Defining the right mix of teaching evaluation techniques

Feedback from students is useful when it comes to improving teaching quality and achieving better learning results. In my previous post (How to digest teaching quality surveys?), I have discussed the usefulness of formalised, survey-based feedback and more informal survey feedback. I have also worked with other techniques (teaching journal, natural feedback analysis, recordings) which I will discuss at a later point in time. In the following paragraphs, I will discuss the right use and a good mix of these techniques.

I am convinced about the usefulness of different combined types of evaluation mechanisms. I can often trace successful improvements of teaching back to findings I had gathered through one or the other method of teaching evaluation.

The formalised teaching quality survey continues to form the backbone of this exercise. However, the numerical measurements provide only limited insight for formative purposes. Therefore, I will increase the value of the comment part of the survey. So far, some students seem to take the comment part too lightly. In particular, from a certain, well, … sloppiness …, of their answers I take that they do not believe that I am going to read it (but how on earth could I possibly write this blog if I didn’t read it?). Hence, it is maybe worth-while spending more time discussing the structure of the survey with them, and suggest ways how to improve the value of students’ input for me.

I will certainly not again run a formative more informal survey the way I have done it at the end of my summer school course this year (How to digest teaching quality surveys?). Still, it is important that students can still change their learning experience at some earlier point during the course, instead of giving feedback at the end, meaning improvements will benefit only future cohorts. I will use the mid-term group feedback session (which I am holding for many years now) to conduct a more direct but at the same time more playful evaluation, probably based on the ‘start-stop-continue’ method.

Teaching observations by peers and by the LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre are useful even though teaching seems to go rather well generally. Here, it is more efficient to seek input from the TLC or from observing peers regarding very specific issues, for example on the issue of the ‘right’ speed at which I should speak, or on how to improve participation of quieter students during the interactive parts of our sessions, especially in large group settings.

Self-evaluation on the basis of video recordings is the method with which many people may feel uncomfortable, at least at the beginning. However, I think it is a great tool and a very effective strategy because it is totally unfiltered. I am confronted with my own lapses (but also the brightest moments), following my lecture in near-absolute directness. I will certainly continue using this tool.