I recently underwent a peer-review teaching (PRT) evaluation conducted by my college - OSU's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS). This was a formal evaluation; it was not simply a cursory review of my syllabi, student evaluations, etc. In short, it was a big deal and the report went into my file.
I have been teaching for forty years; I started in 1973 at Pima Community College in Tucson when my PhD funding was the victim of a budget cut. As an aside, I thus became one of the unusual PhD students, at least at the University of Arizona's Department of Hydrology and Water Resources: an unfunded one.
I learned I really enjoyed teaching, and those early classes and students in Physical and Historical Geology are soources of some of my fondest memories. I also discovered something else: when it comes to teaching, there are no part-time positions, only part-time salaries.
I mention the length of time I've been teaching because I cannot recall ever having had such a PRT evaluation. My teaching had been evaluated for promotion and tenure but not quite like this recent effort.
So what did I have to do for this PRT evaluation? I had to summarize my teaching philosophy (good idea!) and activities:
Not especially creative or innovative, I know, but I have actually become more interested in and enthused about undergraduate education since arriving at OSU.
Here is the committee's final report after observing my teaching, interviewing me, soliciting student comments, and reading entrails of various animals:
It is interesting to note that CEOAS, which used to be just 'COAS' before absorbing the former Department of Geosciences, had a reputation in which teaching was a sideline, even more so than in most research universities. This was evidenced by the fact that even 'regular' COAS faculty had to find substantial external support - upwards of 60% - even during the academic year. There was also relatively little undergraduate education. So the focus was on research, grantsmanship, and postdocs. The merger of COAS with Geosciences thus provided some 'cover' for the O & A folks, and the absorption of OSU's undergraduate Environmental Sciences Program (with its several hundred majors) by CEOAS provided even more cover and insulation from criticism when it comes to undergraduate education.
Teaching evaluation is always a tough call, but it's important. My sense is that the best way to evaluate teaching effectiveness is to focus on the years following the course and ascertain what the students have retained and used. But that is difficult and impractical, or so I have been told.
From my perspective, the most useful comments I get are those I receive years after a student has left my course and started a career.
And I am still getting them!
“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever. Have you thought of going into teaching?” - Terry Pratchett
"Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach." - Aristotle