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How do we measure effective teaching? Designing a Teaching Observation Form, based on undergraduate feedback.

Developing Others

As part of my LITE project on the  Enhancement of the pedagogic practice at Leeds University through the engagement of Postgraduate Research Students in teaching, I carried out teaching observation of staff and Postgraduate Research Students who teach across the several Schools and Faculties of the University of Leeds. For the purpose of executing this part of the project, I created:

  • a teaching observation form to identify teaching methods and behavioural factors to deliver effective and inspirational teaching
  • a set of statements to assess effective teaching from an undergraduate perspective.

What did you do and why did you do it?

Existing pedagogical literature supports that both teaching methods and behavioural factors are important for effective teaching. Ramsden’s six principles of effective teaching: interest and explanation; concern and respect for students and student learning; appropriate assessment and feedback; clear goals and intellectual challenge; independence, control and engagement; learning from students (Learning to Teach in Higher Education, Routledge 2003), provided a useful starting point to create this teaching observation form and were mirrored in many student responses to my survey on effective teaching. This knowledge allowed me to create a teaching observation form that would capture both the quality of the teaching session and the behavioural characteristics of the tutor. The categories included in this teaching observation form serve the purpose of a checklist in the process of evaluating the teaching in HE. Furthermore, observers can make written notes alongside ticking the categories given on the form, to capture qualitative observations.

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it?

During the process of creating the teaching observation form, I had feedback from colleagues in LITE and OD&PL. The teaching observation form and the set of statements on effective teaching are currently hosted in Advance HE Connect (GTA Developer Network space) and I hope to publish elsewhere in the future. In the immediacy, the publication of the teaching observation form within TIPS will help to disseminate it across the University and encourage its use. I would like to pilot it with any colleagues who want to use it in their practice, and hope TIPS exposure will support this.

The set of statements to assess effective teaching from an undergraduate perspective was a collaborative enterprise between myself and a focus group of undergraduate students. I am planning to make them available to undergraduate students across the different Faculties at the University of Leeds. In this way, I will have more feedback on their validity from a broader sample of students. Dissemination of this set of statements among both junior and senior tutors might have a positive impact on teaching practices, since tutors will have a better understanding of what effective teaching is from the student perspective.

As for the usefulness of these resources for my own practice, they have enabled me to observe a large number of postgraduate teaching assistants and academics across the different Schools and Faculty at the University of Leeds, using a rigorous and consistent methodology.

How could others benefit from this example?

Since the categories used to observe the quality of the teaching session are not subject-specific, this form could be used across the different disciplines during the teaching observation process in Higher Education, to improve teaching quality and include student voice.


M.Chiara La Sala,, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies

With thanks also to: Katie Livesey, LITE; Emma Peaseland, LITE; Jane Dalton, OD&PL

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