How to Assess a Teaching Project

Recommended Timeline

During project/course development, 2-6 weeks before course or project start

Assessing a project or course allows you to understand if it met your goals and/or how to improve it in the future. This brief outline is intended to help you get started developing and carrying out a feasible assessment plan. Note: If you plan to publish or present your findings, consult with the Duke IRB about requirements for review and approval of your research plan.

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  1. Clarify your goals and describe what you hope to accomplish in measurable terms. Educational assessment usually involves comparing the actual outcomes of a project against the intended outcomes. Goals should indicate how your students or your course will be changed or enhanced by the project’s activities. Ideally your goals will align with broader initiatives within your department or division.
  2. Develop strategies for measuring outcomes or progress toward goals. What short-term and long-term evidence or indicators would demonstrate project success? Would student knowledge or skills increase? Would withdrawal or failure rates decrease in a gateway or key departmental course? Would a particular group, such as non-majors, perform better? Would students’ attitudes about the subject improve? How would you measure these outcomes?
  3. Identify existing data you can use. Take advantage of any data collection mechanisms already in place. Consider sending your students a short survey through Sakai or by email, or talk to the Office of Assessment for Trinity College about any data they might already gather which would provide evidence you need to answer your goals and questions. For greater strength of evidence, combine data from different sources.
  4. Before collecting any data, consider whether technology might help you gather or analyze it more easily. If your project was externally funded, what data would the sponsor find compelling? Many funders offer specific guidance on evaluation and reporting. Before designing your own data collection instruments, look for existing validated instruments that could be used or adapted.
  5. Analyze your data. Learning Innovation and other offices at Duke can assist in reviewing your data collection and analysis plans and assist in identifying helpful resources such as student workers or software tools.
  6. Report your results to all sponsors and program stakeholders in a timely fashion. Brief reports containing bulleted items, questions and answers, and clear headings help your stakeholders review the information and prepare for conversations about the results.
  7. Make the most out of your findings to improve your course or other aspects of your department’s work. For example, use it to strengthen future grant applications and requests, measure student learning outcomes in your department or build your department’s visibility by contributing to a publication or conference in your field.

Additional Resources

Office of Assessment – Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
The Office of Assessment for Trinity College offers advice and support in measuring student learning outcomes at the course and program level.

Social Sciences Research Institute – Duke University
Duke’s Social Sciences Research Institute offers support to Duke faculty with quantitative and qualitative analysis projects.

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