Assessment Services for TAs

The TA Program provides a number of assessment templates and tools to help TAs gather information about their instructional effectiveness and students’ perceptions of the course, recitation/discussion, laboratory, or studio section(s) to which they have been assigned.

While most departments expect that supervising professors will solicit student evaluations for the course as a whole, the Graduate School encourages TAs to administer independent evaluations pertaining to their individual section(s) and instructional performance. This information will help TAs reflect on and consider refinements in their teaching. TAs may wish to discuss the results of these assessments with faculty mentors or course supervisors, experienced peers, and/or TA Program staff and teaching mentors. Mid- and end-course evaluations are also essential components of a teaching portfolio.

***NEW Online Course Learning Survey***
With the current global pandemic and all courses moved online, querying your students for their input on how the online teaching format is working for them may be useful in alleviating an anxiety-producing situation. This brief Online Course Learning Survey, which can be easily downloaded, modified, and administered in various formats, does not assess content knowledge; rather, it opens a window on the students’ experience of the transition to an online learning environment. Their feedback may help you identify necessary adjustments in your teaching practices or expectations, give you insight into the individual needs of students, and allow you to monitor the impact of social distancing on their study habits.

Formative (mid-course) evaluations are administered while the course or section is still in progress. The purpose is to identify possible improvements in the course or section so that desired learning outcomes are achieved. Mid-course evaluations provide information that can be used immediately to improve instruction and lesson planning while a course is underway. In general, mid-course evaluations rely more heavily on open-ended, qualitative feedback about possible areas for improvement than on quantitative feedback that results in a rating of the course/section or instructor.

Sample formative evaluations:

Classroom assessment techniques (CAT) are formative evaluations that are generally intended to provide feedback on a specific aspect of the course or student learning, rather than the course as a whole. These brief, informal exercises provide a way for instructors to determine if a particular teaching strategy is working or not, to understand how students think about their own learning and to monitor progress toward learning objectives. Examples include:

  • Minute Paper: At the beginning or end of a class period, ask students to write half a page in response to some variation of the questions “What was the most important thing you learned during this class?” and “What important question remains unanswered?”
  • Goal Ranking and Matching: Ask students to list three to five goals they hope to achieve by taking your class, and rank them in order of importance. Administering this CAT early in the semester allows you to assess the “degree of fit” between students’ self-identified learning goals and the learning outcomes articulated in the syllabus.
  • Muddiest Point: Students jot down a quick response to the question “What is the muddiest point in [unit of content you have just covered]?” This CAT offers an economical means of identifying concepts or topics that are challenging to students.
  • One-Sentence Summary: Ask students to summarize important content by first answering the question “Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” and then reframing that information as a declarative sentence. This tests students’ ability to distill and synthesize essential information.

For many additional examples, consult Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas Angel and Patricia Cross (2nd ed., 1993)

*** The Graduate School recommends the following VOATs (Virtual Online Assessment Techniques) for administration in online courses. Available here as MS Word documents, they may be downloaded, modified, converted to other formats, and administered via Blackboard, email, social media, etc. ***

Three-sentence Summary – students must be clear and concise in explaining their understanding of the topic/concept/information covered.

One-page Document gives students an opportunity to describe in detail their understanding of the material by identifying topics/concepts/themes/theories.

3  –  2  –  1   Evaluation provides insight into what students have absorbed or missed, as well as the opportunity to formulate thought-provoking discussion questions to engage other students.

3 = themes or concepts covered
2 = unanswered questions or unclear aspects of the topic
1 = idea/comment to share with the class

Summative (end-course) evaluations are administered at the end of a course. A well-designed evaluation can helpfully clarify how and what students learned and suggest reasons for their success or failure in meeting learning objectives. If standardized, summative evaluations also allow the comparison of TAs and sections with one another or with an objective benchmark. For this reason, they typically incorporate quantitative instruments such as Likert-type scales and result in numerical ratings. End-course student evaluations represent a primary means by which the teaching effectiveness of TAs is measured.

Your department or supervising professor may provide you with, or directly administer, an end-course student evaluation. If no such evaluation is mandated, the Graduate School strongly recommends that TAs administer their own summative evaluation. This is both sound educational practice and a highly relevant source of information about your skills. Not only is it important to evaluate the instructor, grader, discussion-recitation leader, laboratory and/or studio facilitator; the course, discussion-recitation session, laboratory or studio session should be assessed as well. The following are self-administered summative assessment tools:

Standardized Evaluations

*** ONLINE end-course evaluations now available ***

In addition to the downloadable self-administered evaluations above, the Graduate School offers a standardized student evaluation service for TAs. You may request evaluations for instructor of record, discussion/recitation, lab, online, studio, or grader assignments, to be administered online (Qualtrics survey) or in class (pre-printed bubble sheets). The evaluations result in a summary report providing concise and legible documentation of your teaching ability (good for teaching portfolios/job-search dossiers), but with limited opportunity for customization.

TA’s requesting online administration will receive a link by email. TA’s requesting in-class administration will have hard copies delivered to their campus address or available for pickup in Lyman Hall 304.

Request TA evaluations

Questions? Please contact Peg De Furia at mldefuri@syr.edu or 315.443.4646.