The first-year courses are built around a collaborative teaching model that, in the fall (HCOL 085, The Pursuit of Knowledge), involves ten faculty members, each teaching one 20-student seminar from a common syllabus. The faculty meet every Monday morning during the semester for a regular faculty meeting. The meeting is spent discussing pedagogical practice, in terms both of strategies in the classroom and in the assignment and assessment of student work. The regular meetings during the fall semester are preceded by two or three meetings/workshops during the previous spring semester in which collaborative planning and preparation for the course figure highly. Resource partners in this intensely collaborative environment of faculty development include the staff at the Center for Teaching and Learning, instructional faculty at Bailey-Howe Library, the Director of the Writing in the Disciplines Program, and the Director of First-Year Writing and Information Literacy.
The nine or ten spring first-year seminars (HCOL 086, Ways of Knowing), although no longer sharing a common syllabus, nonetheless share common learning objectives and some common assignments, and thus biweekly faculty meetings remain a critical part of the pedagogical landscape.
Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, we will be asking all first-year faculty (both semesters) to sit in on one session of another section of the course and to follow up that visit with a conversation with the colleague whose class they've observed.
For sophomore-year faculty, the weekly faculty meeting is replaced by at least one one-to-one meeting with the Honors College deans prior to the beginning of the semester to discuss individually the general learning objectives for the HCOL 185/186 courses, and the specific learning objectives of the course proposed by the individual faculty member. Those discussions are typically supplemented with one or two general faculty discussions during the semester that focus on progress toward a (mainly) coherent set of learning outcomes. Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, we will be asking the sophomore faculty to submit a course portfolio at the end of the semester. The course portfolio will consist of the final course syllabus and all of the assignments (including homework assignments and exams) in the course. We will ask that the portfolio come to us as one document, with separate sections for the different sorts of assignments. (The portfolio will not contain the completed assignments.)
Student feedback is critical to this model of a formatively-focused model of teaching evaluation not only because it provides the Honors College administration with some data that can aid in future staffing decisions, but, more importantly, because it offers up the learner's perspective on a highly considered set of pedagogical practices and, ideally, leads to the improvement of those practices. To this end, we administer a mid-semester "survey" (not a formal evaluation) in all our first-year and sophomore-year courses, as well as summative end-of-semester course evaluations (copies of the mid-semester survey questions as well as the end-of-semester course evaluations are attached). The mid-semester surveys often generate discussions directly with students regarding the quality of their experience in the course and enable faculty to make adjustments to their pedagogy while they are still engaged in the course.
An end-of-semester teaching reflection, in which each Honors College faculty member considers the strengths and weaknesses of the course they have just taught, has the dual purpose of providing the HCOL administration with valuable context for the student evaluations, and stimulating a reflective self-assessment by faculty when it is most valuable.