USC senate president to talk about teaching evaluation reform

This Wed, 9-10 in the library browsing room, and 3:20-3:50 at the Senate in the EMU Crater Lake room. From Around the O:

Ginger Clark, assistant vice provost for academic and faculty affairs at the University of Southern California, will discuss improving teaching evaluation methods during a campus appearance Nov. 28.

Clark, who is also a professor of clinical education and served as president of USC’s Academic Senate, has been central to her university’s efforts to advance student learning and develop better methods to evaluate teaching. Her lecture is sponsored by the UO committee on teaching evaluation.

She will speak at the Knight Library Browsing Room from 9 to 9:50 a.m. The event is open to the UO community and anyone can attend. Faculty members and staff are asked to sign up using MyTrack.

Clark also will address the University Senate later in the day in the Crater Lake rooms in the Erb Memorial Union from 3:20 to 3:50 p.m. Visitors are welcome.

“This is a chance for our campus to hear about how we can improve the classroom experience for our students and how we can help honor faculty for inclusive, engaged and research-led teaching,” said Sierra Dawson, associate vice provost for academic affairs. “Dr. Clark is considered a national leader in this area, and I’m looking forward to our faculty having the opportunity to learn more.”

Senate President Bill Harbaugh, an economics professor, said having Clark on campus will aid the effort to improve teaching evaluation.

“We all have an important stake in improving teaching and evaluating faculty,” he said. “Our current system relies too heavily on numerical course evaluations, which have been shown to be biased by gender and race, and uncorrelated with student learning.”

At the UO, the Senate has been working closely with the Office of the Provost to rethink the ways the university conducts teaching evaluations. The joint effort, which began in spring 2017, was designed to come up with a more effective way to define, develop, evaluate and reward teaching excellence.

The Senate created a task force to develop new ways to conduct evaluations at the UO. Currently, most evaluations are based on end-of-the-term ratings by students and a long-used faculty peer review system. Neither, the task force determined, fully gauge success in teaching nor the true ability of faculty members and how they design student learning experiences.

Recent research suggests such surveys include a bias against women and people of color, and they do little in the way of shedding light on teaching excellence or learning.

The Senate approved a motion to add a midterm student experience survey and an optional 10-minute instructor reflection at the end of the term as part of the evaluation process. The optional reflection would go to departments, ensuring that the instructor’s own voice can inform evaluators’ interpretation of student feedback.

Those tools are currently being tested across the UO and likely will become available campuswide for the 2019-20 academic year.

The Senate has been a driving force behind the potential improvements, establishing a new committee to work on continuous improvement and evaluation of teaching. The committee will regularly report to the Senate, and it plans to bring a new motion by the end of the academic year that would add a student experience survey at the end of each term, replacing the current student course evaluation.

To support the work, the provost has established a community for accelerating the impact of teaching focused on teaching excellence and evaluation. The community includes faculty members and local leaders from each school or college within the university, along with representatives from all three divisions of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Several faculty members from the group are testing the Senate-approved midterm student experience survey and the end-of-term instructor reflection, along with a novel end-of-term student experience survey. That effort includes faculty members from the Clark Honors College, the Lundquist College of Business, the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management in the College of Design and the human physiology and English departments in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The movement to reform teaching evaluation reaches beyond the UO. The Association of American Universities, with 60 member campuses in the United States and two in Canada, is spearheading an effort to connect schools working on teaching evaluation reform.

Across the globe, universities in Tasmania, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Sweden are also looking for ways to evaluate and celebrate successful instruction, along with creating innovative ways to evaluate teaching.

By David Austin, University Communications

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4 Responses to USC senate president to talk about teaching evaluation reform

  1. Deplorable Duck says:

    There are very few jobs for which performance can be usefully evaluated, and college professing isn’t one of them. If they want to have private “improve your teaching” workshops, go for it. But for the purposes of compensation?

    (And student evals? They can barely string together a coherent syllogism most days.)

    The top one or two of my professors I recall admiringly, with angelic music and celestial beams of approving light. The bottom one or two were evil, sadistic, psychotic trolls, whose only pleasure seemed to be in humiliating me in public and assuring that I would despise their disciplines for all of my days.

    But everyone else? All about the same. And basically, decent and good enough.

    Fie on eval-based pay.

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    • Dog says:

      give them all an A+
      don’t make them do much work

      get very high evals

      get a pay raise … since you instilled in
      them critical thinking

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  2. Sun Tzu says:

    The delicious irony of the Senate President/UOMatters editor using an article from Around the O, UOMatters’ favorite punching bag, to push his personal agenda has not escaped notice.

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  3. Deplorable Duck says:

    Maybe a bit cynical, but this might be a pretty good tack to nix the whole thing at UO.

    A University of California, Berkeley professor suggested scrapping end-of-semester student evaluations for hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions after claiming that the grades and evaluations are biased against female instructors and people of color.

    Any port in a storm…

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