More than Numbers – Donna Ellis

Just last month, I presented on CTE’s annual report at Senate. Having an opportunity to share our accomplishments, challenges, and opportunities is always something that I welcome. And it has been a very busy year at CTE. We provided more than 3,000 consultations to almost 1,000 individuals at Waterloo in the Fall and Winter terms this past year. This is a 43% increase from our total consultation activity the previous year. And in the past three terms, we ran more than 100 workshops for almost 800 different attendees (registrations of almost 2,600). The majority of our consultations are with faculty members (83%) whereas the majority of our workshop registrations come from graduate students (74%). These numbers make sense given that most of our consultations were done by our Faculty Liaisons and most of our workshop activity is for the Fundamentals of University and Certificate in University Teaching programs. It is wonderful to be able to report such impressive data – I give thanks to the efforts of our staff members in tracking their activities the past number of months so that the data could be shared.

But do the numbers tell the whole story? Of course not. Despite being a challenge to collect, numeric contact-focused data often remain easier to track than the longitudinal data that would help to demonstrate a change in practice or attitude regarding teaching and learning. Often you can really only understand the impact of an activity by digging below a simple measure of participation.

One evaluation model that’s causing a fair bit of buzz in educational development (ED) comes from organizational training. Kirkpatrick’s 4-Level Model identifies different areas to assess: reaction, learning, behaviour, and results. Some teaching centres are looking for ways to adapt this model to ED work, but as with any longitudinal data collection methods – qualitative or quantitative – a fair bit of horsepower is needed to collect and then analyze whatever meaningful data are identified. It seems unrealistic to think that all services could be assessed all the time, or even need to be. Perhaps through collaboration, teaching centres can continue to identify and engage in research about assessing the impact of ED work. Some of our upcoming new programming will hopefully have such data built right into it. The more that data collection can be part of our practices, the more achievable it becomes.

For now, we will continue to collect our numbers and the unsolicited feedback that comes our way about the value and impact of our many services. We thank our university community for your participation with us, and we look forward to learning more about how our efforts affect your instructional work.


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

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As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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