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Strategies to Enhance Your Teaching Effectiveness
Student ratings of teaching effectiveness provide feedback that can be used to identify your teaching strengths and weaknesses, as perceived by your students. Analyzing this information objectively provides valuable insights that can be used to make positive changes in your teaching and lead to enhanced student learning. Taking that next step, however, and determining how to act on your analysis of student feedback can be difficult. Faculty commonly ask:
- Now that I know the areas that I would like to address, what do I do?
- What changes do I make?
- How do I make the changes?
- What strategies do I implement?
The purpose of this document is to offer teaching strategies to faculty who are committed to using student feedback to improve their teaching effectiveness. Although the focus of the teaching strategies is on practical application, they are grounded in an extensive research base reflecting the areas of effective teaching, student learning, principles of good teaching practice, and evaluation. The strategies have been selected from a variety of published sources, as well as the extensive experiences of faculty on this and other campuses.
Dimensions of Effective Teaching
The rationale for selection of the teaching strategies and their organizational presentation reflect the research that supported the development of the OIRA Item Bank, which describes how to create your own student rating form. Research indicates that effective teaching is a complex, multidimensional process that should be reflected in the design of student rating instruments. Consequently, most published student rating forms have a well-defined factor structure and provide measures of distinctive dimensions of teaching effectiveness. The organizational scheme of the OIRA Item Bank was modeled on this work. The teaching strategies suggested in this document are organized, therefore, around these same dimensions of effective teaching. These include:
- Student Learning
- Learning Outcomes
- Student Effort and Involvement
- Teaching Practice
- Organization and Preparation
- Faculty/Student Interaction
- Course Elements
Appropriate student learning outcomes focus on the results of effective teaching. Students report learning more in courses that provide an intellectual challenge, include meaningful learning experiences, and lead to an increased interest in the subject. Actively engaging students in the learning process stimulates their thinking and leads to learning that is “deeper” and more lasting. Additionally, when students understand that they are active participants in the teaching/learning process, their sense of responsibility for their own learning often increases, leading to greater motivation and enhanced learning. It is important, however, to ensure that student learning is consistent with course objectives. Furthermore, flexibility in teaching approaches permits faculty to enhance student learning by responding to diverse student backgrounds and learning styles.
Organization and preparation are key components of several information processing theories of learning. Regardless of teaching style, the essential aspects of structure and clarity are related to student learning. Consistency across course objectives, instructional activities, and evaluation efforts enhance student motivation and performance. Organization and preparation are reflected through the course objectives, syllabus, assignments, activities, use of class time, and evaluation methods.
Effective communication is important in all types of educational settings ranging from large lectures to one-on-one conversations. Arousing and holding students’ interest enhances their motivation to learn and leads to an increase in their knowledge and understanding. Communication is manifested through good speaking, writing, and listening skills, and incorporates presentation of different points of view, implications of various theories, use of relevant examples, discussion of current developments, and demonstration of the information’s relevancy to the learner. Communication also occurs through a variety of other means including the course syllabus, presentations, explanations, and course activities.
Interaction between students and faculty has been identified as one of the key factors in student motivation, involvement, and intellectual development. Students report a greater sense of value in their learning and earn better grades when the professor is willing to help them learn and creates an environment conducive to learning. A teaching environment that supports student learning and provides a positive self-image for students is reflected in mutual respect and rapport, concern for students’ learning, professor availability outside of class, and encouragement of students to participate in discussions and other active learning experiences.
Course elements (grading, examinations, assignments) should be viewed by students as fair and relevant to course objectives, with feedback valuable to the learning process. Fairness in evaluation and grading is reflected in the consistency between course objectives, course content, assignments, and assessment strategies. The standards for grading should be clear and consistent, feedback timely and useful, and the equity of the workload appropriate for the credits received. When these factors are in place, student motivation to learn is enhanced.
Getting Started – Creating Your Action Plan
The list of suggested teaching strategies presented in this document is not intended to be exhaustive. It includes a sample of strategies supported by the educational research and proven successful by faculty in enhancing student learning. After reviewing the appropriate section(s) of teaching strategies:
- Select the strategies that comfortably address your concerns.
- Adapt the strategies to more specifically meet your needs, if necessary.
- Limit yourself to implementing three or four strategies over the course of the semester.
This should be a thoughtful process in which you consider the impact of your selections on the learning process. Planning to follow-up with an evaluation of their effectiveness will provide additional useful feedback.
Reflecting on your teaching and using student feedback to select new teaching strategies will help to enrich your conceptional view of teaching and learning and also expand your repertoire of teaching skills. Improving one’s teaching, however, is an on-going process. Many of the highly effective faculty, who contributed suggestions for this document, are continuously fine tuning their teaching skills.
Some individuals may desire additional guidance beyond the content contained in this document. A variety of other resources are available to help you address concerns and incorporate changes in your teaching. These include:
- Meeting with a teaching consultant who will work with you to develop teaching strategies based on your needs.
- Discussing strategies with your colleagues or mentor.
- Observing a colleague in a teaching setting.
- Referring to items in the reference section for a more extensive selection of teaching strategies.
The OIRA website provides additional Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness resources (http://oira.syr.edu):
- If you are uncertain how to interpret your student ratings in order to determine the focus of your teaching enhancement, you may want to refer to Interpreting and Using Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness.
- If you plan to modify your current student ratings form or create a new form, you may want to refer to Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness: Using the OIRA Item Bank to Create Your Own Form.
- If you are interested in a general discussion on the uses and common questions associated with student ratings, you may want to refer to What’s the Use of Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness?
An Invitation to You
As you work to improve your teaching effectiveness, you will develop certain teaching strategies that work well. If you would like to share a practical application with fellow colleagues, I would be glad to facilitate the process. I would like to make this document a work in-progress and continue to add teaching strategies that reflect your successes. Share your success by emailing (email@example.com) or calling me at 443-8700.
Examples used throughout this document are referenced from the following sources:
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Davis, B. G. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Feldman, K. A. (1996). Identifying exemplary teaching: Using data from course and teacher evaluations. In M. Svinicki & R. Menges (Eds.), Honoring exemplary teaching, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 65, 41-50. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hatfield, S. R. (Ed.) (1995). The seven principles in action: Improving undergraduate education. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Marsh, H. W., & Roche, L. A. (1994). The use of students’ evaluations of university teaching to improve teaching effectiveness. Canberra: Department of Employment, Education, and Training.
McKeachie, W. J. (2002). Teaching tips. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Walvoord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J. (1998). Effective grading. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Additionally, I would like to express my appreciation to the faculty members who contributed effective strategies from their own personal teaching experiences.
If you would like more information on this topic, please contact the Office by email or by phone at 443-8700.