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Proposal 1, Response Appendix

Statements on Other Schools’ Websites about SRI Numbers and Student Comments


  • Look for patterns over time by comparing multiple courses across multiple semesters to form generalizations about teaching effectiveness.  (University of Connecticut)
  • Remember that SRIs or student comments are not random and therefore may not be representative of the entire class.  (University of Connecticut)
  • Do not over-interpret small differences in median ratings.  (University of Connecticut)
  • Use multiple sources of data when evaluating faculty.  (University of Connecticut)
  • Inform all reviewers of the possibility of gender bias and that bias may influence evaluations and rewards if that potential bias is unexamined or unchallenged.  (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • The university should require departments to review regularly their tenure, promotion, and salary-setting guidelines for unintended gender bias and similarly examine university evaluation procedures for the same.  (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • The university should increase accountability for eliminating gender bias by requiring decision-makers to communicate their decisions and defending them, such as compiling an publishing an annual review of gender equity benchmarks, such as salary, tenure rates, time in rank, proportion of chairs and other administrators who are female, monitor individual departments for increasing gender equity, regularly ask chairs to demonstrate whether women’s and minorities’ salaries are in line with their accomplishments.  (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • Review committees should be as gender-integrated as possible.  (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • When evaluating a faculty member, reviewers should imagine a scenario in which the person being evaluated was of another gender, and ask whether the evaluation would be the same.  (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • The university should provide training to systematic, well-designed research that documents the existence of bias processes.  (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Hold reviewers accountable for decisions, because individuals who know they will be required to justify their decisions (particularly to an impartial higher authority) tend to engage in more complex thought processes when making evaluations.  This helps people avoid making the kind of snap judgments that can lead to applying stereotypes when making decisions.  (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Take the context and characteristics of your course into account. Research shows that student evaluations often are more positive in courses that are smaller rather than larger, and elective rather than required. Also, evaluations are usually more positive in courses in which students tend to do well.  (Vanderbilt University)
  • Accepting the positive and interpreting the negative with caution can help you maintain balance in your view of the overall tone of the comments. Because student evaluations are anonymous, positive comments are usually genuine, and you should not minimize their importance. Extremely negative comments, on the other hand, can reflect pressures students feel and their dissatisfaction with a broad range of educational issues, over and above your teaching, so don't overemphasize them.  (Princeton University)
  • When you review the open-ended questions at the end of the evaluation report, keep in mind that the most useful comments are those that are specific and relevant. Sometimes the most glowing comments (“I loved the professor” or “the professor was awesome”) make you feel good, but do not contain any information that you can use to identify your strengths as an instructor. By the same token, you will sometimes receive negative comments that are vague or seem personal (“The homework assignments were stupid” or “This class was a waste of time”). The anonymity of the online evaluations may encourage some students to write harsh comments or to not take the process seriously.  (Washington University, St. Louis)
  • Rather than dwell on comments that are either highly positive or highly negative, look for the comments that help you identify specific aspects of the course that worked well and specific areas you could improve upon. In addition, try to find the rationale behind the students' responses. For example, if they did not like the papers, why not? Did they find the topics too difficult to tackle? Or did they need additional guidance on what was expected on each paper? Or, if they liked your teaching, did they appreciate your engaging lecture style, the time you took to give them thoughtful feedback on their work, or the in-class activities you designed?  (Washington University, St. Louis)
  • Read, organize, and compare the comments from each question separately. That is, if you have more than one open-ended question on your evaluation, begin by reading the responses to just the first question on all the evaluations. Then go back and read the responses to the second question, then the third question, etc. This approach permits you to focus on one topic at a time.  (Syracuse University)
  • Research indicates that the students who are very satisfied or very dissatisfied generally provide written comments.    (Syracuse University)
  • It is helpful to determine the proportion of negative to positive comments for interpretative purposes. This will assist you in determining if the comments are representative of the entire class or a small minority of students.    (Syracuse University)
  • Comments that reflect positively on your teaching effectiveness can usually be considered genuine. Since the course evaluation is anonymous, students do not usually write positive comments unless they mean them.    (Syracuse University)
  • Since students’ anonymity is protected on student ratings, students may write negative comments that range from sarcastic to vicious. Obviously, not all of these comments are constructive. Pressures unrelated to you or your course may also underlie some of these comments. Keeping this in mind may help to limit overreaction to certain comments.  (Syracuse University)
  • Negative comments need to be interpreted with caution. Normal human behavior often causes one to take the negative comments to heart, regardless of how small the number.  (Syracuse University)
  • Individual strategies for analysing student feedback (all from the University of Limerick, Ireland):
    • Control your defence mechanisms. Ask yourself: What kinds of reactions am I having to this feedback and what is it likely to make me do in future? Make explicit the implicit emotions to which the feedback is giving rise.
    • Analyse the source of your students’ reactions in a way that sheds light on any issues and problems that have been identified. Ask yourself: What are the reasons behind both the positive and negative feedback provided by the students? Whether or not you can answer these questions easily, try to pursue information via other methodologies (e.g. focus groups; one-to-one interviews, facilitated by objective information gatherers).
    • Remember to focus just as assiduously on the reasons behind positive as well as negative feedback, keeping in mind that it can be just as professionally damaging not to know why students think you have done well, as it is not to know why they think you have done badly.
    • Work hard not to under-react or over-react to information that you receive via SET feedback. Ask yourself: What are the changes that would enhance student learning, versus the ones that would have neutral or negative impact on learning? Try to differentiate between the implications of different changes implied by the feedback.
    • Divide the issues raised by students into actionable and non-actionable categories. Ask yourself: What aspects of this feedback can I do something about? What aspects of this feedback require a wider institutional, administrative or resource based reaction? Integrate these categories into your teaching enhancement strategy. Simply put, it’s important that you don’t justify anything identified by your students that that is unjustifiable about your current teaching approaches, but equally that you don’t allow yourself to become the scapegoat for issues that clearly need to be tackled at an institutional level.
    • Communicate with students before and after their provision of feedback. Ask yourself: how can I use the SET system to improve communication and to create constructive dialogue with my students ? Do not appear to ignore students’ participation in the SET system. Register with them that you are aware of their impending participation in the feedback system and encourage them to take part as honestly and constructively as possible. And when the results come in, devote a short session of one of your lectures to presenting the summary data and explaining to your students what you will and will not be doing as a result of the feedback they have provided. Student satisfaction levels can be significantly increased via this kind of non- defensive, honest and reasonable communication. Ensure that they know that no negative or recriminatory outcomes will be associated with their participation.
    • Do not make the simplistic assumption that all positive responses are related to good teaching and all negative responses are related to bad teaching. Ask yourself: What parts of this feedback most robustly indicate where my teaching strengths and weaknesses lie? As outlined earlier in this chapter, much of the literature on SET’s cautions against the risk of giving rise to negative learning outcomes in the pursuit of positive ratings. Some negative student reactions to your teaching may be related to a vital part of their learning journey. This negative feedback can provide the basis for an enhanced dialogue to help secure higher levels of student motivation and commitment. Also be strict about assuming that positive ratings are always related to good teaching. As outlined earlier, the literature shows that there are moderators of student satisfaction that relate to other factors such as disciplinary background, class size, student demographics and timing of feedback.
    • Remember that small changes can have big effects. Ask yourself: What initial small changes can I make based on the feedback that I have received that might have immediate and positive effects on my students’ learning experiences in this learning setting? While not all changes implied by the feedback will be easy or short term, it’s a good idea to identify some ‘low lying fruit’. Most participants in a SET system can identify one or two small changes that are relatively easy to effect and that can indicate to students that you have heard their voices and are registering their feedback through immediate action. This can create positive momentum for more fundamental or strategic changes to your teaching styles and approaches.
    • Develop a teaching enhancement strategy that takes into account the SET feedback. Ask yourself: what are my long term teaching goals and how can this feedback help me to achieve them? Within a short time of receiving the feedback, allocate a dedicated period of time in your schedule to develop a longer term teaching enhancement strategy. This strategy might include plans to receive more feedback later in the semester or year, specific professional development interventions that you’d like to avail of, more communication with other key members of your teaching network (heads of department, IT specialists, researchers in your field, librarians, student advisers, study skills experts and so on), and enhanced student assessment strategies.

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