Pandemic Guidelines

Evaluating Teachers and Teaching in a Global Pandemic:
Resources for WFU Schools and Departments

These guidelines, prepared by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and the Office of Online Education, are meant to serve as a resource for units making decisions about how they will evaluate teaching in the fall. Many units have asked for evidence-informed guidance and examples of models they might adopt as they rethink their practices this year. What follows is a response to that request, and only that request. Neither office wishes to dictate processes to units who have the best understanding of their culture, their faculty, and their disciplinary standards.

Broad Recommendations

  • Evaluate the Whole Teacher, not a Specific Teaching Moment
    In a moment when otherwise wonderful teachers are experimenting with new teaching strategies, and teaching in challenging environments that are beyond their control, it is worth considering whether effectiveness in the moment should be weighed as heavily as their potential and/or general approach to teaching in this moment (e.g., how they prepared and how they learned from strategies that didn’t go as planned).
  • Ask Students and Observers to Describe, not Evaluate
    Students and peers can provide useful information to be used in an evaluative process, but this information should not be a substitute for that process. By collecting only descriptive information, the evaluator(s) are responsible for determining whether standards have been met, NOT the students or observers.
  • The More Sources, the Better
    No single source of evidence tells us everything we want to know about a teacher and their teaching. We also know that many traditionally used sources of evidence are subject to small, but systematic, biases unrelated to teaching effectiveness. To overcome these challenges, evaluators should collect and synthesize multiple sources of evidence, each with their unique insight to the teacher and their teaching.
  • Teachers are an Important, if not Essential, Source of Evidence
    While there are real challenges with evaluative processes that rely on self-assessment alone, no one is better positioned to provide insight into the details of their teaching than the teacher themself. Their structured self-reflection can provide insight into how they approach their teaching and they can provide essential context for those interpreting other forms of evidence (e.g., student feedback or peer observations). This is especially important in a semester when context will be particularly determinative of results.
  • If Specific Behaviors Matter, Specify them In Advance
    If you decide to evaluate teaching effectiveness, and define teaching effectiveness in terms of specific teacher behaviors (e.g., organization, clarity, rapport), you should specify those behaviors as early in the semester as possible. Although there is rarely agreement about which behaviors matter, there will be even less agreement when instructors are teaching in new modalities (e.g., if synchronous learning experiences are important to your department, make that explicit before the semester begins). Specifying what you care about early on will ensure that instructors have ample opportunities to meet and exceed your expectations before they are evaluated.
  • If Student Outcomes Matter, Measure them Directly
    If you decide to evaluate teaching effectiveness, and believe student learning is the definition of effectiveness, do not assume that student ratings can serve as a reasonable proxy for student learning. The research on student ratings suggests there may be a correlation between ratings and learning. But even in the best case scenario, the correlation is too small to allow evaluators to make accurate judgments about individual instructors. Direct evidence of student learning (e.g., student work collected as part of a teaching portfolio) is the best way to collect evidence of this effect.
  • Evidence Matters. Interpretation Matters More.
    The success of any evaluative model depends on the ability of the evaluators to correctly understand, interpret, and apply the evidence before them. This means that less-than-ideal evidence can be put to good use if properly contextualized, but also that carefully collected evidence can lead to less-than-ideal outcomes if evaluators do not understand what their evidence is actually communicating. Before you make changes to the evidence you collect, consider whether your time might be better spent making changes to the process you use to interpret that evidence first.
  • Use Separate Processes for Separate Purposes
    There are many reasons institutions, departments, and individual instructors collect student feedback. Using the same survey to meet all of these needs can undermine the goals of each. If you want to collect data about student experiences and preferences at the aggregate level, separate that process for the data you collect for the summative evaluation of teachers. Likewise, instructors should be able to collect feedback for their own purposes that is not used in the formal evaluative process.

Potential Standards for Comprehensive Evaluation

Borrowed and Adapted from Follmer Greenhoot, A., Ward, D., & Bernstein, D. (2017). Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness.

  • Student Learning
    Did students achieve the learning outcomes of the course or experience significant growth? Were all students successful or particular subgroups?
  • Course Design
    Were the goals for the course appropriate for the discipline, course, and level of students? Did the assessments provide reasonable evidence of whether those goals were achieved? Did the course activities prepare students for their assessments by helping them master the course goals? Were they evidence-informed?
  • Teaching Practices
    Did the instructor incorporate evidence-informed strategies that facilitated engagement with the material, other students, and the instructor? Was the instructor enthusiastic, organized, and clear? Did they set high expectations and build rapport with students?
  • Course Climate
    Does the instructor foster a classroom climate that is respectful and supportive of diverse learners? Do students feel comfortable engaging in class, collaborating with peers, and seeking out support when necessary?
  • Reflective and Iterative Growth
    Is the instructor curious about student learning, eager to experiment, and willing to adapt in light of what they learn? Do they seek out new knowledge about teaching and regularly participate in teaching development programs?
  • Mentoring and Advising
    Does the instructor support students and student development beyond their class? Do they initiate and sustain mentorship relationships with multiple students? Do they approach their advising duties as if they were an extension of their teaching?
  • Involvement in Teaching Service
    Does the instructor contribute to department or university initiatives that advance the teaching mission of the institution?  Do they lead professional development initiatives at the department or university level?
  • Contribution to the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning
    Does the instructor advance our knowledge of teaching and learning by contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning?

Potential Sources of Evidence

  • Self-Assessment/Teaching Narrative
  • Teaching Materials
  • Peer-Review of Teaching Materials
  • Peer-Observation
  • Student Learning Outcomes
  • Student Feedback
  • Teaching Recognition
  • Teaching Portfolios

Sample Rubrics, Checklists, and Surveys

Sample Item Bank

The following is a list of sample response items drawn from the instruments above, as well as question banks in Kember, D., & Ginns, P. (2012). Evaluating Teaching and Learning: A Practical Handbook for Colleges, Universities and the Scholarship of Teaching. Routledge; and Chism, N. V. N., & Chism, G. W. (2007). Peer review of teaching: A sourcebook (Second edition.). Anker.

  • Student Learning: Knowledge
    • I have learned something which I consider valuable.  (SEEQ)
    • I have learned and understood the subject materials of this course. (SEEQ)
    • The course enabled students to understand and use the methodological processes introduced in this subject. (ETL) 
    • The course encouraged students to develop a greater awareness of social problems. (ETL)
    • The course enabled me to become aware of my own interests and abilities. (ETL)
    • The course enabled me to gain a better understanding of myself. (ETL)
  • Student Learning: Skills
    • The course encouraged students to think critically. (ETL)
    • The course encouraged and helped students to work independently. (ETL)
    • The course helped students to develop the ability to solve problems. (ETL)
    • The course encouraged students to apply general principles in new situations. (ETL)
    • The course helped students to identify main points and central issues in the field. (ETL)
    • The course helped students to develop the ability to communicate clearly about the subject. (ETL)
    • The course helped students to develop the necessary skills for carrying out original research in the subject. (ETL)
    • The course enabled students to evaluate new work in this field. (ETL)
    • The course enabled students to develop new viewpoints and perspectives. (ETL)
    • The course encouraged and supported students in the development of their leadership skills. (ETL)
  • Student Learning: Attitudes, Values, and Commitments
    • The course encouraged students to value alternative viewpoints. (ETL)
    • The course promoted the development of a sense of social responsibility among students. (ETL)
    • The course promoted the development of a sense of personal responsibility among students. (ETL)
    • The course helped me to develop confidence in myself. (ETL)
    • The course encouraged students to become self-reliant. (ETL)
  • Course Design: Course Goals
    • The course contains learning goals and objectives. (PSQA)
    • Learning objectives or competencies are stated clearly, are written from the learner’s perspective, and are prominently located in the course. (QM)
    • The course learning objectives, or course/program competencies, describe outcomes that are measurable. (QM)
    • The learning objectives or competencies are suited to the level of the course.  (QM)
  • Course Design: Assessment
    • The assessments measure the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies. (QM)
    • Assessment and evaluation are aligned with learning objectives. (QOCI)
    • Assessment and evaluation tools are appropriate for measuring stated outcomes. (QOCI)
    • Assignments tied in with the course objectives. (ETL)
    • Assignments had clear and specific instructions. (ETL)
    • Assignments were relevant to and integrated  with what had been presented in the subject. (ETL)
    • Assignments gave me enough opportunity to demonstrate what I have learned in this subject. (ETL)
  • Course Design: Learning Activities
    • The relationship between learning objectives or competencies and learning activities is clearly stated. (QM)
    • The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies. (QM)
    • The learning activities promote the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies. (QM)
  • Course Design: Technology
    • The tools used in the course support the learning objectives or competencies. (QM)
  • Course Design: Overall Alignment
    • Learning objectives are identified and learning activities are clearly integrated. (ROI)
    • Learning objectives, instructional and assessment activities are closely aligned. (ROI)
  • Course Design: General Course Organization and Structure
    • Explanation of course learning goals and how assignments are designed to help students achieve those goals. (PSPRG)
    • Instructor was effective in reinforcing the core learning outcomes. (OIES)
    • Instructor was clear and specific in assignment directions and evaluation criteria. (OIES)
    • Work requirements, grading system, and feedback schedule were clear and consistently followed from the beginning of the course. (OIES)
    • The course was so conducted that students know on a daily/weekly basis what is expected of them. (OIES)
    • Directions for course activities were clear and specific. (OIES)
    • Explicit rubric, rationale, and/or characteristics are provided for each graded assignment. (QOCI)
    • Student participation is defined, and a mechanism for measuring quality and quantity is provided. (QOCI)
  • Course Design: Online Course Site Structure
    • Instructions make clear how to get started and where to find various course components. (QM)
    • The course has a consistent and intuitive navigation system enabling students to quickly locate course information and materials. (PSQA)
    • A course orientation is used to familiarize the students with the course. (PSQA)
    • All aspects of the course perform properly and support student progress. (PSQA)
    • Content is sequenced in a manner that enables learners to achieve the stated objectives. Each module is internally organized in a manner that is intuitive and consistent. (QOCI)
    • Information is “chunked” or grouped to help students learn the content and achieve the stated objectives. (QOCI)
    • A prominent announcement area is used to communicate important up-to-date course information to students, such as reminders of impending assignment due dates, curriculum changes, scheduled absences, etc. (PSPRG)
    • Course contains extensive information about being an online learner and links to campus resources. (ROI)
  • Teaching Practices: Student Engagement/Activities
    • More than one form of instruction is used. (PRT)
    • Learning activities provide opportunities for interaction that support active learning. (QM)
    • Course tools promote learner engagement and active learning. (QM)
    • Learning activities and other opportunities are developed to foster Student-Content interaction. (QOCI)
    • Student activities that involve active use of writing, speaking, and other forms of self-expression (PSPRG)
    • Student activities that provide opportunity for information gathering, synthesis, and analysis in solving problems. (PSPRG)
    • Assignments where students reflect, relate, organize, apply, synthesize, or evaluate information. (PSPRG)
    • Course provides multiple activities that help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. (ROI)
    • Readings, homework, laboratories contributed to appreciation and understanding of subject. (SEEQ)
    • Discussion prompts that help to guide and elicit student participation in class discussion activities.  (PSPRG)
    • Instructor facilitation of class discussions by encouraging, probing, questioning, summarizing, etc.  (PSPRG)
    • Instructor effectively lead Online discussions, synthesizing student posts and stimulating ongoing discussion. (OIES)
    • Students were encouraged to participate in class discussions. (SEEQ) 
    • Students were invited to share their ideas and knowledge. (SEEQ) 
    • Students were encouraged to ask questions and were given meaningful answers. (SEEQ) 
    • Students were encouraged to express their own ideas and/or question the instructor. (SEEQ) 
    • The teacher facilitated discussion in classes. (ETL)
    • The teacher organized class activities that encouraged students to participate. (ETL)
    • The teacher challenged students to reconsider their points of view. (ETL)
    • The teacher encouraged students to take responsibility for their own learning. (ETL)
    • The teacher encouraged students to volunteer their own options. (ETL)
    • The teacher encouraged students to ask questions. (ETL)
    • The teacher was successful in getting shy students to participate. (ETL)
  • Teaching Practices: Student-Student Engagement/Collaborative Learning
    • At the beginning of the course, students and the instructor are provided with an opportunity to introduce themselves to each other as a way of encouraging synergy within the course. (QOCI)
    • The course encouraged students to learn from each other. (ETL)
    • The instructor encourages and fosters a healthy exchange of ideas and sharing of experiences among course participants. (PSPRG)
    • Regular opportunities for students to engage in one or more of the following activities: formal and/or informal discussions of course topics; collaborative course assignments; study groups.  (PSPRG)
    • Student interaction space(s) for study groups, “hallway conversations,” etc.  (PSPRG)
    • Learning activities and other opportunities are developed to foster Student-Student communication and/or collaboration. (QOCI)
    • The teacher encouraged students to interact with each other and work cooperatively. (ETL)
  • Teaching Practices: Faculty-Student Engagement
    • Learning activities and other opportunities are developed to foster Student-Instructor communication and/or collaboration. (QOCI)
    • Instructor strengthened students’ understanding of course concepts through various interactions (discussion, gradebook, feedback, etc). (OIES)
    • A “welcome message” is provided at the beginning of the course that encourages student-to-instructor contact for course-related discussions or concerns. (PSPRG)
    • The instructor initiates contact with, or responds to, students on a regular basis in order to establish a consistent online presence in the course.  (PSPRG)
    • Instructor participated actively in class discussions. (OIES)
  • Teaching Practices: Responsiveness
    • Instructor was adequately accessible to students during office hours or after class. (SEEQ) 
    • The instructor holds regular office hours, and by appointment, that are mediated by technology (e.g., the telephone, chat areas, web conferencing) to accommodate distance students. (PSPRG)
    • Student inquiries are responded to in a timely manner. (PSPRG)
    • Instructor was responsive to student questions. (OIES)
    • Instructor was easy to communicate with and available for consultation. (OIES)
    • The teacher did a good job of answering students’ questions. (ETL)
    • The teacher was willing to assist students when they had problems. (ETL)
    • The teacher was available for consultation. (ETL)
  • Teaching Practices: Rapport
    • Instructor was friendly towards individual students. (SEEQ) 
    • Instructor had a genuine interest in individual students. (SEEQ) 
    • Instructor made students feel welcome in seeking help/advice in or outside of class. (SEEQ) 
    • The teacher showed concern for students. (ETL)
    • The teacher had a friendly and interested attitude towards students. (ETL)
    • The teacher made me feel welcome to ask him/her questions outside the classroom. (ETL)
    • The instructor addresses students by name. (PRT)
    • The instructor models good listening habits. (PRT)
  • Teaching Practices: Feedback
    • The assessments used are sequenced, varied, and suited to the level of the course. (QM)
    • The course provides learners with multiple opportunities to track their learning progress with timely feedback.  (QM)
    • Feedback on examinations/graded materials was valuable. (SEEQ)
    • The teacher suggested ways for students to improve. (ETL)
    • The teacher gave adequate feedback on my work. (ETL)
    • Written work was handed back promptly. (ETL)
    • The teacher informed us of our progress. (ETL)
    • Ongoing multiple assessment strategies are used to measure content knowledge, attitudes, and skills. (ROI)
    • Regular feedback about student performance is provided in a timely manner throughout the course. (ROI)
    • Students’ self-assessments and peer feedback opportunities exist throughout the course. (ROI) 
    • Evaluation of students’ work was constructive, focused on continued learning, and reflective of the assessment expectations/criteria communicated. (OIES)
    • Assessments and evaluations use multiple methods, such as quizzes, tests, discussion, essay, projects, and surveys. (QOCI)
    • Exams and assignments were returned promptly so that learning was reinforced. (OIES)
    • Assessments and evaluations are conducted on an ongoing basis throughout the course. (QOCI)
    • The instructor provides feedback at given intervals. (PRT)
    • Instructor provided helpful, individualized, constructive feedback on all assignments: correcting errors, highlighting strengths, and providing suggestions for improvement. (OIES)
    • Grading and feedback completed in a timely manner. (OIES)
    • Instructor kept students informed of their progress in the course. (OIES)
    • Option (or requirement) for students to submit drafts of assignments for instructor feedback. (PSPRG)
    • Meaningful feedback on student assignments that is provided within a publicized, and reasonable, time frame. (PSPRG)
    • Assignment feedback that is clear, positive, specific, and focused on observable behavior that can be changed. (PSPRG)
    • An open discussion forum where students can ask questions, and receive instructor feedback, about course content and activities. (PSPRG)
    • Assignment feedback that provides students with information on where to focus their studies. (PSPRG)
    • Frequent feedback provided to students through written explanations and detailed feedback on assignments. (PSRG)
  • Teaching Practices: Instructor Organization
    • Instructor was consistently well-prepared and organized. (OIES)
    • Instructor conducted the course according to the expectations and schedule presented in the syllabus.(OIES)
  • Teaching Practices: Instructor Clarity
    • Instructor was able to explain concepts clearly and effectively. (OIES)
    • Instructor stressed important points in information resources (lectures, discussion, etc). (OIES)
    • Instructor communicated clearly and meaningfully in course discussions. (OIES)
    • The instructor states the relation of the class to the previous one. (PRT)
    • The instructor makes transitional statements between class segments. (PRT)
    • The instructor conveys the purpose of each class activity. (PRT)
    • The instructor summarizes periodically at the end of class. (PRT)
    • Instructor’s explanations were clear. (SEEQ) 
    • Course materials were well prepared and carefully explained. (SEEQ) 
    • Proposed objectives agreed with those actually taught so I knew where the course was going. (SEEQ) 
    • Instructor gave lectures that facilitated taking notes. (SEEQ)
  • Teaching Practices: Enthusiasm/Knowledge
    • Instructor displayed his/her knowledge of the subject matter. (OIES)
    • Instructor was enthusiastic about teaching the course. (SEEQ)
    • Instructor was dynamic and energetic in conducting the course. (SEEQ)
    • Instructor enhanced presentations with the use of humour. (SEEQ) 
    • Instructor’s style of presentation held my interest during class. (SEEQ)
  • Teaching Practices: Challenge/Intellectual Stimulation
    • I have found the course intellectually challenging and stimulating. (SEEQ)
    • The course stimulated me to do a lot of outside reading on the subject. (ETL)
    • The course stimulated me to discuss subject-related topics with my friends. (ETL)
    • The course stimulated me to work harder than usual on this subject. (ETL)
    • The teacher sets high standards. (ETL)
    • In this subject there were high standards set for students. (ETL)
    • This subject was sufficiently difficult to be challenging. (ETL)
    • The course encouraged and stimulated students to ask questions about issues and topics in this field. (ETL)
    • Motivation and encouragement that inspires students to move past the easy answers to more complex solutions. (PSPRG)
  • Classroom Climate: Supportive Environment
    • A positive online climate where students are encouraged to seek assistance with course content and learning activities if needed. (PSPRG)
    • Instructor maintained a positive atmosphere in the Online classroom. (OIES)
    • Instructor was sensitive to student difficulty with course work. (OIES)
    • The teacher allowed students to disagree with his/her view. (ETL)
    • The teacher created a relaxed atmosphere in class. (ETL)
    • The teacher respected other people’s points of view. (ETL)
    • The teacher was open to students’ opinions. (ETL)
  • Classroom Climate: Inclusion and Accessibility
    • The instructor prevents specific students from dominating the discussion. (PRT)
    • The instructor mediates conflict or differences of opinion. (PRT)
    • Accessibility issues are addressed throughout the course. (Including: sight, mobility, hearing, cognition, ESL, and technical.) (ROI)
    • Course provides multiple visual, textual, kinesthetic and/or auditory activities to enhance student learning and accessibility. (ROI)
    • Alternative assignment options that allow students to demonstrate their progress in a manner that is best conducive to their talents. For example, a podcast might be allowed as learning evidence instead of a written paper. (PSPRG)
    • Opportunities for students to “customize” their learning by tailoring assignments to their personal and professional interests and needs. (PSPRG)
    • Supplemental online materials are provided to students who lack prerequisite knowledge or who would benefit from having content presented in an alternative manner. (PSPRG)
    • Use of a variety of assessment tools that gauge student progress. (PSPRG)
    • Accommodations are proactively offered for students with disabilities. (PSPRG)
    • The course provides accessible text and images in files, documents, LMS pages, and web pages to meet the needs of diverse learners. (QM)
    • The course provides alternative means of access to multimedia content in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners. (QM)
    • A variety of instructional materials is used in the course. (QM)
    • A variety of technology is used in the course. (QM)
    • The course design facilitates readability. (QM)
    • A variety of ways for learners to demonstrate knowledge is provided. (QOCI)

Bibliography/Further Resources

Arreola, R. A. (2000). Developing a comprehensive faculty evaluation system: A handbook for college faculty and administrators on designing and operating a comprehensive faculty evaluation system (Second edition.). Anker Pub. Co.

Buller, J. L. (2012). Best Practices in Faculty Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Academic Leaders. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. 

Centra, J. A. (1993). Reflective Faculty Evaluation: Enhancing Teaching and Determining Faculty Effectiveness (1st edition). Jossey-Bass.

Chism, N. V. N., & Chism, G. W. (2007). Peer review of teaching: A sourcebook (Second edition.). Anker Pub. Co.

England, J., Hutchings, P., & McKeachie, W. J. (1996). The professional evaluation of teaching. American Council of Learned Societies.

Kember, D., & Ginns, P. (2012). Evaluating Teaching and Learning: A Practical Handbook for Colleges, Universities and the Scholarship of Teaching. Routledge.

Kite, M. E. (2012). Effective Evaluation of Teaching: A guide for Faculty and Administrators. Society for the Teaching of Psychology. 

Seldin, Peter, J. Elizabeth Miller, and Clement A. Seldin. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Fourth edition /. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Tobin, T. J., Mandernach, B. J., & Taylor, A. H. (2015). Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices (1 edition). Jossey-Bass.