Evaluating Teaching Excellence across Diverse Disciplinary Units within Agriculture Higher Education

By Lang, N. Suzanne; Crawford, Pat et al. | NACTA Journal, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Evaluating Teaching Excellence across Diverse Disciplinary Units within Agriculture Higher Education


Lang, N. Suzanne, Crawford, Pat, Habron, Geoffrey, Holmes, Vanessa, Johnson, S. Aisha Steplight, Orth, Mike, NACTA Journal


Abstract

Workshops were organized at Michigan State University by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) to help faculty and students understand scholarship in teaching and learning. As an outgrowth, a faculty effort was initiated to improve evaluation of teaching and strengthen teaching scholarship across CANR. A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) was formed to review teaching evaluation literature. The FLC synthesized their understandings of evaluation used in other disciplines/institutions to create a conceptual understanding in the discrete domains of effective teaching; scholarly teaching; and scholarship of teaching and learning. Based on consensus, tools were developed to facilitate evaluation of teaching in a flexible manner to accommodate a range of values and teaching assignments. The domains provide the framework for a multi-evidence and multi-source evaluation tool which includes criteria (derived from the definitions and characteristics of each domain), indicators (evidence for the achievement of the criteria) and descriptors (examples of how the criteria have been addressed). It is our intent that these tools be flexible, yet powerful, in helping each individual recognize approaches in their teaching that can be modified/improved, while allowing them to be recognized and rewarded in areas in which they excel. The ultimate goal is to improve student learning.

Introduction

A series of workshops were organized at Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing, MI by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Working Group during the winter and spring of 2008 to help faculty and students better understand what defines scholarship in teaching and learning. As an outgrowth of these workshops, a grassroots faculty effort was initiated to understand how to improve the evaluation of excellence in teaching and to strengthen the role of teaching scholarship within the college.

A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) was organized in August 2008 within the CANR Office of Academic and Student Affairs. The goal of the FLC was to investigate factors that need to be considered to objectively evaluate components that contribute to teaching and enhanced student learning. Based upon this investigation, it is our belief that teaching within agriculture higher education must be thoroughly evaluated for our work within the academy to have the same level of regard as is given to research and service.

Background and Objectives

The evaluation of teaching should recognize the contextual impact of the unit and institutional missions, cultural norms and performance expectations on teaching (Braskamp, 2000). Statements in several MSU public documents indicate teaching is to be regarded as an integral part of the University's mission; as confirmed by the statement that describes the role of the University as "providing outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to promising, qualified students in order to prepare them to contribute fully to society as globally engaged citizen leaders" (MSU Mission, 2008). Teaching is often a component of faculty duties that support the MSU Promise (1999) to "offer one of the best undergraduate educations available by providing the advantages of intellectual inquiry at a major research university and practical learning in the land grant tradition." In MSU-CANR, stated support for teaching is represented through support of "learning that imbues current and future stakeholders with intellectual curiosity and offers relevant knowledge and skills, discovery that advances knowledge and enhances productivity and sustainability, and engagement with society that achieves social, economic and environmental equity" (MSU-CANR Mission, 2008). Yet, with all of the official statements of support, MSU-CANR units struggle with how to represent excellence in teaching and learning in merit and promotion evaluations. …

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