Kaneb Center provides help to faculty, both full and part time,
as well as TA's, with their teaching. It offers:
confidential consultation. Just call for an appointment.
Workshops (see website for current schedule: http://www.nd.edu/~kaneb/)
Grants to faculty for various teaching projects (see website
for current opportunities)
Work with departments, colleges, and other units: for example,
discipline-specific workshops, consultations on curriculum
review or on ways of evaluating teaching, etc.
Books and articles on effective teaching (see website for
holdings; call the center for recommendations, or stop in
353 De Bartolo to browse the shelves)
Ask your chair or a senior colleague to go over your teaching
plans or to visit our class. Don't be shy about this-it's
not only a good way to get feedback on your syllabus, but
also to open dialogue about departmental goals, possible curriculum
changes, etc. Often your colleagues will notice-and help you
to fix-"technical" things about your syllabus that wouldn't
occur to you (i.e. you have assigned one of the most difficult
texts for the end of the semester when students have the least
energy; or you've neglected to spell out your absence policy,
Observe colleagues: Ask your chair or a senior colleague to
recommend several of the best teachers in the department,
and ask them whether you can talk with them about their syllabus
and teaching methods. Ask to visit their class. Most will
be pleased to share.
Tape your class: call Media Services. Someone will videotape
your class at no charge, and will give you the tape without
making a copy, so the tape is yours alone to learn from.
How your teaching will be evaluated at Notre Dame
much does teaching count in relation to research at reappointment,
tenure, and promotion time?
The weight given to teaching varies
by college and department and can fluctuate with changes in
a department chair or CAP (the committee that makes initial
department-level recommendations about TPR). I have heard
some administrators state that, for T&R faculty, teaching
counts equally with research in awarding tenure, promotion,
and reappointment (TPR) at Notre Dame but many faculty and
administrators say that, in practice, research counts more.
For Professional Specialist Faculty, there is enormous variation
in duties and in what counts. For adjuncts, teaching counts
more heavily, but value may also be placed on publication
Ask for advice: Consult your department chair, senior members
of your department, and your dean about what they think will
count. Consult senior women outside your department to help
you keep your perspective. Notre Dame, unlike most unionized
or state universities, does not spell out its criteria for
TPR within each department. So you need an anthropological
study of your department's culture in order to accurately
read its expectations. Even then, you're likely to feel anxious
and unsure. It's difficult to know when gender and/or race
bias might be operative among your colleagues.
What does seem clear is that if your teaching is bad, you
will have trouble at reappointment or tenure time, no matter
how good your research is. But for T&R faculty, if your research
is weak or even mediocre, even stellar teaching will generally
not be enough for tenure or for appointment to full professor.
is teaching evaluated?
An Academic Council Document of 1999,
available from the Kaneb Center, recommends that, when your
teaching is evaluated for promotion and tenure, three questions
be asked. Each question may be addressed by different kinds
of evidence. Here is the relevant portion:
Three basic questions for evaluating
1. Are the learning objectives of the
course being met? Are students being inspired and motivated
to think analytically and creatively, and to develop habits
of mind appropriate to the discipline?
Instruments of Evaluation: Measures of student learning based
on students' in-course papers, projects, or exams evaluated
by the faculty member's explicit standards and criteria; students'
performance on standardized tests; and/or students' performance
in subsequent courses or situations
2. Are the course material, concepts, and activities rigorous,
current, relevant for students' needs, and consonant with
the announced course description?
Instruments of Evaluation: Colleague examination of course
syllabus, exams, and other material
3. Do students perceive themselves to be well-taught?
Instruments of evaluation: TCEs (student
This document has been accepted by the
Academic Council and discussed in the Provost's Advisory Committee
(the university-wide body that conducts evaluation of promotion
and tenure cases after recommendations are made by the department
and college). However, it has no official status and is not
In actual practice, the TCEs (student evaluations) count far
more than anything else, and may be the only instrument used
to evaluate your teaching. This is true not only at Notre
Dame, but, according to research studies, holds for about
85% of institutions across the nation.
Further, the TCE contains a number of questions about specific
aspects of your teaching (for example, organization, clarity,
helpfulness, etc.), but it has one "umbrella" question (Q.
17) that asks students for their overall evaluation of the
quality of instruction. That single number counts more heavily
than any other, and may be the only, or just about the only,
number that people use to evaluate your teaching.
information about TCE administration
The TCE (Teacher Course Evaluation)
is Notre Dame's term for student evaluations. They are conducted
every semester in virtually every class. Forms are mailed
to you a few weeks before the end of the semester. You are
asked to designate a student to administer the forms and turn
TCEs are anonymous. They have two parts:
The bubble form where students answer multiple choice questions
about your course. These questions are standard for the entire
university, however the bubble form contains about 30 extra
question blanks where you may add specific questions of your
own. Results are turned in to Institutional Research, compiled,
and a report is sent to you, to your department chair, and
is available online to deans and academic administrators.
Your report will contain a separate account for each class
you taught the previous semester.
Handwritten questions, designed to give you more specific
and more personal responses from students. These are also
turned in to Institutional Research, which holds them until
all grades are in, and then sends them back to you without
looking at them or making copies. You need not share these
with anybody, but may if you wish. You should consult with
your chair about whether or not you should put these handwritten
forms into your file. Often, student handwritten comments
give a more positive picture than the numbers alone, and when
you come up for renewal/promotion you can point to specific
positive feedback as a way of offsetting any low numbers you
Advice: Use the extra questions on the TCE. Before you administer
the TCE's, go over the standard questions and ask yourself
whether there are additional questions that may be relevant
to you for evaluating your teaching. For example, might you
want to ask specifically whether students benefitted from:
the way you organized small groups; the way you facilitated
discussion; your use of technology; whether students thought
the course enhanced their ability to interact in a team with
others. The TCE tends to assume a lecture-style teaching method;
if you do it differently, you may want to add questions. Institutional
Research will tally these results along with the others, and
send them to you, but it will not know what questions you
asked. So keep a copy of the questions you asked. Then, if
you wish, you can share those questions with your chair or
Advice: There should be no surprises on the TCE. Begin asking
your students in the first or second week how they are perceiving
the course. Ask them to write anonymously in the class, for
a few minutes, in response to questions you pose. Don't ask
them whether they "like" something - that's not the point.
Ask "What aspects of this course are helping you to learn?
What improvements would you suggest that could better help
you learn?" Or ask more specific questions: "We have now completed
the first paper, and you've gotten back your papers with my
comments and grades. What aspects of this process were effective
for your learning? What changes help you learn more effectively?"
Or "Classes are usually a mix of small-group work and whole-class
work. Is the mix about right? Or would a different balance
be more effective for your learning?" Or "Please describe
in detail how you prepare for the weekly quizzes."
Assimilate the responses and, in the next class period, report
to your students what you have heard and what you propose
to do about it. For example, "About 20% of you said you would
like less small-group work, but the rest thought the mix was
just about right. So I'm going to basically leave it the way
it is, but here's what I can do to help those of you who are
having trouble learning in the small groups....." Or "About
half of you thought the reading load was too heavy, but I
am not going to change it because.....However, here's what
I suggest for you to complete the reading more efficiently...."
you receive your "bubble form" reports on your TCEs, pay careful
attention to the instructions for interpreting them. Also, pay
attention to the explanations of what counts most for students.
Here are the highlights:
How to read and evaluate your TCEs
On the front side of the report are your own scores. These
help you to see where you are weakest and strongest. Compare
the class means for the various components. For example, you
may be weakest in component 1 (clarity and organization) and
strongest in component 3 (availability and helpfulness).
The back side of the report compares your scores to those
of other faculty. Focus on the percentile scores. The most
important is your percentile rank in comparison to other faculty
in your department in general, and other faculty in your department
who are teaching the same level (e.g. 200 level) courses that
you are. You may have a raw score that is above the middle
of the range, but still be in the 10th percentile. That means
90% of the faculty whose classes were evaluated were rated
higher than you.
Advice: Look at percentile scores; if they are in the bottom
quartile consistently over several courses, seek help. The
Kaneb Center does not have access to your TCE scores, but
if you bring them to a conference with a Kaneb staff person,
he or she will help you to interpret the scores and work on
your teaching. Such conferences are confidential.
gender or race influence TCEs?
the U.S., gender and race are important influences on social
interactions. They can be powerful forces in your classroom
Official studies by the university show that overall, at Notre
Dame and nationally, when you account for differences in length
of service, whether the class is required or not, and other
factors, there remains no significant difference between women
and men faculty or among races and ethnic groups on TCE Question
17 (the "umbrella" questions that asks students their overall
evaluation of the quality of instruction).
However, nationally, some more local studies using feminist
or case study methods have revealed gender and racial biases.
Even though bias does not show up statistically in large sample,
race and gender may play important roles in your classroom.
Advice: It is difficult to know when race and/or gender bias
is at work in your classroom. You need your sharpest skills
of observation and reflection to try to understand what is
going on. Talk candidly with your students about these issues;
they generally do not consciously WANT to be biased; in fact,
many will strongly seek to overcome biases. Seek help from
the Kaneb Center or from colleagues if you sense a problem.
may be asked to evaluate the teaching of others for promotion/tenure/reappointment,
or just to help and mentor a colleague.
Evaluating the teaching of others
When helping a colleague, some basic principles:
Evaluate the colleague on the basis of what he or she is trying
to do, and on the basis of his/her teaching style and philosophy,
not on the basis of your own. If a person is using discussion
or student groups in a class, and you are much more in the
lecture mode, do not dismiss the discussion or group-work
mode. Instead, recognize that these are legitimate pedagogies
with substantial research showing their effectiveness. Try
to help your colleague become as effective as she or he can
be, using her or his own most comfortable approach and philosophy,
and focusing on how well students are learning under this
Use the three questions outlined above, from the Academic
Contact the Kaneb Center for material to guide classroom observation
or evaluation of syllabi and other materials. Ask for the
handout on "Evaluating Teaching."
Before and after a classroom observation, talk face-to-face
with the faculty member. Beforehand, ask her what she is trying
to do, what she wants you too look for, and how your responses
could be most helpful. Afterward, ask her to evaluate the
class first, if she wishes, before you begin your analysis.
Ask her what questions she wants you to address. The idea
is to leave the impetus of the conversation with her, so that
you are responding to her requests for observation, information,
When feasible, enter a mutual mentoring relationship, in which
each of you visits the other person's class or examines the
other person's syllabus, exchanging reflections. That creates
an equal balance of power and allows mutual gain.
When evaluating colleagues for tenure/promotion/reappointment:
Do what you can to make sure that other faculty evaluating
a colleague are aware of the Kaneb Center's guidelines and
use the guidelines as points of discussion.
After discussing your findings with the other evaluators,
volunteer to write the group report, to make sure that the
report is unbiased and inclusive.
In the 10/17/94 Chronicle of Higher
Education, there appeared this brief item, under the heading,
"Professors Beware: Your brightest students my be your toughest
critics. And if you're a woman, the news is even worse."
Laura I. Langbein, a professor of public administration at
American University, analyzed 2600 student evaluations of
full-time faculty members at American's School of Public Affairs.
The evaluations were from the academic 1991-1992 and the spring
term of academic 1990-1991.
Among other things, she found that top students who want "substance"
rate professors lower than do average students, who merely
expect to do well in class.
Ms. Langbein also found that female teachers in the School
of Public Affairs were rated lower than males, over all. She
said students expected women to be nurturing and supportive.
When a female professor gives a student a low grade, she is
rated more harshly than a man would have been.