POV: Rethinking Teaching and Teaching Assessment Post-Pandemic
Voice of Dr. Aleksandra Kasztalska, Lecturer, Boston University CAS Writing Program
This spring semester, I have been involved in the pilot CTL-Faculty Exchange, which enables an instructor to work on a project with CTL in exchange for a CTL staff member teaching a class in the program in which the instructor works. As part of this project, I have continued the work of the CTL-sponsored Classroom Observation Troupe, which I joined in the fall of 2019. The task of the Troupe and the goal of the current project has been to research best practices and approaches to faculty observations and evaluations, and to highlight digital tools and instruments that can supplement traditional peer review of teaching (PRT) methods.
The original Troupe-led project was disrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. However, in the midst of this unimaginable disruption came a timely reminder of the various ways in which technology can enrich and even enhance our teaching, as well as support our professional development and review of our own teaching. While before March of 2020, we were somewhat skeptical about the practicality and feasibility of video-recorded or online observations of teaching, the pandemic quickly made us realize the real potential and timeliness of digital tools for faculty observation and assessment.
For example, we now know that, despite its limitations, Zoom offers a suitable platform for teaching remotely. Of course, that is not to say that Zoom can perfectly imitate face-to-face classroom interaction; it is a fundamentally different modality but comes with its own benefits for both students and instructors. In particular, the ability to easily record class meetings means that instructors can now review their own teaching in a much more systematic and nuanced way than before. Instead of relying on their own memory of the class, they can carefully examine every one of their pedagogical choices and study the students’ reactions and interactions. Through such digital self-observation and self-assessment, faculty can also practice and hone their reflective and metacognitive skills, which research suggests many instructors lack.
Moreover, being able to record their own classes comes with another benefit for instructors: Being able to document their pedagogical strengths and successes, and to demonstrate improvement over time. Instructors can now enhance their professional portfolios with specific evidence of teaching effectiveness, such as excerpts of their class recordings that demonstrate successful and innovative pedagogical strategies. In this way, digital tools like Zoom give more agency to faculty, who can now supplement external observations and evaluations of their teaching with their own curated collections of classroom recordings. These can greatly support faculty as they undergo comprehensive high-stakes evaluations that are used in making hiring, merit pay, or promotion and tenure decisions.
In sum, the pandemic has profoundly shaken up how we think about teaching and how teaching can be observed and evaluated. The new digital tools we have adopted in our remote and hybrid courses can make the peer review of teaching more robust, fair, and autonomous. Furthermore, some of the technologies we have embraced this past year may enrich our pedagogical repertoire and enhance our practice when we move back to teaching face-to-face. It is therefore important to consider how we can adapt these tools to other pedagogical settings and modalities.
About the Author: Aleksandra Kasztalska, Ph.D.
Dr. Aleksandra Kasztalska is a Lecturer in the CAS Writing Program at Boston University, where she teaches writing courses for international students. She has a PhD in Linguistics, and her research interests include World Englishes, second language writing assessment, English instruction and assessment in Poland, and Legitimation Code Theory.