Teaching

Teaching Evaluation

There are many aspects to the evaluation of teaching at USF, and several faculty-driven choices.

 

Tenure Guidelines

The tenure section of the official 2014 University guidelines includes the following language:

In addition to course syllabi and student evaluations, a candidate may present the following kinds of documentation of teaching effectiveness: instructional materials (such as case studies, labs, discussion prompts, group projects), assessment activities and products (such as papers, tests, performances, problem sets), and other material used in connection with courses; new course development, course redesign, and adaptation to new formats and media through incorporation of emerging technologies; professional development activities and efforts at improvement; peer observations and evaluations; student performance on pre- and post-instruction measures; exemplary student work and outcomes; records of advising and mentoring; supervision of teaching and research assistants; thesis direction; and teaching awards. Approaches to teaching and concomitant sources of evidence of teaching effectiveness may vary across fields, units, and candidates; consequently, variance in candidate portfolios may also be expected.

Evaluation of teaching must take into consideration an academic unit's instructional mission; an instructor's assignment of duties within unit; class size, scope, and sequence within the curriculum; as well as format of delivery and the types of instructional media utilized. Evaluation of teaching effectiveness should consider the wide range of factors that impact student learning and success. Moreover, effective teaching and its impact on learning can take place in a variety of contexts: in campus classrooms; team teaching; online; in the field; in clinical settings; workshops; panels; through service learning activities, community engagement and internships; in laboratories; within on- and off-campus communities, in organizations, in education abroad settings, such as field schools, and through mentoring of students, including undergraduate and graduate student research. Evaluation of teaching effectiveness in formats and settings outside the classroom should include consideration of the impact of student learning on practice, application, and policy.

Check with your individual academic unit to see if a local policy is in effect mandating how teaching is to be evaluated.

If there is no local policy in effect, faculty are urged to consider seizing the initiative, and using the opportunity to "market themselves" as effective classroom instructors. This could take the shape of presenting your teaching documentation (including student evaluations) in a manner that best provides context and relevant details—see the sections below for samples and directions for creating such documents.

Contextualized Student Evaluations

Since many departments make use of summary data from student evaluations, individual faculty members may wish to voluntarily provide visual charts to their chairs, so that their evaluations are seen in context (such as compared to the College or to the wider university). In addition to providing a more-accessible visual reference, these charts can be fruitfully combined with other data, such as relative class sizes or average GPA by class (or by department), which can shed light on summary student evaluation numbers.

Our sample packet of contextualized student evaluations shows one way of assembling relevant data visually.

Here are the directions for assembling the charts of contextualized student evaluations, as seen in the sample packet.

Teaching Portfolios

It is useful for faculty at all stages to create and maintain a portfolio that shows your work, experience, and growth as an educator. Such a living document can be used at times of tenure/promotion, renewing contracts, and convincing a hiring committee to offer the job to you in the first place. We recommend using Google Sites to house an electronic portfolio, which is easy to use and you can update at will.

The Peter Seldin model for organizing a teaching portfolio utilizes not only various forms of documentation, but two mini-essays to guide the reader's eyes and provide an over-arching structure to the layout:

  • Teaching Philosophy. A statement of Teaching Philosophy is typically 400-600 words. There is no single formula for writing an effective Teaching Philosophy statement, but at a minimum you should explain your beliefs about what constitutes good teaching. A basic outline for a teaching statement would have a three-paragraph structure and be limited to one-page in length. The first paragraph provides readers with your beliefs about teaching and forecasts what your classroom would be like if they visited. Would they see students engaged in group work? Peer-sharing? Presenting their work in front of the class? Mini-lectures followed by group discussions? You can also use this paragraph to outline your teaching experiences. In the next paragraph you can offer further evidence of your teaching and provide examples of your beliefs in action. Descriptions such as these allow readers to "see" your teaching in action as opposed to reading only general statements about your teaching philosophy. In the final paragraph, you could sum up your thoughts on education and the role that you have to play in developing students to be successful in their discipline, career, and life. Sometimes philosophy statements can also connect teaching to research. Try not to speak in generalities or platitudes; it can be helpful to think not only about "what" you believe about teaching, but "why" you believe it (and provide some examples). In addition, it may be helpful to consult other faculty in your discipline to gain a sense of the range of styles that exist. Here are a few resources that might help you organize and maximize your statement: Chism 1998 Developing a Philosophy, Schonwetter et al 2010 Conceptual Model, and Medina & Draugalis 2013 Evidence-based Steps. You will find many examples of philosophy statements here (select a year to see each listing).
  • Narrative. The narrative is an essay that offers detail about your specific teaching examples and choices. If the teaching philosophy provides a glimpse at your THEORY of teaching, the narrative explains the PRACTICE, as well as how the theory is transferred to practice. One of the main elements of a paper-based teaching portfolio is the collection of documents typically held in an appendix. These documents offer examples of the teacher's practice, and typically include items created by the instructor (sample syllabi, lesson plans, test questions, essay prompts, grading rubrics, etc.), items created by others (student evaluations, unsolicited notes from students, observation forms, etc.), and evidence of student learning ("before and after" student essays, pre-and post-tests, etc). Note that not EVERY item listed above needs to be present; this is simply a list of possible inclusions. Since an electronic portfolio supports links and attachments, these documents could come as attachments to the Narrative page. The narrative essay itself can make references to these attachments throughout. Think of the narrative as an opportunity to "guide" the viewer's eye when looking at those attached documents–what elements need explanation or deserve to be pointed out as exemplary practices? Such a narrative might be anywhere from 800-5,000 words long.

Peer Evaluation of Teaching Portfolios and Rubrics

Here are several examples of rubrics for teaching portfolios that you might consider adopting/adapting for your own purposes:

  1. University of West Indies
  2. Niagara University
  3. Indiana University

 

Adjunct / TA Evaluation

Every instructor at USF, including adjuncts and graduate teaching assistants (who teach their own classes as Instructor of Record), should be evaluated at least annually on their teaching performance for the specific courses they are assigned. While some degree of standardization is preferable, there is flexibility in how adjunct (and teaching assistant) teaching evaluations can be recorded in writing. Departments, Schools, and Colleges may have individual forms already in place that they use for adjunct or TA teaching evaluation. This form, which can be modified, is an excellent resource for departments without an existing process or template for evaluating adjuncts and TAs.

Chair Visitation and Evaluation Forms

There is no required form for departmental observations. Chairs are invited to view this sample rubric and customize it for their own needs.

Midterm Evaluations

A few weeks into each semester is an ideal time to gather formative feedback from students (it also provides an opportunity to make changes to the class while the semester is still young!) This can be done by handing out an anonymous paper form; you are free to use as-is or adapt as you see fit. One best practice: after the results are viewed, it's always ideal to follow up with the students, explaining what can (or can't) be changed in the class as a result of their ideas, providing justification when warranted.

Self-Administered End of Term Evaluations

It can be useful to administer your own end-of-term evaluations directly in class to ensure greater participation. Small classes might use paper forms, while larger ones could use the Survey functionality of Canvas quizzes. Some faculty ask the same questions that will be asked on the official online evaluation for the purposes of comparison when there is greater participation. An alternative might be ask students about their critical thinking development in this course; Riaan van Zyl and associates developed this tool you can use for this purpose.

Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness

Faculty can complement their teaching portfolios by considering other pieces of evidence of their teaching. Here are some ideas from the University of Kansas:

  • Annotated syllabus.
  • Selection of course materials (readings, resources, demonstrations, grading standards, etc.).
  • Ratings and/or written comments from students.
  • Peer evaluation of classroom performance, interaction with students, and/or course materials.
  • Samples of student work demonstrating student learning.
  • Trend data showing the impact of the teacher on measures of learning.
  • List of courses taught and explanation of their importance.
  • Explanation of special service in particular courses, such as large lecture courses.
  • Teaching awards or nominations for teaching awards.

 

Additional Resources

Characteristics of Strong Teaching

  • Ginsberg, S.M. (2007). "Shared Characteristics of College Faculty Who Are Effective Communicators." The Journal of Effective Teaching7, no. 2, 3-20 – this is a qualitative study of interviews and observations that concludes effective teaching includes good communication and a humanistic view of students. It suggests that to improve faculty teaching, underlying views and thoughts processes should be considered.
  • Meyers, B. (n.d.) "Distinguishing Factors of Highly Effective Teachers." – this paper examines the measurable and intangible assets of teaching. It is not specific to college or university teaching, but some of the information is still applicable.
  • Mohanan, K.P. (2005). Assessing Quality of Teaching in Higher Education: How do we Evaluate Teaching? - provides a short discussion on assessing teaching excellence.
  • Office of Faculty & Organizational Development at Michigan State University. "Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness." – This website includes links to a variety of articles on topics that range from approaches to evaluating teaching, peer review of teaching, and self-evaluation.
  • Orlando, M. (2013, January 14). "Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher." Faculty Focus – written by an experienced administrator and professor, this article highlights some of the most important characteristics good teachers share.
  • (2013, April 26). "8 Characteristics of a Great Teacher." TeachThought.com – an article that discusses what differentiates the best from the rest and attempts to answer the question "what makes a teacher strong?"
  • Top Ten Qualities of a Great Teacher from Teaching.org
  • What Makes a Good Teacher? PowerPoint by Dr. Jamie Johnston School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh – it provides information on what makes a good teacher, goals of good teachers, and methods of good teaching.

Faculty Evaluation Systems

  • American Association of University Professors. "Statement on Teaching Evaluation." – discusses evaluations from the view of faculty.
  • Arreola, R. (2004). Developing a Comprehensive Faculty Evaluations System, University of Tennessee - this is a PDF of slides from a CEDA workshop. It discusses the reasoning for evaluations and provides steps to develop effective faculty evaluation systems. It includes information on the types of skills to evaluate and varying models.
  • Canale, A.M., Herdklotz, C., & Wild, L. (2012). "Evaluation of Teaching Effectiveness: Benchmarks & Recommendations." The Wallace Center at Rochester Institute of Technology Office of Faculty Career Development – examines the teaching evaluation practices of 30 colleges.
  • Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan. (n.d.). "Guidelines for Evaluating Teaching." – discusses principles of teaching evaluation and sources of data.
  • University of Puget Sound. (2013). "Faculty Evaluation Criteria & Procedures 2013-2014" – this serves as an explanation of the policies employed at the University of Puget Sound in regards to evaluating their faculty members. It discusses what can/should be evaluated, what the faculty being evaluated can expect and should provide, and the schedule for evaluations.
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "Manual for Faculty Evaluation" – the complete set of guidelines and policies for the evaluation of faculty.

Faculty Evaluation Rubrics