Evaluating Teaching in Adult Education

Evaluating Teaching in Adult Education

James B. Martin, Royce Ann Collins
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch050
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Teaching is the bedrock of the learning environment; however, few instructors receive formal instruction on how to teach. While the quality of teaching adults can be assessed in numerous ways, these authors used their experience of creating faculty development programs at small, liberal arts universities to discuss instructor selection, student ratings, mentorship, and peer review. Looking through the lens of formative assessment (evaluation for improvement rather than judgment) and faculty development, this chapter looks at creating a faculty evaluation system which will grow instructors. While many of the items discussed in this chapter could be used with full-time faculty, the focus for these authors is the adjunct community who teach in many adult education programs.
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Issues, Controversies, Problems

The largest initial problem most institutions have in creating a quality faculty evaluation program, particularly one focused on teaching, is the sins of the past. How many of us have seen an institution which talked a lot about teaching and had a structured program for evaluation, yet it did nothing worthwhile to improve teaching? These programs often have neatly laid out comment sheets with little circles for administrators to pencil, showing that they have been in the faculty member’s classroom and evaluated them. The problem in adult programs is often just like that experienced by one high school teacher who writes about having no one visit for months and being unsure of his ability to teach. With no one to provide feedback he just drifted along in the direction which seemed right to him, only to get a visit from his principal in the waning weeks of the school year. Called to the principal’s officer for a discussion of his evaluation, he found one of those neatly laid out forms with all of the blocks marked “satisfactory”. There were no comments, there was no discussion, he was handed the form and asked if he had any questions. The whole thing took a grand total of about five minutes and produced absolutely no improvement in him as a teacher and, in truth, provided his administrator nothing of substance that could really be used to evaluate him (Wagner, 2008).

Have any of you ever had such an experience or heard of one from a colleague? Far too often this is what happens in faculty evaluation, if any evaluation occurs at all. It is the belief of this author that the main focus of evaluating faculty should not be about compliance or performance reviews, but about improving the ability of faculty to teach in the classroom. For faculty in adult programs this is even more important, because of the unique ways in which adults make meaning in and out of the classroom. A large component of the faculty at traditional universities has long perceived evaluation of their teaching as an imposition on their time and potentially an infringement upon their academic freedom. This is often because their experiences or the experiences of those who mentored them have been negative when it comes to being evaluated. They had one or more of those experiences described by Wagner (2008) above and rather than try to correct the system or search for ways to find someone to help them become better teachers, they comfortably placed themselves in a sealed box into which very few people would dare to come.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Empiricist: An approach to a learning environment where the instructor focuses on the content and information to be acquired by the students.

Constructivist: An approach to a learning environment where the instructor focuses on the knowledge that the students will develop as a result of the discussion and sharing of experiences.

Formative Evaluation: An assessment that is used to create change or improvement, in this case, to improve teaching of instructors.

Student Ratings: Student evaluations of a course and instructor; usually a survey completed at the end of a course. The survey is designed with the institutions intent for the evaluation in mind.

Summative Evaluation: An assessment that is used for judgment and decision making.

Teaching Portfolio: A collection of artifacts documenting an instructor’s teaching activities and design of a course. The most important component of the teaching portfolio is the instructors’ reflections on their own teaching.

Peer Review: Evaluation of teaching setting by another faculty member, which includes a pre-observation interview, a classroom (or teaching environment) observation, and post-observation interview. The relationship should be one that promotes discussion and development of teaching skills.

Mentorship: A trusting relationship between two instructors, which allows for honest discussions concerning teaching.

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