Review and Research

Gathering Evidence on Your Teaching


 

  • What’s the benefit of gathering evidence on my teaching? 
  • How do I gather this information? Who do I get it from?
  • What should I do with it when I get it?

Evidence of your teaching is obtained through gathering feedback from various sources, namely your students, your peers, and through self-reflection.

Gathering evidence on your teaching helps you to reflect on:

  • what it is that you do when you teach 
  • how effectively you convey information to your students
  • how you engage and support them in the learning process 
  • how you determine the learning that is taking place in your classroom
  • why and how you plan to make adjustments to your practice

By gathering evidence for evaluation on a regular basis, you increase the likelihood of providing your students with a continually improving learning experience (UCL, 2016).

The process can take many forms and can be carried out in private or public, and through formal or informal structures and mechanisms. Taking some time to consider the reason(s) you want to gather feedback on your teaching is an important first step, as this will influence the way you collect information, from whom you collect it, and how you subsequently use it.

The key question to ask yourself before you begin gathering evidence is:
Examples include:

  • Discipline- specific content, course materials, lecture/tutorial notes?
  • Delivery of content, mode of teaching (lecture, tutorila, large/small group teaching, online etc.), use of technologies?
  • Teaching style, relationship with students (engagement, support, inclusiveness), tone of voice, gestures, etc.?
  • A particualr initiative, approach, or mechanism that I have planned and tried out in my class? etc.

When should I collect feedback? What should I do with feedback when I get it?

Before gathering feedback on teaching (the ‘how’), it is essential to establish what you want to use it for and when you will collect the data. Just as we evaluate student learning and offer feedback for improvement at different stages over the course of a module (Black and Wiliam, 1998), we can apply the same principles for gathering feedback on our teaching so as to improve our teaching practice.

The two main types of feedback for evaluation of teaching are ‘Formative’ and ‘Summative’, and the purpose of each determines what you will do with the feedback when you receive it:

Formative EvaluationSummative Evaluation
  • for personal and professional development
  • for aiding teaching and learning improvement
  • largely text-based (e.g. free-text questions)
  • generally conducted mid-semester
  • formal/informal process designed by the teacher
  • students or peers provide the feedback
  • as a quantitative indicator of teaching
  • for promotion or quality purposes
  • largely numerical (e.g., Likert scale)
  • generally conducted at end of semester
  • formal process designed by the institution
  • students provide the feedback

In reality, you may seek feedback from your students at any stage, but just as it is important not to over-assess your students, it is also important not to over-survey them. This means balancing informal mechanisms such as using sticky notes requesting students to write down one thing they found useful, one not so useful, and something they would change, with a formal set of survey questions or commentary boxes.

 

There are many ways of gathering feedback: through your own reflections, by getting your students to give feedback, or by sharing your teaching in various ways with your peers.

Brookfield (1995) recommends using ‘Four Lenses’ to obtain a consistent picture of our teaching. Each lens offers a different perspective and the approach taken to gathering evidence will be different in each case:

Self-Reflection

Ways you can conduct self-reflection:

Informal:Formal
  • reflective writing (journal/learning diary) 
  • blogging 
  • critical incidents (incident, (re)actions, learning)
  • action research project
  • scholarly research (publication or individual learning)
  • teaching portfolio / collection of artefacts (images, audio, video, physical objects)

Strategies for Success including self-reflection

In this video, our colleague Professor Pat Gibbons, Jefferson Smurfit Professor of Strategic Management, shares his ‘Teaching Strategies for Success’.

Nearing the end of the video, he talks about his own process for improving his teaching strategies, including how he practices self-reflection.

Want to Learn More?

You can find more useful information and methods in our resource on Reflective Practice Models 

Getting Feedback from Students

Gathering feedback from your students is a very effective way to review your teaching and to gain insight into what your students are learning at the same time. Feedback can be gathered informally at the beginning, during or at the end of class:

At the beginningDuringAt the end
  • enquire if anyone has questions arising from the previous session
  • multiple-choice questions
  • bullet-point summary
  • statements with missing elements
  • brief activity
  • quickfire quiz 
  • sample question
  • show of hands
  • think-pair-share 
  • general questions
  • audience response system, e.g. clickers
  • coloured sticky notes
  • discussions
  • 1 thing they found useful or particularly interesting, and 1 thing they did not
  • 1-minute paper summary
  • bullet point list
  • brief questionnaire
  • reflective writing

UCD requires that student feedback be collected using a formal mechanism, the UCD Student Feedback on Modules Survey.

Getting Feedback from Peers

Gathering evidence on your teaching doesn’t have to be a formal, high stakes process and feedback can take many forms. Speaking informally with a critical friend, colleague or mentor can be a good source of feedback and help you to reflect on your teaching on an ongoing everyday basis. Alternatively, you may also want someone to give you feedback on your teaching in action in your classroom. The beneficial process of Peer Observation of Teaching is outlined below.

What is Peer Observation?

Peer observation is a complex process which is not easily defined. One very basic definition is that it is a ‘...process whereby a third party observes & provides feedback on teaching and learning support taking place in a university or college’ (NATFHE, 2001, cited in Shortland, 2004)

A tool that enables lecturers to improve the standard of their teachingA method of gaining feedback to improve your teaching skills that involves discussing your teaching, particularly areas you feel you need help with
A process that involves peers observing performance through classroom observation and examination of instructional materials and course design An opportunity for two or more lecturers to learn from each others through a process of observation

Peer-observation of teaching works best when it is a collegial process where one teacher observers another in practice and within their teaching context, in other words, how and where they naturally teach on a day-to-day basis. During this process, the observer takes notes and subsequently provides constructive feedback that enables the observed to reflect upon, and improve, how he or she performs these duties. As the teacher being observed, you are in control of the process, so you can specify what aspects of your teaching you would like to receive feedback on, as well as more general elements such as class planning, structure of session, design of materials, etc.

The process is developmental, not judgmental, and trust between parties is important.

More Information

For those wishing to use peer-observation within their continuous professional development programme, UCD Teaching and Learning has developed a five-stage model, Genuine Peer Observation of Teaching  which, while primarily designed as a development tool for reflective practice, can also be used to generate validated evidence of excellence in teaching. A full explanation of the theoretical underpinnings of the system can be found in Using Observation of Teaching to Improve Quality. 

What is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is a particularly effective mode of self-reflection, given that it is highly personal, involves writing sentences that include ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’, and requires the reflective practitioner to go deeper and to analyse the reasons for and consequence of their actions, all for the purpose of gaining more understanding of themselves as teachers and learning from their experiences. (placeholder, needs to be changed to new content)

Various models of reflection underpinning the Reflective Process point to three main elements encompassing any good piece of reflective writing. These are:

  1. Looking back at an event (such as laboratory class, a group project, work experience or a seminar), and idea or an object, and descibing it
  2. Analysing or interpreting it from various perspectives, perhaps in relation to a specific model or theory
  3. Thinking carefully about outcomes, what it means for you, and how you have gained from engaging with it in terms of your progress as a learner and/or practising professional

Adapted from Hampton, 2010

In achieving these elements, you can structure your reflective writing in different ways such as:

  • Reflective Diary, Journal, Log
  • Personal Blog
  • Critical Incident Diary

For more infomation see our dedicated resource by Jennifer Moon on Learning Journals and Logs in addition to Reflective Practice Models

References

  • Black, P. and William, D. 1998. Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7 – 74
  • University College London 2016 Teaching Toolkits: Evaluating your teaching
  • Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching (2013). SoTL Guide, Gathering Evidence: making student learning visible
  • Brookfield, S., 2017. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
  • Mcmahon, T., Barrett, T. and O'Neill, G. 2007. Using observation of teaching to improve quality: finding your way through the muddle of competing conceptions, confusion of practice and mutually exclusive intentions. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(4), 499 – 511
  • Shortland, S. 2004. Peer-observation: a tool for staff development or compliance?. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 28(2), 219-228
  • Hampton, M. 2010. Reflective Writing: a basic introduction, University of Portsmouth