Why evaluate your teaching?
Evaluation is a natural thing to do. In all human activities, we like to know how well we are doing and constantly seek feedback to help us judge our performance. Evaluation of teaching and learning is much the same in the sense that teachers and students (stakeholders in the learning processes) are continually evaluating themselves and others and they have a need to receive feedback from each other. Generally this is an informal process, and while this can be quite valuable, it often yields anecdotal evidence which cannot be substantiated because the moment for gathering further evidence has passed. Many opportunities for gathering feedback are lost because the available data do not relate to a clearly defined set of questions. Formal evaluation provides the evidence that forms a basis for making changes to an educational program in order to bring about the sort of learning we value.
There are a number of reasons why formal, timely evaluation processes are necessary:
- To contribute to Deakin University's quality assurance processes—It is a requirement at Deakin University that all staff evaluate their units each semester using the 'Evaluation of teaching and units questionnaire'. It is not expected that this process will be the sole form of evaluation; rather it is recognised that student questionnaire feedback is just one aspect of the review of teaching and learning, and should be used in conjunction with other evaluation activities that teaching staff choose to implement.
- To diagnose strengths and weaknesses in the teaching and learning environment—Formative evaluation is diagnostic and generally corresponds to the learning process. The gathering of evidence is a continuous process throughout the teaching period and is concerned with identifying strengths and weaknesses. Its purpose is to help unit team members improve the structure and delivery of their unit in ways that improve the students' learning experience. Formative evaluation can focus on some or all of the components of a learning environment and is a way of thinking about teaching and learning during all phases of the educational experience.
- To judge the quality and effectiveness of a course of study—Summative evaluation is judgmental, and generally corresponds to the product or outcomes of a unit or program. Its purpose is to determine whether a standard based on established criteria has been reached. Summative evaluation is usually carried out at the end of a teaching period and may be undertaken to satisfy the requirements of strategic quality management. Both formative and summative forms of evaluation are important and can be used in conjunction with one another. In either case, it is vital that the purpose of the evaluation is compatible with the aims and objectives of the educational experience.
- To document teaching performance—Increasingly, teaching staff require formal evaluation evidence for the purposes of attaining promotion, gaining tenure, or applying for new positions. More importantly, staff need documentary evidence to demonstrate that they have responded to feedback in ways that improve the quality of teaching and learning. Evaluation results are likely to be discussed during the PPR process.
- To provide feedback to other stakeholders—Managers require evaluation data about teaching and learning to inform future decision-making and policy development. They need evidence on which to base cost-benefit analyses, and need to know that courses are able to attract and retain students. Developers are also interested in feedback on the design of resources they helped develop, access and navigational issues relating to them, and ways in which students used them.
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