Don’t write SFFs off

Paper Student Feedback Forms could increase participation rate and accuracy of student reviews.

Every semester, professors broach the subject of Student Feedback Forms with their students, either pleading with them to actually take the time to complete them or apologizing for the inconvenience of their existence. Adapting the SFFs to be available online does make participation more convenient – probably because students no longer worry about filling them out. It’s one less thing to be concerned about during finals.

Few, if any students, prioritize describing their opinion of a professor when they are preparing for final exams, presentations and projects. Just staying on top of schoolwork is enough for most students to worry about. Completing SFFs doesn’t usually make the list of priorities.

Though moving the SFFs online may have been a well-intentioned move toward a seemingly more effective, paperless system, bringing back printed forms that teachers hand out in class and then collect makes students more accountable for participation. As the system stands, the only thing that would likely persuade a student to complete a form is if they feel either strongly negative or positive about a professor. Otherwise, it’s not worth logging on to do.

When hard-copy forms were passed out, students considered participation practically mandatory – they would have been harder to avoid than to do. Now, not even all the incentives provided by the university can generate the same success in participation online. Whereas Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Peter Jones said hard-copy forms saw a more than 70 percent response rate, in September The Temple News reported the online versions have seen nearly a 20 percent decrease.

The same report stated that more than 54 percent of online responses were high-ranking score numbers for professors, indicating that students who feel strongly about a professor’s strengths are more likely to take the time to respond. Since Temple uses SFFs to determine a professor’s standpoint with the university, action should be taken to prevent potentially skewed or misleading data collected via online forms. A reincarnation of the paper system could return the analytical value of the SFF process.

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