| 03.24.2018

Fit for feedback


Course evaluation forms updated to promote effective feedback

In February, the University of Idaho Faculty Senate approved a new course evaluation form designed to improve the student feedback process.

Patricia Hartzell, Teaching and Advising Committee chairwoman and UI professor, said updating the course evaluation forms was a major priority for the committee this year. She said the committee spent months and had several meetings going over the questions and revising the previous course evaluation form.

“It needed updating, that was really the main concern,” Hartzell said. “Times change, we wanted to write something that would be applicable to teachers that have online classes and we wanted to look at the opportunity for writing a feedback form that would be amendable to having an app(lication).”

Course evaluations will now be known as “Student Feedback Forms,” and Hartzell said they are more customized to the courses. The new forms deviate from using a numerical scale for feedback and instead utilize scales of agreement and percentages.

The newest changes to the student feedback form need to be approved at the University Faculty Meeting in May. Final approval is required by UI President Chuck Staben, Hartzell said.

Rodney Frey, director of General Education and UI professor, said the motivations for updating evaluations were to increase the usefulness of evaluations and better use them as a diagnostic tool for instructors to adjust their courses with the help of student feedback.

“Also, with an eye on the student too, this is their form of feedback for us, making sure it is structured in a way that is user friendly,” Frey said. “So students can really express their views.”

The senate approved selectable questions for student feedback forms, so the instructor could more appropriately evaluate students by offering customizable questions pertaining to the specific class and the use of technology or lab equipment.

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jeanne Stevenson said she thinks the new customizable questionnaire is a great tool for faculty.

“I think it’s a benefit to faculty to be able to reach out and to ask questions about things that they want feedback on,” Stevenson said. “Feedback that may not be reflected in the general questions at the beginning of the form.”

Dean of the College of Engineering Larry Stauffer said he likes the new changes, but his main concern is student apathy — he said while the feedback obviously helps instructors and administrators, students may not fill them out because they don’t see the direct benefit.

“It’s in their best interest to do that, yet while the current way we do evaluations may not help you in that class,” Stauffer said. “It will help future students and it will help you in other classes from the same faculty.

Stevenson said if she had a wish it would be that student feedback forms are seen as a tool to continuously improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning at UI.

“It might create an opportunity for a different kind of dialogue university-wide, in terms of what our roles and responsibilities are as teachers and learners, because we are all both,” Stevenson said. “And our ability to gather the kind of feedback that helps us either affirm what we’re doing, which is what we should be doing, but part of it is about saying ‘Gosh, you did a really great job in that class,’ and here are a couple of thing you could do another way that would make the learning more meaningful or productive for our students.”

Patrick Hanlon can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @pathanlonID

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