Michael Dennin†, Zachary D. Schultz‡, Andrew Feig§, Noah Finkelstein║, Andrea Follmer Greenhoot¶, Michael Hildreth#, Adam K. Leibovich@, James D. Martin**, Mark B. Moldwin††, Diane K. O’Dowd‡‡, Lynmarie A. Posey§§, Tobin L. Smith║║, Emily R. Miller║║,*
Evidence shows most teaching evaluation practices do not reflect stated policies, even when the policies specifically espouse teaching as a value. This essay discusses four guiding principles for aligning practice with stated priorities in formal policies and highlights three university efforts to improve the practice of evaluating teaching.
Recent calls for improvement in undergraduate education within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines are hampered by the methods used to evaluate teaching effectiveness. Faculty members at research universities are commonly assessed and promoted mainly on the basis of research success. To improve the quality of undergraduate teaching across all disciplines, not only STEM fields, requires creating an environment wherein continuous improvement of teaching is valued, assessed, and rewarded at various stages of a faculty member’s career. This requires consistent application of policies that reflect well-established best practices for evaluating teaching at the department, college, and university levels. Evidence shows most teaching evaluation practices do not reflect stated policies, even when the policies specifically espouse teaching as a value. Thus, alignment of practice to policy is a major barrier to establishing a culture in which teaching is valued. Situated in the context of current national efforts to improve undergraduate STEM education, including the Association of American Universities Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, this essay discusses four guiding principles for aligning practice with stated priorities in formal policies: 1) enhancing the role of deans and chairs; 2) effectively using the hiring process; 3) improving communication; and 4) improving the understanding of teaching as a scholarly activity. In addition, three specific examples of efforts to improve the practice of evaluating teaching are presented as examples: 1) Three Bucket Model of merit review at the University of California, Irvine; (2) Evaluation of Teaching Rubric, University of Kansas; and (3) Teaching Quality Framework, University of Colorado, Boulder. These examples provide flexible criteria to holistically evaluate and improve the quality of teaching across the diverse institutions comprising modern higher education.