A Framework for Assessing Teaching Effectiveness (FATE)

Shaun Simonson, Boise State University

Author Profile
published Jun 23, 2021 12:40pm

In higher education, teaching evaluation is often inadequate and inaccurate, neither improving teaching directly nor incentivizing teaching improvement. Complicating this is that effective teaching is difficult to assess and one or two subjective measures do not accurately consider all aspects of teaching and are often nebulous without established standards. COVID-19 may actually have helped by drawing more attention to this and reducing resistance to change as people became uncomfortable with student course evaluations not telling the complete teaching story that faculty and departments want told.

However, because of these insufficient evaluation structures, faculty may not be aware of the need to change or how to implement change. In our manuscript in College Teaching, we define effective teaching and develop a flexible framework that considers multiple facets of teaching.We propose four criteria to assess how faculty teach:

CRITERION 1: Course Design: Designs course materials in alignment with course learning outcomes

Exemplary teachers will design their courses around appropriate course learning outcomes, design a variety of summative and formative assessments, which effectively measure student achievement of those outcomes, and create course activities which support students in reaching the course learning outcomes.

CRITERION 2: Scholarly Teaching: Implements evidence-based practices

Exemplary teachers will implement a variety of evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) in their daily teaching and assessments in order to best support student learning and students' development as learners. Note: Instructor does not need to cite the literature regarding EBIPs, but can refer to EBIPs from this list; use of additional EBIPs is also encouraged.

CRITERION 3: Learner-Centered: Uses an inclusive, learner-centered approach

Exemplary teachers will design courses and course materials that focus on learning and the learner, rather than the instructor, and implement inclusive teaching practices which reach all learners and provide students opportunities for success.

CRITERION 4: Practices reflective teaching to drive continuous improvement of teaching

Exemplary teachers will be reflective practitioners who use feedback from a variety of sources (students, peers, CTL, department, self) to seek a variety of approaches to continuously improve as teachers.

Challenges to implementing large-scale change to teaching assessment seem to fall into two categories: 1) concern and resistance to creating and evaluating teaching portfolios due to time and effort commitment (particularly for those who do not place a high value on teaching and perhaps those who do not want their teaching more closely scrutinized), and 2) lack of perceived institutional value. Based on our four criteria and despite the associated challenges, we suggest that a teaching portfolio is the most effective way to evaluate faculty teaching. We have taken an educational and ground-up approach to managing resistance and are focusing on those institutional actors for whom teaching plays a more critical role in their job retention: early career faculty and lecturers. Within our article we have included rubrics for each of the criteria to help evaluators identify sources of evidence and assess the strength of the teaching from "missing" to "exemplary." We created FATE in order to provide a standardized approach to teaching evaluation that can work across institutions and departments.

Comments from early adopters:

  • Using FATE and the rubric was really eye-opening in terms of where I have excelled and where I can improve in my teaching.
  • I like that it goes beyond student evaluations and takes into account all the work (mental as well as actually reworking things) that goes into teaching. I also like that it names these different professional practices in the rubric.

We recommend FATE as an institutional approach to change teaching evaluation policy and to provide more incentive for effective teaching.  This work is supported by the NSF under grant DUE 1856653.