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Documenting Teaching: Keep it Simple & Workable
Taking teaching evaluation seriously requires work. But the work doesn't have to be overwhelming, for either the individual faculty member or the department. Although it will take some time to get a workable system in place, once that system is established, the evaluation process itself should run relatively smoothly.
If you're worried that evaluation will take too much of your department's time, here are some suggestions for getting started.
Focus on what really matters
Although you'll be looking at multiple sources of data, and considering a full range of teaching activities, remember this: It's not necessary to try to make fine distinctions by rating faculty performance on a series of five-point scales and then comparing those ratings across departments. Such methods obscure the variety and complexity of teaching and are particularly hard on inexperienced faculty. Instead, focus on what you really want to know: Is this person:
- teaching reasonably well
- doing an outstanding job
- having difficulties that need to be addressed?
Another way to stay focused is to keep your list of expectations for effective teaching fairly short. You might want to start with the list of five basic expectations specified in the new UND policy. (Check to see if you college has added anything to that list.) You can always add more later.
Once you have a list, consider: What sources of data would help us evaluate the faculty member's performance in each of these areas? It may be useful to set up a chart that outlines where you will look for evidence of each expectation. (See example chart below.)
If you keep the important questions in sight and focus on a few basic indicators of performance, you may find that evaluation isn't as difficult as you thought. Then you can spend your time on the really important stuff: creating a supportive culture for teaching in your department.
Try things on a small scale before you commit to them
For student input, use an already existing form. If you aren't satisfied with the new USAT form, adapt it to your own purposes. Or try one of the student evaluations forms that others have used. If it doesn't do the job for you, you can always come back the next semester and design an alternative/supplemental questionnaire that gets at some of the things you want to know.
To get started with teaching portfolios, begin by asking everyone to submit just a few basic items. If these don't give you a complete picture of the person's teaching, you can ask for more next time.
Ask a small group of faculty to try out a modest peer review process. It isn't necessary for the entire department to get involved. A committee of three can come up with a basic portfolio rating form and give it a trial run. And if your department wants to try structured peer observations, there are sample peer observation forms that can help structure the process. You can always adapt these forms to your own purposes later.
Example Evaluation Chart
The following chart shows what kinds of data a department might use to evaluate each of the five basic teaching expectations specified in the UND teaching evaluation policy. Remember that both the college and the department have the option of listing additional expectations. In this example, for instance, the department has added an expectation of "work with graduate students."
|Student-Provided Data||Instructor-Provided Data||Peer / Chair Provided Data|
|Respect for Students||USAT forms and other student feedback||Portfolio: sample comments on papers||Peer observation report*|
|Command of Subject Matter||N/A||Portfolio: syllabus and course materials||Peer observation* and review of teaching portfolio|
|Careful Preparation||USAT forms||Portfolio: course materials||Peer observation* and review of teaching portfolio|
|Effective Communication||USAT forms and other student feeback||Portfolio: course materials||Peer observation* and review of teaching portfolio|
|Continuing Professional Growth||N/A||Portfolio: reflective commentary||Chair's observations on progress since last review|
|Work with Graduate Students||Feedback from grad student survey||Portfolio: Self reports||Grad director's comments|
* Notice that if there is not a system of peer visitation of classes, there are still other kinds of evidence for each of these. Thus, if peer observation is impractical, the department could rely on peer review of teaching portfolios instead.
Basic Portfolio Items
One way to keep the portfolio simple is to begin by requiring only a few basic items, for instance:
- an overview of teaching responsibilities
- a set of course materials from one or two classes
- student evaluations from those classes*
- a reflective commentary on these particular classes and student evaluations
Give faculty the option of including more if they want to, but set a page limit so the reviewers aren't overwhelmed. After you've gone through the process a time or two, and faculty are in the habit of keeping teaching portfolios, you can always specify additional required items.
* Note: Although it's not required by University policy, some colleges or departments may ask that all student evaluations be considered as part of the review process.
Selected Forms to Evaluate Teaching
The following books provide useful examples of forms used for student evaluation, peer portfolio review and class observations:
- Peter Seldin and Associates, ed. Changing Practices in Evaluating Teaching (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing, 1999). [See especially pp. 162-175 and pp. 226-242.)
- Nancy Van Note Chism, Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (Boston: Anker Publishing,1999).
Both are available in the OID library. Or you may want to order your own from Anker Publishing.