Research and Papers

Teaching Improvement - Best Practices

Use IDEA in Conjunction With Additional Sources of Information

IDEA results are used in conjunction with a peer observation, syllabus review and rating conducted by a peer, and/or student comments. Faculty members meet with a peer or faculty development person to discuss how the available information are consistent or not, and what can be done to guide improvement efforts.

Focus First on Strengths

The IDEA report provides a mechanism to facilitate the initial discussion about strengths and improvement. The consultations typically begin with a discussion of strengths, which are highlighted on page three of the IDEA Diagnostic Form Report. Then, ideas for improvement can be discussed.

Encourage Specific Groups to Use the Diagnostic Form

The IDEA coordinator strongly suggests that teaching assistants, new faculty, those planning to apply for promotion/tenure, and those trying new teaching methodologies use the Diagnostic Form to maximize the formative feedback received.

Reflection and Specific Feedback

IDEA provides a mechanism to stimulate semester-to-semester reflection and provokes questions about the instructor’s contribution to the success of the classroom. Enough detail is provided about strengths and potential areas for improvement that over time, stronger teachers are developed.

Discussion of Objectives Individual Feedback

IDEA reports provide a place to start the discussion of learning objectives and teaching methods. These discussions have led to the development and use of mid-semester assessments to gauge student progress and input early. Faculty members learn about the importance of collecting student input for the purpose of enhancing the learning experience.

Discussion of Appropriate Objectives — Multi-section Courses

Faculty members who teach sections of the same course (e.g., developmental courses, languages) get together to choose appropriate objectives. The same applies to faculty, from several departments, who teach the freshman studies class. This helps them ensure a solid and similar base for all their students.

Discussion of Objectives — Program/Curriculum Level

Faculty together choose objectives to reflect what was important to concentrate on level by level so objectives and course emphasis build on each other. Word of satisfaction with these practices has spread department-by-department and program-by-program.

List IDEA Objectives on Course Syllabi

Some departments started having faculty list their IDEA objectives on their syllabi. Before a SACS reaffirmation visit, the Institutional Effectiveness coordinator asked all faculty members to include the objectives on syllabi as a matter of routine.

Improves Performance and Builds Confidence

By using the recommendations afforded by the IDEA analysis, individual faculty are able to formulate changes in their classroom behavior and course structure that have tangible results in next semester's scores. Thus, young faculty members who start with low scores and, through considered management of their classes, establish an upward trend toward excellent teaching. Among those who take teaching seriously, this happens almost every time. Within two years, these folks are feeling enabled and confident. They become advocates of IDEA and serve as mentors as they move into senior status.

Guides Placement of Instructor

From an analysis of result trends, some faculty can be identified as being more successful in certain types of courses (e.g., upper-level versus lower-level) and are given assignments in which they can be most effective.

Focused Interaction with New Faculty

New faculty members are encouraged to use the Diagnostic Form for at least one class, in order to gain a sense of student perceptions about teacher behaviors. They are also encouraged to use a supplemental sheet with several open-ended questions in order to gain more student feedback. After evaluations are processed and comments typed, the Dean meets with all new faculty members individually to discuss the results of the evaluations and to help them process student comments. This becomes an opportunity for early intervention if needed, and for commendation if merited. Since the Dean also informally observes each new faculty member once a semester for his or her first two years, the relationship is generally cordial and non-threatening.

Identify Faculty in Need of Intervention

A quick review of the IDEA reports in the office coordinating the process identifies specific individuals who may need intervention to help them become more successful.

Distribute One Copy of Report to Division Chair

To ensure some degree of accountability among the faculty, the division chairs are empowered to act as “coaches” for faculty members whose reports indicate an area where improvement is needed.