Corinne Pitre-Hayes, leader of the Teaching and Course Evaluation project, says her team’s overarching goal is “to support teaching and to enhance student learning.”

Improving teaching and course evaluation

October 25, 2012
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Can SFU improve its system for student evaluation of teaching and courses?

“Most faculty members I’ve talked to say yes,” says Corinne Pitre-Hayes, who leads the Teaching and Course Evaluation (TCE) project the VP, Academic’s office launched in 2011 to review current research and best practices, consult the SFU community and recommend changes.

“SFU’s current system was first developed about 30 years ago,” says Pitre-Hayes. “There have been a lot of advances since then in the science of teaching and course evaluation. In addition, our strong commitment to teaching and learning can be much better reflected in the evaluation instrument and process we use.

“What we mean by improving TCE includes (a) making it more flexible to meet the needs of various disciplines and course formats, (b) increasing the validity and reliability so that it measures what it’s designed to measure, and (c) providing data that can be used by instructors and departments to improve their courses and the student experience.”

The project is a follow-up on previous recommendations by the Senate Committee on University Teaching and Learning and the Task Force on Teaching and Learning. VP, Academic Jon Driver has tasked Pitre-Hayes’ team with recommending a replacement for SFU’s evaluation instrument and processes for student evaluation of instructors and courses.

“Jon was very clear from the start about the primary goal of the project” says Pitre-Hayes. “It’s to support teaching and to enhance student learning. But we all know that when you’ve got an instrument that’s generating data, the data will be used in a variety of ways. So he also stipulated the development of a best practices guide on interpretation and use of the data.”

Throughout the project, the TCE team is engaging the SFU community through faculty and/or departmental level meetings, focus groups and surveys. The team released two reports last June, one addressing the latest research on general teaching- and course-evaluation issues and the other addressing ways to avoid bias and ensure reliability and validity in instrument design.

It’s now consulting other comparable universities that have modernized their TCE systems and completing the remainder of its focus groups. Says Pitre-Hayes: “We hope to complete a ‘proof of concept’ early next year and draft a report with recommendations by the middle of the year.”

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