Task Force on Teaching Evaluation - General Recommendations

Background | Recommendations | Process | Overview | Bibliography |Appendices

Following is a list of general recommendations. These recommendations are consistent with the principles presented earlier and the adoption of a portfolio approach for the development and evaluation of teaching.

Increase the diversity of sources and kinds of evidence gathered.

Ninety-four percent of the surveyed faculty recommends that the university increase the diversity in the kinds and sources of evidence about the quality of teaching. Teaching is a complex, multidimensional process. A portfolio approach ensures that multiple types and sources of information are used to assess and develop teaching.

The type of information about teaching quality will likely vary across disciplines, units, courses, and faculty members. Obviously, the information that is ultimately used to evaluate teaching should be consistent with the faculty member's teaching responsibilities.

Critical to this general recommendation is the faculty's desire to decrease the relatively exclusive reliance on student end-of-course evaluations. Results from the survey of UW-Green Bay faculty and teaching staff reveal that many faculty members (73%) feel that too much emphasis is placed on student end-of-course evaluations. The reliance on student evaluations is especially problematic when over half the faculty surveyed do not have much confidence in students' ability to rate faculty member effectiveness. We are not suggesting that student end-of-course evaluations should be discontinued. Rather, they should be considered an important source of evidence about teaching effectiveness, but not the only source. Information from the end-of-course ratings can be used to improve teaching; however, as discussed below, the evaluation form must be less global and more specific.

Give high priority to improving forms used in student evaluation of teaching.

The most commonly used measure of teaching effectiveness at UW-Green Bay is the short form version of the Course Comments Questionnaire (CCQ). This short form, adapted from a longer form, is a graphic rating scale (i.e., a scale with descriptive phrases anchoring the ends) tapping seven dimensions of teaching effectiveness. Although the form is easy to complete and provides a means to compare one faculty member with the next, it provides little specific information to help the faculty member with teaching improvement. Based on the results of the evaluation instrument per se, mentors and chairpersons are in weak positions to recommend improvements when they do not know the exact reasons why scores were low. Student comments help in this respect, but since our students are not trained evaluators, many of these comments are not helpful or many students choose not to write comments.

The Task Force recommends the development of institutionally-supported course evaluation forms besides the CCQ from which faculty members may choose. The forms should be behaviorally-based, and should address different teaching situations (e.g., studio/lab, lecture, seminar, distance education). Meanwhile, faculty members are encouraged to select questions from Appendix B (Questions for Student Evaluations) for use in the "Additional Questions" section of the CCQ.

Encourage unit chairs to make substantial efforts to help faculty members develop and improve their teaching.

Consistent with the chairpersons' desires to assume leadership responsibilities, we believe a principal leadership role involves developing teaching effectiveness within the unit. We believe that the chairperson could exercise leadership by facilitating the development of a teaching portfolio plan with each faculty member before the start of the academic year. Chairs will need to be trained to evaluate evidence in a way that develops the instructional skills of faculty members. This is especially important given that the proposed system is substantially different from any existing evaluation system.

Provide faculty members, through discussion and written summary, periodic evaluations of the strengths and weaknesses of their instruction.

Though one could argue that periodic evaluations of instruction are provided through the merit, retention, and promotion processes, we believe processes should exist that systematically focus on professional development, and that are based on more and diverse evidence of instructional quality. The current system forces faculty members into a defensive position because it is not clear what evidence committees will use to evaluate teaching, and how the evidence will be weighted. Given the nature of merit and promotion committees, the current system focuses almost exclusively on the quality of past instruction, without regard for the improvement of future instruction. Because education is the primary mission of the university, we believe that a system should be in place to evaluate teaching for formative purposes.

Create a Center for Teaching and Learning.

Since teaching is central to the university's mission, we recommend the establishment of a Center for Teaching and Learning. The Center's primary purpose would be to facilitate the evaluation and improvement of teaching at the university. The Center would help faculty members improve their teaching techniques, experiment with alternative pedagogical approaches, design better examinations, or evaluate and restructure their courses. The Center would house literature on teaching evaluation and development. Finally, the Center could sponsor instructional development training for chairpersons and peers.