Wednesday, January 29

Secret Boss Training: How to Observe and Assess Teaching in any Format


by Thomas J. Tobin

Much of what we know about observing and assessing teaching comes from our own experiences as learners, and many widely-held practices are not supported by best practices. We can adopt three broad principles in order to allow even non-subject-expert observers to provide meaningful—and legally defensible—assessments of teaching quality regardless of the subject, level, format, medium, or approach being used by instructors:

  • Good teaching practices share seven core elements.
  • Know when to do formative and summative evaluation.
  • Much of what we observe isn’t actually teaching.

We Know Good Teaching . . . Right?

Many of us who are administrators in colleges and universities came to our current roles through the classroom, the lab environment, or field work. We are familiar with the give and take of teaching, and we now work with, or on behalf of, learners. So, we are well prepared to oversee, observe, and evaluate the teaching that our faculty colleagues are doing for our institutions.

Except when we aren’t.

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