Evaluating Teaching

The primary work of TFELT, following the development of a definition and model for Inclusive and Effective Teaching, was to examine current practices at the University of Missouri regarding the review and evaluation of teaching, and then to develop and recommend changes to improve those current practices in pursuit of the task force’s first charge: “To propose a campus-wide multi-measure approach to the evaluation of teaching.” 

A Common Multi-Measure System for Evaluation

As was observed in MU’s Teaching Scholarship Task Force Report (2014), a consensus in the research literature on teaching evaluation in higher education establishes the need for a multi-measure system that includes three elements:

Each of these elements provides a unique perspective on the educator’s teaching that the others cannot. Insights gleaned from these evidence sources can play an important role in the continuing development and improvement of teaching for student learning. Each is also established as an important element for evaluating teaching in the University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations and in communications from the Office of the Provost regarding requirements for tenure and promotion dossiers (e.g., 320.035.B.2.c. Policy and Procedures for Promotion and Tenure). 

TFELT’s charge was intended, in part, “to create a multi-measure system that would ‘contribute to a balanced data set’ and to ‘limit the number of acceptable measures’ to ensure consistency across all units.” Adaptability to the unique curricular and pedagogical needs of diverse academic disciplines is an important priority of TFELT’s recommendations. As a recent meta-review of the literature on teaching evaluation in higher education observed, “substantial variations between teaching contexts and student needs” means that the use of any system of evaluation must be attentive to the contextual circumstances of each educator (Harrison, et al., 2022). For this reason, the proposed changes were designed to be as applicable as possible for the widest range of diverse disciplines, course types and teaching modalities. 

At the same time, establishing a level of commonality regarding expectations, procedures and tools across campus units is important to prevent the evaluation of teaching from being an idiosyncratic, inconsistent and even arbitrary process that fails to result in meaningful improvements in teaching. For example, one study examining the interaction of formative and summative assessments of teaching (see below) for English as a Foreign Language teachers found that “the lack of common definitions of good EFL teaching practices among assessors” resulted in feedback that “failed to show clear direction, depict a clear expected performance and suggest the strategies to make an improvement in the future” (Wei, 2015).

Two Types of Teaching Assessment

Wei (2015) sums up the consensus in scholarship for the two purposes for evaluating teaching: “(1) to provide diagnostic feedback to inform better teaching practice and (2) to provide a measure of teaching effectiveness for administrative decision-making” (p. 611). To fulfill these functions assessing teaching performance, just as in assessing student performance, takes two forms, each with distinct purposes and functions: formative and summative assessment. In these pages you will find TEFELT’s recommendations for approaching formative and summative assessment of teaching in the areas of student feedback, peer review and self-reflection.

Formative assessment evaluates performance for the purpose of continuing growth and improvement. Effective formative assessment fulfills the function of facilitating learning and growth for educators just as it does for students. It can provide insights and evidence that can aid the educator in identifying both strengths to maintain and areas of challenge to develop.  The available research is clear that “when faculty members are given feedback that both motivates and enables them to improve, they are more likely to make significant changes in their teaching practices” (Gormally, Evans, & Brickman, 2014). 

For this reason, the TFELT report emphasizes the importance of promoting formative teaching assessment within departments and fostering a culture of formative teaching assessment across campus. In addition, the report presents formative assessment practices as an important means to prepare educators on campus for what to expect when it comes to summative assessment of their teaching, increasing transparency in the latter process. This web resource will, therefore, include recommendations and examples of formative assessment approaches for each of the three streams of evidence of Inclusive and Effective Teaching. 

Summative assessment evaluates the educator’s performance for the purpose of making merit-based decisions; e.g., annual reviews, applications for promotion and tenure. This level of evaluation is the one with which most educators are familiar, both in faculty/staff contexts as well as its use to evaluate student performance in their courses. 

When it comes to evaluations of merit based on summative assessment, TFELT’s report emphasizes that such assessment should not serve only this purpose alone, but also the purpose of continuous professional growth with the aim of enhancing student learning. This position reflects the conclusions reached by numerous researchers that effective teaching for learning, rather than student satisfaction alone, must be the goal of summative teaching evaluation. Data collected through summative student feedback, peer review and self-reflection can be invaluable for educators pursuing ongoing professional development.

So, for example, evidence that an instructor has identified specific challenges in their teaching and has established a plan for addressing them through professional development and changes in their practice is just as, if not more valuable than evidence of consistent, difficulty-free success without a goal for continuing growth and innovation. Summative evaluation of teaching should, then, recognize and reward such candid and constructive evidence in instructor review materials, and educators under review should be supported by reviewers rather than disincentivized to present it for fear of revealing vulnerabilities in their performance.

The Goal: Inclusive and Effective Teaching

As part of this productive shift in the professional culture of teaching, TFELT’s proposed practices for summative assessment establish the goal educators should seek and evaluators should assess as “inclusive and effective” teaching. The absence of “excellence” as a metric for Inclusive and Effective Teaching in this system is intentional.  

In addition, a bright line must be drawn between the formative and summative assessment processes used to evaluate educators. In order for formative assessment to fulfill its purpose of providing actionable feedback that will be used to identify and improve genuine challenges in teaching, these processes must be confidential, and the data obtained must not be used for summative assessment decisions in any way. As Harrison, et al. (2022) observed, “[i]n the context of formative peer review, any attempt to use the data for summative decision-making, or even the belief that this may occur, has the potential to lead to gaming of the system in order to generate inflated data regarding teaching quality” (p. 92). While the fact of an educator’s participation in professional development work through formative assessment activity can certainly be considered in the context of summative assessment, the substance and outcomes of the former must not be considered in the context of the latter unless the individual educator makes the independent decision to do so.

Ultimately, TFELT’s recommendations for tools and processes to evaluate teaching are presented within a larger call for a shift in the way that we understand, assess, support and reward Inclusive and Effective Teaching. The proposed approaches on these pages seek to foster a perspective on campus that teaching is professional and scholarly activity, and the review of teaching should be embraced as part of our collective teaching mission. As Harrison, et al. (2022) observes, “formative and summative peer review needs to be implemented harmoniously, and a culture of trust needs to be built within institutions” (p. 93).




Gormally, C., Evans, M., & Brickman, P. (2014). Feedback about teaching in higher ed: Neglected opportunities to promote change. 13(2), 187-199. 

Harrison, R., Meyer, L., Rawstone, P., Razee, H., Chitkara, U., Mears, S., and Balasooriya, C. (2022), Evaluating and enhancing quality in higher education teaching practice: a meta- review. Studies in Higher Education, 47(1), 80-96. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2020.1730315

Wei, W. (2015). Using summative and formative assessments to evaluate EFL teachers’ teaching performance. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(4), 611-623. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2014.939609