ASSETT’s Visualizing Instructional Practices (VIP) Service provides faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences with a new way of reflecting on their teaching, by describing what happens across a class period. This service benefits faculty who are interested in gaining new insights into the patterns of their class activities, in documenting changes as they try out new methods of teaching, and in having new ways to communicate about their teaching with colleagues.
Participation in the VIP service is voluntary. It is open to all tenure-track faculty and instructors in Arts & Sciences. You can schedule observations at any time during a semester or summer session. Contact ASSETT to sign up for a VIP service experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The VIP service is designed to give you a supported experience with the goal of meeting your personal teaching goals. To this end, ASSETT staff will support you in making visualizations of what happens in your class and interpreting those visualizations with a focus on your questions and goals. Once the visualizations are made, you will control access to them and the raw data they are made from.
Assessing whether a class being taught in the “right” or “best” way is not a purpose of the VIP service. Such a judgment would be inappropriate as comparing classes is like comparing apples and oranges. There are no official standards at CU for what constitutes the right way to teach.
Most faculty will first engage in an introductory consultation with an ASSETT Staff, or attend a group informational session in their department. There, you will learn more about participating and discuss some sample visuals. Then, an ASSETT Student Fellow will be matched with your class to take observational data. You can choose up to four dates in a semester for your Student Fellow to observe. The Student Fellow will then generate visuals of these data, including a timeline of each class they observed, and you can elect to have a follow-up consultation with ASSETT staff to discuss the visuals and any plans you have to tweak your class.
The descriptive data that you can receive through the VIP service includes instructor and student teaching and learning activities, patterns of questions and answers, technologies used, and levels of student engagement. Data is logged in two-minute intervals, allowing you to see patterns in these activities across time. ASSETT Student Fellows are thoroughly trained to take research-quality observational data. They log data using a secure online platform. You will receive copies your raw data and visuals, and you will choose whether to archive or destroy the copy of your data stored with ASSETT. Currently our students are trained to take data using the COPUS tool, a published observational tool.
Here is a timeline visualization of a 75-minute class. We are actively working to improve our visuals, and to develop a greater variety of visuals to choose from. During your follow-up consult, we will ask for your reactions and suggestions for the visualizations.
ASSETT is always looking for creative ways to extend our reach to more faculty. Having the ASSETT Student Fellows make VIP Service observations leverages their brains, skills, and availability to make the service accessible to all.
ASSETT Student Fellows work on a variety of complex assignments. For their work on the VIP Service project, they complete a 5 hour training and apprenticeship program using teaching videos. They achieve an interrater reliability score of .8 or more before they conduct teaching observations.
A new technology that supports the online collection of observation data was the impetus for the VIP service. Through CU’s partnership with the Tools for Evidence Based Action initiative (TEA), we have been actively helping to develop this technology and developing our own observation protocols, which we have shared with partner institutions. This TEA introductory video describes the rationale behind the TEA initiative and some results from Boston University’s work in the area.
Some universities have started to offer VIP-like service that are supported with this technology, which is called GORP. Others are collecting voluntary data from many faculty across their campus, to gain a bird’s eye picture of teaching at their institution.
The initial work with TEA was accomplished through a partnership between the Center for Stem Learning and OIT’s Academic Technology Design Team. In spring 2016, the ASSETT advisory board approved a proposal supporting the development of the VIP service.