15 Evaluation of Instruction
Teacher-Course Evaluation Options for TAs
Evaluation has always been an important part of teaching. The focus may be a measurement of student performance, an assessment of teaching skill, a review of materials, or an effort to enhance both teaching and learning. In each case, valid and reliable information is needed if informed decisions are to be made. Well-designed and carefully conducted evaluations can provide the information upon which these important decisions about you and your students are based.
There are several reasons to evaluate your teaching performance. You might want to know how well a particular lecture was delivered; how students are feeling about a special technique you are using; whether you are providing enough or too much content; if students feel your tests are fair; how useful the textbook and/or readings are; how much material is learned; or any of several other questions about the teaching/learning process or its results.
Just as there are many reasons to evaluate, there are many ways to gather evaluation information. Some evaluation methods are as simple as a casual conversation in which you ask students “how things are going,” while others require special equipment or techniques (e.g., videotaping a classroom lecture or gathering and analyzing student ratings using questionnaires). You can evaluate your performance by attending to the nonverbal cues of your students; reviewing student notebooks; asking for specific, written comments; having a colleague, senior faculty member, or teaching consultant sit in on one or more of your classes; and, of course, by assessing student performance through your tests and/or assignments. Each method has its own value and some are particularly valuable for gathering certain kinds of information.
The University of Florida has re-designed the common online evaluation form (sixteen questions). The numerical evaluation results of the eight primary questions of the survey are published on the Web at https://evaluations.ufl.edu/results/ for both students and the general public to review.
You may want to videotape your class in order to evaluate your classroom presentation. Videotape equipment is available from Academic Technology (HUB) if you choose to do this yourself. Be sure to bring a letter from your department to verify your position. Some departments have mechanisms for peer support. Many departments schedule a teaching practicum for new TAs; your departmental supervisor will inform you of such programs. In addition, the Graduate School provides a thorough orientation for TAs prior to the fall term, as well as teaching assistant workshops throughout the year.
Useful Resources on Teacher Evaluation
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1994). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers, 2nd rev. ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Boston, MA: Harvard U. P.
Braskamp, L. A., et al. (1984). Evaluating teaching effectiveness: A practical guide. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Erickson, B. L., & Strommer, D. W. (1991). Teaching college freshmen. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Publishers.
Millman, J. (Ed.). (1981). Handbook of teacher evaluation. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.
Weimer, M., et al. (1988). How am I teaching? Forms and activities for acquiring instructional input. Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc.
Zubizarreta, J. (2004). The learning portfolio: Reflective practice for improving student learning. Boston, MA: Anker.