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Understanding the Fundamentals of Instructional Effectiveness is intended to assist faculty who are engaged in explaining their own teaching processes, behaviors, and outcomes. The resources provide definitions, terms, and examples of how the fundamentals of instructional effectiveness are understood and assessed, typically. The fundamentals covered in this resources are defined as holistic because they seek to provide an overview of multiple ways of defining instructional effectives and encourage the use of multiple measures and data.

These resources are intended to provide a foundation of basic terms, processes, and practices found, typically, in the presentation and assessment of material submitted to establish instructional effectiveness in higher education. As such, they are not intended as a checklist or criteria, but general resources to support the “typical” or fundamental terms, principles, and practices associated with establishing and assessing instructional effectiveness. The resources are designed as a “starting point” for those who are less familiar or unfamiliar with typical processes and practices related to establishing, monitoring, and reviewing instructional effectiveness.

Additionally, the resources presented serve a wide variety of instructional contexts, including instructional modality, disciplinary practice, course level, and experience of the individual faculty member. Specific criteria related to instructional effectiveness at CSULB is not included in these resources. The resources are NOT intended as an extension or replacement of any campus policy on teaching, learning, or faculty evaluation (e.g., Syllabus policy, RTP policies, Lecturer Evaluation policies, and so on).

What is Instructional Effectiveness?

Instructional effectiveness refers to the broad range of knowledge, preparation, skills, and attitudes that result in effective teaching and student learning. Instructional effectiveness is a complex construct and includes numerous dimensions, behaviors, skills, and characteristics. Teaching approaches, course modality, course material, learning activities, and assignments should be aligned with student preparation, course level (introductory, intermediate, advanced, graduate), and skills required for students to demonstrate accomplishment of intended student learning outcomes. There is not one single measure or indicator of instructional effectiveness. Typically, evaluating instructional effectiveness includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Numerous processes or those things that faculty/instructors do to facilitate student learning (e.g., pedagogies, teaching strategies, course learning activities and assessments);
  • Direct instructor classroom/instructional environment behaviors that represent required duties instructors must carry out in order for students to learn;
  • Instructor characteristics that influence significantly students’ attitudes and behaviors in the learning environment (e.g., knowledgeable, approachable, interesting, and motivating).
  • Evidence of student learning outcomes from student response to instruction, course assessments, projects, performances, exhibitions, and culminating or signature assignments.

How is instructional effectiveness associated with student learning?

The primary desired outcome of instructional effectiveness is demonstrated student affective, cognitive, and (in specific disciplines and courses) psychomotor learning. Many faculty fail to recognize or understand the important of student affect and the role it plays in student cognitive learning. Additionally, many faculty believe that instructional effectiveness is only specific to the cognitive or psychomotor domain. Sound design of instructional materials, teaching strategies, and communication behaviors among faculty and their students plays just as important of a role in teaching and learning as does covering content and providing sound learning activities/assignments. [See: Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom,B.S. and Masia, B. B. (1964).Taxonomy of educational objectives, Book II. Affective domain. New York, NY. David McKay Company, Inc.]

Student affective learning is required as a precursor to cognitive and psychomotor learning. There are five levels of affective learning:
  1. receiving – students’ awareness, willingness to receive, or selected attention;
  2. responding - refers to the learners’ active attention to stimuli and his/her motivation to learn – acquiescence, willing responses, or feelings of satisfaction;
  3. valuing - refers to the learner’s beliefs and attitudes of worth – acceptance, preference, or commitment;
  4. organizing - refers to the learner’s internalization of values and beliefs involving the conceptualization of values; and the organization of a value system;
  5. characterization – the internalization of values. As values or beliefs become internalized, the learner organizes them according to priority.

Student cognitive learning is specific to comprehension and acquisition of knowledge and skills. There are six domains of cognitive learning:
  1. Remembering: Recognizing or recalling knowledge from memory. Remembering is when memory is used to produce or retrieve definitions, facts, or lists, or to recite previously learned information;
  2. Understanding: Constructing meaning from different types of functions, be they written or graphic messages, or activities like interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, or explaining.
  3. Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing. Applying relates to or refers to situations where learned material is used through products like models, presentations, interviews or simulations.
  4. Analyzing: Breaking materials or concepts into parts, determining how they relate or interrelate, or how part relate to an overall structure or purpose.
  5. Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing. Critiques, recommendations, and reports are some of the products that can be created to demonstrate the processes of evaluation. In the newer taxonomy, evaluating comes before creating as it is often a necessary part of the precursory behavior before one creates something.
  6. Creating: Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing. Creating requires users to put parts together in a new way, or synthesize parts into something new and different thus, creating a new form or product. This process is the most difficult mental function in the new taxonomy.

Psychomotor learning refers to specific, discreet physical functions, reflex actions, and interpretive movements. Traditionally, these types of objectives are concerned with the physical encoding of information, with movement and/or with activities where the gross and fine muscles are used for expressing or interpreting information or concepts (e.g., dance, theatre, music, and a wide variety of sports/activity courses). This area also refers to natural, autonomic responses or reflexes (e.g., as found in courses in anatomy, speech therapy, and physical therapy).

How is instructional effectiveness identified or measured?

There is no single measure or indicator of this complex construct given that it involves an individual’s preparation and knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors. There are numerous things “to be measured.” Ideally, data from five sources are required to evaluate effective teaching:
  • reflective assessment from the faculty being evaluated (e.g., narrative of instruction and instructionally related accomplishments during the period of review);
  • peer review of instructional material and direct observation of classroom/online teaching from faculty peers;
  • student work and other student assessments that help link teaching behaviors to student learning.
  • perceptions of teaching from the students that faculty member is teaching or has taught;
  • assessments of student work such as projects or culminating assignments, final course grades, and course GPAs across course taught during the period of review.

Why are multiple forms of data/evidence used to establish/evaluate instructional effectiveness?

Using multiple forms of evidence, indexes, and measures is the preferred method of assessing the complex construct – instructional effectiveness. Multiple methods and measures provides a means to capture all of the complex tasks required to provide sound instruction that leads to student learning. A comprehensive or holistic approach to evaluating instructional effectiveness includes all five sources outlined in this resource. Student response to instruction is only one of several areas of evaluation to be considered when making assessments of instructional effectiveness and should not be used exclusively or carry more weight than the other areas of evaluation. Additionally, all faculty undergoing formative or summative review of instructional effectiveness should be evaluated via a process that is holistic and systematic, and includes well-defined criteria.

What is the difference between formative and summative assessment of instructional effectiveness?

Typically, there are two categories of assessment for instructional effectiveness. Most faculty undergo both categories of assessment during their academic careers. Faculty should seek to identify the category of their review prior to developing material for that specific review.

  • Formative assessments are routinely used within the context of developing instructional effectiveness.
  • The goal of formative assessment is to monitor progress toward establishing instructional effectiveness and to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and student learning. More specifically, formative assessments:
    • help instructors identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
    • help instructors recognize where students are struggling and address problems in course modality, course design, teaching style, classroom communication behaviors, and any other expectations for future demonstrated instructional effectiveness.
  • Summative assessment are typically used to determine whether or not an individual faculty member has met established criteria by a program, department, college, or other unit specific to instructional effectiveness.
  • The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate instructional effectiveness by determining if material/evidence presented by the faculty member meets/exceeds some established criteria, standard, or benchmark.

What is assessed, typically, for peer review (formative or summative) of instructional effectiveness?

Typically, peer review of instructional effectiveness has five primary areas appropriate for formative and/or summative evaluation. Peer review may be used to provide instructors with formative feedback or recommendations intended to lead to modifications and improvements. Peer review is also used to provide summative assessment, which is a requirement of the formal, university evaluation process (i.e., reappointment, tenure, & promotion, lecturer evaluations).

The following are categories that are assessed, typically, in peer review processes (this is not intended as an exhaustive list):

Category 1: Course content and instructional/pedagogical knowledge and competence.
Category 2: Adherence to university/college/department policies, practices, and requirements.
Category 3: Development, design, and presentation of instructional material for a course.
Category 4: Classroom/Instructional environment behaviors which instructors must carry out in order for students to learn.
Category 5: Assessment of student outcomes, including, but not limited to synthesis of student response to instruction, course grade distributions, and course GPAs, exemplary student work.