The result of this effort might be expressed in a substantial report. The underlying problem in the evaluation of teaching has been that the professoriate has not reached a consensus on a definition of what constitutes an excellent teacher. Although considerable research on teacher characteristics and performances that positively influence learning has been done, no universally accepted definition or list of qualities can be found in the lexicon of higher education. If there were such a definition or list, the evaluation of teaching would be relatively easy.
Many faculty members and academic administrators consider the main component of teaching excellence to be content expertise. Others argue that teaching excellence is an ephemeral characteristic that cannot be measured but results in long-term, positive effects on student lives, of which the instructor may never be aware. The differences between these two opinions (and many others) may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
Nevertheless, the process of designing an effective learning experience is, to some extent, familiar to engineers, who are adept, or at least familiar, with design processes and the iterations necessary to deliver a product. Designing and delivering an excellent course or learning experience can be thought of in much the same way.
First, he or she must identify the requirements (e.g., the learning outcomes for the course, what the student needs for learning are, what the profession defines as competencies in knowledge and skills). The instructor must have sufficient expertise in the disciplinary content, as well as in the learning process, to ensure that all students learn. He or she must also establish and refine learning outcomes for students and create learning experiences that are likely to achieve the desired results.
Once the instructor has designed the course, he or she must deliver the course (i.e., implement the design) and continually evaluate not only student learning outcomes, but also the success of the design. A well designed course may not have the desired effects if other components (e.g., course management) are not handled well. Like all engineering designs, the evaluation of an engineer’s work requires input from both customers (i.e., students) and experts in the field (e.g., peers).