Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

REPRESENTING TEACHING 

Learning how to represent your teaching is an integral component in your development as an instructor. This page offers practical advice for how to begin keeping records of student performance as well as successful assignments, lessons, course goals, and teaching practices. In addition to the matieral presented below, CTE also offers a Best-Practices Institute each May for faculty members and instructional staff members who would like to reflect on and learn to represent their teaching. For a brief introduction to the importance of making your learning visible, see this 2-minute mentor video with CTE Director Andrea Greenhoot and CLAS Associate Dean of Natural Sciences and Math, Bob Goldstein. 

Reflect on Your Teaching

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?

Make Learning Visible to Your Teaching Community

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. 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 a random but representative sample of student work as an archive of 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.

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.

Creating Course Portfolios

A course portfolio represents a teacher’s most effective practices. When teaching is approached as an act of data-driven practice, the course portfolio allows you to explore how effectively the goals of student learning are being achieved, from your point of view and from the perspective of student work. In this way, student and teacher practices inform and serve each other; this relationship is captured in the course portfolio.

The structure of a course portfolio explains course goals, how goals were implemented, how student performance was achieved, and the teacher’s reflection on what was achieved and what can be bettered in future offerings. A richer portfolio tracks a course’s evolution, showing what was learned and what skills improved over time. In contrast to other reviews, students’ voice and performance is evident through student work, not through student ratings. Also, instead of a generalized teaching statement, the reflections of the teacher are encompassed in an in-depth analysis of his or her teaching and future teaching goals (Bernstein 2006).

As members of an intellectual community, we’re happy when we can share our research. It’s valuable for colleagues to learn from our work and build on it, and we’re also proud to know we’ve accomplished something others find worthwhile. There may be a time when you feel that way about your teaching, as well, and KU has a way for you to share your accomplishments. CTE provides a number of faculty groups that share the products and insights of their teaching, and we work with faculty members to represent those in an online gallery. If you wish to share your work, we’ll help you create a course portfolio for our web site.

Evaluating Teaching at KU

Benchmarks Rubric

The measurement of any human activity is never perfect, whether it is teaching or research. The proposed guidelines offer a framework from which faculty can choose elements that may improve the measurement of teaching beyond current practices. It is intended to increase flexibility by offering many different ways that teachers can show their work and demonstrate what they are learning from its results.

It is not expected that any single faculty member would engage in all or even most of the activities listed below, but they should be recognized as part of teaching when they occur across the full duration of a teaching career.

Additionally, our Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, also has helpful information. Departments involved in that project are testing a rubric we have created at CTE to help make the evaluation of teaching more meaningful. You will find a copy of the rubric here.

Activities

1. How does this teacher conduct courses?

Evaluation in this area should focus on some or all of the following factors:

  • Clarity of course goals.
  • Relevance and appropriateness of course content.
  • Effectiveness of instruction in lecture, labs, discussion, studios, and other activities.
  • Appropriate relationship with students in which the instructor is available, challenges students, and supports their learning.
  • Measures of student learning.
  • Presentation of courses serving the mission of the unit or University.

A faculty member could provide various forms of evidence to indicate success in achieving these aims, such as:

  • Annotated syllabus.
  • Selection of course materials (readings, resources, demonstrations, grading standards, etc.).
  • Ratings and/or written comments from students.
  • Peer evaluation of classroom performance, interaction with students, and/or course materials.
  • Samples of student work demonstrating student learning.
  • Trend data showing the impact of the teacher on measures of learning.
  • List of courses taught and explanation of their importance.
  • Explanation of special service in particular courses, such as large lecture courses.
  • Teaching awards or nominations for teaching awards.
  • Other materials that the faculty member believes indicate excellence in teaching.

Faculty colleagues and or the department chair would evaluate the evidence provided by the faculty member to judge the degree to which he/she was attaining the aims cited above. Student perspectives of those properties of teaching they are in a good position to evaluate are reflected in “Ratings and/or written comments from students” shown above.

2. How does this teacher prepare for courses?
  • Appropriate preparation of new courses or efforts to improve instruction.
  • Continuing efforts to improve teaching.

A faculty member could provide various forms of evidence to indicate success in achieving these aims, such as:

  • Sample of course materials: learning activities, assignments, etc. for new or existing courses.
  • Plans for future course development; may include a journal or other reflections on teaching.
  • Examples of innovation in teaching including teaching practices, technology, etc.
  • Seminars attended or conducted on teaching; include description of new approaches learned from workshops or description of how ideas have been incorporated into teaching (annotated syllabus or other notes).
  • Student comments indicating changes in teaching, faculty observation supporting innovation based on workshops.
  • Examples of collaboration with faculty at KU or elsewhere to support teaching.
  • Examples of work with KU offices (KU Libraries, Writing Center, Learning Communities, etc.) to support teaching.
  • Publication(s) or other research on teaching.
  • Awards or nominations for research, teaching, or service related to improving teaching.
  • Other materials that the faculty member believes indicate excellence in teaching.

Faculty colleagues and or the department chair would evaluate the evidence provided by the faculty member to judge the degree to which he or she was attaining the aims cited above.

3. What teaching work has the faculty member done in addition to teaching courses?

Evaluation in this area should focus on some or all of the following factors:

  • Coordinating courses within a program, or developing a new course.
  • Supporting teaching at the unit level by developing new materials for general use; creating infrastructure for labs, studios, or field work; seeking grant support for teaching; recruiting students.
  • Mentoring and supervising GTAs/GRAs.
  • Mentoring and supervising students in clinical settings or internships.
  • Working with student groups.
  • Mentoring new faculty members in their role as a teacher.
  • Mentoring students or directing research projects

A faculty member could provide various forms of evidence to indicate success in achieving these aims, such as:

  • List of administrative or coordination activities, along with new materials developed and commentary from colleagues and students involved.
  • Observations and comments by students, colleagues, chair, dean on unit level contributions.
  • External funding of proposals/awards related to teaching, reviews of proposals.
  • Lists of those mentored and supervised in various roles (undergraduate, graduate, post-docs; research, teaching, clinical work).
  • Unit records of GTAs/GRAs’ performance, comments from other students learning from graduate students, comments from community partners or clients.
  • Examples of student work completed under teacher’s supervision, along with descriptions of venues for presentation and any recognition.
  • Letters from students, reflecting on mentoring activities and effectiveness and indicating how the mentoring has influenced student work and success.
  • Faculty colleagues’ comments on mentoring activities; e.g., service on MA or MS/PhD committees.
  • Examples of any regional or national critical review or recognition of student work.
  • Time to degree, success in obtaining employment or other placement.
  • Lists of student groups supported, identifying unit or university level, along with student comments, awards or achievement by the group.
  • Lists of faculty colleagues mentored on teaching, with examples of feedback given or comments from colleagues about the impact of the shared work.

Faculty colleagues and/or the department chair would evaluate the evidence provided by the faculty member to judge the degree to which he/she was attaining the aims cited above.

4. Has this faculty member made contributions related to scholarship of teaching?

Evaluation in this area should focus on some or all of the following factors:

  • Teaching related presentations at KU or elsewhere.
  • Attending or organizing teaching institutes.
  • Serving as a guest teacher at other institutions, for outside associations, or in the community.
  • Developing course materials, such as textbooks or websites.
  • Applying for and receiving grants in support of teaching or publishing articles related to teaching.
  • Participating in outreach to local schools (K–12) or other forums.

A faculty member could provide various forms of evidence to indicate success in achieving these aims, such as:

  • Conference programs from presentations, letters, or other evaluations of quality of presentations; samples of presentation notes or published proceedings; programs from institutes or letters evaluating participation or impact.
  • List of service on department or University teaching committees or presentations at KU Summit or the Center for Teaching Excellence.
  • Letters attesting to impact of guest presentations in classes; formal evaluations if available.
  • Books, web addresses, or other materials generated, along with any letters attesting to the impact or quality of the materials.
  • Products developed for schools, feedback from organizers of presentations, statements from professional society or honors or awards for contributions.
  • Grant proposals, reviewer feedback on proposals, copies of articles submitted and published.

Faculty colleagues and/or the department chair would evaluate the evidence provided by the faculty member to judge the degree to which he/she was attaining the aims cited above. We encourage you to examine this Rubric for Department Review of Faculty Teaching for more information on how your teaching might be assessed and evaluated at KU.

Developing Peer Observations

When most people hear the term “peer review of teaching,” they often think of someone visiting a class and writing a report on whether the lecture was clear and whether students were paying attention (or asleep). Our view at KU is that there’s much more to teaching than holding people’s attention while talking non-stop. As this website has suggested, there’s much to designing class time, assignments, feedback, and practice that can make a course more successful. In many cases, there will be time spent with students in which the teacher appears to be doing nothing but listening and occasionally commenting. There’s an apocryphal story about a department chair making the obligatory classroom visit to a young faculty member, and he was surprised to see students working together, sometimes sharing with other groups or with the whole class, and interacting individually with the professor. After 20 minutes he said to the professor, “It’s OK, I’ll come back sometime when you’re teaching.”

Peer review of teaching should include a detailed analysis of the professor’s plan for learning, including material selection, targeted goals for students, methods of measuring learning, indicators of success in learning, and use of time with students during scheduled classes, studios and labs. Peer reviewers focus on four areas: quality of intellectual content, nature of teaching practices, quality of student understanding, and evidence of how your teaching is changing over time.

Guidelines for evaluation of teaching at KU include a section for peer review that’s drawn from reading and discussing a portfolio of course materials. Check out the portfolio checklist below for items to include.

  • Annotated syllabus describing course content.
  • Short description of reasons for decisions about content and goals.
  • Elaboration of instructional design.
  • Examples of assignments and of student work on those assignments.
  • Reflection on students’ achievements and plans for future course offerings.
  • Essential items are the syllabus, examples of assignments and student work on those assignments, and your reflections on students’ learning and plans for future course offerings.

Teaching Statements

The guidelines for evaluation of teaching at KU include prompts for reflecting on your teaching. Specifically, the guidelines state: “Describe the topics you teach and give one or two examples of the intellectual goals you have for students. How do you help students achieve course goals?

How do you know that students are achieving these goals? How have your teaching experiences shaped your ongoing goals and practices as a teacher?”

Your answers to these questions will form the basis of the self-reflection portion of your teaching representation.

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.

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


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