For decades, distributing the 280,000 Student Feedback Forms across thousands of class sections each semester required several weeks of laborious work for Temple’s administration staff.
Instead of stuffing thousands of envelopes and spending class time for students to complete them, Temple shifted to online forms this summer to guarantee that faculty members would receive the results before the end of the semester.
Peter Jones, senior vice provost for undergraduate studies, said this transition will give students more flexibility to reflect on their professors’ performance.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important is for individual faculty to learn about how their classes are going and how they should be shaping it for future times they teach,” Jones said.
Besides convenience and sustainability, the online version of these forms provides students with a two-week window in which they can complete the forms by logging into the online portal created for the process.
“We wanted it to be more convenient for students and also give professors the option of not using class time,” Jones said.
Regardless of the platform, the feedback forms are used for formative and summative decisions.
The formative aspect of the evaluations refers to professors listening to their students in order to decide how their teaching will evolve. Summative evaluations involve the administration and its role in resolving any particular problem indicated in the feedback forms.
“If you have a faculty member that is not doing well in the class, that sends a message to the chair of the department and the dean, that they need to intervene,” Jones said. “But that intervention doesn’t have to be punitive, if something is not working, we have a teaching learning center, this is an educational institution in which we help people develop.”
Jones said there is a major concern with the online forms in terms of participation rate. According to earlier tests, the response rate has dropped down to below 50 percent from 80 percent in the last couple of years.
“We want to get our completion rate from students to around 70 or 80 percent if we can,” Jones said. “But if we are at 40 percent, then we worry that students who have an opinion are not voicing it.”
The participation rate was at at 25.6 percent as of yesterday, Dec. 3. Jones said that participation tends to increase when professors tell students how important the information is for them.
If the participation rate continues to plummet in the next two years, the university might have to return to paper feedback forms, Jones said.
The benefits of the current format might be expanded thanks to the ongoing discussion on whether to allow students to access the results. If so, students may use such results to select their classes and instructors, which is an improvement comapred to using popular websites such as ratemyprofessors.com, Jones said.
“We want all students to have an opportunity to give us their opinion and tell us what is going on,” Jones said. “This is for the benefit of all.”
Laura Ordonez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.