Kennesaw State University

How Can I Demonstrate that I’m an Effective Teacher?

Faculty members are encouraged to reflect upon their teaching effectiveness for formative purposes (e.g., professional development) and for summative purposes (documenting their teaching for review by peers, chairs, and administrators).  For formative purposes, faculty members should collect, reflect upon, and use evidence of the effectiveness of their teaching behaviors from a variety of sources such as students, peers, and self-assessment.  When documenting their growth as a teacher, faculty members might also consider the disciplinary perspectives of those who will review their documentation.


(Note:  Several links below are to permalinks available via KSU's library and are only available to individuals who are on KSU's network.)

How can we ascertain and document how effective we are as teachers?  Faculty members may have both formative and summative purposes for exploring answers to this question.  Formative purposes involve collecting and reflecting upon evidence of the effectiveness of our teaching behaviors to ascertain our strengths as teachers, to identify potential areas for improvement or growth, and then to act upon these reflections to improve or enhance our teaching to contribute more effectively to student learning.  Summative purposes involve preparing and submitting documentation of our teaching effectiveness for formal review by peers, chairs, and/or administrators who then make recommendations or decisions, such as promotion, tenure, post-tenure review, merit pay, or suitability for receiving a teaching award.

The authors of several recent articles (e.g., Berk, 2005, 2014; De Courcy, 2015; Halonen et al., 2012) discuss strategies for collecting and documenting evidence of teaching effectiveness for formative and summative purposes.  These authors recommend that we should not rely exclusively on one source of evidence (e.g., relying only on student feedback collected at the end of a course).  Instead, we should collect, reflect upon, and document evidence from multiple sources when conducting formative assessment and preparing documents for summative evaluation.  Here are examples of common sources of evidence that we may collect initially for formative purposes, from which we may later select the most compelling evidence for inclusion in documents submitted for summative purposes.

  • Include evidence from student feedback, but do not rely on student feedback as the only source of evidence.  At a minimum, review, reflect upon, and consider whether and how to incorporate student feedback collected during the institution’s formal end-of-course review into the planning and delivery of future courses.  Also consider collecting additional student feedback informally during a course using one or more classroom assessment techniques (Angelo & Cross, 1993; Cross & Angelo, 1988).  These techniques provide feedback from students that may motivate immediate changes to the course to improve student learning.  Keep a record of student feedback collected by using classroom assessment techniques and how you addressed that feedback during the course.  One classroom assessment technique that CETL staff can help you conduct is the small group instructional diagnosis (link to CETL’s SGID page).
  • Peers, department chairs, and CETL staff can provide additional sources of evidence of teaching effectiveness, not only through classroom observations, but also through review of course materials such as syllabi, assignments, examinations, and the content and organization of materials in a course management system (Berk, Naumann, & Appling, 2004).  Peers from the same discipline are more likely than students to provide professional judgments of a faculty member’s expertise in course content, and CETL staff and peers may also assess effective use of pedagogical skills.  Hoyt and Pallett (1999) provide appendices that include examples of peer review systems for assessing course materials (Appendix B) and for assessment by peers (Appendix C) and department heads (Appendix D) of a faculty member’s contributions to the department’s instructional program.
  • Provide self-assessments of teaching effectiveness.  These can include a statement of teaching philosophy, articulation of course goals and objectives, and descriptions of changes in content knowledge and pedagogical skills that incorporate lessons learned from attending conferences, participating in professional development workshops, or reading the scholarship of teaching and learning. Hoyt and Pallett (1999, Appendix A) suggest contents to include in a self-assessment of teaching effectiveness that could be organized into a teaching portfolio.
  • Consider additional sources of evidence. In addition to the sources discussed above, Berk (2005, 2014) suggests reviewing videotaped teaching, interviewing students, and collecting ratings from alumni, all of which can be useful for formative or summative purposes.  Berk also discusses other measures that could contribute to summative evaluation of teaching effectiveness:  external expert ratings, administrator ratings, receipt of teaching awards, production of publications and presentations in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and preparation of a teaching portfolio.

Some Notes on Using Student Learning Outcomes as Measures of Teaching Effectiveness

The measures above focus on student-, peer-, and self-assessments of teaching effectiveness that rely on direct observations of teaching behaviors or critical review of materials prepared by the teacher.  Berk (2005, 2014) argues that these direct measures of effective teaching behaviors should be preferred over measures of student learning such as student performance on course examinations and assignments, grade distributions, and student success in future courses or on standardized exams.  Berk (20052014) cautions against considering measures of student learning for summative evaluation of an individual faculty member’s teaching effectiveness because there are factors outside the direct control of the teacher that affect student performance, such as student characteristics (e.g., level of prior preparation, motivation, family and work obligations), course and program characteristics (e.g., required versus elective courses, course level, course difficulty), and other characteristics such as the performance measures themselves (e.g., reliability, validity, and difficulty of the exams used to assess student achievement). 

Although student learning data is problematic for summative purposes, faculty members may still find these data useful when performing formative assessments (McCarthy, Niederjohn, & Bosack, 2011).  For example, a faculty member might attempt to identify common student errors, consider strategies that could help students reduce those errors on future work, and consider this evidence in the context of the characteristics of the students, course, program, and performance measures described above.

Disciplinary Perspectives to Documenting Teaching Effectiveness

Academic disciplines differ in the conventions for argumentation and evidence for scholarly products.  Faculty members might consider how to present evidence of their teaching effectiveness using similar disciplinary conventions or borrowing from the conventions of other disciplines.  Here are some examples of recommendations from authors from several disciplines on how to document teaching effectiveness, all of which can be readily adapted to faculty members from other disciplines.

Business.  Hughes and Pate (2013) argue for adapting the balanced scorecard approach commonly used in organizational strategic planning to evaluate an individual faculty member’s teaching effectiveness.  They encourage faculty to collect evidence that addresses teaching effectiveness from four perspectives.  Here are some illustrative, but not exhaustive, examples of each perspective:

  1. Institutional:  Teaching courses that address an institution’s strategic initiatives (e.g., online courses, education abroad, community engagement).
  2. Student:  Results of and use of student feedback; course materials (e.g., syllabus, learning goals, assignments); evidence of student learning (e.g., samples of student work).
  3. Departmental/Administrative:  Teaching courses that meet departmental needs; participation in program outcome assessment; classroom observation by peers or chair.
  4. Learning and Growth:  Participation in professional development conferences or workshops; use of technology; innovative pedagogy.

Music.  McAllister (2008) encourages faculty members to conduct self-assessments that address several categories that are commonly used to evaluate effective teaching in music education:  preparation, content knowledge, interactive skills, pacing, sequencing, use of feedback, and modeling.  The Music Teachers National Association developed a set of “Assessment Tools for the Independent Music Teacher” (http://www.mtnacertification.org/process/teacher-profile-projects/) that faculty members can use to explore their teaching effectiveness through self-assessment, peer assessment, and assessment by clients (students or families).

Nursing.  Berk, Naumann, and Appling (2004) describe a process whereby they assisted faculty in a school of nursing to develop scales for peer assessment of classroom and clinical teaching for formative purposes.  Faculty members in the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education adapted this earlier work to develop a Classroom Teaching Fidelity Scale to assist member institutions in assessing the extent to which their faculty members have adapted the consortium’s competency-based curriculum and pedagogical practices into their courses (Henrickx, Munkvold, Winter, & Tanner, 2014)

Psychology.  A task force of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology developed a set of Model Teaching Criteria (Richmond et al., 2014) with examples of materials that faculty members may use for documenting each criteria.  The criteria are:

  1. Subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and ongoing professional development to maintain current in both forms of knowledge.
  2. Use of instructional methods that engage students, and repeated practice of teaching skills such as classroom management, effective communication, and setting high expectations.
  3. Use of effective processes to assess and improve student learning.
  4. Construction of syllabi that provide students clear and complete information about the course and that clarify the rationale for course activities, evaluations, and assignments.
  5. Selection of content appropriate for the course.  Different teachers of the same course may approach course content differently based on their backgrounds and perspectives, but there may be shared expectations in the discipline for some aspects of course content. 
  6. Use of student feedback to reflect upon and improve teaching.

STEM Disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  Wieman and Gilbert (2014; see also Wieman, 2015) designed and validated the Teaching Practices Inventory for lecture-based courses in STEM disciplines.  The inventory is available online at http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/TeachingPracticesInventory.htm .  Faculty members complete the inventory by indicating whether and how frequently they engage in teaching practices that have been demonstrated in the research literature to improve student learning and to support teaching effectiveness.  The faculty member then receives developmental feedback on the extent to which they teach their classes using evidence-based teaching practices, such as:

  • providing students with explicit information about course topics, organization, and learning goals;
  • providing supporting materials (e.g., readings, videos, course notes) that contribute to student learning;
  • employing active learning teaching pedagogies regularly during classes;
  • assigning frequent homework or problem sets;
  • providing feedback on the quality of student work; and
  • consulting peers and the research literature to consider ideas for improving the course further.

By examining the feedback, faculty members might consider potential changes to increase the number and frequency of evidenced-based teaching practices they employ in their courses.

Concluding Comments. 

The suggestions above may be useful for any faculty member interested in formative assessment of their teaching effectiveness.  However, faculty members should consult with their chairs, Deans, and peers to clarify the types of evidence that are used for summative evaluations, as these processes may differ among Colleges, departments, and programs.

References 

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass. (Link to book available to KSU faculty in KSU's library) A version by Cross and Angelo (1988) is available at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED317097

Berk, R. A. (2005). Survey of 12 strategies to measure teaching effectiveness. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 17, 48-62.  Retrieved from http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE8.pdf

Berk, R. A.  (2014). Should student outcomes be used to evaluate teaching?  Journal of Faculty Development, 28(2), 87-96. Retrieved from http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE8.pdf

Berk, R. A., Naumann, P. L., & Appling, S. E. (2004).  Beyond student ratings: Peer observation of classroom and clinical teaching.  International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. 1(1). doi:10.2202/1548-923X.1024  Retrieved from http://www.ronberk.com/articles/2014_outcomes.pdf

De Courcy, E. (2015). Defining and measuring teaching excellence in higher education in the 21st century. College Quarterly, 18(1),  Retrieved from http://collegequarterly.ca/2015-vol18-num01-winter/decourcy.html

Halonen, J. S., Dunn, D. S., McCarthy, M. A., & Baker, S. (2012). Are you really above average? Documenting your teaching effectiveness.  In B. M. Schwartz & R. A. R. Gurung. (Eds). Evidence-based teaching for higher education (pp. 131-149). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/13745-008  Visit http://psycnet.apa.org/books/13745/008 for more information

Herinckx, H., Munkvold, J. P., Winter, E., & Tanner, C. A. (2014). A measure to evaluate classroom teaching practices in nursing. Nursing Education Perspectives, 35(1), 30-36. doi: 10.5480/11-535.1 (Permalink for faculty on KSU's network)

Hoyt, D. P., & Pallett, W. H. (1999). Appraising teaching effectiveness:  Beyond student ratings. (IDEA Paper #36). Manhattan, KS:  The IDEA Center.  Retrieved from http://www.ideaedu.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/IDEA%20Papers/IDEA%20Papers/idea_paper_36.pdf  

Hughes, K. E., II, & Pate, G. R. (2013). Moving beyond student ratings: A balanced scorecard approach for evaluating teaching performance. Issues in Accounting Education, 28(1), 49-75. doi:10.2308/iace-50302  (Permalink for faculty on KSU's network)

McAllister, L. S. (2008). Evaluating teaching effectiveness in music.  American Music Teacher, 58(3), 14-17. (Permalink for faculty on KSU's network)

McCarthy, M. A., Niederjohn, D., & Bosack, T. (2011). Embedded assessment:  A measure of student learning and teaching effectiveness. Teaching of Psychology, 38(2), 78–82.  (Permalink for faculty on KSU's network)

Richmond, A. S., Boysen, G. A., Gurung, R. A. R., Tazeau, Y. N., Meyers, S. A., & Sciutto, M. J. (2014). Aspirational model teaching criteria for psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 41(4), 281-295.  (Permalink for faculty on KSU's network)

Wieman, C. (2015, January/February).  A better way to evaluate undergraduate teaching. Change, 6-15.  Retrieved from http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2015/January-February%202015/better-way-full.html

Wieman, C., & Gilbert, S. L. (2014).  The teaching practices inventory:  A new tool for characterizing college and university teaching in mathematics and science. CBE – Life Sciences Education, 13, 552-569.  Retrieved from http://www.lifescied.org/content/13/3/552.full

Wesolowski, B. (2014). Documenting student learning in music performance: A framework. Music Educators Journal, 101(1), 77. doi:10.1177/0027432114540475  Retrieved from http://mej.sagepub.com/content/101/1/77.short