Learning from Evaluation of Effective Teaching Event: Perspectives on Aligning Incentives

Rachel Renbarger
Western Michigan University
Christine Broussard
University of La Verne
Christine Broussard, University of La Verne and Rachel Renbarger, Western Michigan University

published Sep 23, 2021 9:11am

At the end of August, three ASCN working groups came together to put on an event called, "Evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching: How can teaching and learning center professionals be involved in change for social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion?" (We will refer to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as JEDI for ease throughout this post.) We heard from working group leaders Christine Broussard, Kadian Callahan, and Holly Cho, and a special guest, Susan Elrod. We were fortunate to have 100 participants join us for the session as well, who represented 77 different institutions. The purpose of this blog post is to give brief highlights regarding what we learned from this event. We recommend that if the topic and event interests you, please watch the recording and access the resources on the event page.

We face a challenge regarding evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching. It is a task with many layers. For many change agents, interest in the topic may have started with asking questions such as "How can we transform STEM education to include evidence-based or signature pedagogies?" or "How can we engage in scientific teaching?" Yet our efforts continue in the context of global upheaval and national awareness of social injustices, violence toward the Black and Asian communities, and the disparities in COVID-19 and other health outcomes wrought by mechanisms of systemic racism. We can't help but turn inward to reflect on what we can do to make our world (including our classrooms) a better place. Over the last year, ASCN has engaged in a reckoning with what role we play as individuals and as an organization in the inequities we recognize are embedded in higher education and what role might we play in changing the system. To that end we have begun to look at each of our working group missions and activities to determine how we can substantively approach our goals with a JEDI lens.

When the ASCN leaders of working groups 3 (Change Leaders), 5 (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Social Justice), and 6 (Aligning Incentives with Change) got together to discuss a collaborative effort around evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching we had several questions in mind.

  • The first question was what do we need to know in order to meaningfully transform teaching evaluation in higher education to recognize, measure, and uphold quality standards for effective and inclusive teaching of all learners?
  • The second was how can we (process/tools) evaluate effective and inclusive teaching?
  • The third and final question was who should be involved in the process- both of revising teaching evaluation at our own institutions and in implementing it?

We put together what we hope were thoughtful presentations and breakout sessions that would shed some light on potential answers to these questions for participants' context and would give them ideas for how to continue this effort on their own campuses. Because no one of us has all the answers, we hoped that together we could begin to mine, create, and share a body of knowledge that can be used by all in this important endeavor.

To illustrate, we used a chat storm to take the pulse of the participants. Participants were asked to respond to one of these three prompts: 1. How does your institution measure teaching effectiveness? What and how many tools are used in your evaluation processes? 2. Who is involved with shaping the measures, providing feedback, shepherding the process? What professional development opportunities are available for teaching, for peer review? 3. How is JEDI addressed in evaluation processes?

Many participants shared that their institutions were still heavily reliant on student evaluations of teaching. Some institutions add peer evaluations to student feedback, but peer evaluations may not be structured. Several institutions had a three-pronged approach: student evaluation, peer evaluation, and self-reflection. For the question of who is involved, most respondents said the department was the unit for evaluation, with some adding other institutional levels as well. Finally, most respondents indicated that JEDI is not addressed in the evaluation of teaching. It was clear from chat responses and breakout sessions that many institutions are ripe for reform, and at least some stakeholders are looking for tools and guidance to inform the revision process.

In terms of aligning new teaching evaluation standards with the mission of the university, one participant asked "How do you bring up this difficult conversation when everyone [university administration] has other priorities and time commitments?" Here are some lessons we took away from the presentations and breakout work.

  1. Think about who it really takes to make this happen. 
  2. Even after you identify the important leaders, they may not care. Can you bring data to the problem? Can you see yourself/your issue in the institution's strategic plan? Make yourself relevant to the conversation. Read your dean, provost, and presidents' speeches and try to figure out what keeps them up at night. 
  3. Some participants suggested getting on the strategic planning committee or the association of faculty & staff of color to have the ear of the president's office. 
  4. Another participant suggested you can start the change with one department, pilot the work, and then let that success provide momentum across the university.

Overall, we enjoyed this informal discussion with the large group of attendees and our ASCN working group colleagues. In the coming weeks there will be summative thoughts from the working group on change leaders and diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice so stay tuned to the ASCN blog for more insights.

Additionally, we hope you join us for our ASCN events called "Teaching Effectiveness and JEDI" on October 18th and "Teaching Evaluation and JEDI" on December 14th. Register here.

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