Evaluation of Teaching

Approving Authority:
Adopted by Academic Board
Date of Approval:
February 1994
Last Amended:
 
Contact Officer:
 

*(The word "Teaching" here encompasses evaluation of subjects, degree programs and individual teachers.)

The University's Mission Statement includes inter alia the undertaking to provide "undergraduate and graduate education of the highest quality". Evaluation of the provision of undergraduate and graduate education is necessary for purposes of improvement as well as of accountability. This policy statement outlines responsibilities and principles pertaining to implementation of evaluation of teaching. In adopting this policy the University recognises that evaluation of teaching is only one aspect of evaluating educational provision.

The University requires all members of staff to cooperate with a program of regular evaluation of subjects and degree programs, as directed by a subject coordinator, head of school or dean. There is no requirement for sessional or annual reviews of all subjects or degree programs. The frequency of degree program surveys will be determined by the timetable timetable of degree program reviews adopted by each faculty. The frequency of subject surveys will be determined by subject coordinators. Evaluation of the performance of individual teachers is at the discretion of those individuals who may seek evaluation for formative purposes or for promotion or tenure reviews, or where a head of school or dean requires this information to fulflil their accountabilities in relation to teaching excellence.

A candidate who presents to a tenure or promotions committee data that was collected to support degree program or subject evaluation should also supply (1) a statement that clearly identifies the purpose for which the data was collected, (2) the nature of the candidate's contribution to the subject or degree program and (3) complementary teacher survey data (where appropriate) which can assist the committee to validate the trends shown in the aggregated data in relation to the individual.

Responsibilities

of individual academic staff

Individual members of academic staff at all levels of appointment are responsible for monitoring and working to improve their own performance as teachers. They should seek the opinion of students and colleagues, and engage in personal reflection, to achieve the highest possible standard of teaching. They are accountable to their students and to their head of school and other senior academic officers of the University.

Individuals are also responsible for documenting their achievement in teaching for purposes of appraisal, e.g. for committees which will decide on granting tenure and promotion, or for an interdepartmental review. For such purposes they are expected to present evaluative evidence, systematically collected and concisely reported.

Staff members are required to discuss the results of surveys pertaining to their teaching with their staff development reviewer.

Staff members are required to co-operate with requests of Heads of Schools.

of course co-ordinators and subject conveners

People who have the responsibility for developing and delivering particular subjects or groups of subjects should regularly seek feedback from a range of advisers (e.g. students, colleagues, specialist educators) on the subject or program itself (e.g. its content, structure, administration). They share with their teaching colleagues responsibility for achieving the highest possible standards. They are accountable to their head of school and other senior academic officers of the University as well as to students.

In addition to collecting information for purposes of improving programs, course coordinators and subject convenors may be called upon to evaluate subjects or degree programs for the purposes of accountability, for example, as part of the cycle of regular reviews conducted by the University, or for the information of visiting committees or government discipline review panels.

Course co-ordinators and subject convenors should conduct evaluation of subjects and degree programs in accordance with the principles of implementation outlined in this policy.

of heads of schools and deans of faculties

The duty statements of heads of schools and deans of faculties specify that they should:

  • "conduct regular reviews of the conduct of teaching and research in the disciplines represented in the school (faculty)..."
  • "promotional excellence in teaching and research...", and
  • "engage in reviews of performance of individual members of staff...".

In addition, heads and deans are expected to "promote the interests and well-being of all (school) staff by ensuring that their personal development needs are recognised and that they are encouraged to take part in career development activities designed to improve their performance and enhance their potential".

Heads and deans are accountable to the students, the staff of their school and faculty, and the senior academic administration of the University for ensuring that the highest possible standards of teaching are maintained and that excellent teaching is appropriately recognised and rewarded.

Heads and deans should conduct regular evaluation of subjects and degree programs in accordance with the principles of implementation outlined in this policy.

In addition, heads and deans are responsible for advising staff members on how to document their achievements in teaching for promotion and other purposes, and as members of various panels and committees, they are responsible for appraising the validity, reliability and accuracy of data presented by staff members.

of the University

The University has the responsibility for making available resources and expertise to assist individuals, groups, schools and faculties to conduct valid and reliable evaluation of teaching. It also has the responsibility for making available resources to assist staff to improve their individual work as teachers and the subject and program offerings of their schools and faculties. Finally, it has the responsibility to ensure that evaluation of teaching is conducted in accordance with the principles of implementation outlined in this policy.

The University as a whole is accountable to its students, its staff, and to the wider community. Thus, it is the University's responsibility to provide clearly articulated procedures whereby students may raise concerns about teaching (or more specifically about teachers, supervisors, subjects and programs of study). These procedures should be sensitive to issues of confidentiality and misuse of information and should foster fair treatment of all parties concerned.

Principles of Implementation

Extensive research on evaluation of teaching over many years has established certain principles for obtaining valid and reliable information on both the performance of individual teachers and the quality of particular subjects and programs of study. This section calls attention to some of the issues revealed by this research as potentially difficult or problematic for those seeking useful evaluative information on teaching: for instance, the importance of clarifying the purpose of evaluations and of not over-emphasising comparisons of individuals' performances.

Multiple sources of evaluative information

Whether information is being sought for purposes of improvement or accountability, a range of sources of information should be consulted. Students are capable judges of matters such as whether a lecturer communicates clearly or whether they are given useful feedback on assessment tasks, but they are not usually well-qualified to judge whether, for example, reading lists contain the most useful and current items available in the subject area. Colleagues from within the same school or external to the University, discipline specialists and specialist educators will provide useful information on matters students cannot. The usefulness of self-evaluation should not be under-estimated.

The University will provide, from March 1, 1994, centrally available instruments to evaluate degree programs, subjects and individual teachers. Each of these instruments will contain both "core" questions and ample space for schools or individuals to include further questions chosen from a "question bank" or created for a specific purpose. Where schools/individuals have already developed survey instruments, they should consult with the director of the Educational Testing Centre to ascertain whether (1) the existing school-specific questions can be included in the survey or (2) the current survey (with or without amendment) should continue to be used, perhaps with some provision that would allow such data to be included in University-wide comparisons.

Specific purposes of evaluation

It is often hard to distinguish between evaluation of individuals and evaluation of programs. It is similarly hard to distinguish between evaluation conducted for improvement and for accountability. However, it is always good practice and sometimes absolutely necessary to try to draw these distinctions. The reasons for which information is being sought may suggest different evaluative methods and may affect both the use to which the information should be put and those to whom it should be made available.

For example, if the goal is to help an individual identify strengths and weaknesses in her/his teaching so that weaknesses can be improved and strengths consolidated during a probationary period, a relatively informal and open-ended set of questions to students, supplemented by consultation with a respected colleague, might provide more useful information than a traditional set of items with rating scales and results compared to other staff norms.

If the goal is to assist a head of school to identify subjects or programs which need some extra attention, a very short questionnaire may be sufficient; it would not reveal specifically the cause of problems, nor would it give valid information about individual teachers for promotion purposes, but it would identify areas to look at more carefully. The follow-up should draw on multiple sources of evaluative information.

Appropriate methods for different teaching contexts

Methods of obtaining evaluative information should vary depending on the circumstances of teaching (large groups or small, lecture or interactive, team of teachers or individual, etc.). Obtaining information which allows easy comparisons of individuals' achievements is less important than obtaining valid information.

Confidentiality and Misuse of Information

Staff such as subject coordinators, heads and senior managers who have access to evaluative information concerning the teaching of others have a responsibility to ensure that the highest levels of confidentiality are maintained, consistent with the purposes for which the information was originally gathered.

They also have a responsibility to ensure that the information they gather and have access to is not misused. Valid evaluative information about teaching is usually context and purpose specific as noted above. The most common form of misuse involves gathering information for one purpose and then subsequently employing it for other purposes or in other than the originally intended contexts. Information gathered as part of subject and degree program evaluations should not be used to form judgements about the quality of an individual's teaching, information obtained as part of a developmental review should not be used in the course of a program evaluation, etc.

Where other than originally intended uses are being contemplated for evaluative information, the consent of all parties concerned should be sought, and the issue of the validity of the information with respect to the new purpose should be considered.

Recognition of potential for biased data

Some situations are known to be more likely to elicit biased evaluations: for example, large enrolment compulsory service subjects do not actually "score" as well as small enrolment electives, and there is some evidence that students do not seem to rate the contributions of female teachers as highly as those of males. Seeking a range of evaluative sources, carefully appraising the evidence presented, and monitoring the literature on evaluation of teaching will help ensure against reaching unfair conclusions about individuals' performance.

Importance of expert advice on evaluation

No evaluation for administrative purposes (including tenure, promotion, discipline, or other decision-making which may affect individual careers, as well as evaluation of programs involving a number of academics) should be entered into without advice from someone experienced in constructing, conducting and interpreting evaluations of teaching.

Importance of consultation with those being evaluated

Heads of schools, deans and other senior academics should consult staff about the timing and method of evaluations to be undertaken, and about how and to whom results are to be reported. Staff should always have access to all data collected in subjects with which they have any involvement, and should be given an opportunity to comment on all results.

Importance of communication of results of evaluation

Because the various parties accept that they are accountable for the quality of teaching in the University, information gained from evaluation of teachers, subjects and degree programs should be communicated to those who have an interest in the results. Those with an interest in the results may include students, the wider community, and those charged with working to improve unsatisfactory situations.

The University will agree to provide the Student Guild with the results of subject evaluation through the Educational Testing Centre for use for defined purposes, such as for publication in a "student-course handbook". (Results of survey data will also be available in the University Library).