Evaluating Learning and Teaching

Evaluating learning and teaching play a crucial role in my on-going development as a teacher. I undertake reflective self-reviews and seek student, course, colleague and stakeholder feedback using informal methods and formal institution-led evaluations and surveys.

My reasons are four-fold:

  • I want to know how I can best facilitate learning for occupational therapy students.
  • I want to determine if the courses teach meet the needs of students and the profession.
  • I want to confirm I am of service to colleagues and make meaningful contributions to the school.
  • I want to see that stakeholders value my attributes and interactions.


Informal Reflective Self-Review

After each class I make notes about which aspects went well and which I might want to rework. I consider whether the learning strategies I use fostered critical thinking, further develop students’ understandings of course material, and contribute to the learning required for assessments. A second stage of this self-review takes place online in ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ spaces. Students’ record their discussion contributions in the seen space. In the unseen space I kept a running record from year to year of diverse student responses which I draw on to facilitate online conversations with subsequent student intakes. This organic strategy enables me to draw on their language and refer to relevant clinical examples that are memorable or challenging.


Informal Evaluation Tool

In the first week of a new intake I use an informal evaluation tool with students such this three-question exercise.

  1. What aspect of the last two days left you confused?
  2. What was great?
  3. What do you think you need to learn next?

I continue this activity for up to three weeks to ensure that I am ‘reading’ the students, gaining a sense of the quality of their learning and identifying the gaps between what is said in class and what is recorded in the three-question exercise. If I find discrepancies I address them later on in another session.


Formal Teaching Evaluation

Each year I collect quantitative student evaluation from the papers that I teach on. The responses are conglomerated below. The overall response is to the question “Is Mary an effective teacher?”

Year Course Summative data Comments
2017 Vision Rehabilitation 91% Her passion about the subject makes it great learning experience

 Mary uses very interactive teaching methods

2016 Vision Rehabilitation 90% Dynamic and enthusiastic teacher
2015 Research for Practice 94% She directs me to think about and consider literature in the light of my own practice, and to develop theories and new ideas from this.

 I can see how my reasoning has changed and my knowledge deepened over the last semester and can see value in what I learnt. I liked the Adobe sessions and the level of accessibility we had to Mary to raise questions / talk on the phone when needed.

2014 Research for Practice 95% Her teaching style is very non-judgemental and she makes all student feel their contributions and knowledge is valuable
2013 Fieldwork 2 97% Gets everyone involved in questioning each other, asking for feedback and advice for others.

She thoroughly explores relevant ideas in depth to help us understand concepts.

Assisted me in exploring deeper meaning within my field work placement.


Qualitative data (from students)

Feedback from Masters/Honours, and from Fieldwork 4 & 6 is all collected qualitatively. This is the only meaningful way of collecting data on these individual teaching relationships. A sample follows.

Mary had a way of introducing concepts/ideas/literature at the right time, and often I’m sure I thought it was my idea. (Masters student, 2017)

Mary put her complete trust in me to perform at a high level… the support and trust I received from Mary helped me gain confidence in my own ability. I truly feel that the learning I have gained from this placement has given me the confidence and belief that I will be a competent occupational therapist. (Fieldwork 6 student, 2016)

Mary was supportive and encouraging, making me believe that I could do it. She guided me by enabling me to think through things rather than telling me the “answer”  (even if I asked for it!) and helped me to gain confidence. (Honours student, 2015)

She was always encouraging, supportive and kind with feedback. She has a great sense of humour, which I think helped a great deal in keeping my stress levels down. (Masters student, 2015)

Mary is an exceptional supervisor. She takes a very thoughtful and considered approach to scaffolding the writing of a dissertation, highlighting strengths of my own work to guide me in the right direction, while maintaining my sense of ownership of the project. (Honours Programme, Student Feedback, 2014)

Mary was the perfect supervisor for me, because she balanced out my neuroticism and linear thinking/reasoning style with a “wide lens view”… I was in awe of how her mind made connections, conclusions and creations; Mary has a brilliantly creative, curious and academic mind. I valued Mary’s constant encouragement, especially in moments of increased self-doubt. Mary was never intrusive or unattainable, but always approachable, supportive and honest. (Honours student, 2013)

… I enjoyed the cognitive stimulation / learning that came from the paper. I can see how my reasoning has changed and my knowledge deepened over the last semester and can see value in what we learnt. I liked the Adobe sessions and getting to know the other students and the level of accessibility we had to Mary to raise questions / talk on the phone when needed. (Research Methods, 2016)

Overall I really enjoyed the course. There were a few times (as you already know Mary) that I felt quite overwhelmed and felt like I wasn’t up to the expectations of the course. I am a person who always loves to improve and challenge myself so I knew I had to set more time aside to complete the tasks required of me and to understand the content. Sometimes the content would go right over my head and I felt a bit lost but having the adobe sessions and moodle forum to post things to was so helpful as other students often worded it in a way I could understand. I think this course has given me a greater understanding of the research methods etc and how they are used in research. (Research Methods, 2017)

It is very helpful to have this course alongside the Honours course as it really informs it. I believe it is really going to help my dissertation. I don’t plan on doing anymore study but who knows in the future I may use this learning to go for the Masters qualification. (Research Methods 2018)

When we started this course I compared research to chasing a butterfly.  Where sometimes while you chase a specific topic, the “butterfly” will take you places where you notice things you may not have considered before or seeing something familiar in a new light.  In many ways I have come full circle and boy did this course take me places! (Research Methods 2017)

The tutor [Mary] explained the assessments very clearly. The course was well structured. Loved the tutor. (Student Feedback, Course Reflections, 2016).

Mary provided guidance and challenges to thinking where needed, while allowing me to develop my learning at my pace … respected my previous learning and practical experience. (Research for Practice, Student Feedback 2015).

Mary has such a great style of teaching. I am always on the edge of my seat listening to every detail. (Masters School, Student feedback, 2017).

I really enjoyed hearing about the other topics from the other students! It is very cool how we all have different ideas and passions towards different research topics and the opportunity in this course to explore them further. (Masters School Student Feedback 2017).

Though doing my Masters was definitely a challenge, Mary had the skill of breaking down what initially seemed an impossible task into achievable steps and stages. (Masters School, Student Feedback, 2014).

Her [Mary’s] endless enthusiasm for learning and her willingness to explore new knowledge is inspiring. (Student Feedback, Research Course 2012).

I gained a lot of learning from listening and seeing how others view a concept. (Student feedback, Masters School, 2017).

Two-way feedback

Recently I reflected on the challenging learning projects many students undertake and the positive feedback I receive about my teaching and supervision. I decided to reciprocate. Since 2016 I have written a letter to every postgraduate student after graduation, identifying (from my perspective) key moments of the journey we went on together, expressing my appreciation of their determination to keep moving forward despite various obstacles, and charting what the learning and the relationship meant to me. This has led to some extended dialogue with students about how their learning has been enacted in their lives.

I have to admit it was a challenge fitting in study to an already busy week running my own private practice, but being able to use some of my own work experience certainly helped with identifying areas where I can apply some of this information, and continue to build up knowledge in the area of low vision. The assistance through Moodle to access information and listen to video catch-ups with experts in the field and the other people on the course was great and you were able to point me in the right direction when I was unsure about anything. (Vision Rehabilitation Course, Student Feedback 2016).

I always want my learning to benefit my clinical reasoning and interventions. I have identified at least 3 children with a strabismus using the penlight test and occluder. I have begun to include information to vision in my intake packet too. I know I am not anyway, shape or form an expert, and I’ll need to continue to low vision certification here, but I am just so happy I can have an immediate benefit for my kids! Thanks for the new area of learning. (Vision Rehabilitation course, Student Feedback, 2018)

2017: Keri McMullan, Heidi Cathcart, me, Janeen Richardson (all master’s students)


Formal Colleague Feedback 2017

Qualitative Data (Colleagues)

  • Mary’s respect for others and different ideas means that she can gracefully disagree and be assertive in her viewpoint without entering unnecessary conflict. This makes her collaborative approach to teamwork admirable.
  • Working with Mary is fun, her positive attitude is infectious
  • Mary is a successful and innovative teacher who puts her students first. She is conscientious and strives for excellence in all she does.
  • Mary has an infectious enthusiasm for learning, networking, teaching and practising.
  • Mary is easily excited about new approaches, which better serve the needs of learners, colleagues, and members of the public. This excitement turns into energy which results in explorations and changes. It is a joy to work with such creativity.