Course materials communicate important information about course content, policies and procedures, and, in addition, convey messages about the atmosphere of the course and the instructor's attitude. Time can profitably be spend assessing course materials alone or with the aid of an objective outsider. Because not all message conveyed in course materials are obvious (especially to the person who has prepared them), the quality of the review is likely to be enhanced with input from others. Fellow faculty members can offer valuable insights about course materials.
Colleagues can review materials at almost any point in a course and what they are given to review depends very much on the materials used. The following list is not inclusive but does include examples of course materials that might profitably be reviewed. Disregard items that are not relevant; add others that might be.
- Course syllabus
- Study questions/review materials
- Supplementary reading lists
- Exams; an ungraded & graded copy
- Lecture outlines provided students
- Individually developed materials
- Visual materials
- Handouts which elaborate or supplement course content
- Written descriptions of assignments (if not included on the syllabus)
The colleague reviewer ought to be instructed to use only the relevant portions of the instrument. That instruction can be reinforced by crossing out or omitting those sections on the instrument. Because course materials are idiosyncratic-put together by individuals for use in widely differing instructional settings-not all the relevant inquiries may be listed. Colleagues should be encouraged to offer assessments in other areas if those seem appropriate. When sharing course materials with a colleague, it is best to provide some background. What are your major goals in the course? How do you hope to have these materials help you accomplish these goals and objectives? When in the course do you use the materials? Do you provide background commentary in class? Answers to these questions put course materials in context and make it easier for colleague reviewer to gauge their effectiveness.
We recommend using a completed version of the form as the basis for a discussion about the materials. Colleague assessments should always be illustrated with examples. The basis for the conclusion needs to be pointed out in the materials. And remember, the colleague's assessment is really only the opinion of one person-a qualified person-but still possibly not right or representative. For this reason, you should consider using the student version of this form as well.
This instrument was developed by The Instructional Development Program at The Pennsylvania State University. It may be copied, altered, or adapted by those using the form.