John P Egan's FCP E-Portfolio

Evaluation of Teaching: Critical Reflections

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My first teaching assignment at UBC was in 1998. Back then the Faculty of Education ran its own student evaluation of teaching program via the Standing Committee on the Evaluation of Teaching, or SCET. On the last day of each course students were given both quantitative (Scantron) Likert-scaled questions about the course, its workload, the instructor and assessment. Students also received a separate form to give more detailed qualitative feedback. Several weeks after the marks were submitted we received a statistical summary of the quantitative data and the original qualitative data completed in the students own handwriting.

Like most instructors new to UBC I at first focused on where my scores landed in relation to the Faculty mean. Then I looked for the most negative data. Only then did I look for kudos.  From the outset, SEoT data was something that presented challenges rather than opportunities.

As I taught more, my confidence increased—and my perspective on SEoT data did too. Rather than worrying about getting any negative feedback I expected—hoped to, in fact—get some from a minority of students. I began to see that more often than not the hypercritical data were provided by students who found my high expectations more of a complication than an opportunity to grow and learn. I also began to emphasize those (few) students who provided balanced feedback: positive and negative things, articulated in forthright and collegial language. There’s a paradox here for sure: the better I felt about my abilities, the more confident I felt in my ability to contextualize SEoT data and find ways to make it meaningful. I had to figure all this out on my own though: there was no mechanism by which I was onboarded with the SCET process, no obvious person to go to discussion candidly (without jeopardy) the feedback so I could render it useful. Some mentoring earlier on in the process would have been really helpful.

In 2001 I received one of ten UBC Graduate Teaching Awards—ten years ago now, which seems incredible!

Currently I rely on SEoT data collected via UBC’s CoursEval system, as well as formative feedback from students. From time to time colleagues ask to observe my course (usually if they will be teaching online in the near future), which also leads to some feedback. Previously I have had peers formatively—but formally—review my F2F teaching. I hope to broaden my current approach during the FCP. My evaluations continue to be mostly strong, with a minority of students who find my assessments too challenging—a good balance, to my mind.

On quantitative measures the median and mode scores are almost always at the top of the scale (some courses have been evaluated via CoursEval; others by the Faculty of Education’s internal SEoT unit, which makes aggregating the data challenging, as each uses different questions and Likert scales). There are also a handful of students that see my expectations as too high, or my levels of support for them too low. But more students cite being inspired and are appreciative of my balanced approach with respect to giving additional support (help them develop a path that allows self-directed support rather than me merely giving them “the answers”).

Broadly speaking, this feedback reflects:

  • I have high expectations of my students
  • Most feel I provide them the right amount of support to meet these expectations
  • My courses provide students opportunities to work as a reflective practitioner
  • I am passionate about teaching and learning

A fair summary methinks!

Written by John P Egan

March 1st, 2012 at 4:02 pm

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