Model Guidelines for In-depth Assessment of Teaching
Developed by Jeff Adams, Robert Marley, Tim Slater,
Elisabeth Swanson, and Russ Walker with support from
NSF and MSU
September 19, 2000
In evaluating each candidate’s research, members of departmental, College, and
University P&T committees rely on external scholarly reviews from individuals with
expertise in the candidate’s field. They are not expected to make a decision based only
on the candidate-supplied materials. The attached model provides a parallel mechanism
for providing committees with scholarly reviews of the candidate’s teaching performance
based upon materials supplied to the expert reviewers.
Similar to the research review process, we recommend that the Department Head
facilitate identification of expert peer reviewers. We recommend that reviewers always
be selected from outside the candidate’s department and, in the case where the candidate
is seeking promotion or tenure based on (promise of) excellence in teaching, we further
recommend that reviewers be selected from outside MSU. This may be accomplished by
contacting discipline specific professional organizations that often have staff or officers
who work closely with individuals involved in teaching and learning issues. Because this
form of review is relatively uncommon, it is important that detailed guidance be provided
in the cover letter sent to reviewers.
The following guidelines for conducting an indepth assessment of teaching are designed
to serve as a model for departments seeking to design their own procedures for
conducting this review. In creating this model we have made some arbitrary decisions
such as the exact number of student letters to be solicited and the respective roles of the
candidate, the Department Head, and the Departmental P&T committee in gathering
materials. We fully expect that departments will change these as appropriate for their
needs. Note that specific College or departmental requirements may supercede some of
our recommendations. Additional commentary to explain some elements has been added
Model Guidelines for Indepth Assessment of Teaching
An indepth assessment of teaching is a required component of the dossier of all
candidates seeking promotion and/or tenure at Montana State University. To satisfy this
requirement each candidate is required to submit a teaching portfolio (see guidelines
below), which will be distributed for expert review to a minimum of three reviewers.
The department, College, and University P&T committees will then base their
recommendations on both the expert reviews and, if required, an independent assessment
of the teaching portfolios. As is the case in the review of research, the P&T committees
will rely heavily on the expert reviews.
Candidates seeking promotion and/or tenure based on the standard of (promise of)
excellence in teaching must include in their portfolios all of the materials listed below
except items 5 and 10. The reviews of these portfolios will be conducted by a minimum
of three off-campus reviewers with expertise in teaching. No more than two of the
reviewers will be selected from a list provided by the candidate.
Candidates seeking promotion and/or tenure based on the standard of effectiveness in
teaching are required to submit only those items marked with an asterisk (*). The expert
reviews will be conducted by a minimum of three reviewers selected from outside the
Department but not necessarily from outside MSU (additional reviews may be solicited
from within the department). No more than two of the reviewers will be selected from a
list provided by the candidate.
The process of compiling a teaching portfolio that demonstrates growth should begin
the candidate’s first semester and all faculty are urged to regularly review their teaching
portfolios with the Department Head.
Contents of the Teaching Portfolio
1. *Statement – A brief (up to 500 words) statement in which the candidate describes
her/his approach to teaching and learning. Candidates should specifically address
how they gauge the level of student learning.
2. *Course List – The candidate will supply a list of courses taught during the review
period, number of credit and/or contact hours for each course, and number of students
We recommend that the Department Head supply comparative information to help
reviewers interpret the teaching load within the department.
3. *Student Evaluation of Faculty Forms – The Department Head will provide a
complete summary of student evaluation forms including a brief synopsis of written
comments. The actual forms will not be included, but will be placed in separate
binders and made available to the P&T committees upon request. The candidate is
encouraged to supply a brief narrative offering his or her interpretation of the results.
Other forms of student feedback (e.g., a Danforth review) can also be included in this
Because the external reviewers will not necessarily be acquainted with MSU’s
particular campus culture or norms we recommend that the Department Head supply
information to aid in establishing the context of the numerical data. This could
include, for instance, departmental and/or College averages (where appropriate)
either collectively or disaggregated by course level (i.e., freshmen, sophomore,
junior, senior) or course type (i.e., survey, major, non-major, elective, required, etc.).
4. *Course Materials – For each of two different courses taught by the candidate,
he/she will supply the course syllabus listing course goals, a sample student
assignment, a sample examination, and other relevant course materials. This will be
accompanied by a description from the candidate that explains why the course is
designed the way it is, how it coordinates with other courses or programs, and how
the evidence presented is designed to help students meet the course goals.
5. Student Work Samples – Where appropriate, candidates may supply student work
samples as evidence of improvements in student understanding or performance.
Examples that demonstrate student growth are more useful than exemplary final
products and candidates are cautioned against focusing on the work of only their top
students. An interpretative narrative describing how the candidate’s teaching
influenced the work must accompany these work samples.
6. Video – A 10-30 minute video clip that demonstrates classroom teaching and a
description from the candidate that explains the context of the video clip, the learning
goals addressed during this segment and why it exemplifies the candidate’s teaching
7. Classroom Observations – Multiple observations of at least three different courses
will be conducted according to the departmental procedure for peer observations of
teaching, which is available from the Department Head. The observers will be
selected by the Head and may be selected from outside the department.
We encourage departments to develop an observation protocol that includes specific
instructions on how to conduct and report the observations. Sample materials and
forms being used at other institutions will be available at the MSU IR web site.
8. *Letters – Ten letters from students describing their experiences in the candidate’s
courses will be collected. The candidate should supply the Department Head with a
list of ten to twenty names of former students from whom the candidate would like
letters solicited; the Head will select five students from this list. The candidate will
also supply complete class rolls for at least five courses from which the Head will
select an additional five students to be contacted. The candidate is encouraged to
represent the complete range of courses she/he has taught (for instance, it should
be limited to upper level courses). Efforts will be made to obtain letters from both
recent students and alumni students.
Just as in the indepth assessment of research where not every experiment is reported
during external review, we recommend that the candidate have some input in
selecting the classes and students from whom review letters will be solicited. Annual
reviews provide an excellent opportunity to remind candidates of the importance of
maintaining a list of specific students and classes from which they would like students
to be solicited.
9. Evidence of Innovation – Candidates will provide evidence of any innovations and
an explanation for why the evidence demonstrates innovation in teaching.
Assessment data on the effectiveness of the innovations is strongly encouraged.
10. Contributions Beyond the Candidate’s Classroom – Some candidates might be
involved in educational efforts that extend beyond the individual’s classroom. This
could include such activities as textbook writing, K-12 curriculum development,
involvement in professional societies, or writing about teaching innovations. In cases
where these activities have direct impact on the candidate’s classroom, they should be
included in section 9: Evidence of Innovation. Otherwise such materials may be
included in this section, which will be reviewed separately by the external reviewers.
The candidate is encouraged to supply a brief written interpretation of the materials.
The reason that this section is distinct from general innovations is that the higher
education literature suggests that the link between writing about teaching and
teaching effectiveness is weak at best. However, in cases where these efforts cannot
appropriately be included within the research-section of a candidate’s dossier, they
should be included here.