unless the vague feedback is accompanied by probing questions or discussion that facilitates collaborative exploration that leads to more concrete feedback. For example, a reviewer’s comment such as “something is not quite working” can generate discussion among the group and lead to insight about what’s not working.

The faculty member should provide students with:

  • a set of criteria the students will be expected to address when presenting their work to help them hone their presentation skills;
  • models or examples of an effective presentation;
  • opportunities to practice (particularly early on in their first year) presenting their work and give explicit feedback on how well they presented and discussed their project;
  • insights into how to reconcile, prioritize, synthesize, etc. differing and/or conflicting perspectives from the feedback; and
  • advice on how to step away from their work and join the analysis, particularly if one of the goals is to help students learn to analyze and discuss theirs and others’ work (e.g., you may want to draw on your own experience and the strategies you use to depersonalize feedback).