Experiences from Assessment of Teaching Skills at the University Level

In Sweden there has been a stronger focus on teaching skills at the university level during the last 10-15 years. One of the changes is the introduction of courses in teaching and learning in PhD education at most universities, and another is a career path including a title connected to salary raise for Excellent teacher. A large majority of the universities have also added “teaching skills” as a part of the requirements when employing university senior lecturers, and it is a part of the promotion to Associate Professor and full Professor.

Since 2010 I work with assessment of teaching skills for employments or promotion at the university level. I have done a few hundred assessments by now, and worked for around eight different universities. When employing a senior lecturer, for example, there is often team of 2-3 external exerts who do assessments for a committee in charge of the employment process. Sometimes they have asked me to do the assessment of teaching skills, and then the other two experts to do an assessment of both teaching skills and research excellence. Often the other experts then write a couple of pages describing and evaluating the research contribution from different perspectives, and then by the end add two sentences on teaching describing the teaching experiences of the applicant. A typical assessment in this context looks something like this:

The applicant has taught four courses at the university level (2010-2016), and supervised 5 bachelor students and 3 master students.

My assessments are usually around 2-3 pages only looking at the teaching skills in relation to the criteria made up by this specific university (there are no universal criteria in Sweden for teaching skills), and the criteria specified text in the advertisement for the position.

Q &A related to Assessment of Teaching skills

Isn’t it very subjective to do these kinds of assessments?

  • Well, not more than the assessment of scientific skills. Often the criteria used for assessment of teaching skills are much more elaborated and transparent than the ones used for scientific skills. So sometimes the assessment of scientific skills is really based on hidden norms and expectations, and that is really subjective.

The assessment is only based on what people claim they do, not reality what they have done.

  • The assessment is based on the text, but claims made need to be supported by the material provided in the portfolio such as course descriptions, development work done and letters of recommendation. Sometimes the assessment is also made through a test lecture and an interview.

Is teaching skills really valued as much as research skills when employing senior lecturers?

  • My experience is that sometimes it is, but often not. 🙁