Teaching Assessment Working Group


TAWG Speaker Series – Valuing Teaching: Challenges and Strategies to Value Effective Teaching


Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness

Philip B. Stark, PhD, Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of California at Berkeley

Thursday, April 26, 2018 | Presentation* 10:30–11:30 | Informal reception 11:30–12:30 | Consultations by appointment** 2:00–3:00 & 4:00–4:30
*Applied Sciences Building 10900 (Presentation Studio)
**Education Building 7639, Burnaby campus; contact tlcevent@sfu.ca


Student evaluations of teaching (SET) are widely used in academic personnel decisions as a measure of teaching effectiveness. Observational evidence shows that student ratings vary with instructor gender, ethnicity, and attractiveness; with course rigor, mathematical content, and format; and with students’ grade expectations. Randomized experiments show that SET are negatively associated with objective measures of teaching effectiveness and biased against female instructors by an amount that can cause more effective instructors to get lower SET than less effective instructors. Gender bias affects how students rate even “objective” aspects of teaching, such as how promptly assignments are graded. It is not possible to adjust for the bias, because it depends on many factors, including course topic and student gender. Students are uniquely situated to observe some aspects of teaching and they should be consulted, but for the purposes of evaluating and improving teaching quality, SET are biased, unreliable, and subject to strategic manipulation. Reliance on SET for employment decisions disadvantages protected groups and may violate the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Speaker bio >>

My research centres on inference (inverse) problems, especially confidence procedures tailored for specific goals. Applications include the Big Bang, causal inference, the U.S. Census, climate modelling, earthquake prediction and seismic hazard analysis, election auditing, endangered species, epidemiology, evaluating and improving teaching and educational technology, food web models, health effects of sodium, the geomagnetic field, geriatric hearing loss, information retrieval, Internet content filters, nonparametrics (constrained confidence sets for functions and probability densities, permutation methods), reproducibility, resilient and sustainable food systems, risk assessment, the seismic structure of Sun and Earth, spectroscopy, spectrum estimation, and uncertainty quantification for computational models of complex systems. Methods I developed for auditing elections have been incorporated into laws in California, Colorado, and Rhode Island. Methods for data reduction and spectrum estimation I developed or co-developed are part of the Øersted geomagnetic satellite data pipeline and the Global Oscillations Network Group (GONG) helioseismic telescope network data pipeline. Numerical optimization is important to my work; I've published some software. I'm also interested in nutrition, food equity, and sustainability. I am studying whether urban foraging could contribute meaningfully to nutrition, especially in "food deserts," starting by investigating the occupancy, nutritional value, and possible toxicity of wild foods in the East Bay; see the Berkeley Open Source Food Project.

Consulting and expert witness topics have included truth in advertising, behavioural targeting, the U.S. Census, clinical trials, construction defects, consumer class actions, credit risk models, election contests, environmental litigation, equal protection, First Amendment protections, geochemistry, intellectual property and patents, jury selection, trade secrets, employment discrimination, food safety, import restrictions, insurance and reinsurance litigation, Internet content filters, mortgage-backed securities, natural resource legislation, oil exploration, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, product liability class actions, public utilities, quality control, Qui Tam (whistleblower) cases, risk assessment, sampling in litigation, signal processing, toxic torts, wage and hour class actions, warranties, water treatment, and white-collar crime.

SticiGui is an online introductory statistics "text" that includes interactive data analysis and demonstrations, machine-graded online assignments and exams (a different version for every student), and a text with dynamic examples and exercises, applets illustrating key concepts, and an extensive glossary. In 2007, SticiGui became the basis of the first online course (in any subject) taught at UC Berkeley. With Ani Adhikari, I co-taught a series of introductory statistics MOOCs in spring 2013. Nearly 53,000 students enrolled in the first course, of whom more than 10,600 finished and nearly 8,200 received a certificate of completion.

Related links

Philip B. Stark’s website: www.stat.berkeley.edu/~stark/

Photo credit: Gabriel Lascu


Learning and Evaluating with the Peer Review of Teaching

Isabeau Iqbal, PhD, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, University of British Columbia

Friday, March 9, 2018 | Presentation 10:30–11:30 | Informal reception 11:30–12:30 | Consultations by appointment* 1:00–2:00
Applied Sciences Building 10900 (Presentation Studio), Burnaby campus
*Contact tlcevent@sfu.ca


The peer review of teaching is a process that involves an observer watching a colleague’s teaching and providing feedback afterwards. – (Hendry, Bell & Thomson, 2013)

Utter the words “peer review of teaching” on a post-secondary campus where this practice is in place, and you will get varied reactions. Some instructors will enthusiastically speak of their own professional growth through peer review. Others, including administrators, will roll their eyes, while some will candidly speak about a “flawed process” for the evaluation of teaching.

In this session, I will describe models of peer review of teaching, including benefits and typical barriers to successful implementation. I will outline elements of a strong peer review program that is part of an integrated approach to the evaluation of teaching.

It is my hope that the audience will leave this session recognizing that, despite the many challenges inherent in the peer review of teaching, it is a process that can contribute to professional growth in teaching.

Speaker bio >>

Isabeau is a strategist at the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. There, she leads the Formative Peer Review of Teaching Program and is actively involved in various initiatives pertaining to educational leadership and supporting faculty members in their professional growth in teaching. 

Isabeau’s academic interests centre around the sociology of higher education and her areas of research have been the peer review of teaching, social networks, and educational developer portfolios.

Isabeau has published on peer review in Teaching in Higher Education, the Canadian Journal of Higher Education and the International Journal for Academic Development. She is regularly contacted by people within her institution and across North America who are seeking to establish peer review of teaching processes.  

Related links

Isabeau Iqbal’s websiteisabeauiqbal.ca

“Formative Peer Review of Teaching” video playlist (Youtube):