By Carolyn Hoessler
Solving a puzzle involves selecting, viewing, planning, and placing many pieces in order to see the full image. Answering questions of how well do I teach, how is this activity going, or what should I do differently next time, entails a similar set of four phases. As each instructor is unique, the questions embedded within each phase allows us to customize the feedback process to our own needs. So what might we want to think about to make evaluating our teaching a rewarding experience?
Planning and gathering insights:
- Preconditions: demographics, prior experience, knowledge, location of class
- Plans: course goals (e.g., How clear are course outcomes to students?)
- Procedures: activities, materials, teacher and students’ approach to the topic
- Products: students’ knowledge, abilities, reactions after the course.
- Who? (Students, colleagues, observers)
- Format? (Open-ended questions, closed questions, observations, video, and materials)
- Timing – when is it meaningful to measure? (Immediately after the activity if examining reaction versus after a course ends to see implications for community)
- How can I communicate the focus and why providing feedback is important?
Insights including products can be measured at several levels of immediacy including students’ reactions, learning gains, application of new knowledge or abilities, and later impact on community.
One approach for communicating the purpose of feedback to one’s students, as shown in this example video.
Interpreting and valuing responses:
- What are enduring patterns across students and the timeframe?
- Where are challenges/successes located? (Instructor-student communication, preparation, motivation)
- What are approaches to (further) success?
- Are the conclusions I reach accurate? (Would others reach similar conclusions?) Authentic? (Does the evaluation and conclusions address my values?)
One sorting technique when interpreting students’ feedback and planning is shown in this video.
Planning and building next steps:
- How do I proceed? Specific next step?
- How feasible is the plan? Benefits and Costs?
For example: Student feedback produces an outstanding turnaround for ABOR3500:
Trying and then checking what happens
– What intended and unintended events are occurring?
– When are the events occurring (timeline)? What are the costs?
– Are the challenges being addressed and success achieved?
With these questions in mind, we are set to learn more about our own teaching by putting together the pieces of insight available into a clear, albeit complex, view of our teaching from the seats rather than the front of the room.
Phases and questions based on Robert J. Menges, Maryellen Weimer, and Associates’ (1996) Teaching on Solid Ground: Using Scholarship to Improve Practice published by San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Levels of impact draws on Thomas R. Guskey’s (2000) Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.