Teaching Evaluation: Some Foundational Ideas

Evaluation is the systematic observation of relevant performance to make decisions (Arreola, 2007), involving four main components:

  1. Systematic and thoughtful collection of data
    1. Design and content of instruments used, information collected
    2. Implementation and process
    3. Reporting
  2. Interpretation of data
  3. Judgment of value
  4. Use: A plan for action, different purposes

(adapted from Wolf, 1987)

A teaching evaluation initiative, therefore, could involve a change to practice in any of these areas.
Teaching evaluation also has many different purposes, from teaching and program improvement, to personnel decision making, to accountability reporting. Typically, evaluation can be divided into formative and summative evaluation:

Summative Evaluation: final assessment, judgment

  • Personnel-related decisions – hiring, tenure, promotion
  • Information to students – course selection

Formative Evaluation: developmental

  • Feedback to instructors – ongoing enhancement of individuals
  • Research on teaching – enhance practice through scholarship

There are many recurring themes in research on effective teaching evaluation. To be effective, teaching evaluation should be:

  1. Multi-faceted, using multiple types of data, approaches to gathering data, and methods for evaluating data
  2. Shared understanding of quality teaching
  3. Robust feedback cycles
  4. Change in teaching evaluation system requires sustained, multi-level, consultative leadership
  5. Communications and dialogue are critical

(Wright et al., 2014)

Selected References

Arreola, R. (2007). Developing a comprehensive faculty evaluation system: A guide to designing, building and operating large-scale faculty evaluation systems. San Francisco: Anker Publishing

Berk, R.A. (2009). Using the 360° multisource feedback model to evaluate teaching and professionalism. Medical Teacher, 31(12), 1073-1080.

Berk, R.A. (2014). Should student outcomes be used to evaluate teaching? Journal of Faculty Development, 28(2), 87-96.

Buller, J. (2012). Best practices in faculty evaluation: A practical guide for academic leaders. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Chalmers, D., Cumming, R., Elliot, S., Stoney, S., Tucker, B., Wicking, R., & Jorre de St Jorre, T. (2014). Australian University Teaching Criteria and Standards Project Final Report. Retrieved from

Gibbs, G. & Coffey, M. (2004). The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(1), 87-100.

Graniero, P. & Hamilton, B. (2016). Making Sense of Teaching Evaluations: The Value of Noise. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Western University: London (ON)

Gravestock, P. (2011). Does teaching matter? The role of teaching evaluation in tenure policies at selected Canadian universities. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

Gravestock, P. & Gregor-Greenleaf, E. (2008). Student course evaluations: Research, models and trends. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Grayson, J.P. & Grayson, K. (2003). Research on retention and attrition (No. 6). Montreal: The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

Hativa, N. (2013). Student ratings of instruction: Recognizing effective teaching. USA: Oron Publications.

Hénard, F. & Roseveare, D. (2012). Fostering quality teaching in higher education: Policies and practices. An Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE) guide for higher education Institutions. Retrieved from policies%20and%20practices.pdf

Piccinin, S.J. (2003). Green Guide 4: Feedback key to learning. Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. London, ON.

Theall, M. & Franklin, J. (2001). Looking for bias in all the wrong places: A search for truth or a witch hunt in student ratings of instruction? In P. Theall, L. Abrami, & L. Mets (Eds.) The student ratings debate: Are they valid? How can we best use them? New Directions in Educational Research, 109. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, R. (1987). The nature of educational evaluation. International Journal of Educational Research, 11(1), 7-19.

Wright, A., Hamilton, B., Mighty, J., Muirhead, B., & Scott, J. (2014). The Ontario universities’ teaching evaluation toolkit: A feasibility study. Report to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities – Productivity and Innovation Fund Program. University of Windsor: Windsor, ON.