National Dialogue Continues

Christine Broussard, University of La Verne, ASCN Working Group 6 Co-Leader

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published Mar 30, 2021 10:07am

Our nation has a need for college-educated members of society with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to successfully address the big challenges of our time: social justice, public health, and economic security. How can we guarantee that the college education students receive is inclusive and effective? For many years institutions have used student ratings from end of course surveys to evaluate educational effectiveness and to make retention and promotion decisions regarding faculty. But this approach has done little to encourage the adoption and use of evidence-based teaching practices that improve student performance and retention, particularly for PEERs (persons excluded based on ethnicity or race). In fact, given the inherent biases of those surveyed and the discomfort experienced by learners in challenging learning scenarios and effective pedagogies, the opposite may occur. Faculty are rewarded for 'likes' instead of for fostering concrete learning, for making students comfortable instead of challenging their intellectual comfort zones in appropriate ways, and get limited feedback, if any, on how equitable and inclusive their classroom environments are. A shift toward meaningful evaluation of inclusive and effective teaching requires systemic change at the institutional level. It is not enough to redesign student surveys to extract feedback on professional aspects of teaching (though that's a good starting point), we must also integrate thoughtful and informed peer evaluation, and provide infrastructure for professional development and self-reflection.

Shepherded by the National Academies, the Teaching Evaluation Collective (TEC) was formed. The TEC brought together high profile organizations and projects (NASEM BOSE, ASCN, TEval, AAU, APLU) deeply engaged in re-envisioning teaching evaluation in higher education to begin a national dialogue surrounding recognizing and evaluating Science Teaching in Higher Education. The broader goals of the collective are to

  1. provide opportunities for discussions in a national forum like today and resources for people to use locally to start or continue conversations on their own campuses
  2. provide practical resources for individuals, groups, and institutions to successfully initiate change at their own institutions and organizations.
  3. ensure that this national dialogue includes voices from as many different types of institutions that provide higher education to students in the US, like community colleges, 4-year institutions, HSIs (like my own institution), HBCUs, and TCU's, as well as public and private, selective and non-selective, large and small institutions, across the country. In the end we use our collective wisdom to come to a consensus on the standards of meaningful evaluation of inclusive and effective teaching in higher education.

Thus far the TEC has planned and carried out two convenings: 1) a face to face workshop in DC and 2) a series of virtual events.

To that end, ASCN is hosting a series of blog posts for the community to weigh in and to keep the dialogue going and growing. We want to continue the dialogue and we want you to participate. Leveraging our collective perspectives and wisdom will foster better, more creative ideas for how to create the systemic change necessary to guarantee that the education we provide is indeed inclusive and effective.

Here are some questions that were raised in the closing session of the virtual convening in January. You may find them useful in crafting your contribution to the conversation.

  1. How do we center the need for a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the conversation here and on our own campuses?
  2. What are we learning about where/how to situate discussions of teaching evaluation in ways that advance the importance of teaching in educational quality and faculty work?
  3. Who are the key stakeholders who need to be involved in this work (institutionally and nationally)? What are ways to involve broad campus constituencies in conversations to transform STEM teaching evaluation?
  4. How can the conversation around transforming teaching evaluation contribute to broader conversations about evaluating faculty work?

The co-leader of ASCN working group 6, Kadian Callahan, has provided the first blog to start us off. We look forward to hearing your responses. Learn more about the submission process.