Seeking feedback on the success of your teaching and the quality of students' experience is desirable for two main reasons:
- As a professional, you have a desire (indeed an obligation) to critically reflect on your activities, to judge the quality of those endeavours, and to seek quality improvements.
- The university is accountable to its various stakeholders – particularly its students – for the quality of learning outcomes, and unit evaluation is one important component of the University's quality assurance system.
Quality assurance and quality improvement in terms of student participation and achievements are thus the reasons for evaluation.
What to Evaluate
This will depend on the purpose of the evaluation – whether it be for course and/or teaching improvement (now, or for the next time the unit is offered), benchmarking against certain standards, or some other defined purpose.
Defining the purpose will determine the focus of your evaluation, which might include:
- The impact of ones' teaching
- The effectiveness of course design, including its content and assessment methods
- Adequacy of student support (academic, technical, administrative)
- Course delivery matters (e.g. with respect to web delivery).
When to Evaluate
In one sense, this question can be answered with 'all the time'. As teachers, we are continually gathering feedback informally and responding to, and adjusting, our teaching accordingly. However, such data tends to be gathered in an ad-hoc fashion, anecdotal and fleeting.
We therefore need to complement informal evaluation with more formal (i.e., structured and planned) evaluation.
Decisions on when to formally evaluate a unit depend on numerous factors, such as:
- At what stage the unit is in with respect to its development cycle. For example, it's often prudent to evaluate a unit that has been offered for the first time
- The last time the unit was reviewed
- Faculty/School requirements, and review schedules
- The purpose of the evaluation. There are two general types of evaluation based on their timing:
- Formative evaluation – carried out during the course of teaching, and largely for diagnostic purposes – i.e. checking the unit's progress, and making adjustments accordingly
- Summative evaluation – carried out at the completion of the unit, and largely for judgemental purposes – i.e. the extent to which unit aims and objectives have been achieved, and certain standards reached.
Findings from both can inform quality improvements for the next teaching period.
Summative (end-of-semester) evaluations are also required by faculty for quality assurance reporting purposes (see University of Tasmania Reviews Policy). The eVALUate system can be used as a part of the summative evaluation process. Quality Matters reviews are best used when the unit has been taught at least once, and has been self-reviewed against the standards.
How to Evaluate
Evaluation should involve gathering data from a range of sources, over a period of time. These sources and types of data include:
- your students and their work using:
- surveys and questionnaires during and at the end of the semester
- focus groups meetings or individual interviews
- discussion board forums and topics
- assessment submissions
- levels and type of interaction in MyLO
- assessment results (overall and for each task)
- completion rates
- formal and informal feedback from other teaching and support staff involved in the unit
- colleagues via peer review of teaching
- your own records (e.g., self evaluation, log books)
- higher education literature
- Quality Matters review - use the rubric yourself, use an internal (UTAS) review, or put your unit up for a full review with international recognition
For a range of evaluation methods check out the Evaluation Cookbook (PDF) produced by the Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative (LTDI) in the UK. The Cookbook not only tells you "how to", but also indicates the resources and indicative time needed to do use each method. Visit the website.
The method(s) chosen will depend on the sorts of data you wish to collect, which will in turn hinge upon the purposes of the evaluation. Generally you will wish to collect both qualitative and quantitative information.
Knowledge of different methods for evaluating your teaching and the implications of quality assurance for teaching practice are elements of core knowledge [K5, K6] included within the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).
The eVALUate system gathers largely quantitative data, with added scope for student comments.