What do LPDs Commonly Evaluate and Why?

Whatever aspect of a language program you choose to evaluate, evaluation should answer a question that matters to you. Common evaluation questions for LPDs relate to student, instructor, and program success.

Instructor Performance: Should I Rehire Instructors? Do They Need Professional Development?

LPDs often supervise instructors at multiple ranks whose teaching experience may range from a year or less to decades, who have different pedagogical beliefs and expertise, and whose expectations about autonomy versus supervision may vary. This complex ecology creates inherent tensions because LPDs need to ensure a high-quality program for students while also supporting the professional development of graduate student instructors who are engaged in on-the-job training for their future careers. At the same time, LPDs must navigate the political delicacy around highly experienced (and possibly higher-ranked) faculty accustomed to extensive autonomy.

From among these instructors, LPDs (independently or in collaboration with colleagues) need to decide which staff to hire or retain for their courses, and based on that staffing, they need to decide what professional development to offer to whom. To do so, they need information about instructor performance with sometimes formative (improvement) and sometimes summative (decision-making) purposes in mind. In many cases, the evidence can be the same. 

A key component of evidence relates to instructors’ pedagogical skill, such as whether their lessons are logically and coherently designed and implemented in alignment with the program’s pedagogical approach and expected use of the target language. Pedagogical skill might also include interaction with and among students, appropriate feedback, and effective class management. Common sources of evidence include class observations, assessment of lesson plans, and student evaluations of teaching. A well-developed discussion of an instructor evaluation process that provides sample supporting documents such as a class observation form is offered in Lord (2014). For those with instructors who teach online, Ramírez, Lafford and Wermers (2021) discuss the unique criteria for evaluating online teaching. Both publications are referenced in the Resources page of this module.

A second common component is adherence to program, department, and institutional policies and procedures. For a program to function, instructors must keep accurate records, hold office hours, participate in professional development and other processes like test writing, and follow policies and procedures such as those for student code of conduct violations or exam dates. Tracking participation, timely documentation, and relevant items on student evaluations of teaching can provide evidence for this component.

Individual results can inform one-on-one feedback, whereas aggregate results can help LPDs' overall planning efforts. Both kinds of evidence can guide dialogues with instructors about strengths and areas for improvement, influence LPDs' choice of professional development to provide, and inform decisions related to hiring or retaining individual instructors. Instructors can also use their individual results to seek employment or further education as they leave their program and move on to their next opportunities.

Reflective Questions:

  • What information do you currently use to make decisions about hiring or training instructors?
  • What gaps are there in that information that would help you to make better decisions?
  • Pick an annual report from the Stanford Language Center to read as an example of the kinds of information a program might gather and how that information can guide program planning. Which elements might be useful in or adaptable to your program’s context?

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