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Formative Assessment of Teaching Tools

Formative Assessment of Teaching Tools

Although “assessment of teaching” is often associated with formal evaluations, most of the assessment you perform consists of informal self-checks and feedback you collect to adjust and improve your teaching. When you ask students what they thought of a homework reading or talk to an educational software consultant about how to better organize your Canvas course shell, you are engaging in a type of formative assessment. In-the-moment assessment of teaching helps you respond to students’ needs quickly, but it can also be helpful to consider your own teaching goals. Establishing personal teaching goals can help you plan and structure teaching development and assessment that will allow you to work and measure progress toward those goals.

For instructors who are interested in incorporating more structured formative assessment of teaching into their practice or would like to plan assessments to help them gather data about a specific teaching issue or method, the Teaching Center has services and resources to help:


There are a variety of self-assessment tools that you can use to examine and improve your teaching or course artifacts like your syllabus or assignments.

Syllabus Review Tools

Assignment Review Tools

Course Shell Review Tools

Teaching Inventories and Self-Assessments

Collecting Formative Student Feedback

Most faculty use end-of-term OMETs to collect student feedback and, while teaching survey data can be informative, it helps to collect student feedback earlier in the term so that you can make improvements during the semester. Here are a few of the ways you can obtain student feedback:

  • You can use Pitt’s opt-in midterm surveys. For question design inspiration, consult the OMET question library.
  • Consider using classroom assessment techniques to collect feedback on class activities or teaching quickly and easily. Check out the suggestion box, exam evaluations, or activities like the minute paper and muddiest point that can be easily adapted to address teaching.
  • If you would like detailed, qualitative student feedback, you can request that a teaching consultant attend your class to perform a small group instructional diagnosis (SGID). SGIDs are like focus groups and would require you to allocate about an hour of class time for a consultant to come speak with your students. SGID questions can address specific aspects of instruction or the overall student learning experience. After the SGID, a teaching consultant will share a 1-page report with you summarizing anonymous student feedback.

For more information on collecting student feedback, see the Assessment of Teaching Initiative’s website.

Formative Classroom Observations and Reviews

Teaching consultants can perform confidential observations and course reviews upon request. Conducting periodic, formative observations can be an effective way of tracking your teaching growth over time.

The Teaching Center can also help you start a teaching cohort in your department. Cohorts are small groups of instructors who work together to conduct formative observations and give one another feedback on teaching. Once you identify a group of 3-4 faculty who are interested in participating, the Teaching Center can provide you with observation tools and information about how to perform observations, give feedback, and use feedback to improve teaching. Teaching cohorts are a great way to foster discipline-specific conversations about teaching.

For help creating goals or to request assistance with any of the formative assessments above, contact the Teaching Center.

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