How can I use feedback to improve my teaching?


Getting started

Orientation

  • What do I need to know to improve my teaching?
  • What are the different ways in which I can gather feedback about my teaching?

Evaluation

Evaluating and reflecting on your teaching practice and CPD activities is central to becoming a more effective teacher. One useful way to think about evaluating your practice might be to ask, "What do I want to know or demonstrate about my teaching?" This will help you to decide what sort of feedback you need and therefore what sort of evaluation needs to be carried out. 

Formative evaluation asks 'How is my teaching going?' It provides ongoing information on the effectiveness of your teaching. Data should be collected at the early or mid-way points of the course, which allows you to reflect on your teaching performance and to modify your teaching according to what you find in the formative evaluation. Formative evaluation can be directed at the student learning experience as a whole (satisfaction levels, levels of engagement, levels of support provided) and/or a particular aspect of teaching and learning (the formative evaluation of a new teaching resource). Formative evaluation is geared towards professional development and improvement.

Summative evaluation asks 'How did my teaching go?' It is usually carried out at the end of a course or programme and generally measures the student learning experience overall (satisfaction levels, levels of engagement, levels of support provided). However, a formative evaluation can be directed towards a particular aspect of teaching (e.g. the use of a new approach such as case based learning) Summative evaluation informs summary judgements of teachers, the appropriateness of course material, learning, teaching and assessment methods and provides information for quality assurance and external review.

Types of Feedback

We can obtain feedback on our teaching from different sources both informal and formal, from our own reflections, from peers and students. Together, this feedback provides us with evidence of teaching effectiveness and helps us to determine where improvements might be made. Sources of evidence include:

Student feedback

Examples of student feedback include questionnaire surveys, interviews, focus groups and informal feedback during classes). This is perhaps the most frequently utilised evaluation tool in universities. In the act of teaching, students are considered "cognitive witnesses", fair and reasonable judges about the quality of teaching that they experience. While student evaluation is useful, it has its limitations and data gathered from student evaluation should be coupled with other forms of evaluation such as self-evaluation and peer review. 

The University's staff intranet includes documents on student evaluation and good evaluation practice including the University Student Evaluation of Courses and Teaching Policy and the University Handbook on the Evaluation of Courses.

The University of Auckland has a question bank with standard evaluation questions. 

The Centre for Academic Development also provides an excellent resource on student evaluations.

Peer review

Peer evaluation involves obtaining collegial feedback on the quality of teaching through the teacher inviting constructive criticism of their teaching. Peer evaluation has the potential to provide important insights into teaching practice that cannot be obtained through other sources. The observation typically provides feedback on teaching style and method (as opposed to content) and is usually structured as follows:  

  1. Pre-observation discussion in which the observer and the observed meet briefly to agree the aspects of teaching that will be observed;
  2. The act of observing and recording what is observed; and
  3. The debrief which is carried as soon as possible after the observation and may include oral and/or written feedback

You may wish to ask a colleague in your department to observe your teaching and give you some feedback or you might consider contacting the Academic Practice Group to request a staff member to provide you with feedback.  You can request a teaching observation though the Centre For Academic Development.

If you want to initiate a peer observation on your own, the University of Auckland provides a template for peer review in the UOA Teaching and Learning Handbook

Alternatively you candownload the template.


Self-review and reflection

Self-evaluation is at the heart of good evaluative practice and a key part of professional reflective practice. Reflecting on your teaching helps to improve students' educational experience and identify areas for professional development. It might also help you to prepare for a performance review and assess your readiness to apply for promotion and continuation. One example of self-evaluation is a reflective journal in which you record your thoughts after teaching events. 

Questions that you might want to consider include:

  • Did I meet the aims that I established for my teaching?
  • What techniques did or did not work?
  • Did the students appear lost at any stage?

You may also want to consider videotaping some of your classes and viewing them at a later stage. Videotaping your teaching could also be used as a resource for your colleagues to view and offer constructive criticism.

Other sources of feedback and evidence of effectiveness include:

Lorraine Stefani talks about ways to gather feedback and how to use feedback effectively:

Click to play the video (requires Flash Player).

Action

Satisfactory performance in Evaluation of Practice and Continuing Professional Development might be evidenced by seeking feedback to improve teaching and learning and by evaluating teaching practice in line with university policy and recommendations.

  • If you can think of a particiular situation that might benefit from feedback, you might want to start an ePortfolio record to detail what you intend to do and why you intend to do it. You can save the record and come back at any time to update it.
Merit might be evidenced by engaging others in professional development.

Taking it further

Schön, D. A. (1995). Knowing-in-Action: The New Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology. Change, 27(6), 26-34.
If you are interested in reflecting on your teaching then you can start with this article by Schön. This article defines and explains the difference between reflecting in action and reflecting on action at just 10 pages it will provide you with a useful introduction to reflective teaching. If the article interests you, then you might try the suggested book (below).

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Donald Schön examines five professions - engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy and town planning - to show how professions really go about solving problems. Although this book was published in the 1980's it is still quoted extensively in the teaching and learning literature.

University of Auckland and Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Centre for Academic Development Evaluation of Teaching

The Centre for Academic Development provides information about evaluation of teaching and you can request an individual teaching observation. 

Centre for Academic Development Evaluation of Teaching

CMHSE engages with academic staff across the Faculty to build capacity in teaching and learning and educational research. We provide seminars, short courses and workshops, and engage in projects to promote innovation and best educational practice.

Student Evaluation of Courses and Teaching Policy

This is the University of Auckland policy on obtaining feedback on courses and teaching from the University's students.

 Handbook on the Evaluation of Courses and Teaching: A Guide for staff and Academic Heads
This is the University of Auckland policy on obtaining feedback on courses and teaching from the University's students.

Other resources

Teaching Evaluation at Flinders University

Flinders University has a number of resources that may assist you with evaluating your teaching.

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Questions regarding access

How can I use feedback to improve my teaching?

“A teaching philosophy can help you to reflect on how and why you teach. If you don’t have a teaching philosophy, you might want to consider writing one. You can take a look at What makes a good teacher? to get started. If you already have a teaching philosophy, you might want to reflect on how the work that you are doing here fits with that philosophy”.