Center for the Advancement of Innovative Teaching

Assessment of Teaching

Creating a student-centered learning environment relies on periodic assessment of teaching.  While the end of course evaluation offers valuable data, why wait until the end of course?  By requesting students’ feedback, you are sending a message that (a) you care about their constructive feedback; (b) you care about their learning process and their reflections on it; (c) you will make appropriate changes and reflect upon ideas you cannot implement immediately, (d) you are invested in their success.

Over the longer term, you (a) build trust and community; (b) improve student investment in and reflection on their learning needs; (c) get helpful ideas from students; and (d) make improvements to your teaching practice.  Because students see the comments of others, they have an opportunity to learn that students learn best in different ways or value different strategies.

Dr. Gregory Gaydos, Associate Professor of Political Science, began using self-assessment in 2011, and wrote about his experience: The students loved it that I cared, and I read every comment to the class and explained why I was or was not going to follow their suggestions. It also helped to launch me into new strategies because I saw the value of their suggestions.   (used by permission, 11/16/11)

Key Considerations:

  • Create a culture of formative self-assessment by asking students several times during a course for data on what is working for them in your teaching or in the class, and what is not.  It is recommended to conduct an assessment at various points throughout the course:  (1) very early (end of the first or second class); (2) mid-term and (3) a week or two before the end of your class.
  • The data sources must be anonymous so that students can be honest.
  • As soon as possible, compile the data and share it with all students.  Edit out nothing but slurs and insults to which no helpful resource can be made.  In some classes, it helps to discuss this process with students in advance, giving examples and using humor to minimize such comments.
  • As soon as possible, address the issues orally in class.
    • Some of you have complained about X, but many of you value X, so I'm going to leave it in place now because I believe . . . . If X continues to be a problem, bring it up again.  I'll consider a shift in this strategy next term.
    • A few of you are angry about the difficulty of campus parking. It troubles me, too, so I do understand.  However, I can't do anything about this.
    • The change several of you suggested makes sense to me, and I'll begin to do it soon.
    • You have asked me to offer you more group work.  I will begin to do so, soon.
    • You have asked me to break up long lectures, and I am looking for resources to help me with this.
    • Some of you complain about my inaccessibility or limited office hours, and have suggested some changes which I am thinking about (or plan to implement).
    • I can't make a change in Y because doing so breaks agreements implied in the course syllabus, but it was a good idea and I will consider a change next time I teach the class.

Strategies:

  • Stop-Start-Continue – have students work in sub-groups (of three to five), select a note-take, and complete a stop-start-continue sheet.  Stephanie Nickerson [an instructional consultant formerly at New York University's Stern School of Business] offers a powerful modification of this idea, re-wording all the questions to prompt building learning community inside a class. The START question is revised to What could we be doing that we are not doing now--as a class--that would help you learn?  This change emphasizes the fact that the class is a unique learning community and that students are responsible for their own learning and have a stake in how the class works and succeeds. (email 5-19-08)
  • Other variations of questions that are useful:
    • Name one specific thing in my teaching that is helping you learn in this class.
    • Name one specific thing in my teaching that makes learning more difficulty for you.
    • If you could change something about how I teach, what would that be?
    • These three are from Craig Nelson, well-known molecular biologist, Carnegie Scholar, and retired (2004) from Indiana University:  (1) What are three important things you have learned so far? [This gets each student to admit that something is important.]  (2) What are three aspects of the class that have helped your learning so far?  (3) What are three things you wish were different?  Learn more about Nelson’s strategies.
  • One-Minute Evaluations – This simple and effective tool was developed by Dr. Malia Smith.
  • One-Minute Papers – spend the last few minutes of class asking students to respond to these two questions:  (1) what was the most important point made in class today? (2) what unanswered question do you still have?  The data will identify those topics that need clarification.  Learn more about One-Minute Papers.
  • This strategy asks students to interview a peer and record his/her responses.
  • There are a couple of different options to evaluate teaching within an online learning environment.  Learn about the Online Small Group Assessment method which involves using an external facilitator to structure conversations (research from Western Carolina University).  Or, use the XXX tool within Blackboard to administer anonymous evaluations.  Data will be electronic and therefore easy to compile and view.
  • Clickers are an effective tool for administering quick evaluations of teaching.  For more information about clickers, contact CAIT.
  • The Transparency in Learning & Teaching Survey, a research initiative from the University of Illinois, compiles and will send you data on how your students view their learning experiences in your course.  It's a good complement to any required student ratings of your instruction. The instructor's results remain confidential and students' responses are anonymous.