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Assessing and Evaluating your Teaching Practice

Evaluating Teaching

An event is not an experience until you reflect upon it

- Michael Fullan

To most instructors, the term “teaching evaluation” means end-of-course evaluation by students. Typically, the students in the class complete questionnaires that provide a summative rating of the instructor’s performance. But you may not want to wait for end-of-year evaluations of your practice. If you are interested in ongoing feedback throughout the year, you may wish to use formative assessment practices.

Regardless of how your teaching is assessed and evaluated, the U of S Learning Charter makes it explicit that it is an instructor’s responsibility to solicit feedback from students in order to improve the student learning experience.

At the U of S, the responsibility for evaluating teaching, and hence making a qualitative and/or quantitative judgment on the effectiveness of the curriculum and teaching practices of individual instructors, resides with the academic unit within which the instructor’s teaching occurs (in other words, with the Dean or Department Head primarily, though also with the Departmental, College and university Review Committees, with responsibilities for tenure, promotion, and merit decisions). The summative evaluation of an instructor’s teaching, when done well, should include multiple assessments with which to conduct the evaluation. 

The assessments used to inform the evaluation process can often include, but is not limited to:

  • Peer evaluations of teaching (normally conducted by senior faculty in your department or college).
  • Evaluation of syllabus, teaching materials, and assessments used in your classes, particularly as they relate to identified objectives and learning outcomes of the course.
  • Student evaluations of teaching (the U of S has adopted the SEEQ student evaluation tool for its student evaluations, but your academic unit may or may not be using that instrument).

SEEQ 

What is SEEQ?

SEEQ is an instrument used to obtain student feedback on teaching quality and effectiveness. SEEQ comprises items grouped into nine dimensions of teaching (learning, enthusiasm, organization, group interaction, individual rapport, breadth, examinations, assignments, and overall) allowing faculty to pin-point specific areas of teaching quality. SEEQ is an easy way to obtain feedback on teaching with demonstrated effectiveness in improving teaching quality and students’ learning experience. It also increases student involvement in the education process. It is a professional evaluation summary that will facilitate recognition of outstanding teaching and can be included in a Teaching Portfolio for those applying for promotion, tenure or accelerated incremental progression.

SEEQ can be used for: Formative assessment - questions #1-29 provide diagnostic feedback for faculty about the effectiveness of their teaching that will be useful in improvement of teaching; summative evaluation - questions #30-32 provide a measure of overall teaching effectiveness that can be used in personnel decisions because they are the most reliable indicators; or an outcome or a process description for research on teaching. 

SEEQ Resources

Some general key points to consider about summative evaluations:

  • They are normally conducted at the end of the course
  • They sum up or determine teaching effectiveness
  • They focus on evaluating teaching performance
  • They are normally initiated by the academic unit, not the instructor

The process used in each department for teaching evaluations may vary, and it is strongly recommended that you discuss this with your department.

Formative Assessment

Some key points to consider about formative assessments:

  • they can be carried out at any point during the course
  • they can lead to changes in teaching methods
  • they can be conducted in order to enhance teaching and improve learning
  • they are  initiated and controlled by the teacher in terms of content, timing, frequency and follow-up

Formative feedback can be drawn from three sources:

  • Yourself
  • Students
  • Colleagues

Receiving feedback from three sources allows you to create a complete picture of your teaching.

Information from Yourself

When reflecting on and assessing your teaching it should always be done in the context of student learning. Here are some questions to help guide you in this process.

  1. What evidence do I have that my teaching approach addresses the learning needs of my students?
  2. What evidence do I have that students understand the goals of the course?
  3. What evidence do I have that indicates what students have learned after the first, second, third… lesson?
  4. What evidence do I have that indicates I begin and end class effectively?
  5. What evidence do I have that indicates I emphasize main points effectively?
  6. What evidence do I have that indicates student participation in class discussion is deepening their understanding of key concepts?
  7. What evidence do I have that indicates my assignments and exams are accurate measures of the goals for the course?

Evidence of student learning should always be your guide when making decisions about your teaching practice.

Information from Students

Since it is student learning you are responsible for, receiving ongoing feedback from your students about how the class is going will allow you to determine what is and isn’t working. With this information you will be in a better position to make adjustments where necessary.

Some ways to collect information from students include:

  • distributing short forms of two or three questions which focus on aspects of your teaching you want to learn more about
  • asking students at the end of class to write down one or two of the key concepts dealt with during the lesson and one or two concepts they need more help with
  • asking students to submit possible exam or assignment questions
  • creating a Suggestion Box where students can drop their ideas

One-Minute Questionnaire

A specific approach to gaining student feedback is the one-minute questionnaire. As the name suggests, one-minute questionnaires are simple to design and quick and easy to administer.

Try one-minute questionnaires if:

  • you have tried a new instructional technique
  • you have covered a lot of difficult material
  • you want the students to reflect on what they’ve learned

Procedure for the “One-Minute” Questionnaire

  • Write one or two questions on the board, on an overhead transparency, or have the questions ready on paper.
  • Tell the students to answer in one or two sentences.
  • Take the responses in and read them after class to get “instant” feedback on what the students got out of that day’s class.

Sample Questionnaire

  1. What was the most useful thing you learned in today’s class?
  2. What was the learning goal of today’s lesson and what did you learn about it?
  3. What questions remain in your mind after today’s class?

Word of Warning

  • Design the form so that it contains no more than one or two questions.
  • Schedule the assessment to give you enough time to make needed changes.
  • Follow up with a second assessment to see whether the changes you’ve made have been successful.

Don’t ask for student input unless you are willing to implement changes or at least explain your decision not to do so.

One Minute Memos

  • In Bridges May 2007, v.5.2, Dr. John Thompson's "one minute memo," a means of measuring student comprehension and obtaining student feedback, was mentioned in relation to the article "The One Minute Paper." Here we provide a memo template to be distributed to students. Permission granted to use and modify by John Thompson (26/04/07) Example of a one minute memo

Information from Colleagues

Peer Consultation

Peer consultation is a voluntary, confidential process that can benefit all teachers. A peer consultation involves working with a peer to explore and enhance your teaching. Peer consultation is designed to make the teacher feel comfortable because it is the teacher who drives the process:

  • initiating it
  • deciding on the timing of the observation
  • selecting the aspects of teaching to be observed
  • choosing the consultant in terms of preferred gender and discipline

Some reasons you might consider using a peer consultation include:

  • obtaining feedback on changes you have made in a course, e.g., the introduction of
  • case-based instruction, a new teaching resource, a new assessment tool;
  • discovering what is working well and why it is working in a particular course; and,
  • discussing new ideas and innovations in teaching with a peer.

What is involved?

If you request peer consultation, this is what you can expect:

The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness will match you with a peer consultant, based on your discipline, preferences, and teaching timetable. As a rule, the teacher and the consultant should not belong to the same department because the observation should concentrate on teaching behaviours and style, not on content. However, it is sometimes beneficial to choose a consultant from a cognate discipline.

The consultant will meet with you to discuss your needs and the specific details of the consultation. The consultant will attend one or more of your classes and will be introduced to the students with a short explanation. During the lesson the consultant will observe how your students respond to the lesson and will gather information about what is observed. The consultant may also give students a brief questionnaire at the end of class. Other techniques, such as videotaping, may also be used if you request it. After class, if you believe it beneficial, the consultant will choose a group of students to obtain more detailed feedback on the course.

The consultant will meet you again to discuss the information that has been gathered. You will receive a report on the consultation. The consultation process and the resulting information are confidential. The consultant's report is your property, and it remains confidential unless you decide otherwise. The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness will ask you to comment on the consultation process and to assess its usefulness to you.

How can I arrange for a peer consultation?

If you would like more information on Peer Consultation, or want to request a consultation, please contact The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at 966-2231.

The Gwenna Moss Centre offers a variety of other consultations, depending on the needs of faculty, instructors, and graduate student teachers. 

The Teaching Portfolio

In the past decade or more, the portfolio has become the most powerful way for teachers to document their achievements for career advancement or teaching enhancement. It goes far beyond the standard CV list of teaching responsibilities to include information about how the teacher has incorporated new approaches into teaching, used technology, linked her/his research to the classroom (or vice versa), and learned from disappointments.

The work of Ernest Boyer emphasizes that teaching is not distinct from scholarship which too often and too narrowly is interpreted as meaning only publication in refereed journals. Every teacher knows that his or her scholarship extends far beyond that contracted definition to encompass application, or community and public service; integration; professional practice; and, of course, teaching. Teaching itself is a scholarly activity, and a portfolio allows you to document that scholarship.

Why should you compile a teaching portfolio?

Teachers may be motivated to compile their portfolios for two broad reasons: career advancement or teaching enhancement. How you select and organize the material will depend, of course, on the purpose of your portfolio.

Career advancement is the most widely known use for the portfolio.  As a job search tool, the portfolio can be used by most teachers, recent graduates seeking a first academic position or more experienced teachers applying to other institutions. For instructors seeking promotion or tenure, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate growth and progress through the use of exemplary material such as students’ work, courses developed, committee work, unsolicited feedback about teaching, and so on. In the salary review process, the portfolio is a way for faculty to demonstrate excellence in teaching and thus increase the probability that good teaching will be rewarded.

As a vehicle for structured reflection about teaching, the portfolio offers its most exciting opportunities to teachers. Compiling a portfolio gives you the chance to think about why you do certain things in class, to consider what worked and what didn’t. It encourages you to become more self-aware about teaching, to engage in some classroom research. It provides a means of reviewing your teaching priorities, practices, and preferences.

If you would like some assistance in compiling your portfolio, you may choose from the following resources:

  • The Teaching Portfolio: help for University of Saskatchewan teachers to develop their portfolios at their own pace, to see examples of others’ portfolios, and to link to the new standards of promotion and tenure at the University which require that candidates submit a portfolio.
  • Attend a teaching portfolio short course: The Gwenna Moss Centre offers them every semester.
  • Arrange an individual consultation with staff from The Gwenna Moss Centre.
  • Sample Teaching Philosophies

What are the components of a teaching portfolio?

There are three components of a portfolio:

  1. the summary of teaching responsibilities, 
  2. the statement of teaching philosophy, and 
  3. the evidence of achievements.

Summary of Teaching Responsibilities

This section of the portfolio provides the context for your teaching activities and accomplishments. You should:

  • examine your teaching roles, including undergraduate, graduate, clinical, and advising responsibilities
  • include all of the classes for the period to which the portfolio applies; and 
  • include all your teaching responsibilities for the period to which the portfolio applies.

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

The “Reflective Statement of Teaching Philosophy” is an important element of the portfolio. Many teachers, however, find it difficult to write. It is not easy for them to reflect on and articulate what they do in the classroom and why they do it. Don’t let the term “philosophy” mislead you. This very concrete section provides the foundation for your approach to teaching and the opportunity for you to introduce the evidence you have compiled. Be clear, concise and convincing. Structure your statement to demonstrate that you reflect on what you do and learn from it. Consider using headings as visible signs of organization.

Writing a Teaching Philosophy

If you find it hard to “get started” on your teaching philosophy and goals, here are a few questions that may guide and stimulate reflection:

  • Why are you compiling a teaching portfolio?
  • What excites you about your discipline?
  • How do you motivate students?
  • Has your approach to teaching been guided by a role model?
  • What kinds of activities take place in your classroom or lab?
  • Why have you chosen these activities?
  • What role(s) do students play in your class: audience, group members, active participants, peer teachers, co-discoverers?
  • Which courses do you enjoy teaching? Why?
  • Do you encourage students to talk to you during/outside class? How?
  • How do you give students feedback about their work?
  • What have you learned from teaching?
  • How has your research influenced your teaching? How has your teaching influenced your research?

Evidence of Achievements

This section contains the examples and evidence that support the claims you have made in your narrative. You may include:

  • course outlines
  • copies of assignments
  • student ratings of instruction
  • comments from peers
  • original student work (with the student’s permission)
  • copies of articles and presentations related to teaching

The items that you choose will reflect your unique philosophy of teaching and your own teaching activities. As you choose the items to append to your portfolio, consider the following:

  • variety of sources
  • consistency of evidence
  • breadth of scope
  • specificity of reference

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