What is teaching effectiveness?

Teaching effectiveness is important because effective teaching helps student learning. It has become even more important as the emphasis on quality in higher education has increased. Effective teaching does not occur by chance. Effective teachers have become good at what they do because they evaluate their practice. James (n/d) suggests that “educational evaluation is a professional responsibility for academic staff, arising from a commitment to understanding the effects of teaching on students and to enhance student learning.” There are numerous ways of evaluating teaching or monitoring its effectiveness.

Beck (2005) identifies "twelve potential sources of evidence of teaching effectiveness." These include:

  • Student ratings (such as Student Evaluations of Teaching);
  • Peer reviews;
  • Self-reviews;
  • Videos of practice;
  • Interviews with student;
  • Alumni, employer and administrator ratings;
  • Teaching awards and scholarship;
  • Learning outcome measures; and
  • Maintenance of teaching portfolios.

The sources identified above provide a diverse range of measures of teaching effectiveness. Institutions, departments and schools encourage a broad range of sources to evidence good teaching practice. The source that is used depends on why teaching effectiveness is being measured. For example, if the intention is promotion then a review may be performed by a supervisor using a specific set of criteria which aids in making a summative decision on the academic's effectiveness. If the objective is to improve teaching practice and to modify the teaching plan or structure then a different set of criteria is applied. For example, a number of student evaluations may be used to determine which aspects of teaching are effective.

Evaluations to improve teaching practice and design are referred to as formative evaluation, while evaluations used in making decisions (for example, for purposes of promotion) are referred to as summative evaluations of teaching effectiveness.

A number of evaluation and assessment tools are available to measure teaching effectiveness. At Flinders University these are outlined in the Policy on Course and Topic Evaluation, Monitoring and Review. The evaluation tools in use at Flinders include the Student Evaluation of Teaching, peer evaluations and supervisor assessment.