Tertiary education is part of our public/social infrastructure. It provides opportunities and education for all who are no longer in compulsory education. It also provides skills and education to support our economy and our communities. By investing in tertiary education we give our whole country opportunities, not just those who study. Tertiary education also provides opportunities for research development and critical thinking that contribute to our understanding of current issues and to finding solutions to future challenges.
As the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-2015 notes, higher education levels have been linked to better general well-being, better health and greater social mobility. Tertiary-educated people are more involved in the community and are more likely to vote and stand for public office. Tertiary education promotes debate, democracy, culture and expression.
For Māori the opportunity to access tertiary education through a well-funded and accessible public system is one way by which individuals and their whānau, hapū and iwi can realise their development aspirations, as well as contribute to their communities, society and the economy.
The quality of teaching and learning in a tertiary education institution is influenced by a complex range of philosophical, environmental, institutional and student variables, that are beyond the control of the teacher, such as the adequacy of resources; opportunities for staff to pursue scholarship and research in their disciplines; opportunities to undertake professional development; the strength of curriculum design and management; staff workloads; and the impact of unrestricted student entry to courses. Teaching quality is also influenced by such things as a student’s commitment, application and regular attendance.
Key principles for evaluation processes
The main purpose of teaching evaluation should be to improve the quality of an individual’s teaching. Evaluation should therefore be focused on the development of the systematic use of a teaching profile/portfolio. Evaluation should take into account a range of teaching-related activities including course design, teaching performance, different categories of teaching undertaken (lecturing, tutoring, laboratory demonstrating, research supervision etc.), assessment practices, preparation of course resources, research on aspects of teaching, publication of papers on teaching, and teaching undertaken in different environments (such as field work and noho marae).
The most important feature of the evaluation process is to provide regular and constructive feedback to the individual staff member. The TEU also recognises that it is essential to retain the collegial aspect of evaluation and that any system of evaluation should recognise differences in teaching, both in terms of subject and method.
The evaluation of teaching will of necessity be individualised to recognise the differences in content, types and levels of courses taught by the staff being evaluated and class sizes. Evaluation data will not be directly comparable between individuals because the context within which the data is produced and the factors relevant to explanation of it may vary. It is vital therefore that evaluation data should be confidential between the individual and their manager.
A formal evaluation programme should be based on the following principles:
- It should be beneficial in its effect.
- It should be fair – that is it should be seen to be just and non-discriminatory.
- It should be comprehensive covering the full range of work done by academic staff
- It should be valid – this will require the development of monitoring procedures for the evaluation programme model.
- It should be open in the sense that the procedure and its purpose are clearly stated and understood.
- It should be effective in producing changes
Summative student evaluations of teaching (SSET)
Anonymous student evaluation of teaching is well-established in New Zealand tertiary education institutions, with a wide range of questionnaires and procedures in use. The intended purposes of these evaluations are generally more summative (to inform evaluative personnel decisions such as remuneration or promotion of individual staff) than formative (to inform the planning of professional development).
The use of summative student evaluations of teaching remains controversial. These evaluation models may serve as vehicles for transmitting popular misconceptions, expectations and prejudices that inhibit the expression of unpopular ideas and that therefore have the potential to impact on academic freedom. They can create subtle and not so subtle pressures on teachers to shape their behaviour to produce required levels of student satisfaction, eroding the responsibility of the teacher to provoke and challenge students and to evaluate their performance fairly and independently of social and political pressures. Such pressures may particularly threaten women academics (with Māori women academics potentially more vulnerable to misunderstanding of cultural norms) and those academics who are members of vulnerable minority groups.
Student evaluation of teaching should not therefore be used in isolation from other measures, especially when the primary purpose is to obtain a summative measure. These evaluations may provide valuable formative feedback to teachers; however they cannot provide unequivocally valid and precise measures of teaching effectiveness. Evaluation of teaching requires comprehensive input from a range of sources, including information from colleagues, departmental heads or chairs, practising professionals, students and the teacher concerned.
The role of the TEU in relation to SSET
While institutions continue to use SSET to inform performance management decisions related to the promotion or permanent appointment of individual staff members, the TEU should work to ensure that where such evaluation tools are used, they are not used in isolation from other evaluation mechanisms, they are strictly controlled and limited, and they are not used for disciplinary purposes.
Any procedure for student evaluation of teaching should be negotiated with the TEU and incorporated into the collective employment agreement. The procedure should include the opportunity for staff to comment on their evaluations and to contest any decision made on the basis of those evaluations.
Passed by Council, October 2011
Policy review date: 15 October 2012