Why are faculty a useful data source for evaluating their own teaching?
As teaching evaluation expert Peter Seldin (1999) points out, faculty are equipped with self-knowledge and beliefs that influence their interpretations of their teaching experiences, ones that are likely unknown by their peers or students. This includes what motivates them to teach, why they use certain instructional practices over others, the types of learning objectives they prioritize, and so much more. In their study of faculty assessment broadly (including but not limited to teaching), Braskamp and Ory (1994) are even more emphatic, writing that “faculty themselves are the most important assessment source because only they can provide descriptions of their work, the thinking behind it, and their own personal reporting, appraisals, interpretations and goals” (p. 102).
Others call attention to research on self-reported data, indicating that it can be associated with some degree of bias. Some teaching evaluation studies have found that faculty give themselves higher ratings than their students do (Seldin, 1999). For instance, Arreola (1995) found that faculty assigned themselves higher ratings than their students did, particularly in regard to their rapport with students and the quality of their feedback.
Given these limitations, Berk (2005) affirms that, for personnel decisions, the information provided by faculty “should be critically reviewed and compared with the other sources of evidence” (p. 52). Other teaching evaluation scholars not only echo this recommendation, they stress the value of using self-evaluation to complement the feedback yielded from other sources, in our case, students and peers (Arreola, 1995; Braskamp & Ory, 1994; Seldin,1998).
We also concur with Seldin (1999) that faculty may be more open and honest in their self-assessments if the risks of doing so are minimal, such that it is made clear that the primary goal of collecting this data is to improve their teaching—which is certainly the case at FIU. All in all, we feel strongly that self-assessment and reporting presents a significant opportunity for FIU faculty to shed light on their many contributions to student learning and success that often go unnoticed.
How might you go about self-assessing?
Certainly, as Seldin (1999) reminds us, most faculty evaluate their teaching—albeit informally—through their students’ reactions in the classroom and their performance on exams or assignments. However, both Seldin (1999) and Blumberg (2014) maintain that purposeful, self-reflective processes are most likely to yield information that can facilitate improvements in teaching.
Please click here for concrete examples of self-assessment activities, which includes examples of the type of data the activity might yield and how to interpret that data.