Evaluating your teaching and curriculum practice, and the experience of students, can be done for multiple purposes and at a range of different levels.

It's important in any evaluation process to be clear about what you want to know about your teaching and student learning, and ways that you can obtain this information. It's useful to incorporate multiple ways to gather feedback on your teaching, and to maintain records so that you can use the evaluation and subsequent actions in a process of continuous improvement and for promotion and publication.

This guide focuses on the most common ways that teachers gather and document evidence about the quality of their teaching, the design of curriculum and student participation and engagement. The different types of evaluations below should not be seen in isolation but as complementary.

Researching the VU educational experience

With a radical new model of Higher Education and a diverse student cohort, VU is in a unique position to contribute knowledge on innovative approaches to enhance student success at University.

Connected Learning has compiled a range of resources, and links to other researcher development opportunities, to support and fast-track research on the educational experience at VU. (Login required.)

With a student body comprising high proportions of key equity indicators, coupled with a radical new Higher Education model designed to enhance student success and extensive institutional data, research on education @ VU can have widespread impact.

The following brief resources were designed by Connected Learning to support and fast-track research projects investigating aspects of education at VU. Further resources will be added as they are developed.

The resources reflect different stages of the research journey, from forming a topic to choosing a venue for publication. Peruse the table of contents and navigate to the most relevant section for you.

VU offers extensive researcher development opportunities and services within the portfolio of the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research (intranet; login required).

Build your knowledge of Higher Education Research
 - Quickly get across the field of Higher Education
 - If focused on the VU Model, consult the block and intensive mode annotated bibliography
 - See recently published research on education at VU

Consider funding, & seek necessary approvals
 -
Consider seeking funding for your project
 - Gain ethical micro project process approval
 - Consider and gain approval to access VU institutional data

Publish in conferences & high-impact journals
 - Identify suitable venues in which to publish outputs
 - Capture your publications in VU's publication tracking system, VU Elements

Higher Education research is a substantial field. To jumpstart your knowledge and quickly hone in on your topic, start by looking within the following ‘research syntheses’ which have been collated by Higher Education researchers.  They provide a ‘birds eye view’ of the field.

See Table 1 in the following two papers:

Tight, M. (2018). Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of higher education research. European Journal of Higher Educationhttps://doi.org/10.1080/21568235.2018.1541752

Schneider, M., & Preckel, F. (2017). Variables associated with achievement in higher education: A systematic review of meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletinhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000098

A quick supplemental search should be undertaken to identify more recent topical papers. One way is to use Google Scholar, which can list all papers citing a given work, with results filtered to recent years.

As you read each paper, write a short summary of the method and key results relevant to the topic. These will contribute to your eventual literature review. If you use reference management software, such as Endnote, add each paper as you go.

For training on undertaking a more involved systematic literature review with defined search terms and inclusion criteria, keep an eye out on the VU Researcher Professional Development opportunities.

 

With a surge of interest on the VU Model, often termed the block model, Connected Learning undertook a comprehensive review and annotated bibliography.

As there are very few studies on block mode learning, the bibliography focuses on what is arguably the most closely related body of literature - intensive mode learning.

Click here to access the intensive and block mode annotated bibliography.

VU researchers are stepping in to fill this gap in knowledge on block mode learning. A collection of recent publications that investigate aspects of education at VU can be found here. This section will be updated periodically.

Depending on the size and scope of your higher education research project, and the level of experience and resources available to the team, you may wish to consider seeking internal or external funding to support the research project.

Funding avenues will most likely emphasise either the generation of new knowledge in areas where they are critical gaps – likely to align with competitive research grant schemes; or the more immediate benefits to potentially vulnerable student cohorts – likely to align with philanthropic funding bodies.

Researchers have already been successful in attaining funding from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education on the role of the VU model in enhancing outcomes for STEM students.

All staff at VU have access to the funding source search engine, Research Professional, where you can search for grant opportunities.

Before embarking on writing a bid for research funding, contact the Research Funding team within the Office of Research Services

After you have designed your study, seek ethical approval. All human research in Australia, and at VU, requires ethical approval, consistent with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

To support relevant research Connected Learning, in co-ordination with the Ethics Chair and Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity, developed and administer an expedited micro-project ethical approval process. Over forty applications have so far been approved, on a variety of topics relating to education at VU.

The relevant forms and process for applying can be found here.

When planning your study of education at VU, consider pre-existing data sources that may inform your analyses while concurrently minimising participant burden. Higher Education systems generate enormous amounts of data, and studies using this data are sometimes termed ‘learning analytics’.

Pre-existing data sources are usually not collected with explicit consent to be used in research, however VU researchers have been successful in obtaining ethical approval to analyse this data. Note that approval is granted on a case-by-case basis.

Example institutional data sources include: student demographics and pathways, assessment results, participation data in the Learning Management System, discussion forum posts, and the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Student Evaluation of Unit (SET/SEU) surveys.

The Information, Analysis and Reporting Department primarily manage VU higher education data. At present, requests for data to be used in research can be made here (please ensure you are logged in to the intranet). Staff can also qualify for access to InfoVU2, VU’s business intelligence reporting tool, by completing a short online module.

If you’ll be collecting new primary data, use VU’s  institution-wide subscription to the online survey software, Qualtrics. Log on here. Consider that:

  • Most surveys of the general public have a 30% response rate
  • In-class recruitment has a higher response rate
  • VU student surveys via email get a very low response rate, text messages may be more effective, and multiple reminders may also help.

From the outset, prepare to share your findings. Depending on your experience in publishing in this field, consider local symposia or conferences, national or international conferences providing peer review sources, and further along the track, aim for a peer-reviewed journal.

Below are just a handful of higher education conferences and journals for you to consider.

Make sure you claim your research outputs on the VU Research Impact system, MORA, and nominate one of the VU priority FOR codes related to higher education. You can check journal rankings on SciMago and contact your Research Librarian for further support.

VU Priority FOR Codes (2018):

1301

Education Systems

1302

Curriculum and Pedagogy

1303

Specialist Studies in Education

 

JOURNALS:

Regional focus

Journal (homepage linked)

Conferences

International

Studies in Higher Education

Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA)

Higher Education

Australian Society for Computers in Learning in tertiary education  (ASCILITE)

Internet and Higher Education

Student transitions, achievement, retention & success (STARS)

Research in Higher Education

The Higher Education Technology Agenda (THETA)

Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education

International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISOTL)

Teaching in Higher Education

Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE)

National

Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE)

 

Higher Education Research and Development (HERD)

 

Australian Journal of Education

 

The Australian Educational Researcher

 

Australian Journal of Teacher Education

 

 

Australian Journal of Educational Technology

 

 

Student Success

 

 

Self-evaluation

All teachers should engage with self-evaluation or reflective practice to improve their teaching and their students’ learning experiences. Student expectations can often differ from a teachers and it's useful to discuss with your students what they understand about their learning.

Self-evaluation and reflection can be quite informal; however it is useful to document how you are doing this and the outcomes in some way.

This might be through an electronic or paper-based journal or portfolio. Information to document could include:

  • how well your unit objectives were met;
  • teaching and learning activities that work and those that don’t;
  • student responses to assessment tasks.

Video-taping a lecture or class and watching it back with the above points in mind also enables good reflection on in class activity.

Questions to guide practice

  • How am I collecting feedback on my teaching?
  • Is this feedback providing me with information to improve my teaching practice?
  • What actions am I taking based on this feedback?

Peer evaluation

Peer review of teaching is increasingly being recognised as a valued evaluation strategy. Having a well-qualified peer to observe your teaching can be used for both formative feedback and discussion about strategies, as well as for more formal evaluation purposes.

The most common experience reported from peer evaluations is that both the observer and observee learn a lot from the process. Peer reviews are also often conducted of teaching materials and online resources. This is common practice at VU as part of the course development and course monitoring processes. 

At VU the Peer Teaching Exchange program (PTE) program is designed to expand on common collegial sharing of teaching practice by providing support and links across disciplines and colleges.  

Student evaluation at Victoria University

All universities have external reporting requirements for quality assurance purposes. Student evaluations of teaching using a standardised instrument across the institution are generally used for this purpose and are administered at the end of each teaching period.

Although there is a compliance element to the use of Student Evaluations of Teaching and Units, information gathered this way also provides useful feedback on your teaching.

Similarly there are a range of surveys often administered externally about the student experience and the course experience. The results of these surveys also provide valuable information to teachers to improve the learning environment of your students.

Summative student evaluation of a unit, focusing on day-to-day experiences of a particular teacher or teaching team, conducted at the end of a teaching session, each semester.

Locally developed formative instruments can also be a used to supplement summative data.

Find out more about the Student Evaluation of teaching (SET) and Student Evaluation of Unit (SEU).

Students’ retrospective evaluation of whole-of-program experiences. Typically conducted post-graduation.

Find out more about the Current Research Experience Questionnaire (CREQ) and Quality Indicators – Learner Engagement.

Students document behaviours, experiences within and beyond the formal curriculum.

Some of these surveys specifically target year levels or student group.

Find out more about the Student Experience Survey (SES).

View the full list of key surveys conducted at VU.

While formal surveys are used for the whole student cohort, useful information can also be obtained from simply observing and talking to your students about their engagement and learning experience, or running student focus groups.

At VU, student focus groups are often used as part of the comprehensive course review process, but can also be run to find out more about student experience in particular units.

Using data to inform practice

It is important to remember that the information gathered through evaluation is about improving teaching and learning and the quality of the student experience.

Giving students information on how their feedback is making a difference is as important as collecting it and indicates to students the value of providing feedback to their teachers and the university.

Questions to guide practice

  • What am I doing with the feedback I collect from my students?
  • Am I closing the loop on teaching evaluations with my students?
  • Are there gaps in the information I am getting on my students’ experiences in my unit and, if so, how can I get this feedback?

Researching the educational experience at VU

With a radical new model of Higher Education and a diverse student cohort, VU is in a unique position to contribute knowledge on innovative approaches to enhance student success at University. 
 
Connected Learning have compiled a range of resources, and links to other researcher development opportunities, in order to support and fast-track research on the educational experience at VU. See the ‘Researching the educational experience at VU’ page here.

Resources

Biggs, J & Tang, C 2007 Teaching for quality learning at university, 3rd edition, Berkshire: SRHE & OUP

Crisp, G, Sadler, R, Krause, K, Buckridge, M, Wills, S, Brown, C, Mclean, J, Dalton, H, LeLievre, K & Brougham, B 2009, Peer review of teaching for promotion purposes, Australian Teaching and Learning Council, Sydney

Harris, K, Farrell, K, Bell, M, Devlin M & James, R 2008, Peer review of teaching in Australian higher education: resources to support institutions in developing and embedding effective policies and practices, Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Sydney

Krause, K 2012 ‘A quality approach to university teaching’, in Hunt, L. & Chalmers, D. (eds), University teaching in focus – A learning-centred approach, ACER Press, Camberwell