Holistic Evaluation of Teaching

Dalhousie’s Holistic Evaluation of Teaching (HET) policy promotes the enhanced documentation, review, and evaluation of teaching by asking that multiple sources of evidence of teaching excellence be considered. The three sources of evidence of teaching effectiveness include student, peer, and self. When integrated together, these three voices capture teaching activities more fully, and recognizes contributions both in and out of the classroom. A holistic evaluation of teaching will have its greatest impact when applied in both formative and summative assessment, since this will lead to improvements in teaching practices, and tenure, promotion, and reappointment processes. Holistic evaluation of teaching can be used as part of individual reflections on teaching, peer review of teaching, and formal evaluation processes.

A Venn diagram displaying three overlapping circles. Circle one lists: self-reflection, professional development, classroom observation, teaching artifacts, and communities of practice. Circle two lists: teaching dossier, teaching philosophy, SLEQ formative, and SLEQ summative. Circle three lists: solicited feedback, unsolicited feedback, and scholarship of teaching and learning. Where circle one and two overlap, the word "Self" is written. Where circle one and three overlap, the word "Peers" is written. Where circle two and three overlap, the word "Students" is written. In the center, all three circles overlap and the letters HET are written. Around the outside of the Venn diagram, the phrases "Documenting Teaching Effectiveness", "Assessing Teaching Effectiveness", and "Improved processes for tenure, promotion, reappointment, and hiring": are written.



Why take a holistic approach to evaluating teaching?

Below are some reasons why taking a holistic approach to evaluating teaching is valuable to you, students, and the larger Dalhousie community:

Demonstrates the value of multiple aspects of teaching

The comprehensive approach of HET enables and facilitates diverse perspectives on course design, pedagogy, and assessment in line with effective and inclusive teaching and learning practices.

The evaluation of your teaching is not reliant on a single form of evidence

Many dimensions of teaching cannot be adequately described by a single voice, measure, or artifact. Additionally, some bias is inherent in any evaluation, regardless of whether it is from self, peer, or student. By consulting multiple voices, we can gather a range of evidence that is helpful in assessing teaching effectiveness.

Provides a snapshot of the breadth and depth of your work

Teaching involves many invisible and time-intensive activities that can go unrecognized or unacknowledged when using a single form of evidence of teaching effectiveness. By incorporating multiple forms of evidence, you can provide a more detailed overview of the teaching and learning-related work you’ve engaged in, expanded on, and developed.

Integrates multiple voices

Students provide insight into the student experience and can capture what is occurring during the learning process and within the learning environment. TThis feedback may include the following forms: of formal end-of-term evaluations (SLEQ) or informal midterm feedback, evidence of the attainment of learning outcomes, evidence of effective mentorship, feedback from alumni of courses or programs, teaching awards received from students, and other formal and informal feedback that has been solicited or unsolicited from students.

Peers provide feedback on any number of aspects of teaching, such as alignment between classroom activities and learning outcomes; evidence of student engagement; whether content is appropriate to course level; quality and comprehensiveness of course communications, instructions and rubrics; et cetera. This feedback may follow from peer observations of teaching, peer review of teaching materials, external peer review of teaching materials by an appropriate (disciplinary?) expert, invitations from peers to present on teaching and learning, teaching awards received from peers, and other formal and informal peer feedback. Students are not always familiar with the breadth of pedagogical considerations an instructor must take into account when developing and teaching a course; Insights from peers (and self) can serve to complement or contextualize student feedback.

Self feedback from individual faculty members can provide insightful context and rationale for their course design and pedagogy, as well as a summary of their engagement in and contribution to teaching and learning activities inside and outside of the classroom. This feedback may include, but is not limited to, a teaching philosophy statement; evidence of engagement in professional development related to teaching and learning; examples of effective course, activity, or assessment design; educational service or leadership; and evidence of research in teaching and learning. Evidence from self in the form of reflection can be particularly useful in your teaching dossier. It can provide a narrative that contextualizes and provides tangible links between the various forms of evidence and serves to demonstrate your teaching development, approaches, effectiveness, and areas in need of improvement.

Creates opportunities for teaching communities of practice

Reflecting on your own work and engaging with peers about teaching can also lead to new and strengthened teaching and learning communities. These may develop within a discipline or across a Faculty or the university more broadly in a variety of forms, such as: colleagues discussing teaching experiences and sharing materials, mentorships forming between colleagues, and increased frequency and participation in departmental workshops/seminars related to teaching and learning. There may also be opportunities for faculty members to create and engage in more formal communities of practice (CoP). A CoP is a collaborative, sustained way for participants to share their own experience, practice, and expertise as the community works together to build knowledge around teaching and learning, explore new approaches, discover student needs and experience, and learn how they can support each other as fellow educators.

A form of scholarly teaching

A holistic evaluation of teaching, at its heart, engages the fundamental principles of scholarly teaching. Scholarly teaching includes both reflective and intellectual cycles where an instructor can explore their teaching practice and student learning, and document efforts and activities that are designed to improve and enhance teaching and learning effectiveness. These approaches may include professional development opportunities; seeking peer feedback; exploring the teaching and learning literature, new teaching methods or disciplinary teaching approaches; or soliciting feedback on the student experience. Ideally, faculty should take this kind of a scholarly approach towards the holistic evaluation of their teaching by engaging in regular, on-going and iterative professional development and reflection on teaching as a path to the evaluation of their teaching. 

Documenting teaching evidence with holistic evaluation: The teaching dossier

As outlined in the Holistic Evaluation of Teaching policy, the teaching dossier is "the core instrument for the evaluation of teaching and learning...that brings together multiple sources of evidence about teaching effectiveness."

Each teaching dossier is a curated and organized presentation of descriptions of and artifacts from your teaching. Dossiers are different from CVs—they give you the opportunity to describe your courses, provide explanations for your choices, and demonstrate the professional development you’ve undertaken within the context of your teaching philosophy and the principles you hold about teaching.

Your dossier is a living document (we recommend that you begin collecting pieces of evidence early in your career and keep them in a dedicated file), and will need adjusting according to the context in which you share it. To meet the requirements for the Holisitic Evaluation of Teaching, look up the specific program, departmental, or Faculty documentation concerning the policy.* The CLT strongly encourages you to review your Faculty’s procedures and policies regarding HET and peer review, once they have been established.

Visit the Evidence from Self page for a more fulsome description of the dossier, but some questions to consider when collecting and assembling your evidence include:

  1. Are all three voices present in your dossier? How do these three voices connect or provide a comprehensive picture of your teaching development, pedagogical practices, and the student learning experience?
  2. Will the reader be able to see alignment between what you intend to do, what you actually do, and the student experience outlined in your dossier?
*Please note: These requirements are currently under development within each Faculty.

Assessing a holistic set of teaching evidence

As you assess your own or a peer’s teaching, you will be tasked with looking not only at different dimensions of teaching and learning, but you will also be reviewing multiple and varied forms of evidence. Some examples of evidence that may be considered include, but are not limited to self-reflection, teaching philosophy statement, sample course materials, teaching practices inventory, classroom observation, peer review of syllabus/course materials, peer review of learning outcomes, faculty interviews as part of peer review, classroom or student interviews, formal student evaluations, student letters, student work, survey data, reports on learning gains, and professional development activities. This list is not exhaustive, and other sources of evidence may appropriately be used as part of an evaluation. As you look at evaluating teaching in a holistic way, it is important to think about the ways in which multiple pieces of evidence interconnect to gain a more complete picture of one's teaching and learning practices. Exploring teaching effectiveness through a broader lens allows diverse pedagogies to be highlighted and for a deeper understanding of how our teaching practice and curriculum design directly contributes to the student experience and the effectiveness of learning. A holistic evaluation should carefully balance all sources of evidence presented when determining a faculty member's teaching effectiveness.

You may choose to guide the assessment of your teaching evidence using the Rubric for Teaching Evaluation, a customizable tool made available by the CLT. This rubric describes seven dimensions of teaching and learning that integrate different sources of evidence. These dimensions include: (1) Course Materials: Outcomes, Content, and Alignment, (2) Teaching Practices: Pedagogy and Methods, (3) Student Interaction and Course Climate, (4) Achievement of Learning Outcomes, (5) Reflection and Iterative Growth, (6) Mentoring & Advising, and (7) Involvement in Teaching Service, Scholarship, and Community. We anticipate this tool would be useful to individuals, peer evaluators, and units as they engage in formative and/or summative holistic evaluation of teaching processes. Guidance on how to use and adapt the rubric for your own purposes are included as part of the downloadable rubric document.