Teaching evaluation reform 2014-2019

The project to reform the evaluation of teaching was launched by the EPFL Conférence des directeurs de section (CDS) in 2014. A working group of the CDS was established to bring forward proposals on (a) reforming how student feedback to teachers was managed and (b) enabling data other than student feedback to be taken into account in evaluations of teaching. The project is being facilitated by the Teaching Support Centre.

Different models for evaluations of teaching

Student feedback is now a common part of quality systems in higher education teaching throughout the world. While there is a lot of international evidence that student feedback is associated with educational improvement, there is also evidence that, if educational practices are to change, then teachers need to be the designers and drivers of this change. This implies a change in the focus of evaluations: rather than students evaluating courses, teachers evaluate their courses and design and implement changes. Teachers can do this drawing on student feedback, but also by using other sources of information such as student performance at exams, or feedback from colleagues on student readiness for future studies.

Therefore, while the process of collecting student feedback does not change, evaluation becomes more empowering for teachers who are the producers rather than the recipients of evaluations.

Comparing student evaluation of teaching with teacher evaluation of courses
Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) Teacher Evaluation of Courses (TEC)
Who does the evaluation? Students evaluate teaching Teachers evaluate teaching
Is data gathered from students about their opinions? Yes Yes
Is other evidence also used? Not usually Yes, teachers can include other relevant evidence such as feedback from colleagues or an analysis of student performance in assessments.
Has the teacher has “right of reply” to student opinions? Teachers can explain their view but this is normally not kept as part of the evaluation report. Yes, a teacher’s analysis of student comments is part of the evaluation report.
Are the teacher’s planned actions for course improvement part of the evaluation report? No Yes
Is there peer-review of the evaluation? The section director discusses the report with the teacher. The section director discusses the report with the teacher.

Moving towards Teacher Evaluation of Courses in EPFL

In 2014, a working group on evaluation of teaching and student feedback was established in EPFL to explore ways to improving the utility of teaching evaluations in EPFL. This group reported in December 2014 to the Conférence des directeurs de section. Central to their proposals was the idea to move from student evaluations of teaching to teacher evaluation of courses. The proposals developed by the working group (see the report here) were subject of consultation process with teachers (see the website of the CCE) and with student representatives. Following that consultation, the proposals were approved by the CDS in May 2015.

Specific proposals

There are two phases to the implementation of this reform.

Phase 1: Autumn Semester 2015

A number of changes to the system for student feedback on teaching are being introduced in Autumn 2015 including:

  • Students no longer being asked to provide a grade-like rating (1-6) to teachers in indicative student feedback
  • The minimum benchmark for a course to be deemed “sufficient” is changing

Phase 2: Spring Semester 2016

Further changes to the system of evaluation and feedback require a change to EPFL Directives. These include:

  • Making the teacher the evaluator of courses, rather than the student
  • Specifying that a range of data can be used in evaluations alongside student feedback and providing teachers an opportunity to reply to student opinions within the evaluation report
  • Changing the timing of indicative student feedback to give teachers feedback early enough in the course that they can still make changes, if appropriate
  • Reducing the importance of indicative feedback for promotion and tenure decisions, and providing increased opportunities for teachers to get detailed feedback instead
  • Reforming the structure and content of teaching portfolios
  • Clarifying the criteria of excellence against which teaching portfolios are judged

These proposed changes to the directive will be discussed by the school management and may then become the subject of consultation during Autumn Semester 2015.

Phase 3

A revised draft was prepared and was subject to consultation and was accepted on the 27 of August, 2019.