Task Force on Teaching Evaluation - Proposed Process

Background | Recommendations | Process | Overview | Bibliography |Appendices

UW-Green Bay, like many other universities, relies heavily on the use of student ratings to evaluate teaching. As discussed earlier, there are concerns with this approach. In addition, the reliance on student end-of-course evaluations has contributed to an insufficient amount of attention paid to teaching improvement and continued development. Reliance on end-of-course student evaluations moves the entire appraisal process toward a summative rather than formative approach. Compounding matters, the questions on the Course Comments Questionnaire (CCQ) are global (i.e., each question summarizes a dimension), and provide only general information. Hence, faculty members are placed in the uncomfortable position of having to "be better organized" or "better motivate students" without specific feedback to foster the development process.

We need a process to document classroom performance and simultaneously a process to improve our teaching and document this improvement. According to Seldin (1991), the best approach in this regard is use of a teaching portfolio. The task force strongly recommends that the entire university adopt a portfolio approach to teaching evaluation and improvement. Below is a description of the approach and a discussion of how we could implement it at UW-Green Bay.

Teaching Portfolio

A teaching portfolio is a "factual description of a professor's major strengths and teaching achievements (Seldin, 1991, p. 3)." Taken as a whole, it includes documents and materials that suggest the scope and quality of a faculty member's teaching performance. It enables faculty members to document and display their teaching in a way that "stays connected to the particular situation in which their teaching has occurred (Edgerton, 1991, p. 3)."

Below is a discussion of how one constructs a teaching portfolio. We must emphasize that it requires time to build a portfolio; however, it is not as time-consuming as one would think. Also, as preparation of portfolios becomes routine and faculty members and chairpersons become more familiar with the process, the time commitment decreases significantly. Berquist and Phillips (1977) and Seldin (1987, 1991) report that chairpersons and faculty members are willing to invest time in portfolio preparation if they know that the process will lead to better teaching and more effective decision-making with respect to promotion, merit, and retention.

The task force recognizes two key sets of individuals in constructing and using a portfolio approach for evaluation and improvement of teaching. They are the faculty members who will develop the portfolios and the chairpersons who will oversee the entire process. Ideally, we would like a process implemented university-wide around the portfolio approach that is supportive, collaborative, and focused on the improvement of teaching.

Creating a Teaching Portfolio

There are six key steps to creating a teaching portfolio (Seldin, 1993; Seldin, 1991; Seldin, 1987; Shore, 1986; Vavrus and Calfee, 1988). The steps are: (1) clarify teaching responsibilities; (2) select items for the portfolio; (3) prepare statements on each item; (4) arrange the items in order; (5) compile the support data; and (5) incorporate the portfolio into the personnel file. We include two sample portfolios in Appendix C (Portfolio Samples).

Clarify Teaching Responsibilities

Most portfolios begin with a two or three paragraph summary of the teaching responsibilities and criteria for teaching success. This might cover such items as number and types of courses to be taught, likely number of students in each course, techniques used to evaluate students and the kinds of progress expected by students.

Select Items for the Portfolio

Based on the teaching responsibilities identified in Step 1, the faculty member selects items for inclusion in the portfolio. This may be the most important step in the portfolio process. The following is a list of items the faculty member may choose to include in the portfolio. It shows the many options or possibilities available to build the portfolio. Since the portfolio is very personalized and varies according to the teaching situation, the items selected will vary from one individual to the next. The list is compiled from the work of Shore (1986), Sorcinelli (1986), Seldin (1993, 1991), and the faculty at York University in Canada (www.yorku.ca). The items are placed into four categories: (1) material from oneself; (2) material from others; (3) the products of good teaching; and (4) items that sometimes appear in portfolios. For a complete discussion of these items, see Seldin (1991, pp. 9-12). Appendix C (Portfolio Samples) shows how these items are included in the teaching portfolio.

One should begin gathering and retaining information which pertains to teaching from the first day of the first teaching assignment. When making decisions about what to retain and what to discard, it is better to err on the side of saving too much, than to risk destroying material that may later prove useful.

Keep copies of all items referred to in the portfolio such as examination outlines, original copies of course evaluations, letters from chairpersons or students, samples of students' work, etc. These materials will not necessarily be included in the personnel file or teaching portfolio but should be retained in case "original" evidence is required.

Material From Oneself

  1. Statement of teaching responsibilities, including specific course titles, numbers, enrollments, and a brief description of the way the courses were taught. Provide details of other teaching activities such as supervision of independent studies, internships, honors projects, masters theses, teaching or research practica, field placement supervision, coaching, guest lectures, and the like. Documentation of supervision activity should include the names of those supervised and the nature and extent of the supervisory activity. Stating the outcome of the supervision may also be useful (e.g., the thesis title and acceptance date, the citation information of a student publication, or the date and venue of a public performance).
  2. Statement describing personal teaching philosophy, strategies, and objectives, along with teaching goals for the next five years. Examples of statements of objectives from specific course descriptions, including statements concerning anticipated course changes, might also be included.
  3. Representative course syllabi detailing course content and objectives, teaching methods (e.g., lecture, small group/discussion, problem-solving, collaborative inquiry, critical thinking pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, project-based approaches, student presentations), readings, exams, assignments, etc.
  4. Descriptions of steps to evaluate and improve one's teaching, including changes resulting from self-evaluation, reading journals on teaching improvement, participation in programs on sharpening instructional skill, etc.
  5. Instructional innovations and revisions (e.g., course design, curricular changes to include subject matter, methods of presentation, classroom processes, evaluation procedures, specially designed assignments, teaching methods geared to developing critical skills, as well as developments involving teaching resources such as films, computers, and other audiovisual material). Where possible, provide evidence of the effectiveness and/or impact of the teaching developments undertaken.
  6. Lists of published and unpublished curriculum materials, textbooks, workbooks, case studies, lab manuals, special notes, handouts, problem sets, and other classroom materials developed by the faculty member.

Materials From Others

  1. Student course or teaching evaluation data that produce an overall rating of effectiveness or suggest improvements.
  2. Statements from colleagues who have observed the faculty member engaged in teaching.
  3. Statements from colleagues who have reviewed the faculty member's teaching materials, such as syllabi, assignments, testing and grading practices.
  4. Honors or other recognition from colleagues such as outstanding instructor award/nomination or election/appointment to a committee on teaching. Where possible, provide information regarding the nature of the award (how many are given, the adjudication procedure, etc.).

The Products of Good Teaching

  1. A record of students who succeed in advanced study in the field.
  2. Student awards, honors, publications or presentations resulting from course-related work.
  3. Testimonials from employers or students about the faculty member's influence on career choice.
  4. Student scores on pre- and post-course examinations.

Items that Sometimes Appear in Portfolios

  1. Contributions to the teaching profession: books (including chapters in books, edited books, and special issues of journals); articles (refereed, solicited or non-refereed); papers in conference proceedings (refereed or non-refereed); bibliographies; newsletters; unpublished conference papers, workshop presentations, and unpublished professional reports.
  2. Statement by the chairperson assessing the faculty member's teaching contributions to the unit.
  3. Invitations to speak (internal or external) on teaching-related topics.
  4. A full-period audio or video of the faculty member teaching.
  5. List of local, regional, state or national seminars, workshops and conferences on teaching methods (internal and external) attended.
  6. Evidence of help given to colleagues leading to improvement of their teaching (e.g., orientation sessions for new faculty members, sessions that introduce teaching techniques or technological developments, observing teaching as part of formal or informal evaluation of teaching effectiveness, individual consultation).
  7. Description of how computers, films, and other non-print materials are used in teaching.
  8. Statements by alumni on the quality of instruction.
  9. Examples of graded student essays, creative work, fieldwork reports, etc. along with the faculty member's comments on why they were so graded.
  10. Statement from colleagues who have observed the faculty member advising or interacting with students outside the classroom.
  11. Committee membership: List all activities concerned with teaching that you have undertaken as a member of a unit or university committee, subcommittee, or task force (e.g., curriculum development, program review). Include details such as names of committees, dates, the nature of the contribution, and the names of committee chairs and collaborators.
  12. Cooperation with other programs: Use of teaching materials by faculty members in other units or universities, involvement in program review of other teaching units, development of widely used course evaluations or other assessment instruments.
  13. Funding: internal and external teaching research and development grants and/or fellowships to do if an item cuts across two categories (say work on unit curriculum review that could be counted as Teaching or as Service, or publication of a workbook that could be counted as Teaching or as Scholarship)? While a single activity can have many different aspects which reflect on performance in different categories, these items should not be counted twice (for example, once as Teaching and once as Scholarship). In such cases, it is best to work with the chairperson and/or mentor to develop an appropriate strategy. This should enable one to decide where to list the item on the vita and where to provide a "cross reference" (for example, listed under Service and referenced under Teaching).

Prepare Statements on Each Item

The faculty member prepares statements on activities, initiatives, and accomplishments for each item. Documentation and appendices are referenced, as appropriate.

Arrange the Items in Order

The ordering of the items depends on their intended use. They should be ranked in order of magnitude and relationship to the faculty member's primary goals. For example, if the faculty member is focusing on effectively teaching large lecture classes, then he or she should emphasize the items that directly reflect that goal (e.g., intended innovations, attendance at teaching seminars).

Compile the Support Data

During the evaluation/development period, the faculty member would continually assemble the supporting evidence that relates to the items in the portfolio. At the end of the appraisal period, the evidence is included in the completed portfolio.

Incorporate the Portfolio into the Personnel File

In preparation for merit review, promotion, or retention, the completed portfolio is inserted into the faculty member's personnel file for the teaching area. The intent here is to provide a record of teaching accomplishment for these personnel decisions.

Portfolio Process

It is not enough to have a well-constructed portfolio. Rather, the processes developed to (1) create the portfolio, and (2) use the portfolio are as important as the portfolio itself. As mentioned previously, the faculty member and the chairperson play key roles in constructing the portfolio. In constructing the portfolio, we strongly encourage a consultative, collaborative approach between the chairperson and the faculty member. This approach is entirely consistent with the chairpersons' desires to assume major leadership responsibilities. Our recommended process is presented below. The process is presented in a generic form. The process may need adjusting to meet the size and structural characteristics of the different units. Also, the portfolios generated through the portfolio process must be consistent with the goals of the respective units. Therefore, units may need to review and revise their goals before starting the portfolio plan. Finally, the process as described integrates the mentoring function into the development and evaluation of teaching. Mentors/sponsors need not be part of the process for tenured faculty members.

  1. During the spring semester (or early September for new hires), the budgetary chairperson, the faculty member, and a sponsor/mentor for the faculty member meet to develop the framework for the portfolio. Through a process of guidance and negotiation, they agree on the faculty member's teaching responsibilities for the next academic year and the items to be included in the portfolio (the first two steps of the portfolio: clarify teaching responsibilities, and select items for the portfolio). We recommend that portfolio selections be distributed across the three categories (material from oneself, material from others, and products of good teaching), with additions from the fourth category -- items that sometimes appear in portfolios -- as desired. In this meeting, they also discuss the type of information that will be collected during the next year to document progress, and dates when the faculty member and sponsor or chairperson will meet to review progress. Periodic review is essential for maintaining the formative aspect of the process.
  2. The unit's Executive Committee reviews all portfolio plans after they have been developed. This review ensures equity across all plans, and facilitates achievement of the unit's teaching goals.
  3. The faculty member and sponsor (or chairperson) meet occasionally during the academic year to review progress and make adjustments as needed.
  4. In spring and in preparation for merit, retention, or promotion decisions, the chairperson, faculty member, and sponsor review the documented portfolio to review teaching performance for the academic year. The chairperson then writes a letter summarizing the faculty member's teaching performance. This letter and the completed portfolio become part of the personnel file. Also, during the meeting with the faculty member, chair, and sponsor, a new portfolio plan is developed for the following academic year.
Summary and Conclusions

The Task Force strongly believes that the portfolio approach and its attendant processes are substantial steps forward in the evaluation and development of teaching at UW-Green Bay. Based upon our research, we know that:

  1. use of portfolios will both improve the evaluation and development of teaching;
  2. portfolios must be individualized and comprehensive;
  3. hence, the content and organization of the portfolio must relate to the faculty member's teaching style and teaching situation;
  4. portfolios can be integrated into our current evaluation and teaching practices; and
  5. use of teaching portfolios make the reward system more responsive to teaching.

The best way to implement the portfolio process is to do it slowly. We suggest that next year, two or three units volunteer as pilot sites to introduce the concepts and processes described in this report. A "shadow" or evaluation group should be appointed to monitor the pilot study. We can learn from this pilot experience and refine or change the process where appropriate before it is introduced university-wide.