August 25th, 2009

Learner-Centered Evaluation


“If the shift from the instructional to the learning paradigm is to have a lasting impact on education, it must influence not only how people think about teaching but also how teaching is evaluated. Evaluation is one of the primary means by which an institution conveys what is valuable and important to its members. If institutions fail to emphasize student learning in their evaluation practices, they will find it very difficult to promote a focus on student learning. Evaluation practices must be aligned with and support the learning paradigm.” (p. 345)

Trav D. Johnson makes this very important point in an article on learning-centered evaluation. He correctly observes that most end-of-course rating systems still focus on teacher performance and course characteristics. This means the purpose and focus of these evaluation activities need to change. In the learning paradigm, “the purpose of evaluating teaching is to determine the effectiveness of teaching in increasing student learning.” (p. 336)

And what questions might be asked on a learning-centered evaluation instrument? Johnson recommends questions in the following four areas. I’ve also included a couple of the same questions he proposes for each.

Learning Goals: What are students expected to learn? Are these the most valuable/important learning goals from student in this course?

Learning Activities: What learning activities are students expected to engage in? Are learning activities designed to maximize student achievement of the learning goals?

Learning Assessments: How is student learning assessed in this course? Are assessments accurate measures of student learning?

Learning Outcomes: What evidence can demonstrate that students learned what was expected? Have students achieved the learning goals?

Reference: Johnson, T. D. (2009). Learner-centered evaluation of teaching. In Nilson, L. B. and Miller, J. E., (eds.) To Improve the Academy, 27, 332-348.