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Formative Peer Assessment of Teaching

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Faculty Unite! Effective Ways for Educators to Collaborate Successfully

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Stephanie Ann Claussen Colorado School of Mines

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Stephanie Claussen’s experience spans both engineering and education research. She obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. Her Ph.D. work at Stanford University focused on optoelectronics, and she continues that work in her position at the Colorado School of Mines, primarily with the involvement of undergraduate researchers. In her role as an Associate Teaching Professor, she is primarily tasked with the education of undergraduate engineers. In her courses, she employs active learning techniques and project-based learning. Her previous education research, also at Stanford, focused on the role of cultural capital in science education. Her current interests include engineering students' development of social responsibility and the impact of students' backgrounds in their formation as engineers.

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The effective assessment of teaching is useful for a variety of purposes (Felder, 2004). It can impact promotion and tenure decisions, the development of a curriculum and decisions about teaching assignments, and contribute to the improvement of teaching and learning. Despite the important role teaching assessment plays in a university setting, it is often carried out in a perfunctory manner and relies only on student evaluations (Kulik, 2001; Spooren, 2013). Little attention is given to best-practices in the literature, and rarely are formative assessments (those used to improve the practice of teaching) prioritized institutionally over summative forms (which are used to measure one’s teaching ability, without an eye towards improvement) (Stark, 2014).

In 2014, faculty in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department at ________________ adopted and developed a program of peer assessment of teaching called Teaching Triangles (Duke, 2013). Participation in the Teaching Triangles is entirely voluntary, and the results of the assessment are not used for promotion, tenure, or job performance measures. Rather, the program has been designed to be purely formative, focused on improving the teaching and learning in the department.

The Teaching Triangles program relies on a trio of faculty members who take turns evaluating each other throughout the year. There is also an evaluation triangle, which is used for each person being assessed. The three parts of the evaluation triangle include a classroom observation, feedback on course materials (syllabus, forms of assessment such as exams and homework assignments, etc.), and a reflection meeting with the three members of the triangle to provide feedback and opportunities for discussion.

In Year 1 (2014-2015) of this project, the evaluations included a very broad assessment, which sometimes led to vague feedback and unfocused observations. It also left little room for improvement of faculty who were considered satisfactory; this format lacked a path for continuous improvements. Thus, in Year 2 we have asked faculty to identify a single “problem of practice” that they would like to focus on this year. We are in the process of assessing the efficacy of this change in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Participation in this program has been high, especially considering its voluntary nature. In Year 1, 48% of the faculty in the department (12/25) participated. Of the participants, half were from the teaching faculty and half from the tenure/tenure-track faculty; 42% (5/12) had achieved the highest rank in their respective faculty track (Teaching Professor or Professor). This supports the aim that this program is intended to improve faculty teaching rather than merely for evaluation purposes. In addition, participation feedback has been positive, especially with respect to the “flexibility” and “informal” format of the program.

This year, we are carrying out a more rigorous evaluation of the program. We have pre-data related to participants’ chosen problems of practice. We will survey participating faculty again at the end of the program in April, 2016 to understand how they did or did not leverage the Teaching Triangle to impact their teaching and its perceived utility.

Claussen, S. A. (2016, June), Formative Peer Assessment of Teaching Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26937

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