Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness

Any attempt to assess how effective one is as a teacher must start with some notion of what ‘effective teaching’ looks like. Most faculty would agree that an ‘effective teacher’ is one who has a consistently positive impact on student learning but even if institutions were interested in trying to capture this impact, identifying the causal impact of an individual instructor on student learning is, in practice, nearly impossible. A more efficient and practical approach is to identify teaching behaviors and practices that are associated with improved student learning. Fortunately, a large and growing research base now provides a good deal of information about what these behaviors and practices are.

  • One of the best known discussions of effective practices is Chickering and Gamson’s“Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987). They propose that an effective college instructor 1) Encourages contacts between students and faculty; 2) Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students; 3) Uses active learning techniques; 4) Gives prompt feedback; 5) Emphasizes time on task; 6) Communicates high expectations; and 7) Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
  • A task force of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology reviewed the literature to generate a set of Model Teaching Criteria and Competencies. According to their findings, a model teacher has “discipline-specific and pedagogical knowledge that continues to develop throughout their career; they skillfully apply varied instructional techniques; they intentionally plan, implement, assess, and revise learning interventions to achieve the central objectives of psychology education; and they elicit and utilize feedback from students.” The linked report includes a checklist that instructors can use to self-assess their competencies.
  • The literature on cognitive science and how people learn provides a different lens for thinking about effective teaching: effective teachers are those who understand how their students learn and use teaching strategies that leverage that understanding. Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center nicely summarizes both these Learning Principles and associated Teaching Principles.

Measurement instruments
There are a number of instruments that attempt to capture whether you are engaging in these behaviors and practices. Some of these are intended to be used a self-assessment; others can be adapted to solicit student feedback, or both. There are also some instruments that can be used/adapted to ask students about specific pedagogical methods.

  • Model Teaching Criteria and Competencies— The STP’s report includes a checklist that instructors can use to self-assess their competencies.
  • Teacher Behaviors Checklist— Developed by Buskist, et al, the TBC is a 28-item inventory that can be administered as an evaluation by students or a self-assessment. Click here for an editable version.
  • Teaching Practices Inventory— Originally developed by Carl Wiemann for STEM courses but applies/can be adapted for most other disciplines. Is largely intended as a self-assessment.
  • Student Assessment of Learning Gains— As the name suggests, the SALG asks students how their work in your class has contributed to gains in a variety of learning outcomes. Using the site, instructors can customize each of the items; click here for a pdf of the full template.
  • Surveys from SDSU’s Instructional Technology Services — ITS asks all faculty using clickers to administer this survey to their students at the end of the semester; they also ask faculty using one of the Learning Research Studios to administer this survey. Both ask students to indicate how the specific pedagogical intervention has impacted various aspects of their learning and engagement, and they can easily be adapted for other pedagogies.