Methods of Evaluating Teaching

Evaluation of teaching can have many purposes, including collecting feedback for teaching improvement, developing a portfolio for job applications, or gathering data as part of personnel decisions, such as reappointment or promotion and tenure. Most of the methods described below can be used for all of these functions. In general, efforts to collect information for improvement can be informal and focus on specific areas an individual instructor wishes to develop. Information for job applications involves presenting one’s best work and meeting the requirements outlined in job ads. However, when the purpose of evaluation is personnel decision making, it is important to use a comprehensive and systematic process. Because there are many dimensions to pedagogical work, it is best to use multiple measures involving multiple sources of data to evaluate the range of instructional activities, which can include the following:

  • Instructional Delivery (including quality, amount, and level of classroom instruction)
  • Course Planning (including development of course materials, course revision, development of new courses)
  • Grading and Assessing Student Learning (including appropriate level of assignments, exams, grading standards)
  • Course Management (including supervision of GSIs)
  • Oversight of Independent Studies, Honors Theses, Prelims, Dissertations
  • Support for Student Internships, Experiential Learning, Service Learning
  • Department and Curricular Work (including participation in curriculum revision, departmental efforts to focus on teaching)
  • Advising and Mentoring
  • Professional Development and Innovation Around Teaching

What follows are multiple methods for collecting information about instructors’ activities, accomplishments, and effectiveness in teaching, in the classroom and beyond. While this list includes best practices for using online student ratings, it also offers suggestions for ensuring that student ratings are not the only source of evidence used to assess instructional effectiveness, an approach consistent with research.

Often, instructors combine multiple sources of evidence into a course portfolio (a reflective document that summarizes one course and its impact on student learning) or a teaching portfolio (a collection of selected teaching activities and evidence of student learning across courses).

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Evidence That Can Be Collected From Students

  1. Online student ratings (navigate to resources on using ratings for personnel decisions or improvement)
  2. Midterm Student Feedback to provide information for improvement (generally not recommended for personnel decisions unless an instructor chooses to include results in a portfolio)
  3. Student letters, solicited from the whole class by the department
  4. Examples of student work that show what students accomplished in the course (e.g., samples of A, B, C work along with a grade distribution; comparisons of student work at the beginning and end of term to document growth)
  5. Online surveys, such as SurveyMonkey, designed by individual instructors, departments or units (possibly done as alumni surveys: “…Now that you’ve completed your course…”)
  6. Feedback from advisees (including MA and PhD students, as well as undergraduate research assistants)


Evidence That Can Be Collected From Colleagues/Chairs/GSIs

  1. Peer Observation Guidelines and Recommendations
  2. Classroom Observation Instruments
  3. Reviews by colleagues of course materials (e.g., syllabi, assignments, activities)(pdf)
  4. Letters from GSIs who have been supervised by the instructor


Evidence That Instructors Can Collect on Their Own

  1. Reflective statement on a particular course with short sections on the goals of the course, teaching methods used, and the effectiveness of the course in helping students achieve goals
  2. Scholarship of teaching and learning projects or other research efforts undertaken to assess student learning
  3. Professional development efforts around teaching (e.g., attending workshops and seminars, consultations on teaching, midterm student feedback, etc.)
  4. Description of work on curriculum development, GSI training, or other aspects of the department’s educational mission


Faculty, Departmental, and School Responsibilities

To ensure that the evaluation system adopted is credible and acceptable, faculty members must have a strong hand in its development. Before departments and schools adopt teaching evaluation systems, the faculty members should determine their criteria for effective teaching. Departments and schools can then take responsibility for developing their own evaluation methods and evaluation criteria that can be flexible to accommodate diversity in instructional methods (e.g., lecture, discussion, lab, case study, small group interaction, practicum, studio, field work, clinical work, etc.).