Teacher evaluation response rate down
The Office of Institutional Research is setting the goal to increase Student Teacher Evaluation response rates by 10 - 15 percent this spring semester.
Last spring, the survey form was changed from a paper base, which it had been for well over 10 years, to an online version to save paper and eliminate inefficiencies. The survey format changed slightly, moving from a 10 to a 5-point scale and adding an "overall evaluation" component and "expected final grade" indicator.
Typically, when a survey changes from a paper to an online version, there is a 30 percent variation in the response rate. The Spring 2013 response rate, the first online round, was 53 percent, yet last fall's dropped to 40 percent. The Office hopes to bring the number to somewhere between 50 and 60 percent, which is within 15 percent of the 65-70 percent expected from paper surveys.
Assistant Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Effectiveness Dr. Thulasi Kumar and other members of his team believe that publicizing and educating students about the importance of STEs will help raise response rates.
"It's not an opinion survey," Kumar said, "You're actually helping your faculty to improve their teaching."
All student responses are anonymous and untraceable and are purely for analysis in aggregate terms. They are seen only by the professor, department head, dean and Office of the Vice Provost. The evaluations are crucial for staff to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, determining teacher training and which faculty members will receive tenure. Faculty that are given the overall lowest STE scores are offered help from the Institute for Teaching and Learning, where they can get instructional feedback and will be followed up with in upcoming semesters. Professors with high scores are recognized.
"Teaching is the core mission of the University. Research comes second." Kumar said.
Statistical analysis proves that no matter what grade students expect to receive in the course, their responses are very accurate and consistent among other students in the class. The survey question that has the highest predictor significance to a high overall rating is whether "the instructor's teaching methods promoted student learning."
The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness is strategizing to advertise in newspapers and dining halls closer to the STE period, the couple of weeks before finals. They hope to also publish a newsletter with their findings.
Most faculty are not open to the idea of offering students incentives as a way to increase response rates, such as extra credit points, yet hope to incorporate STEs as a curriculum requirement. Professors commonly reserve fifteen minutes at the end of one class period to allow students to fill out the survey.
Research has shown that 75 percent of students are filling STEs out outside the classroom, using laptops and tablets. Less than 10 percent of students completed the STE using a smartphone or mobile device, and the Office hopes to raise this percentage. Smartphones as a mean to complete the survey are strongly encouraged because they can be done virtually anytime, especially in classrooms that do not accommodate laptops. Exploiting this opportunity may increase overall response rates.
STEs are designed to give students a say in their education, recognizing the stake they hold at the university. The online base gives students the potential to do so easily and effectively, but it is up to them to participate.
"Our concern is that we want students to take it more seriously," Kumar said.
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