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The Role of SPOT in Evaluating Effective Teaching
Frequently Asked Questions

What are Student Perceptions of Teaching (SPOT)?
Student perceptions of teaching (SPOT) are a collection of nine items that make up the instrument that CSULB uses to provide student feedback on faculty teaching behaviors.

The instrument measures student perceptions of teaching behaviors that are baseline expectations of faculty teaching activities. It is not an absolute measure of teaching effectiveness; however, in order to be effective faculty are expected to engage in certain baseline behaviors (using class time effectively, presenting concepts clearly, responding respectfully to students, communicating effectively, and so on).
What is teaching effectiveness?

Teaching effectiveness is a complex construct and includes numerous dimensions, behaviors, skills, and characteristics.  There is not one single measure or indicator of teaching effectiveness.

What are some of the most important variables in teaching effectiveness?

Teaching effectiveness includes teacher characteristics that influence students’ attitudes and behaviors in the learning environment (e.g., knowledgeable, approachable, interesting, and motivating).  Teaching effectiveness includes process variables or those things that teachers do to facilitate student learning (e.g., pedagogies and teaching strategies). Teaching effectiveness also includes direct teacher classroom behaviors that represent required duties that teachers must carry out in order for students to learn.  Additionally, student learning is a desired outcome of teaching effectiveness.

What does the research tell us about student perceptions of teaching effectiveness?
Feldman (1988) conducted a meta-analysis of 31 studies in which students and faculty identified characteristics they associated with good teaching and effective instruction.  He found that students emphasized the importance of faculty being interesting, having good oral communication skills, being available, and being helpful.  He found faculty placed more emphasis on being intellectually challenging, motivating, setting high standards and encouraging self-directed learning. 
What can CSULB's SPOT instrument tell us about teaching behaviors?
CSULB’s SPOT instrument utilizes items from the University of Iowa’s Assessing the Classroom Environment (ACE) item pool.  ACE is the oldest and most repeatedly tested student perception of teaching item pool in the nation.                                  

The CSULB items selected from the ACE item pool represent teaching behaviors that are directly observable by students.  Most of the SPOT items fall under the category of “required duties” that faculty must carry out as a part of their teaching assignment.  As such, these items assess baseline expectations for instruction RATHER than measure effectiveness (e.g., The instructor was available during office hours.).  The items represent baseline expectations; consequently faculty should receive “high” student ratings.  High ratings on these items are an index (of student perceptions) that faculty members are doing what is REQUIRED of them in the classroom (using class time effectively, presenting concepts clearly, responding respectfully to students, communicating effectively, and so on).  SPOT items provide one indicator that faculty are meeting baseline expectations for effective teaching. 

What are some best practices for using SPOT data to assess teaching?
a. Acknowledge what information the items provide.


b. Committees should review item means, standard deviations, and dispersion of scores across all response options rather than focus on an individual student response, particularly when the candidate’s means are generally consistent with department and college norms.

c. Look for patterns of responses for more than one semester (e.g., are student responses polarized – equal amounts of high and low scores – in a particular class?).

d. Look for trends in responses for more than one semester (e.g., does the faculty member receive particularly high or low scores in one particular class?).

What are some best practices for evaluating effective teaching?
Teaching effectiveness is a complex and multi-faceted construct. There is no single measure or indicator of this complex construct given that it involves an individual’s preparation and knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors. There are numerous things “to be measured.”


Ideally, data from four sources is required to evaluate effective teaching:

(1) reflective assessment from the faculty being evaluated;

(2) perceptions of teaching from the students that faculty member is teaching or has taught;

(3) peer review of teaching material and direct observation of classroom teaching from faculty peers;

(4) student work and other student assessments serve as data for evaluating effective teaching and help link teaching behaviors to student learning.

What happens if the SPOT open-ended items appear to be inconsistent with the closed-ended items?

There is always a margin of error in survey data. CSULB Institutional Research has confirmed that responses to the previous instrument also showed indications of student response errors. The SPOT form provides us with a greater opportunity to observe internal consistency among the closed and open-ended items.


Some students fail to read the closed-ended items and/or response options. The SPOT form includes specific open-ended questions that have yielded significant increases in student written feedback compared to the previous form (which asked for only for “comments”).

If a few students per course section provided closed-ended responses (e.g., all 1’s) that are inconsistent with open-ended responses (“best class ever” – or “great instructor”) it is reasonable to conclude that the student(s) did not read the items and/or the response options. These types of errors occur throughout the university and are reflected in the department and college means. Faculty should make note of this in the narrative explanations they provide in their file for peer evaluation committees.

If a large number of students (e.g., 15% or more students in a particular course) appeared to provide data inconsistent relative to closed and open-ended items, the faculty member should provide ALL of the course original instruments in their supplemental file.

What can I do to help students respond accurately to SPOT?

a. Let students know the class meeting prior to administration of the SPOT form that you will be providing them with an opportunity for feedback on the class and your instruction.


b. Let students know that their feedback is important to you and to the university.

c. Give students ample time (at least 15 minutes) to complete SPOT. The new open-ended items are popular with students and they will rush through the closed-ended ones if they feel pressed for time or ample opportunity to provide written feedback.




Feldman, K. A. (1988). Effective college teaching from the students’ and faculty’s view: Matched or mismatched priorities? Research in Higher Education, 28 (4), 291-344.