In 1995, Cashin noted that, ‘There are now more than 1,500 references dealing with research on student evaluations of teaching.’1 More generally, the literature on evaluation of teaching is much larger still and probably beyond the ability of any one person to master. So why would we want to add to it?
Firstly, because the literature is so vast, academics and others with a practical interest in evaluation of teaching find it difficult to know where to begin. Second, the literature is fragmented, with areas relating to evaluation of teaching at the institutional level, at the discipline level across nations, at the Department level and at the level of the individual teacher. Third, much of the literature is extremely detailed and of interest primarily to other researchers.
We believe that most academic staff, given the opportunity, will actively seek feedback on their teaching as an essential part of the process of reflection which underpins all professional practice. In this respect evaluation of teaching is directly analogous with the well-established systems for evaluation of research.
We further believe that, in the current climate, it is important that academic staff and administrative staff concerned with quality assurance and quality improvement have access to a manual which deals with the most important issues and provides a guide to good practice. Time is precious in academic life and we offer this manual as a substitute for reinventing the evaluation wheel.
Readers who wish to probe further should consult the excellent bibliographies contained in the works cited in this manual.
Each chapter of the manual is more or less self-contained and may be read in isolation from the others according to need. Chapter 1 , however, contains a discussion of basic principles applicable to all other chapters.
Note that the manual is available in both hardcopy and online editions. The online edition includes both PDF (optimal for printing) and HTML versions (optimal for onscreen reading—particularly facilitating the following of hypertext links both within the manual itself and to external resources). Several of the appendices contain example forms and checklists: the online versions of these may actually be filled in electronically. (Unfortunately, current limitations of HTML browsers and PDF viewers mean that these filled-in versions cannot be easily saved for later reference; however, they can, at least, be subsequently printed.)
As formally detailed elsewhere, this work is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence. This is deliberately intended to facilitate the widest possible distribution of the manual. In the print and online PDF versions, each chapter and appendix has its own miniature “imprint banner”, to facilitate “unbundling” of the work according to the needs of different usage contexts. The online HTML version is essentially unbundled already: referenced by hypertext links, and automatically indexed by web search engines. Thus, please feel free to use the manual, whether in whole or in part, as a resource that can be freely distributed, linked to, copied and shared with your colleagues—and yes, perhaps even with your students!
1Cashin, W., (1995) Student ratings of teaching: The research revisited. IDEA, Paper 32.