Evaluative data on teaching and learning from the perspective of students
The impact of learner-centered approaches on students’ responses on conventional, summative, end-of-course evaluations of teaching is uncertain, given the paucity of published data on this topic. Silverthorn reported anecdotally that undergraduates’ views in a student-centered physiology classroom progress from denial and strong resentment towards the instructor for not presenting information in a lecture format to adaptation and a sense of self-empowerment from having constructed their own understanding of the material (Silverthorn. Teaching and learning in the interactive classroom. Advances in Physiol. Education 30: 135-140, 2006). Crouch and Mazur, in the case of introductory physics, also noted some student resentment towards the incorporation of interactive approaches; additionally, the authors reported no change in the mean score on end-of-semester evaluations of instructor and course following adoption of peer-based instruction in class, despite improvements in students’ conceptual understanding as measured with a validated instrument for assessing learning (Crouch and Mazur. Peer instruction: ten years of experience and results. Am. J. of Physics 69 (9): 970-977, 2001). While student evaluations of teaching can provide useful information on facets such as instructors’ accessibility, clarity, and enthusiasm, relying only or primarily on them as a measure of teaching effectiveness yields fragments of a picture that can more fully come into focus through use of validated assessments of learning.
Given the potential of misalignment between teaching evaluations and assessments of learning, using the latter to ascertain the impact of teaching innovations is wise, and a range of validated, quantitative instruments exists. These lend themselves to use in the experimental-design approach, with testing done before and after a pedagogical intervention.