Center for Teaching and Learning

A guide to best practice for evaluating teaching

Evaluating teaching is a process, not a single moment

A letter, a one-hour class observation, or a swift look at student ratings can provide insight and spark conversation but, in isolation, can only tell us so much.

To gain a true sense of our teaching—what’s working and what isn’t—takes a thoughtful and holistic approach. Such an approach is essential for ourselves but also everyone involved in the tenure and promotion review process, including our chairs and our peers, to know how we’re teaching effectively, taking feedback on board and focusing on continuous improvement.

At the University of Washington, we value effective teaching and support instructors in exploring ways to improve their teaching. Whether a new teaching assistant or a tenured professor with a Distinguished Teaching Award, we all have room for improvement, refinement and experimentation with new ideas and learning technologies.

Self-reflection and constructive feedback from students, peers and chairs help instructors of all ranks discover if they are effective in the classroom and inform choices that improve the quality of teaching. Sharing these insights with peers and chairs helps those colleagues know how best to support, mentor and promote instructors when it comes to their teaching effectiveness.

While the UW community values great teaching, how we evaluate teaching varies across departments, schools, colleges and our three campuses. This guide gathers best practices, advice and examples from across the UW with the goal of sparking lively, disciplinary and interdisciplinary conversations about teaching as a scholarly practice conducted in a community. It aims to support departments in their continuous improvement of evaluation practices and to support individual faculty in their professional growth as ever more effective teachers.

These recommendations combine evidence-based and national best practices with insights from UW faculty councils, faculty members, chairs and deans. In the creation of this guide, concerns emerged around evaluation: Low response rates in online student evaluations, potential for bias, over-emphasis on student evaluations in promotion and tenure, varying understandings of what makes teaching effective, unclear expectations or norms, protocols for peer evaluation and more.

This guide addresses many of these issues but not all. As a living document, we hope you will help us develop these guidelines further. Please contribute your insights and best practices around departmental norms, policies and protocols, and tools and templates that promote effective evaluation of teaching.