Thirteen Strategies to Measure College Teaching
by Ronald A. Berk
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2006
The book is written for college and university faculty members and administrators. It is on an important and vital topic, the evaluation of the teaching performance by faculty members. Professor Berk distinguishes three types of decisions that are made based on evaluation of teaching performance. Formative decisions are made to evaluate and thereby attempt to improve teaching while it is on-going. A formative evaluation may lead to teaching improvements during a semester. Summative decisions occur when faculty members are evaluated for merit raises, tenure and promotion. Program decision evaluations affect the curriculum. Professor Berk points out early in his book that formative, summative, and program evaluations may benefit from different types of measures of teaching effectiveness.
The most interesting and important chapter is the very first, entitled “Top 13 Sources of Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness.” As one might expect, student ratings are the first of the 13 discussed by Professor Berk. Indeed, he points out that student ratings are used more than the other 12 sources combined! Professor Berk briefly reviews the history of the development of student ratings. He states that they began in the years 1927 through 1959, and that they were in wide use by the 1970s. Student ratings of teaching are used in formative, summative, and program evaluations.
The other twelve sources of information regarding teaching effectiveness are: peer ratings, external expert reports, self-ratings, videos, student interviews, exit interviews, employer (of graduates) ratings, administrator ratings, teaching scholarship, teaching awards, learning outcome measures, and teaching portfolios. Professor Berk discusses each of these in chapter 1, and summarizes much of the information in Table 1.1 (page 15) which includes columns stating type of measure, who provides the evidence, who uses the evidence and type of decision (formative, summative, and program).
The rest of Professor Berk’s book is a comprehensive guide to scale creation. There is a wealth of good information provided, including writing statements, section of anchors, field testing, and establishing reliability and validity. Yet, I wish Professor Berk had written a book sticking more closely to his title (13 strategies to measure college teaching). Indeed, only the first chapter (46 pages) concerns the topic in the title of the book.
Professor Ronald Berk thinks that he is a funny statistician. After reading this book, I must conclude that he is a statistician who thinks he is funny. The cover of this book has a warning: “If you have the sense of humor of a grapefruit, this book may not be for you despite the trail-blazing, earth-shattering, Pulitzer Prize-type contribution it makes to faculty evaluation.” I have a good sense of humor. Professor Berk does not,and his book would be more effective and more highly recommended if he expunged all his attempts at humor from his writing.
Gary B. Nallan
The University of North Carolina at Asheville