Thinking About ‘Evidence’ of Good Teaching in Higher Education

Mark GAN
Centre for Development of Teaching & Learning

Mark talks about the need to (re)think how we make evaluative judgements of students’ work and how this may offer an opportunity to evidence our own teaching practice.

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Gan, M. J. S. (2022, April 29). Thinking about ‘evidence’ of good teaching in higher education. Teaching Connections. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2022/04/29/thinking-about-evidence-of-good-teaching-in-higher-education/

Most of us will recognise a good teacher when we see one. It is much more difficult to build a case around what and why the particular teacher is outstanding or more specifically, highly effective in making a positive impact on students’ learning. Trying to convince others that one is indeed a good teacher is even more mind-boggling and onerous, as many colleagues preparing their Teaching Portfolio would attest to.

Perhaps, a good starting point is by asking ourselves some fundamental questions. How do you know that your students have understood and learnt what you have been teaching them? The immediate answer would be—by assessing their performance. A follow-up question and a more challenging one could be: How do you go about assessing and evaluating quality performance?


Biggs and Tang (2011) suggest three stages in assessing students’ performance:

  1. setting the criteria for assessing the work;
  2. selecting the evidence that would be relevant to submit to judgement against those criteria; and
  3. making a judgement about the extent to which these criteria have been met (p. 216).

All three stages are important to help evaluate students’ learning, which in turn, allows us to draw parallels to the magnitude of the impact our teaching had on our students. In other words, to know if students have learnt well (or to know our impact), teachers need to be able to make evaluative judgement of the quality of their students’ work against a set of success criteria. This requires teachers to draw on multiple assessment approaches and strategies to gather evidence of students’ learning, during and after the learning.

Besides judging students’ work, Biesta (2015) would argue that a good teacher is capable of making “judgement about what an educationally desirable course of action is in this [particular] concrete situation with these [particular] concrete students at this particular stage in their educational trajectory” (p. 2). What this implies is that evaluative judgement of students’ work is not an end in itself, but a means for making key decisions about where to go next. And good teachers are skilled at doing this well!

As a start to evidencing good teaching, I strongly urge colleagues to revisit how they make evaluative judgement of students’ learning, by examining closely their students’ assigned work and other assessment tasks and more importantly, consider carefully how these judgements lead to further instructional decisions or feedback to help students progress to the next level in their learning. Demonstrating good teaching inherently involves showing evidence of making good evaluative judgement.

 

mark gan

Mark GAN is an Associate Director of the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) in NUS. He has been involved in a wide variety of higher educational initiatives and programmes to enhance professional development of staff, such as courses for developing a Teaching Portfolio and writing of teaching inquiry grants. His research interests include feedback and assessment, and the impact of academic development work on teaching and learning. Mark has a PhD in Education from the University of Auckland, supervised by Professor John Hattie.

Mark can be reached at mark.gan@nus.edu.sg.

 

References

Biesta, G.J.J. (2015). How does a competent teacher become a good teacher? On judgement, wisdom and virtuosity in teaching and teacher education. In R. Heilbronn & L. Foreman-Peck (Eds), Philosophical perspectives on the future of teacher education (pp. 3-22). Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill Education (UK).