What is this?

This is the culmination of two related projects: 1) development of a general peer course evaluation rubric that can be applied to a wide range of courses on campus in a transparent manner, and 2) recruitment of a corps of trained peer evaluators who can conduct the evaluation if asked, hence not placing the burden on the unit head to identify potential peer evaluators.

Why was this created?

Evaluation of teaching for considerations of salary increases, reappointments, and promotions have been heavily based on student course assessments, which many studies have shown to have a range of biases. They also do not capture the full range of faculty teaching and mentoring approaches. Other factors such as enrollments and the instructor’s teaching statements are also not adequate indicators of the quality of teaching that happens in a classroom. Peer course evaluations are routinely used at other universities and have been employed in some units on campus, and our committee examined what was done both internal to Duke and at other universities to develop and optimize the rubric presented here for broad use. The present rubric and application are not meant to replace the use of student course assessments nor other factors, but instead to supplement and potentially contextualize the feedback received from those other resources. Importantly, this rubric also allows for transparency in how a course is evaluated by peers: faculty being evaluated can read and consider the criteria well in advance of their course observation, and they will have significant input prior to any evaluation. Finally, requesting peer observation is a demonstration of commitment to improving one’s teaching, and the faculty member is encouraged to respond to the feedback obtained from the assessment in review dossiers to explain how they will adjust their course approach going forward.

Why does the feedback need to be shared for salary increases/ reappointments/ promotions? Why can’t it just be for the faculty member’s self-improvement?

Peer course evaluation is wholly voluntary, so if a faculty member wants to ask a colleague to apply the rubric to their course solely for self-improvement, that is their prerogative. However, extensive opportunities for self-improvement of teaching have been available via Learning Innovation and other resources on campus for years. The purpose of this project (rubric + corps) was to fill a gap: teaching is evaluated for salary increases/ reappointments/ promotions, and this resource allows for a rigorous yet transparent approach to supplement other information also collected for that purpose (see “Why was this created?” above). Note: due to limited bandwidth, the corps of trained peer evaluators will not be deployed for a faculty member’s self-improvement—if that kind of feedback is desired, the faculty member is encouraged to reach out to Learning Innovation or to ask a colleague to apply the rubric for them.

What if I do not want to do this/ do not want my unit to do this?

This approach is wholly voluntary and only available upon request.

What if the rubric has criteria that do not fit my course?

The committee developed this as a “default” rubric. Many of the criteria in the rubric are quite general and should work for almost any course. Nonetheless, we understand there is no one-size-fits-all with respect to courses on our campus. If some criteria do not fit, they can be omitted, and if appropriate, others can be substituted.

Can my unit just apply or adapt the rubric without leveraging the corps of peer evaluators?

This approach is wholly voluntary, so your unit can do whatever it likes with the rubric—adapt it, identify your own faculty to conduct it, etc. Nonetheless, if your unit is interested in having some of its faculty trained to apply the rubric, please reach out and we can explore the possibility.

My course is one that cannot be assessed by faculty from other disciplines.

The criteria in the rubric are general, such that courses can often be evaluated by faculty trained in other disciplines, but some exceptions certainly exist (e.g., courses taught in a specific non-English language). In that case, the rubric can be applied by peers from within the same unit who have the necessary expertise. And some exceptions may be such that no peer can apply the rubric to their course, but again, this approach is voluntary, so there is no mandate for application.