For immediate release
July 19, 2023
CHEVY CHASE, Maryland – Participants from more than 25 U.S. and Canadian institutions have agreed to combine their efforts to transform the way teaching is evaluated at colleges and universities.
Their goals include expanding use of more meaningful evaluation processes to recognize and reward high-quality teaching, to draw more instructors into the use of evidence-based teaching practices, and, ultimately, to make colleges and universities more equitable.
During three days of meetings at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, the group shared the work being done on participants’ campuses, created a list of shared values, and identified several overlapping approaches to reaching out to faculty members and administrators interested in this work. The group met at the Summit on Transforming Teaching Evaluation, which was organized by a National ScienceFoundation-funded project known as TEval.
TEval was created by faculty members at the University of Kansas, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Michigan State University. For the past five years, it has been piloting more nuanced approaches to evaluating teaching and developing rubrics, guides, and other tools for evaluating teaching.
Universities have long relied on student surveys as the primary – and often sole – means of evaluating teaching. Those surveys can gather important feedback from students, but they provide only one perspective on a complex process that students know little about. The results of the surveys have also come under increasing scrutiny for biases against some instructors and types of classes.
Gabriela Weaver, a professor at UMass and a principal investigator on the NSF grant, said the goal of the summit was to channel approaches used on many different campuses toward a larger movement. TEval isn’t trying to expand its own network, she said, but rather trying to use what it has learned to help other universities embrace change.
“The energy at the summit was incredible,”Weaver said. “We want to maintain that momentum and put the participants’ great ideas to work in the coming years.”
Among the ideas the group coalesced around were raising awareness of a need to change the evaluation of teaching; making case studies, rubrics, and other resources on changing teaching evaluation more readily available; identifying ways to incorporate meaningful data into the evaluation process; creating a community of learning focusing on aspects of teaching evaluation; exploring the possibility of creating a center focusing on the evaluation of teaching, and pursuing funding to help maintain all of the efforts.
Ann Austin, a professor at Michigan State and a principal investigator on the TEval grant, said the time was right to pursue those projects. The pandemic has roiled higher education at a time when it is under intense public and political scrutiny, and is grappling with issues like access, diversity, and purpose. Artificial intelligence has added to the challenge, she said.
“We are at a moment of significant rethinking of higher education,” Austin said, perhaps a point of change not seen since World War II. “We think of teaching evaluation as a lever for change, and it is central to the role of the academy, the way we engage in academic work, and the responsibilities we have to societies and to learners of all types.”
Over the coming weeks, summit participants plan to form theme-based sub-groups to expand on ideas and to begin pursuing the goals identified during the summit.
“Clearly, there’s a desire for more of this work,” said Noah Finklestein, a professor at CU and a principal investigator on the TEval project. “Now it’s up to all of us to make that happen.”
Andrea Follmer, a professor at KU and a principal investigator on the TEval project, said the work of defining high quality teaching and how to more equitably recognize and reward it could provide inspiration and insight at a time when spirits had been sagging.
“Working on these things collaboratively brings people together around a common purpose,” Follmer said. “That feels especially good right now, at a time when our sense of community has deteriorated.”
The 42 participants at the summit represented 22 colleges and universities in 12 states and three Canadian provinces. Also attending were representatives of the Association of AmericanUniversities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the Bay View Alliance, and HHMI. Members of the new coalition will begin work during the summer.
For additional information:
Gabriela Weaver firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Austin email@example.com
Andrea Follmer (Greenhoot) firstname.lastname@example.org
TEval was formed in 2017 after principal Investigators from four public research universities received $2.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (Grant Numbers DRL 1725946, 1726087, 1725959, and 1725956) to explore amore holistic approach to documenting, recognizing, and rewarding high-quality teaching. Three of its member universities (KU, CU and UMass), which came together through a network called the Bay View Alliance, have been recruiting departments on their campuses to evaluate teaching through a common framework that draws on evidence from peers, instructors, and students. The fourth (Michigan State) is researching the change process involved in the work at the other universities.
About the Bay View Alliance
The Bay View Alliance is a network of ten research universities in the United States and Canada working to advance more effective approaches to teaching and learning, and to develop and study strategies to foster cultural change that leads to the adoption of improved teaching methods at universities.
Support for the summit was provided by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.