Reporting on the Teaching Needs Assessment

In 2016, DCAL set out to establish a stronger link between faculty needs and center programming, and thus take a more strategic approach to program planning. At that time, DCAL had never asked faculty directly about their needs and interests in its 13 year history. To do so in a structured way, we developed a data collection instrument and arranged to visit departments during their regular department meetings. 

The center director and an accompanying staff person from DCAL visited 30 academic departments in winter and spring 2017 to administer the survey and facilitate conversations about the needs and interests of departments and individual faculty members. A total of 178 people completed the survey.

Departments Visited

African and African American Studies program
Art History
Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literature
Computer Science
Environmental Studies
French & Italian
Jewish Studies
Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies
Quantitative Social Science
Psychological and Brain Sciences
Physics & Astronomy
Studio Art
Spanish & Portuguese

Framework and Methods

Existing research and best practices for needs assessments informed the design of our instrument (Banta & Palomba, 2015; Guba & Lincoln, 1982; Hines, 2011; Shadle et al., 2015). The instrument asks respondents to indicate their interest in learning about a variety of topics and their preferred learning method(s) for each. The list of topics reflects a comprehensive suite of skills and capacities that our center, along with campus partners, deemed relevant to good teaching. The instrument concludes with open-ended questions asking respondents to identify the largest barriers they face to focusing on teaching, and what might lower those barriers.

Download the instrument (PDF) 


  • Course Design
    • Designing a course from scratch
    • Writing learning outcomes
    • Identifying & acquiring course materials 
    • Teaching specific skills in your course (e.g. writing, critical thinking, research, multimedia)
    • Using blended (combination of online and face-to-face) or flipped (content delivery outside of class) elements in your course
  • Assessment Strategies
    • Creating an assessment plan for a course
    • Creating assignments that promote and evaluate learning
    • Designing and evaluating meaningful reflection exercises
    • Developing effective grading strategies
  • Teaching Strategies
    • Designing learning experiences & activities
    • Effective lecturing
    • Incorporating technology into your teaching
    • Facilitating Discussion
    • Active learning strategies
    • Community-based learning 
    • Facilitating student collaboration & teams
    • Disrupting bias in the classroom
    • Designing for accessibility
    • Accommodating student disability
    • Experiential or service learning
  • Miscellaneous
    • Observing others or being observed while teaching
    • Effectively using Canvas to support your courses
    • Mentoring postdocs, TA’s, or graduate students
    • Blending research and teaching
    • Unique aspects of teaching at Dartmouth (e.g. quarter system, X hours, FSP)

Open-Ended Questions

  • Please indicate any additional topics you are interested in learning about.
  • What are the largest barriers you face to focusing on your teaching or improving your teaching effectiveness?
  • What would lower those barriers for you?

Survey Results

Initial results (n=178) indicate that, among the teaching topics included on the survey, faculty are most interested in learning from DCAL about:

  • Designing a course from scratch
  • Designing learning experiences and activities
  • Creating an assessment plan for a course
  • Creating assignments that promote and evaluate learning 
  • Incorporating technology into your teaching
  • Effectively using Canvas to support your course

The most preferred modes of learning were “workshop/conversation open to all” and “workshop/conversation with my department,” though individual consultations and written resources also generated notable interest.

Conversation Results

The conversations with departments were highly valuable and variable. Topics that arose, among many others, included:

  • Sources of funding for teaching support
  • Active learning
  • Grade inflation
  • Academic program/curricular review
  • Teaching close reading skills
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Classroom renovations
  • Learning Fellows
  • Experiential learning
  • Role of Learning Designers

This variety of topics does not lend itself to generalizable take-aways or succinct reporting. However, it does reflect the wide range of subject areas that DCAL’s works touches. It also reflects that Dartmouth faculty care deeply about teaching. It is our hope that DCAL can continue these conversations with departments and individuals to be a source of information and support in all areas related to teaching at Dartmouth.

Interpretation of Results

Survey results revealed a spectrum of needs and interests among departments and individual faculty related to their teaching, including what kinds of supports they need, and what kinds of existing supports they may be unaware of. 

Looking at the results departmentally, there were some clear patterns of interest in modes of learning and topics of interest. Further, many individuals in several departments articulated (either in conversation or via survey responses) that they want to discuss teaching and learning with their department specifically. We are interested in understanding the depth of this interest and what these offerings might be.

Some topics were strongly correlated with particular modes of learning. For example, 62 respondents indicated interest in one-on-one consulting on the topic “designing a course from scratch,” 64 for “effectively using Canvas,” and 55  for “incorporating technology into your teaching.”

DCAL’s Plans

Workshops open to all, individual consultations, and books have long been available from DCAL, but conversations tailored to departments and online and physical resources have been lacking. Two possible strategies: 

  • Increase visibility of existing services and resources
  • Increase availability of additional services and resources

There are many possible ways to identify the best path forward. Some of the questions we want to address include:

  • Is there a better way to communicate resources, services, and programming to reach faculty?
  • How might we continually check alignment between resources, services, and programming with faculty needs and interests? 
  • To what extent is departmental programming of interest? To what extent do faculty want programming tailored for their disciplinary lens? To what extent do faculty want to attend general programming with their departmental colleagues only?
  • How do we continue these conversation moving forward?

DCAL’s primary goal is to improve teaching and learning at Dartmouth by helping faculty improve their pedagogical effectiveness and efficiency.DCAL is committed to providing resources, removing barriers, promoting evidence-based practices, and building partnerships to cultivate a culture that values and rewards teaching for all members of Dartmouth’s scholar-educator community. Current resources that DCAL offers include workshops and programs on a variety of topics each term, one-on-one consultations, a lending library of books on teaching and learning topics, and an online collection of informational guides. These resources are available to all members of Dartmouth’s teaching community, including administrators, faculty of all ranks, staff, graduate students, postdocs, TAs, and undergraduate students.

We intend to facilitate more opportunities for departments and individuals to provide us with information about their needs and interests so that we can continue to tailor our offerings to meet them most effectively.  Initially, DCAL will focus on addressing the most pressing identified areas of need and inviting departments and programs to use the resulting resources. In addition to these structured invitations, DCAL welcomes input, feedback, and inquiries at any time related to its services, programming, and resources.


Banta, T. W. & Palomba, C. A. (2015). Assessment Essentials (second edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1982). The place of values in needs assessment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 4(3), pp. 311-320.

Hines, S. R. (2011). How mature teaching and learning centers evaluate their services. To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, 30. Pp. 278-288.

Shadle, S., Ortquist-Ahrens, L., Serro, L., Sagmiller, K., Ouellett, M., & Beach, A. (2015). Catalyzing institutional change: A model for effective practice. Presentation Delivered at the 2015 Annual POD Conference in Louisville, KY.

In addition, past work from Texas A&M and relevant discussions from the ASSESS Listserv archives informed the design and implementation of the survey.