Course 4, Week 1: Evaluating our Practice

Now, this is a great start to a week!

As you would know from my profile, I love all things reflection and identity. Dropping into this weeks course looking at evaluation processes called to me!

Reflection and evaluation is something I actively participate in, but not just my teaching. I use reflection in all apsects of my life, from my cooking methods (likely because my cooking is so poor, when my baking is great), to my management style, to my organisation skills, to my ability to stand in front of a room of students, then my ability to stand in front of a room of peers. Each situation, every action and each observation we are involved in is important in the grand scheme of how we mould and change as we grow.

So, the prospect of looking at evaluation, starting from the quote above sparked my interest., as you can see


This week, I will be reflecting on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of my own teaching practice, through reflection.

Origins of evaluating teaching practice

According to the course, Hounsell (2008), who first introduced the concept of evaluation of teaching, was initially criticised. This surprises me, as in my experience, evaluation comes naturally following teaching. A quick tick-box in my head of what did and did not work, what I should and should not do next time seems simple! According to the course, this is due to teaching being viewed as a ‘private’ activity. This may be why my own experience differs, as completing an 11-18 PGCE and teaching in glass-walled classrooms gave me a much more public approach to teaching. Learning and working with a community willing to share best practice, resources and time was really important when working in secondary schools and FE, so I can only imagine evaluation comes so naturally as a result of this.

Later in the course, we were asked to read the blog post Open Your Door: Why We Need to See Each Other Teach by Jennifer Gonzalez (2013). A lot rang true for me and my comment reiterates my thoughts on open evaluation processes:

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)


I have attempted to summarise the 4 areas below, from Boyer (2015).

  • Discovery: The action of research and learning in order to develop knowledge to be applied in HE teaching.
  • Integration: To make connections across disciplines and putting them in a perspective of a larger context, revealing and illuminating data and new insights.
  • Engagement: The application of knowledge, that benefits both the individuals and the institution we work in. This should be ongoing, engaging often with discovery and integration and reapplying to close the gap between the values of the institution and the larger world.
  • Teaching: Teaching occurs as the outcome of the above. To be a teacher, an individual must be well informed and knowledgeable in their teaching area. Teachers should undergo pedagogical planning to ensure learning, but also engage in the act of being a learner.

Reading through the comments on SoTL following the above and a video developing on indivual SoTL practice, this comment was closest to my own views:

Evaluating the effectiveness of my own teaching practice

As an initial introduction to reflecting on our own teaching practice, we were asked to consider groups that should be involved in teaching practice, other than teaching colleagues, self-reflection and students, as recommended by Hounsell (2008). Here were my thoughts:

We next covered the process of evaluating with teaching colleagues and peers, looking at the following examples:

  • Collaborative learning sets (CLSs) and action learning sets (ALSs)
  • Professional dialogue
  • Learning communities
  • Coaching and mentoring

As managed of the Personal Tutoring service, I believe I engage with each of the above, however would benefit from a CLS of staff across other HEIs in similar positions. This is something I will now actively look into.

Self-reflection, as I have mentioned has been most prominent in my practice. The course opened up this method of evaluation with the following quote:

We were then asked to capture our methods of engaging in self-reflection by creating one slide in a larger collaborative PowerPoint, which was a really fun activity. I had taken the course earlier than some and now looking back at the PowerPoint, which has grown greatly, I can see many were just as involved in looking at their own methods of self-reflection.

Here’s my contribution:

Student feedback is of course the most important to consider when evaluating, as they are experiencing the teaching and learning. The Personal Tutoring service has used multiple methods to gain feedback, including: end of module survey questions, end of session feedback surveys, focus groups and more. What is really important for me is real-time feedback, using formative assessment and observations of my audience.

My own thoughts were then expanded upon in the course material, looking at sources of informal and under-exploited feedback:


So far, this has been my favourite week of learning. The information was quick and snappy, the activities were engaging and I felt a strong connection to the materials provided. This is likely as it falls into a passion of mine, but I found the week useful in looking at different perspectives of reflection. I look forward to completing the following week and finishing the module, bringing my learning experiences together.

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