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Developing Metrics for Assessing Engineering Instruction: What Gets Measured is What Gets Improved
The evaluation system should reflect the complexity of teaching, which must include thecourse design element, implementation and delivery of the course, assessment, andmechanisms for continuous improvement, and recognition of different learning stylesand levels of student abilities. Teaching is both a science and an art, and doing it well requires a knowledge base and skills that are usually not well-addressed in disciplinary doctoral programs.
At the end of the day, the discussion participants must be in agreement/consensus on thefundamental elements of effective teaching. Most important, learning1 should be a key component of any definition, because the outcome of effective teaching is always learning. Other elements include design (e.g., the alignment of clearly articulated objectives/outcomes,2 assessments,3 and instructional activities4) and implementation (e.g., clear explanations, frequent and constructive feedback, illustrative examples).
An evaluation of teaching should include both formative feedback to assist/helpindividual improvement and summative evaluation to measure progress towardinstitutional goals.5 An evaluation system must identify areas for improvement and provide both opportunities and support for making those improvements. While we believe that faculty evaluation and faculty development should not be programmatically linked (they should not be housed in the same entity or done by the same people), linking the two conceptually sends a clear message that the institution supports faculty growth, which happens only when faculty receive ongoing and constructive feedback.
The evaluation system must be flexible enough to encompass various institutionalmissions, disciplines, audiences, goals, teaching methodologies, etc. In addition, it should also accommodate people on different “tracks” (e.g., some universities have adopted teaching tracks as some faculty gravitate toward expanded teaching roles at different points in their careers). Finally, the system should be flexible enough to acknowledge, encourage, and/or reward educational experimentation or attempts at educational innovation. A flexible system enables instructors to try new things without worrying that they might be penalized if the outcomes are not immediately positive.
In the context of this report, learning is defined as knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as attitudes students have acquired by the end of a course or program of study.
Objectives/outcomes are descriptions of what students should be able to do at the end of the course (e.g., analyze, use, apply, critique, construct).
Assessments are tasks that provide feedback to the instructor and the student on the student’s level of knowledge and skills. Assessments should be varied, frequent, and relevant.
Instruction includes providing contexts and activities that encourage meaningful engagement by students in learning (e.g., targeted practice).
A formative assessment is typically defined as an ongoing assessment intended to improve performance, in this case, faculty teaching (and hence student learning). A summative assessment, typically conducted at the end of instruction (e.g., of a semester or program), is used to determine overall success.