Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness

Benchmarks RubricThe KU Center for Teaching Excellence is collaborating on a five-year project, called TEval, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF; DUE-1726087) to foster improved methods of reviewing, documenting and evaluating faculty teaching practices at KU, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The project involves working with departments and with institutional leaders to adapt and implement a rubric-based framework for documenting, reviewing and evaluating university teaching. The project is organized around the Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness framework developed by the Center for Teaching Excellence, and parallel frameworks at the other institutions.

About the Benchmarks Framework

Benchmarks posits that effective teaching involves the alignment of course goals and instructional practices, the creation of motivating and inclusive learning climates, and consistent attention to and reflection on student learning and feedback.  Benchmarks is organized as a rubric and identifies seven dimensions of teaching practice that are designed to capture the teaching endeavor in its totality, including activities outside the classroom (e.g., assignment design, reviewing student work), and contributions to individual courses and the curriculum. The Framework is designed to draw on information from three sources: the instructor, peers, and students. KU policies require these three sources for P&T, but reviewers often struggle to integrate and make sense of the evidence. Our goal is to provide structure and guidance to support meaningful implementation.

The rubric can be used to guide the evaluation of teaching effectiveness (e.g., for promotion and tenure or progress toward tenure). It can also be used to foster teaching effectiveness, as part of a peer review or teaching mentoring system, and to guide an instructor's own representation of their teaching. Informed by the work of a sdozen "incubator" departments/schools participating in the NSF project (see below), we have created several adaptable resources to support these uses of the Benchmarks Framework. 

Benchmarks Resources

We have developed several additional tools to support both teaching evaluation and teaching improvement.

General Guidance and Tools for Any Audience

  • The Benchmarks Rubric. Specifies criteria to assess an instructor’s teaching contributions in the developing, proficient or expert levels. For use for Evaluation, departments/reviewers will need to identify expectations for achievement of the rubric levels for instructors at particular career phases (e.g., “for junior faculty to meet expectations, most ratings should be in the proficient category.”)
  • An Evidence Matrix, suggesting sources of information (e.g., Instructor, Peer, Students) about each dimension of the framework. 
  • A guide for Peer Review and Dialogue about Inclusive Teaching
  • Sample Portfolio of Instructor Materials. Provides an example of the full range of materials from three sources (Instructor, Peers, and Students) that might go into an evaluation portfolio for promotion and tenure. 

Documenting Your Own Teaching: Instructor Material Preparation

  • Instructor Guide for Documenting Teaching. Outlines processes for documenting and representing your teaching. Includes tools to guide self-reflective statements (a self-reflection narrative guide and a short-form for self-reflection), and suggestions for supporting documentation. Adaptable for P&T, multi-term, or annual review.  
  • A Guide on How to Represent Student Learning for teaching evaluation. Can help instructors identify, represent and write about evidence of what and how well students are learning.

Peer Reviews of Teaching

Guidance and Tools for Departments, Evaluation/Review Committees, or Supervisors

  • Department Guide for Evaluating Teaching for Annual Review. Guidance for departments and schools on how the Benchmarks framework and tools could be adapted to evaluate teaching for annual review. Can guide what information department asks for and how they review and evaluate it. Departments should adapt as needed. 
  • Benchmarks Evaluation Form. A fillable form for evaluators to use to provide feedback to instructors on each of the seven dimensions of teaching in the Benchmarks framework. 

Tools for Documenting and Evaluating Mentoring and Advising

Guidance and Tools for Annual Review (for 2020, and beyond!)

More About the Benchmarks/TEval Project: Why We Are Doing This?

Universities like KU have traditionally relied on methods for evaluating teaching that prioritize a narrow dimension of teaching activity (the behavior of the instructor in the classroom) and a limited source of evidence (student ratings). When other sources of information—such as peer observations or course material surveys—are available, reviewers often struggle to integrate and make sense of it all. Moreover, many new faculty members wish they had a better sense of how their teaching will be evaluated and had opportunities to learn from feedback. The Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness increases the visibility of all dimensions of teaching, clarifies faculty teaching expectations, enables quick identification of strengths and areas for improvement, and brings consistency across evaluations and over time. For more information about the rationale, see this report from the Association of American Universities, which features KU’s Framework, and this Proceedings from a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine workshop, jointly hosted with TEval and the AAU. 

What Are Participating Departments/Schools Doing?
Departments go through the following cycle of activities, guided by CTE:
  1. Adapt the rubric, identify materials that might be used in each category, and build consensus with department colleagues.
  2. Use the modified rubric for some purpose, such as guiding a peer review or mentoring system, or structuring reviews of teaching for promotion and tenure or progress-toward tenure. 
  3. Share results with department faculty after use on multiple cases; review and revise framework.
  4. Participate in a cross-department working group of team leaders to share strategies, results, and lessons, and develop guidelines for departments and review committees.
What Units Are Already Participating?


Click links for department information 
Year 1 (Jan. - Dec. 2018) Year 2 (Jan. - Dec. 2019) Year 3 (Jan. - Dec. 2020)
Biology African & African-American Studies Pharmacy Practice
Philosophy  Physics & Astronomy Social Welfare
Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Linguistics Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering
Sociology French, Francophone, & Italian Studies  
School of Public Affairs & Administration    


Participant Information and Eligibility

We have awarded grants to 12 departments over three years of the program. We do not anticipate offering additional grants at this time, but other departments or equivalent academic units on the Lawrence campus are welcome to join the program.

For more information about the project, contact CTE Director Andrea Greenhoot ( or 785-864-4193) or Associate Director Doug Ward ( or 785-864-7637).

CTE turns 25

The Center for Teaching Excellence is celebrating its 25th birthday this academic year. Watch for special events and workshops.