Documenting and Reviewing Teaching Effectiveness in Your Department: A Guide for Department Heads, Chairs, and Review Committees.

Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost Faculty and Academic Affairs

Implementing a Peer Review of Teaching Program in Your Department

In addition to the information gathered from students through the Student Ratings of Teaching (SRTs), the University’s Evaluation of Teaching policy requires forms of peer review to fully assess instructional effectiveness. The framework below outlines a recommended program for implementing peer review in departments. 

Pre-tenure Faculty

Evaluating the teaching effectiveness of pre-tenure faculty must occur annually. Departments should gather evidence regarding teaching effectiveness as outlined in the unit 7.12 statement.

Annual reviews:

Promotion and tenure files:

Evaluative summaries and documented evidence in P&T files should include multiple measures of teaching effectiveness rather than a single source of evidence such as SRT results.

Tenured Faculty

Peer review of tenured professors can occur less frequently and rely more heavily on additional evidence of effectiveness, including curriculum and course development and evidence of professional development. Associate professors should include material about their teaching effectiveness as part of their promotional reviews.

Annual reviews:

  • Review activities related to curriculum development, advising activities, SRT results, as well as other relevant information for both the current and past years. Evidence collected for four year promotional reviews (associate professors) and in promotion dossiers should include multiple measures of teaching effectiveness.

Contract faculty, P&A lecturers, teaching specialists, and others with primary responsibility for teaching

Individuals holding academic appointments with primary teaching functions should be provided with robust feedback about teaching effectiveness every 2-3 years in addition to annual merit reviews. 

Instructors should maintain a teaching/advising portfolio in Works to document their teaching.

Annual reviews:

  • Review SRT results for both the current and past years as well as the annual activity report with respect to documented teaching and advising activities. 

Every 2-3 years:

  • Review evidence of teaching effectiveness and professional development. The teaching/advising portfolio generated in Works can be helpful for this purpose.

Graduate students, post-docs, and other trainees

Graduate students, post-doctoral students, and trainees should receive formative (developmental) feedback about their teaching regularly. All of these groups should be encouraged to participate in professional teaching development opportunities such as those offered by the University’s Center for Educational Innovation (CEI).

Peer Review of Teaching Practices

Peer review of teaching refers to “informed colleague judgment” to foster improvement and/or make personnel decisions (Chism, 2007, p. 3). In addition to the information gathered from students through the Student Ratings of Teaching (SRT) survey, the University’s policy on Evaluation of Teaching emphasizes that different forms of peer review are necessary to gain a more comprehensive picture of instructional effectiveness. Key components of peer review are peer observation and document analyses.

Peer Observation

Peer observation is the most familiar form of peer review and can provide valuable information about the teacher’s instructional strategies and subject matter competence. The most common use of peer observation by colleagues involves a formal, department-sanctioned approach for determining reappointment, tenure, or promotion. Peer observation can also be used informally by colleagues to provide formative feedback, and staff from the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) can also provide formative feedback following observation.

  1. Distinguish clearly between formative and summative observations.

    Instructors must know the purpose of any classroom observation. Formative classroom observations—conducted either by peers or CEI staff—focus on improvement and can be valuable for both the classroom teacher and the observer. When used as an evaluative tool for reappointment, tenure, or promotion, observations are summative in nature and are conducted by peers. 

  2. Use observation rubrics to guide your peer observations. 

    Using a tailored observation instrument is relatively simple to implement and can provide a uniform framework for teaching observations. Ensuring that a reasonable number of peer observations take place using a standardized observation instrument will also help mitigate the potential for bias in peer evaluations.

  3. Ensure regular peer observations.

    Observation can be a powerful tool for reimagining one’s teaching practice regardless of faculty rank or appointment type. Formative observations are aimed at immediate improvement of teaching and are valuable across the academic career of the instructor. Because of this focus, they tend to occur more frequently than summative observations. Both types of observations are important components in the review and development of teaching practices.

Document Analyses of Course Materials

Any report documenting teaching effectiveness should include a review of a broad set of materials associated with instruction such as assignments/syllabi, evidence of student satisfaction (SRTs, letters), professional development, or student performance. Compiling a teaching/advising portfolio in Works is an effective way to maintain a record of instruction and advising.

  1. Determine the minimal evidence instructors should provide for the review.
    Minimal evidence could include a syllabus, assignments, tests/quizzes, and the course website. Instructors are free to provide other materials that best signify their course goals such as descriptions of service learning projects or student research papers. 
  2. Provide a sample of materials across different courses and over years of service

    It is not necessary that materials from all courses are represented in a teaching portfolio. Instead, judiciously select materials that have proven impact on student learning or materials that best represent the instructor’s overall approach to instruction.

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