Three images: A woman with brown hair looking out a window and holding a pencil; a Black man with dredlocks smiles while seated next to a smiling blonde woman wearing glasses; students in lecture-style seating.
Waterloo's teaching assessment processes are evolving. Our new holistic framework includes self-reflection via teaching dossiers, thoughtful input from peers, and informative feedback from students.

The University of Waterloo's teaching assessment processes are undergoing a profound shift toward a holistic model that encompasses Student Course Perceptions, Peer Review of Teaching, and Teaching Dossiers, and that takes into account specialized needs relating to graduate supervision. This new system is being developed with an eye to the research literature, Waterloo-specific research, consultations with campus stakeholders, and the experiences of other Canadian universities.

The path to here: 2014-2022

After Waterloo made the decision to revise its teaching assessment processes in 2014, project teams comprising faculty, students, and subject matter experts were established to guide and carry out the necessary background work. These teams:

  • conducted extensive literature reviews, environmental scans, and consultations with Waterloo stakeholders
  • developed a Teaching Effectiveness Framework
  • drafted recommendations for Peer Review of Teaching and Teaching Dossiers
  • carefully crafted and pilot-tested questions—grounded in the research literature and based on institutional priorities—for a new Student Course Perceptions (SCP) survey that is:
    • designed to capture students’ perceptions of their learning experience
    • grounded in evidence-based scholarship
    • tailored to the University of Waterloo context
    • designed to collect student perceptions of the same items from each Faculty (with Faculty-specific questions in development and department-specific questions on the horizon)
    • suitable for a variety of course formats and teaching methods

The SCP survey launched across Faculties in winter 2022 (core institutional questions only). The TAP office continues to work with Faculties to develop Faculty-specific survey items.

Concerns about bias with SCPs

Many institutions use survey questions that are not based in best practices, inspiring a number of publications with inflammatory headlines about gender- and race-based bias within student surveys.

The good news is that most of these articles recommend mitigating the impacts of bias with SCPs by incorporating additional mechanisms for assessing teaching – such as peer review and teaching dossiers, both of which are being implemented at Waterloo.

Results of Waterloo’s SCP survey will also undergo ongoing monitoring for evidence of bias, and the questions will be adjusted where necessary. We know that biased questions generate biased responses, and that bias exists in our society. The TAP office is doing all we can to mitigate the impact of bias on marginalized instructors.