by: Doug Ward, Associate professor of journalism, Associate director, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Kansas
Three universities in the Bay View Alliance have helped generate a national conversation about the way teaching is evaluated.
The three institutions, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Kansas, are part of a project known as TEval,which is working to create a more nuanced approach to evaluating teaching. More than 60 faculty members at the three campuses are now part of the project, which received a five-year, $2.8 million project from the National Science Foundation in 2018.
TEval co-sponsored a meeting in mid-September at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington. The Association of American Universities was another co-sponsor. The meeting brought together leaders from universities around the country to discuss way to provide a richer and fairer evaluation of faculty teaching and, ultimately, to expand the use of practices that have been shown to improve student learning.
The TEval project has helped put the three BVA institutions at the forefront of that discussion. Faculty members at UMass, CU and KU have been working to adapt a rubric that outlines effective teaching practices, identify appropriate forms of evidence, and rethink the way they evaluate teaching. One goal of the project is to provide a framework that other universities can follow.
At the meeting in Washington, several other universities shared highlights of conversations they were having at their campuses. And though each is taking a slightly different approach, there was widespread desire for a fairer evaluation system that better reflects the many components of excellent teaching.
The process still faces many challenges, as participants made clear. Emily Miller, associate vice president for policy at the AAU, said that many universities were having a difficult time integrating a new approach to evaluating teaching into a rewards system that favors research and that often counts teaching-associated work as service.
“We need to think about how we recognize the value of teaching,” Miller said. She summarized some of the questions that had arisen during discussions at the meeting:
- What is good teaching?
- What elements of teaching do we want to evaluate?
- Do we want a process that helps instructors improve or one that simply evaluates them annually?
- What are the useful and appropriate measures?
- How can situate the conversation about the evaluation of teaching in the larger context of institutional change and university missions?
Noah Finkelstein, a University of Colorado physics professor who is a principal investigator on the TEval grant, brought up additional questions:
- How do we frame teaching excellence within the context of diversity, equity and inclusion?
- How can we create stronger communities around teaching?
- How do we balance institutional and individual needs?
- How do we reward institutions who improve teaching?
- When will AAU membership be contingent on teaching excellence?
Finkelstein emphasized that the meeting in Washington was just the beginning of a deeper discussion with a broader audience. To help that process, TEval, AAU and the National Academies plan to lead a national symposium in the spring on the evaluation of faculty teaching. No date has been set for that symposium.
In addition to Finkelstein, three other BVA members attended the meeting: Andrea Greenhoot, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at KU; Gabriela Weaver, a professor of chemistry and special assistant to the provost at Mass; and Mary Huber, Senior Scholar with the BVA.