Based on widespread recognition across the university that the current teaching evaluation survey was prone to bias and was often over-emphasized in faculty review for Promotion and Tenure and contract renewals, the UNH Faculty Senate convened a broadly representative committee to investigate. After nearly a year of research and deliberations, the Ad Hoc committee provided the senate with a new survey instrument and guidelines that defined the role of student surveys of teaching and learning in demonstrating teaching effectiveness for the purpose of annual reviews, renewal, promotion, and tenure decisions.
On 4/11/22, the faculty senate passed a motion that endorses the committee’s report and process for piloting the new survey which will replace the prior Course Evaluation form. The new instrument is called the Student Experience of Learning (SEL). The senate motion includes the pilot process for deploying the instrument across the entire institution, recommendations for how the results from the instrument are to be considered by departments and colleges, and a plan to reconvene in fall 2023 to analyze data and review comments about the instrument’s performance.
Student Experiences of Learning (SEL) Survey Instrument
This new survey has 7 basic questions (both qualitative and Likert Scaled) that will be standard for all courses. There is also the opportunity for individual instructors to add up to 5 questions of their own to each of their course surveys. These questions allow instructors to ask about various aspects of their course and/or teaching activities. Only instructors will have access to responses of their customized questions (unless they choose to share this data). As in prior course feedback surveys at UNH, the SEL survey allows each department/college/program to seek approval to create up to 5 additional questions that will provide feedback for continuous improvement, curricular enhancement, accreditation, and/or departmental needs. Instructors, as well as associating department chairs and deans will be able to view aggregate reports of responses to these department/college questions. Lastly for Discovery and WI courses, there will be 6 questions to assess the general education in aggregate. To view the instrument, click survey instrument.
Recommended Guidelines for Use of Student Experience of Learning Survey
The Ad Hoc committee reviewed evidence about the objectives of gathering student feedback on courses, best practices for collecting, interpreting, and utilizing such feedback for a variety of purposes, and guidelines for how to prepare students to engage in this process. In doing so, the group identified two fundamental principles guiding the use of student feedback.
First, the purpose of such feedback is to provide formative feedback for the instructor, and second, feedback is valuable as a contributing (but not sole) factor in evaluating teaching effectiveness. As such, the committee organized their findings and recommendations into three main areas: guidance for instructors, guidance for students, and guidance for administrators and peer review committees (such as reappointment, promotion, and tenure).
The guidelines are intended to address the following concerns: student unconscious bias towards instructors of various identities; validity concerns related to low response rates; over-reliance on summary quantitative measures in organizational assessment/promotion processes to the exclusion of other types of data; and the unstated assumption that students can meaningfully evaluate teaching. To address this last point, the name of the survey is now Student Experiences of Learning (SEL), as the survey responses are really data about student perceptions. While much of the information is included on this website, please reference the for further detail.
Guidelines for Instructors
- Consider implementing a mid-term survey to 1) convey the value of student experience; 2) modify course as appropriate, which shows students that their experience matters and can make the course a better experience for others; and 3) create a culture of assessment/responsive feedback, which might incentivize students to complete the end of term surveys. Share with students how and why you made changes (if that was the case).
- Explain to students how understanding their experience in this course is important to you and to them, and how you have used such feedback in the past to make changes to your course/teaching.
- Accompany student course survey information with reflections on what you learned from the student ratings/comments and how you have made/will make appropriate modifications to your teaching in response to that feedback. Compile this in teaching portfolios to demonstrate the iterative process of improving your teaching as an additional measure of teaching effectiveness.
- Tips for maximizing response rates: Arrange time in class (beginning or middle of your class) for students to complete the survey. Inform students in advance to bring devices to class. Provide time after class before the deadline in case they need to use a computer elsewhere.
Guidelines for Students
- Be constructive and specific in your comments.
- Comment from your own experience in the course—use ‘I’ statements to describe your experience
- Think about the course/unit/chapter learning objectives, and comment on how the course was taught in ways that helped you to meet those objectives.
- Think about and comment on what will help improve the course for future students.
Guidelines for Usage by Deans, P&T Committees, Promotion Committees, and Aggregate Program Assessments
The committee recommends that each college develop college-wide practices based on student feedback of teaching as a part of several methods for evaluating teaching and teaching development. This recommendation includes encouraging instructors and administrators to embrace a perspective of collecting student feedback on their experiences in courses rather than evaluating instructor(s) performance. This perspective is consistent with the research that suggests that students are best able to provide personal experiences about what supports their learning thereby helping instructors to better understand effective teaching strategies, rather than provide reliable evaluative information about individual instructors. In addition to using the proposed instrument, several additional metrics of teaching effectiveness grounded in best-practices are encouraged, including:
- Peer review
- Early-to-mid-term student feedback for in-course adjustments (templates available through CEITL)
- Self-reflection on teaching philosophy
- Self-study of student performance
- When factored into reviews of teaching, SEL information should be contextualized as much as possible (e.g., by cross-referencing responses to related questions and/or considering answers to qualitative as well as quantitative questions.) As noted above, the new standardized SEL survey does not ask students to provide overall ratings of instructors, the goal being to counteract over-relying on a single question/score in isolation from others.
- Use only as part of larger, broader assessment of teaching process such as peer observation, peer review of syllabi & materials, and instructor self-reflection.
- Use only when minimum response rates have been met (literature suggests 65%), and the course enrolls a minimum of 10 students.
- Identify situations (e.g., very large course sections) in which sampling of qualitative comments from large data sets may be acceptable – sample from quartiles based on student’s ratings responses. This may minimize sampling error issues.
- Provide guidance on how to responsibly interpret data.
- Use aggregate data to demonstrate college and institutional effectiveness of teaching at UNH.
SEL Pilot Timeline
The committee recommends applying the instrument for a 3-year trial during which data will be assessed systematically at several levels (e.g., UNH Survey Center, ET&S, AAUP, colleges, departments, instructors, students) to determine the instruments’ performance, efficacy, and utility for collecting meaningful information about courses and teaching practices. Pilot steps include:
Step 1. Summer 2022: First roll out to include the common questions section and Discovery optional questions.
Step 2. Fall 2022: End of fall term 2022 will include common questions section, Discovery optional questions, instructor questions, and department questions.
Step 3. Spring 2023: (1) continue rollout and (2) engage Survey Center to help understand efficacy of common questions and suggest any needed wording modifications.
Step 4. Summer 2023: Rollout full survey instrument with any modifications to common questions from the assessment of responses and cognitive interviews (partnership between Institutional Research and Assessment and the Survey Center).
Step 5. Over 2023-2025: Collect information at the end of each semester (fall, J-term, spring, summer) and analyze survey effectiveness.
Step 6. Fall 2024 – Spring 2025: Assess instrument performance and convene an Ad Hoc committee in Fall 2024 to assess all data and information about how well the instrument performed in 1) providing information that is useful for students in giving feedback; and 2) providing meaningful information for P&T and contract reviews and instructor development, with a summary report and recommendations due Spring 2025.
Faculty senate, both student senates (undergraduate and graduate), and administration will work together within and across colleges to increase student survey response. An initial first step includes an information and communication campaign, as well as collecting student feedback on the pilot instrument. If unsuccessful in increasing response rates, then other process points (e.g., delaying grade release) should be considered by an ad hoc committee.