Self-Assessing Your Teaching

Kathryn SutherlandDr. Kathryn Sutherland, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Victoria University Wellington, visited the U of S campus in November 2012 to speak about early career academic success, including at a talk she gave for the Gwenna Moss Centre.  In her talk she reminded me of something I read years earlier from Glassick et al’s (2004) Scholarship Assessed that is very important as we think about self-assessing our work as teachers.  Glassick et al (2004) propose the following criteria for evaluating all scholarly work:

1. Clear goals—Does the scholar state the basic purposes of his or her work clearly? Does the scholar define objectives that are realistic and achievable? Does the scholar identify important questions in the field?

2. Adequate preparation—Does the scholar show an understanding of existing scholarship in the field? Does the scholar bring the necessary skills to his or her work? Does the scholar bring together the resources necessary to move the project forward?

3. Appropriate methods—Does the scholar use methods appropriate to the goals? Does the scholar apply effectively the methods selected? Does the scholar modify procedures in response to changing circumstances?

4. Significant results—Does the scholar achieve the goals? Does the scholar’s work add consequentially to the field? Does the scholar’s work open additional areas for further exploration?

5. Effective presentation—Does the scholar use a suitable style and effective organization to present his or her work? Does the scholar use appropriate forums for communicating work to its intended audiences? Does the scholar present his or her message with clarity and integrity?

6. Reflective critique—Does the scholar critically evaluate his or her own work? Does the scholar bring an appropriate breadth of evidence to his or her critique? Does the scholar use evaluation to improve the quality of future work?

It is quite easy to imagine how you might use these 6 criteria (and the sub-questions indicated by the authors) in assessing your research work – whether discovery research in your discipline, or the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).  Indeed, as a member of a SoTL journal editorial board, and as the co-editor of the STLHE Green Guide series, these six criteria are used to inform how we peer review contributions to these forms of scholarly publication.  I have also used these six categories as the basis for a rubric for assessing students’ research papers.

In referencing this work, however, Kathryn was referring to using the framework to think about how we might assess and reflect on the quality of our teaching activities more generally.

There are many reasons for why Kathryn argues for engaging in reflection on your teaching, including documenting your effectiveness for applications to faculty positions (particularly for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows), for tenure and promotion case files, and for awards nominations. And it is tempting to spend time in this post exploring what others, including Schon (1983) and Brookfield (1995), say about reflective teaching practices.  But instead, let’s consider the six criteria in Scholarship Assessed as a tool for reflecting on, and self-assessing, your teaching.

  1. Clear goals—Have you set clear goals for what you are trying to achieve with your students’ learning (by defining learning outcomes for the course as a whole as well as for each individual class session) or personally with your teaching?
  2. Adequate preparation—Have you prepared yourself (in terms of both content knowledge as well as preparation for the teaching strategies you are using), your course materials (whether distributed to students or not), your assessments (exams, assignments, etc.), and your students (by setting and communicating clear and appropriate expectations)?
  3. Appropriate methods—Have you chosen the teaching strategies and assessment strategies that are MOST appropriate (in best alignment) with the intended learning outcomes you have established for your course or any particular class session?  How do you know whether you have done so?
  4. Significant results—Have your students (or at least a significant majority) achieved the outcomes you have set for them? Have some students exceeded your expectations?  Have you exceed theirs? Have I received the peer and student evaluations of teaching that I expect for what I feel I have accomplished in the course?
  5. Effective presentation—Are you choosing, and implementing effectively, appropriate forms of presentation for the context of your course? Are you presenting your ideas clearly? Is your material well organized? Are you using humour effectively?  How do you know you are effective?  Have you effectively shared or discussed the ‘significant results’ of your teaching with colleagues?
  6. Reflective critique— Are you critically evaluating your own teaching on a regular basis? Have you gathered appropriate evidence about your teaching to inform your reflection? Are you using that evidence to improve your teaching in the future?

If you would like to discuss reflecting on your teaching, and gathering evidence of your effectiveness as a teacher, do not hesitate to contact anyone at the GMCTE.  As well, if you are serious about improving your ability to document the effectiveness of your teaching then you might be interested in participating in the Teaching Portfolio short course offered annually as part of the GMCTE’s regular programming.  You can also find the full talk by Dr. Kathryn Sutherland online at the GMCTE website at:

References (all three available in the GMCTE library):

Glassick, C. E., M. T. Huber, and G. I. Maeroff (1997). Scholarship assessed: Evaluation of the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.

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