From now until final exams, students at the University of Connecticut can send in their Student Evaluations of Teaching to rate the quality of their experience with their instructors and courses.
UConn students receive an email near the end of each semester requesting them to complete Student Evaluation of Teaching surveys for their respective courses. The student responses serve as a way to provide feedback for UConn, as well as for the instructors. Feedback allows the student body to be heard and the teaching performance to be improved, Institutional Research Analyst and Student Evaluation of Teaching Coordinator Dr. Jie Zhang said.
Each semester the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIRE) sends out almost 160,000 surveys and receives about a 50 percent response rate, Zhang said.
“We can improve that number,” OIRE Associate Vice Provost Dr. Lloyd Blanchard said in regards to the response rate.
While the numbers are good for a statistical response rate, they could be better, Blanchard said. Blanchard said his team experiments with different methods to determine what will get the most responses from students.
“Some of that messaging could be done in such a way that we might send one set of messages to a group of students and another set of messages to another group of students to see which ones work better, which ones produce better response waves,” Blanchard said.
The OIRE also engages in a collaborative effort with the faculty to see what does and does not work, Blanchard said.
“This is a tool that is used to evaluate faculty teaching, it is appropriate for faculty to be apart of designing that tool,” Blanchard said.
Zhang and Blanchard have no say in the development of the survey. The Faculty Standards Committee compiles the format of the survey questions, Zhang said.
Faculty members design the survey because it evaluates their teaching and impacts their careers. The faculty have sole purview over their teaching and curriculum, Blanchard said.
“If a course survey receives three or more responses then a report will be generated,” Zhang said.
In previous years, the threshold was five responses, but the Provost’s Office requested it be changed to three starting this fall semester. Professors receive only a summary of the responses for a course so that the students can remain anonymous, Blanchard said.
In the past few years, the OIRE received a 50 percent response rate. Upon speaking to students, that response rate seems true for this year as well. Although half of the students questioned did not complete survey, those who did spoke favorably to the survey.
“Two of our instructors have given us extra time in the class to complete it and one professor was debating giving us extra credit for it,” third-year student UConn Yaiza Andres.
“The ratings section I don’t feel like is that informative as where the comments section is a place where I can actually express my likes or dislikes from the class,” first-year UConn student Bowen Keller said.
All in all, Zhang and Blanchard both said they recognize the importance of the surveys as a tool for improving the student experience in every given class. Therefore, they plan to continue working at improving the student response rate each semester.
“As someone who has served as a faculty member on a couple of college campuses, we used similar evaluation surveys because we know that students have a big voice in determining whether one faculty member or another is successful in a classroom; and that’s an important part of determining the success of the faculty member in general,” Blanchard said.
Emma DeGrandi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.