Evaluating Teaching

As we approach the end of the term, students will be asked to provide feedback to instructors using U-M's course evaluation system. At CRLT, we often hear from faculty and GSIs who are discouraged about a number of issues related to student ratings, including the tone of some written comments, relatively low response rates, and uncertainty about how best to use the results productively. This post provides some resources for each of these concerns.

Student Ratings Questionnaire Example

1) Minimizing Unhelpful Comments: Student ratings comments can be unhelpful when vague or irrelevant, whether positive ("Great course!") or negative (e.g., criticism of instructor attributes not linked to the learning environment). To encourage students to avoid rude or personally hurtful comments, CRLT worked with ADVANCE at U-M on a handout that instructors can give to students before they fill out their evaluations. The handout, Course Evaluations: Providing Helpful Feedback to Your Instructors, asks students to keep three key issues in mind when completing their ratings: Read more »

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This Occasional Paper is designed to help experienced graduate students write a statement of teaching philosophy. The paper contains four sections. First, we offer suggestions for making a philosophy of teaching explicit and getting it on paper.  Second, we discuss research on characteristics of effective statements. Third, we introduce a rubric that can guide the development and crafting of a teaching statement that search committees will value.  Finally, we address questions that job candidates often raise about this sometimes perplexing document. 

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This Occasional Paper presents the 2010 U-M Faculty WorkLife Study survey data on teaching. The specific questions addressed here include: How much time do faculty spend working and how is their workload divided among teaching, research and service? What are the challenges that U-M faculty encounter in managing their heavy workloads? How satisfied are faculty with their teaching and their perceptions of the tenure process? Data are presented for all tenured and tenure-track faculty (except those in the Medical School because of the unique character of their work).

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Generally, students are able to report on the extent to which a teacher appears prepared for class sessions, communicates clearly, stimulates interest, and demonstrates enthusiasm and respect for students; research shows that student responses on these dimensions are valid and reliable. Generally, students are less able to judge the knowledge of the instructor or scholarly content and currency of a course.

When using student ratings for personnel decisions, keep the following guidelines in mind: Read more »

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In collaboration with faculty steering committees, CRLT designs customized workshops and retreats to address an academic unit's specific teaching and learning needs. Departments can also apply for CRLT grants to fund the retreats and to implement plans to improve teaching and learning that develop from such events.

Possible Topics for Retreats or Programs

Innovative Teaching Techniques

Faculty may want to consider new approaches to teaching in their discipline (e.g., problem-based learning, innovative uses of technology, incorporating multicultural content into the curriculum). In collaboration with faculty in the unit, CRLT's consultants can help define the topic, develop resources to support the innovation, describe current best practices, or search for an outside speaker who would provide the necessary expertise in the area in question. CRLTs programs always feature faculty from the unit. In the past, such programs have ranged from half-day workshops to a series of presentations over the course of a month.

Facilitating Exchanges About Current Practice

Faculty in a unit may wish to spend time exchanging strategies and learning more about how their colleagues approach teaching and learning. CRLT can work with faculty to define the issues and then facilitate the discussion itself. Such discussions might also be informed by the results of information collected from undergraduates, graduate students, or alumni about their experiences in the program. Read more »

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