What aspects of teaching can we evaluate?

The main aspect of teaching evaluation is assessment of the quality of classroom teaching. However, as teaching includes more than just classroom instruction, evaluation of teaching must assess more than classroom performance. there may be a number of aspects of teaching that your departments and schools may identify. These may include:

  • quality, amount, and level of classroom instruction (including shared instruction)
  • development of curricula, new courses, and classroom materials
  • supervision and mentoring of graduate students, including chairing of dissertations
  • service on graduate examination and dissertation committees
  • one-on-one consultation with students, including supervision of independent study and reading courses
  • supervision of teaching assistants in undergraduate courses
  • conduct and supervision of laboratory instruction
  • supervision of undergraduate and graduate research
  • advising students in the major
  • supervision of field work
  • supervision of clinical and practicum experiences.

What is good teaching?

Good teaching is characterised by:

Teaching competence and skills

Teaching competence and skills includes:

  • knowledge of the subject
  • explaining clearly
  • guiding students to be independent learners
  • giving adequate feedback to students on their progress towards specified outcomes.

Stimulation and enthusiasm

Stimulation and enthusiasm includes:

  • gaining students' active participation and interest
  • challenging and extending students' competence
  • demonstrating commitment and excitement about the subject matter.

Rapport and fairness with students

Rapport and fairness with students includes:

  • showing concern and interest
  • listening to and understanding students' concerns
  • supporting students who have learning difficulties and challenges
  • impartiality in dealing with students' needs while accounting for diverse abilities and interests
  • availability and helpfulness.

Organisation and preparation

Organisation and preparation includes:

  • having materials ready for students when needed
  • having clear instructions for assessment tasks
  • being adequately prepared for classes
  • ensuring classes are smoothly organised and time is used well
  • reviewing teaching process and topic design based on student feedback and achievement.

Appropriate workload

Appropriate workload includes:

  • ensuring that the amount of work is appropriate for the class
  • ensuring the level of difficulty is appropriate for the students' level in their course.

Assessment

Assessment includes:

  • providing opportunities for formative assessment and feedback
  • ensuring summative assessment is appropriate for the topic and success is possible for all students.

Who can evaluate?

Different aspects of teaching are best evaluated by different stakeholders. Stakeholders can include:

Self evaluation

One of the most neglected aspects of explicit evaluation is self-evaluation. Ideally and logically, this should proceed all other forms of evaluation. Self-evaluation can assist you to:

  • improve the educational experiences you provide for your students
  • identify the professional education you need to further develop your capacity to teach well
  • prepare you for your performance review with your supervisor
  • assess your readiness to apply for promotion and tenure.

Once you have worked out what you need to know about your teaching you can then set about choosing the most appropriate source of evaluation.

Student evaluation of teaching

Students are a very important and reliable source of information about how your teaching supports their learning achievement.

Research shows that teachers and students place different values on different dimensions of teaching.

Students place greater emphasis on:

  • stimulation of interest
  • clarity and modulation of the teacher's speech.

Teachers place more importance on:

  • providing intellectual challenge
  • enabling independence of thought
  • motivating students.

Both teachers and students value:

  • a teacher's concern and respect for students
  • the nature and value of the course material
  • the quality and frequency of feedback to students
  • a teacher's openness to the opinions of others
  • a teacher's encouragement of questions and discussion.

Students are usually the best source of information about:

  • interactive classroom processes
  • the handling of assessment
  • the interpersonal dimensions of teaching.

Flinders University uses a standard mandatory tool for student evaluation of teaching called the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET).

Peer evaluation of teaching

Peers are a very good source of information about:

  • the design and coherence of your approach to teaching
  • the appropriateness of your intentions and interpretation of the outcomes
  • the quality of your planning and preparation for teaching
  • your capacity to critically review and improve and enhance your teaching.

Seeking and providing constructive critical peer feedback about teaching should be regarded as a fundamental aspect of the academic role.

As a rule, peer evaluations are poorly used. They are all too frequently based on a request to ‘come and observe me teach'. This could mean anything, and what results is often poorly focused and only deals with surface aspects of university teaching.

If you invite peers and supervisors to evaluate your teaching it is important that they appreciate which aspect of your teaching you are seeking feedback and constructive advice on. If they are going to observe your teaching, meet with them ahead of the class and give them materials so that they can appreciate your educational intentions. Let them know the kind of feedback you want and if you are experimenting with different methods or strategies.

For further detail regarding peer evaluations, refer to peer review .

Supervisor evaluation of teaching

If you are planning to apply for tenure or promotion your supervisor will need to evaluate your teaching. This also occurs as part of your annual performance review.

The quality of this review is as dependent on your preparation as it is on the capacity of your supervisor to engage with the review. You should think about:

  • the kind of evidence you require to demonstrate your teaching competence
  • your interpretation of the evidence
  • the kinds of actions and resources you require in the future to continue to develop your teaching.

Expert evaluation of teaching

At times academics need to seek feedback from experts in their disciplinary, professional or vocational field. This is necessary to evaluate whether their content is appropriate in both scope and depth and that the skills they teach are germane to the contemporary demands of their field.

Methods of gathering data include:

  • surveys
  • questionnaires
  • focus groups
  • observation and feedback:
    • personal
    • video
  • student learning outcomes.

More information

For more information, refer to Conducting evaluation.