Teaching Evaluation Changes Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the University of Oregon’s teaching evaluation system changing?

The Office of the Provost and the University Senate have been working together since spring 2017 to revise the University of Oregon’s teaching evaluation system. Recent research indicates that student ratings do not accurately reflect teaching quality and may be inflected by bias.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) and universities nationally and internationally have argued that it is time for universities’ ideals regarding teaching excellence to align with their policies. Thus, UO has developed a holistic new teaching evaluation system that does more than simply replace problematic evaluation instruments. The new system provides the path to define, develop, evaluate, ad reward teaching excellence.

Read more on the Office of the Provost’s “Revising UO’s Teaching Evaluations” project page, which includes key information about each element of the new Continuous Improvement and Evaluation of Teaching System and a detailed history of change efforts at the University of Oregon.

What principles have guided these changes?

The University of Oregon seeks a teaching evaluation system that is fair and transparent, evaluates faculty against clear definitions of teaching quality, and is informed by data collected from students, peers, and faculty members themselves.

I have heard that the new student experience surveys are not evaluations in and of themselves. How then will teaching actually be evaluated?

The University of Oregon is moving toward a criteria-based approach to evaluation teaching: feedback from students, peers, and faculty members themselves will provide evidence of faculty care and achievement in relationship to articulated standards. Beginning fall 2020, in accordance with the August 2019 MOU between the University of Oregon and United Academics, the UO has adopted 10 “conditions” that define professional, inclusive, engaged, and research-informed teaching as baseline standards. By fall 2021, units may modify the MOU standards and conditions, translating and supplementing these conditions to match their disciplinary contexts, and defining what it means to meet, exceed, or fail to meet expectations. Alternatively, units may adopt without further action the Teaching Evaluation Criteria document provided as a resource by the Office of the Provost.

The Office of the Provost will provide each unit with data for a faculty member’s review period collected from pre-Fall 2019 Course Evaluations, end-of-course Student Experience Surveys, and Instructor Reflections. These data will be aligned with UO’s Professional, Inclusive, Engaged, and Research-Informed standards to simplify a criteria-based approach. In addition, the unit head or personnel committee will consider through the lens of these standards any supplementary materials provided in the dossier such as the CV, teaching statement, syllabi, course assignments, etc.

If my unit elects to modify the teaching quality standards and conditions in the MOU to reflect discipline-specific considerations, what modifications are considered consistent with the standards?

Modifications considered consistent with the standards include, for example, language that reflects the unique disciplinary or professional culture of the unit; additions to the standards; and greater specificity about what meets, exceeds, or does not meet expectations. Units might also add qualifying language if appropriate. For example, “respectful and timely communication” might be qualified by adding “as appropriate for class size” to account for the different communication modes in a large class.

Units that wish to modify the Teaching Evaluation Criteria document provided by the Office of the Provost should do so by making changes to the document using track-changes. Please follow the CBA-defined process for policy change detailed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Article 20 Section 3:

The faculty will submit their recommended policy to the appropriate dean, vice president, or designee for review. The dean, vice president, or designee will document and discuss any revisions he or she makes to the policy with the faculty before submitting his or her recommended policy to the Provost or designee. The Provost or designee will have final authority to establish the policy for each department or unit. If the dean, vice president, Provost or designee materially alters the faculty-recommended policy, he or she will provide a written explanation for the change(s) to the faculty in the department or unit. The department or unit head, dean, vice president, Provost, or designee may initiate changes to established policies by informing the appropriate faculty of the change being considered, thereby initiating the process described in this Section.

Units should submit their dean-approved modified Teaching Evaluation Criteria document to the Office of the Provost prior to September 1, 2021. Once approved, these modifications, like the MOU standards, replace without further action on the part of the unit the teaching standards across the applicable unit-level policies that touch on teaching evaluation (e.g. merit review policies, professional responsibilities policies, promotion and tenure policies).

The Office of the Provost will host Defining and Evaluating Teaching Quality workshops to support units with this process.

I’m up for a major review in AY2020-2021. How will my teaching be evaluated?

During this transition year, faculty are encouraged to highlight their care and achievement with respect to the new standards. (This teaching profile exercise and this personal statement template may be a useful resources.) The Office of the Provost also is reaching out directly to invite faculty up for review and their heads to “First Cohort” workshops to provide you with information, resources, and support. The Office of the Provost will pay careful attention to any possibility that a substantial change in review criteria has negatively impacted a faculty member.

I’m on a review committee or a unit head. How do I structure my evaluation of faculty in the “First Cohort,” colleagues up for review in AY2020-2021?

You are encouraged to indicate whether or not the faculty member’s teaching meets, exceeds, or does not meet expectations under the university’s teaching quality standards: a) professional teaching, b) inclusive teaching, c) engaged teaching, and d) research-informed teaching. Evaluators are asked to consider each condition defining these standards separately, as well as provide an overall assessment of teaching quality that takes all four standards into consideration and any “additional positive factors,” as outlined in the MOU.

I am a faculty member. What support, resources, and training can make these changes positive for me and help me succeed? 

In addition to the special workshop and individual support for faculty who are scheduled for review in 2020-21 mentioned above, TEP offers the following core teaching skills workshops: "Teaching Toward Inclusion and Belonging,” “Research-Led Practices to Activate a Class,” “Student Metacognition,” “Course Design,” and “Teaching at a Research University.” TEP also offers the stipended UO Summer Teaching Institute. These teaching development opportunities are directly aligned with the university’s teaching quality standards.

Questions Related to the New Instructor Reflection Survey

How will I benefit from completing an Instructor Reflection?

Taking time to reflect on courses and make notes is part of conscientious teaching practice. The new Instructor Reflection prompts this practice, making it easier, and archives the results. It uses UO’s student survey system, CollegeNet, to send instructors a survey at the end of each course. All of your reflections will be organized by term for you to read through as part of future course planning or when you write teaching statements for future performance evaluations.

Instructor Reflections will also be read by your department head and appear in the data that evaluators (committee members at the unit, college, and university level) receive as part of your promotion, tenure, and post-tenure review file. The intention here is to ensure that your voice is present at any moment of evaluation and to capture instances of more granular good practice that otherwise might be invisible in an assessment of your teaching (e.g. you observed a class related to the one you were teaching, you made improvements to a particular activity).

Colleagues in a position to evaluate your teaching will see your own responses about inclusive, engaged, research-informed, and professional teaching alongside feedback from students and peers.

Is it mandatory?

No. Because UO is moving toward criteria-based evaluation, the Instructor Reflection offers an opportunity for you to provide specific evidence of how your teaching realizes the criteria set by your unit and the University for evaluation and awards.

What level of comprehensiveness is recommended? Am I supposed to write the same thing over and over again?

There is no need to repeat things that are already part of your record during the period of review. Instead, think about using the Instructor Reflection form to highlight any specific examples of your inclusive, engaged, and research-informed teaching—and any other areas your department has elevated in its policies—that you wish to register in relation to this particular course.

Should I rebut negative student feedback?

Teaching evaluation at UO no longer makes student feedback primary. When considering student feedback, evaluators are asked to look for patterns of achievement or struggle, an instructor’s own self-presentation, and peer teaching evaluations. If you think that there is a pattern of negative student feedback that you want to address, then by all means, provide context for understanding this pattern. But do not feel you are responsible for responding to every instance of critical student feedback. You are not.

The Instructor Reflection asks me about things that aren’t going well. Why should I participate if this goes into my future promotion or tenure file?

What being a good teacher means is changing at UO. We have enshrined engaged teaching as a pillar of teaching excellence. That means that experimentation, calculated risk-taking, reflection, and deliberate evolution will all be interpreted positively by review committees at every level.