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Evaluating Teaching

The principles of reflective teaching have long guided our work at the Center for Teaching Excellence, and they form the foundation of our approach to representing and evaluating teaching. This includes our NSF-funded program on evaluating teaching, Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness.

Benchmarks Rubric

A brief version of the Benchmarks Framework can be downloaded here

An accessible version of the documents on this site will be made available upon request. Contact cte@ku.edu to request the document be made available in an accessible format.

Elements of reflection and evaluation

After a course, you should compile evidence of learning found in student work and reflect upon what it says about the course. It’s challenging to identify weaknesses in an instructional design and plan changes that might benefit future students. In many cases, this process involves making the results of your teaching public and seeking feedback from others. Peer review of teaching provides an occasion for examining the intellectual work of teaching, including constructive feedback on that work from professional peers.

In the process of offering a typical course you’ll likely spend about 50 hours in contact with students (in class, labs, studios or consultations), and probably the same amount of time outside class in preparation, reading student work, and general course management. Rather than discard the products of that substantial amount of time, it’s very useful to set aside some time to write down your impressions of a course. You could comment on which topics or issues you would emphasize more or de-emphasize in your next offering. You could consider how well you felt the assignments, projects, and exams represented the skills and knowledge you hoped to see in your students. Were there particular areas of student work (e.g., assignments, particular exam questions, or dimensions of an assignment rubric) on which students consistently excelled, or seemed to struggle? Making notes about such changes is best accomplished right after the course is over, while the ideas and experiences are still fresh in your mind.

You also can save some representative samples of student work that show what you and they accomplished together. It’s disheartening to a teacher to think that after years of teaching there has been no progress in advancing students’ understanding of our field. If you have a small but accessible record of some key performances from several offerings of a course, you can review them for any trends. Maybe you see some consistent problems that you can address with more time, different materials, or additional practice. Maybe you see some improvement over time that was not apparent to you in the midst of teaching. Ultimately this is why we teach, to help students appreciate and understand our fields as we do. Keeping a small archive allows you to see how you are doing in a longer perspective, and to make examples visible to others. You can use this student consent form (.pdf) to get your students' permission to use their work in representations of your teaching.  

Whatever your field of research or creative activity, you keep archives of your work. You have examples of studio work, lab data, and notes from library visits or interviews; you capture the important products of your inquiry into your field in many ways. Given the amount of time you likely spend each semester on teaching (probably more than 200 hours total for two courses), it would be a shame to lose all the benefits of that work by not developing some record of what was accomplished. The syllabi, assignments, and student work are done anyway, so you should not simply throw them away. Reflecting on and writing out your observations to capture your insights at the moment of greatest understanding is a wise investment. It will help you grow as a teacher and achieve your goals, and ultimately those reflections can document your intellectual work as a teacher.

For more detailed information about how to represent and write about evidence of student learning, the Guidance for Representing and Using Evidence of Student Learning for Teaching Evaluations (.docx) document has examples from a wide range of disciplines. 

Keeping a record of what you have done in the classroom, along with notes about why you did what you did, is the best way to avoid what Lee Shulman has described as “pedagogic amnesia.” It’s easy to forget which assignments clearly showed whether or not students understood a key concept. Did grading essay exams take that much time? At the end of a semester, what gaps were evident in student learning, calling for a restructuring of part of a course? Although you might feel exhausted at the end of the semester, we reccomend reflecting on your teaching while the course is still fresh in your mind. AFter you submit final grades, gather examples of student work and reflect on how you assessed student learning.

To keep a record of a course, you may wish to compile the items listed below. If you gather these kinds of materials for each course you teach, you’ll have a complete record of your teaching. With this record, you will be able to illustrate the trajectory of your teaching accomplishments for your reviews.

Items you can compile for a course record include:

  • Syllabus
  • List of course goals (may be included in the syllabus)
  • Brief description of how assignments relate to course goals (may be included in the syllabus)
  • Samples of student work at various levels (high, mid, low)
  • Notes on student performance:
    1. Were the course goals appropriate?
    2. How many students/what percentage achieved course goals?
    3. What gaps in student learning are evident?
    4. What material needs more time or a new approach?

One critical source of information for the evaluation of teaching at KU is material that the instructor being evaluated puts together to document and represent their teaching. The Instructor Statement, or Self-Reflection, is the centerpiece of an instructor's documentation of their teaching. The statement(s) should go beyond the philosophy of teaching. Use it to explain what and how you teach, giving specific examples to illustrate why you use the approaches you do and (very importantly) how you know whether those approaches are effective (i.e., the intellectual work involved in teaching). The Benchmarks dimensions and rubric can structure these reflective statements. In short, the reflective statement will center on these sorts of questions: 

What are your goals for student learning in your course(s) and why? What approaches do you use to help students achieve these goals? How do you know that students are achieving them? How have your teaching experiences shaped your ongoing goals and practices as a teacher?”

You can see that this set of questions asks about the kind of consideration of your teaching that’s been highlighted on this page. If you’ve been taking time each semester to think back on a course, you’ll have this part already done. It’s most important to show the growth of a course, rather than document every aspect of every course. By capturing the essence of how a course has changed over multiple offerings, you provide your colleagues with a good representation of your thinking, planning, and growing as a teacher.

The Benchmarks Framework page provides more detailed prompts and tools to guide self-reflective statements (a self-reflection narrative guide and a short form for self-reflection), along with suggestions for supporting documentation. This guidance is adaptable for P&T, multi-term, or annual reviews.  

For an example of this kind of writing, please see this sample teaching statement (.docx)