Faculty surveys offer important feedback

Melissa Fose

Melissa Fose

Each semester, students at SDSU fill out surveys to evaluate their professors and classes. As many as 38,000 to 40,000 Individual Development and Education Assessment, or IDEA, surveys are sent to Kansas at the end of each semester, said JoAnn Sckrel, director of academic assessment.

The IDEA survey uses student perspectives to evaluate faculty. Department heads collect, read and analyze the surveys to complete professional staff evaluations (PSE) annually.

“Most faculty agree not only do [the evaluations] give good feedback, but they play a role in promotion,” said Kenneth Emo, assistant professor in the College of Education and Counseling.

PSEs assess three categories involving each professor: teaching, scholarship and creative activity and service. The IDEA survey falls under the teaching assessment.

In December 2005, the Board of Regents passed a Student Opinion Task Force recommendation to include student IDEA surveys as a form of faculty evaluation, according to a Sept. 25, 2008, BOR agenda. South Dakota universities began using the surveys in the spring of 2006.

Because the IDEA survey is used for all types of courses within the university system, some questions may seem irrelevant.

“I don’t think they’re very well fit to evaluate individual instructors,” said Asha Evjen, a first-semester nursing student. “Filling out 30 questions that don’t really apply is just ridiculous.”

The IDEA survey system is more complex than students may think.

Once the surveys reach Kansas, the surveys of each course section are compiled into a report for the professor. The professor and the department head use this report to assess the professor’s teaching.

Professors must fill out a Faculty Information Form, just as students must fill out IDEA surveys. In order for professors to have a good report, their marked objectives on the FIF have to match the students’ selected objectives.

In other words, if discussion groups were a large part of the course, the professor would fill in the bubble on the FIF. If the students felt that discussion groups were essential to the course and marked their bubble accordingly, the professor would see a high ranking for that question.

“The idea is to see if the instructor’s objectives for the course are the same as the objectives the students perceive by taking part in this course,” Emo said.

That students should be “vision-minded,” remembering that students who take the class in the future will receive the benefits of an honest evaluation, Emo said.

“Students’ responses get passed on. ? I would hope it would be empowering in a positive, constructive way,” he said.

Students should also take the evaluations seriously; otherwise, professors do not get quality feedback, nor can they make necessary changes, Emo said.

“I know students don’t like it. I know faculty don’t like it, but it has a lot of useful information,” said Sckrel.

The evaluations provide important feedback to professors, as well as their supervisors.

“I don’t want to frame the class so I get the best evaluations; I want to frame the class so that I maximize student learning,” said Emo.

He created his own student evaluation form to supplement the required IDEA survey. He encourages his students to write as many comments as they can.

“[I can] get a sense of areas where I may be struggling a little bit,” Emo said.

He said he does not think that teachers ever come to the point where they feel that they have mastered their profession; teaching is an “ongoing journey,” he said.

Emo recommends that professors utilize campus resources, such as the SDSU Teaching Learning Center, after they receive their IDEA reports. The center was established to support faculty and their professional development.

“If I really like or hate the teacher, then I fill it out right,” said Suzanne Gluf, a first-semester nursing major.

#1.881621:3859701289.jpg:Academic.Evaluations.JB.CMYK.jpg:Danielle Thooft, a junior Spanish education and sociology major from Milroy, Minn., fills out her class evaluations in preparation for finals week.:Joni Blair