In this section we will examine the standard methods for the evaluation of teaching at UBC. There are a variety of required and optional forms of feedback that you can receive on your teaching.
There are two required forms of evaluation that are used at UBC: your department teaching evaluation form, which also includes the university-wide 6 question student evaluation of teaching (known as the “University Module”), and a peer review process (involving classroom visits by a colleague). The results of these evaluations can be used for your teaching dossier and to support tenure and promotion.
Standardized UBC Course Evaluation
A standardized 6 question student evaluation of teaching is now used in all courses at UBC. The purpose of these evaluations and this new policy (May 2008) is to provide the Provost’s office with a more consistent view of teaching and learning at UBC. The evaluation can also provide you with important feedback on your teaching (see “Using Course Evaluation Data Wisely”). The results of these evaluations are eventually incorporated into your teaching dossier and can optionally be shared with your students.
These evaluations are organized by the Provost’s office working in conjunction with your department (there is no instructor involvement in planning, delivery, and compilation of results). The University evaluation system allows questions to be added at a Faculty, department and individual course level. If you would like to incorporate your own questions in these evaluations, contact your departmental administrator.
Formative and Summative Peer Review of Teaching Process
Contact CTLT or your Faculty representative for Peer-review of Teaching.
Ask about the formative (from informal classroom visits to scholarly approaches) peer-review of teaching opportunities within your Department/Faculty.
In the summative peer evaluation of classroom teaching process, a senior departmental colleague visits your classroom and completes a report. This report is shared with you and your department head. These evaluations are eventually incorporated into your teaching dossier.
Each department/Faculty has a unique set of criteria that is used in these summative peer evaluations. Contact your department to get the criteria and review the criteria prior to any classroom visit. If possible discuss the criteria, your teaching philosophy, and your teaching plans with the reviewer before the classroom visit. Although this evaluation process is designed to be summative in nature, with appropriate discussions before and after the classroom observation it can become a useful formative opportunity. Since it can be disconcerting at first to have an observer in your classroom, it may be a good idea to invite a friend or near-peer to sit in on a class session to get some informal feedback on your teaching prior to a formal classroom visit.
Informal, Concurrent Evaluations by Students
These optional, instructor-arranged evaluations are done at various points of your choosing in a course and are designed to give the instructor feedback on how things are going. These evaluations can also be used to give students an important voice, especially when student-suggested changes are incorporated in the course.
A few words of caution and a few situations worth mentioning: you should discuss the results of these evaluations with your students, as nothing is worse than being asked for feedback and not having it acknowledged in a meaningful way. Try Incorporating at least some small change in your course in response to student suggestions, reinforcing the students’ perception that they are being heard. There will always be suggestions that you don’t incorporate, you need to acknowledge them, and then explain your rationale for not incorporating them. You need to manage student expectations on when and how you will give them feedback on their suggestions. For example, telling students that you will talk broadly to the major themes you/they have identified in the evaluations, and then invite individual students to office hours if they feel their feedback has not been adequately acknowledged.
Brookfield (1990) has suggested the use of a “Critical Incident Questionnaire” for informal classroom feedback. These evaluations can be as simple asking what should I keep doing and what should I stop doing.
Contact the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) if you would like to get examples of these and other kinds of concurrent evaluations.
The data gathered in all these processes should be retained year to year, so that Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) work may be possible in the future.
Using Teaching Evaluation Data Wisely
Teaching Evaluation data from students can be a valuable source of feedback to help you improve and enhance your classroom teaching and learning practice. This data can also help you to set strategic teaching and learning goals developmental) and monitor the effectiveness of your educational practice within your teaching context. It is usually most helpful to interpret teaching evaluation data with an experienced colleague.
For example, it is worth noting that reading your first student evaluation of teaching data can be incredibly satisfying, humbling and ego-bruising all at once. Students sometimes don’t provide constructive, helpful feedback. Some have little experience in providing constructive feedback and sometimes they have little understanding of the teaching and learning process. Some student comments can verge on being hurtful. The evaluations might just be an opportunity for students to vent on issues important to them (that may extend beyond your classroom). We have a tendency to dwell on a few negative comments in a sea of positive comments (it’s human nature).
Following my first course, I was devastated by a few negative comments. A few months later, I bumped into the colleague I that co-taught the course with, and she commented that the course “had been great…it went so well.” It became apparent that I had been unfairly dwelling on the negative.
These all might describe the same instructional event and represent a wide variety of students’ perspectives. Some students might expect a B for showing up, some don’t want to take the responsibility for their own learning, some want to be challenged, some perceive you personally as the source of all their troubles. The message here is to read your evaluations with “a grain of salt.” Try to find the comments and themes that will let you improve your practice and don’t dwell on the negative.
You can encounter very negative reactions from students who insist on a black versus white, right versus wrong world. When an instructor introduces ambiguity these students can become very uncomfortable, and begin to question authourity. Uncomfortable students, typically make instructors uncomfortable with their feedback. The authour Thoma in his article “The Perry Framework and Tactics for Teaching Critical Thinking in Economics” provides a very helpful and insightful student evaluation comment (likely from a student struggling with accepting ambiguity):
“It wasn’t a question of being hard or easy but rather too subjective. I found this to be the worst course I have ever taken, taught by the worst professor in the history of the human race…I have found the best course I have ever taken to be an introduction to the biology of the cell. The course required much more intense technical reading and a lot of work effort. But it was very rewarding and absolutely objective in its grading policy.”
Likely this comment is more about where the student is at, and not so much about the instructors teaching. These are still difficult comments to read and process. We need to remember that these comments might not be true, but may be true of something.