Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Reflective Practice > Teaching Effectiveness
In his book
Understanding Teaching Excellence in Higher Education (2005), Alan Skelton argues that teaching effectiveness is a contested, value-laden concept. He points out that “students, teachers, politicians and employers may all have different understandings of teaching excellence at any given moment in time within a particular system of higher education,” and that while “policies which seek to promote teaching excellence may claim to be neutral and value-free, they intentionally or unintentionally connect with particular values and interests” (p. 11).
A useful definition of teaching effectiveness, then, should be intentionally linked to the specific context where teaching is evaluated. Communities should explicitly identify the values and assumptions that underpin their understanding of what it means to be an effective teacher and that inform what they define as best practices. For example, a definition might reflect a university’s mission, the unique practices of an academic discipline, or the values that inform a certain teaching award.
There are three elements to consider when evaluating teaching effectiveness within a particular context:
In her practical guide
Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (2007) Nancy Chism points to several sets of criteria that have been proposed to evaluate teaching effectiveness and combines these sets into a master list where the criteria are organized into categories and characteristics (pp. 57-8). You can use this resource to identify possible criteria that describe your particular definition of effective teaching.
There are many sources of evidence available that document teaching effectiveness. Evidence should include contributions from students, colleagues, and the instructor.
Evidence collected by students might include student ratings and letters from students who have been supervised by the instructor. Evidence collected from colleagues might include reviews of course materials and classroom observation reports. Evidence collected from instructors themselves might include course materials, examples of student work, reflections on teaching, evidence of participation in professional development activities, or a
Below is a non-exhaustive list of additional sources of evidence organized by category. This list is an expanded version of Chism’s suggestions (pp. 61):
Standards articulate expectations of quality or quantity for each evaluation criterion. As with criteria and sources of evidence, the corresponding standards should fit the context in which teaching is evaluated. For instance, a teaching award for graduate teaching assistants might articulate high standards for student learning results yet reflect lower expectations for departmental and institutional leadership around teaching.
The following are examples of levels of achievement:
One way to articulate a definition of teaching excellence and communicate that definition to teachers and peer evaluators is to create a rubric. Here are two examples:
If you wish to develop a system for evaluating teaching effectiveness within a particular context, such as a teaching award for your department, be mindful of the following considerations:
Decide if the primary purpose of the evaluation is formative or summative and use that distinction to guide the evaluation process. For example, a peer teaching observation conducted for formative purposes should not be used to make summative judgements in merit evaluation because it can compromise the relationship between the instructor and the observer.
Faculty and students are key stakeholders in the evaluation of teaching. Invite them to participate actively in defining the underlying values and purposes of the evaluation.
To get a complete picture of an individual’s teaching performance, gather information from multiple sources, use multiple methods, and consider multiple points in time. Student ratings are useful, but they should only be one of many sources of evidence considered.
When documenting student learning, make sure to consider
direct measures that provide tangible, compelling evidence that students have achieved a specific
learning outcome. Keep in mind that grades and surveys asking students to report what they learned are indirect measures of student learning, meaning they are only proxy signs that students are probably learning.
teaching portfolios to evaluate teaching effectiveness. Portfolios offer faculty more control over representing their teaching because they can select and curate sources of evidence. In addition to providing more control, teaching portfolios encourage faculty to reflect on their assumptions about learning, their past experiences, and their future goals.