CIF at Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame is committed to providing an outstanding educational experience for its undergraduate and graduate students. To advance this goal, the University strives continuously to recruit, cultivate, effectively assess, recognize and reward faculty members who are both highly effective teachers and superb scholars. In 2007, the Advisory Committee to the Provost on the Evaluation of Teaching (ACPET) published a set of guidelines to help departments conduct a more comprehensive evaluation of a faculty member’s teaching to inform renewal, tenure and promotion decisions. This expanded review calls for faculty peers to assess in-depth a set of representative courses taught recently by the candidate and to appraise the ways in which the candidate enriches the student learning experience over and above his/her conventional teaching responsibilities.

Beyond the occasional comprehensive review described above, the University invites students each semester to report on their experiences in the classroom. Student ratings of teaching can serve three important functions:

  • Formative (providing feedback to the instructor for the improvement of teaching)
  • Evaluative (contributing to an overall assessment of the instructor’s effectiveness as a teacher) 
  • Analytical (helping the institution determine what factors are most often associated with perceptions of effective teaching)

The Provost’s Office launched the paper-based Teacher Course Evaluation (TCE) system in 1982. Since then, four different TCE forms have been used, with the latest set of changes instituted in 1997. Over the past decade, many faculty have registered complaints about the current set of TCE items; criticisms were directed at the wording of specific TCE items, difficulties in interpreting the “improvement needed” response scale, and the inability of the TCE to effectively address the diverse modes of teaching/learning at Notre Dame.

Following an extensive study, ACPET recommends that (i) the University revise the TCE questions to provide more useful feedback for instructors and more reliable and valid measures of teaching effectiveness, and (ii) that students no longer complete a paper-based TCE form in class but respond online to a series of questions customized for each course. The completely redesigned instrument is being titled Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) to signify the important role that students play in guiding the improvement of teaching. Appendix A outlines the benefits and potential concerns associated with transitioning the paper-based TCE to an online survey format.