Teaching Council
May 2000

The following committee recommendations were approved by the Faculty Senate on May 1, 2000.


General Conclusions

Considering all of the input and evidence collected in this review process, the Teaching Council has come to the conclusion that there is no reason to change our fundamental approach to soliciting student opinions regarding instruction at UTK. The fundamental nature of the current system, with standard core questions, alternative forms for different types of classes, and the option of adding specific or open-ended questions, remains highly consistent with the two basic reasons for evaluation of teaching: 1) to provide information for sound personnel decisions and 2) to assist faculty members in self-improvement. The current system also generates information of value to students in choosing courses. Another advantage of a standardized, university-wide system is the cost efficiency gained in reproduction of materials and in the administrative tasks required with any system.

At the same time, the system as currently structured and implemented does have weaknesses and characteristics that can be fairly criticized. While student ratings can be a useful source of information to be considered in evaluation of teaching effectiveness, they must be interpreted in light of course characteristics and should be used in conjunction with self- and peer assessments to place teachers only in broad performance categories. Explicit comparison of mean ratings and percentile rankings across courses can foster inappropriate conclusions and have a demoralizing impact on many faculty. Collection of additional information regarding student input/responsibility, expectations, and experience relative to other courses taken is needed. Care also needs to be taken to insure that the system is implemented with consistency and integrity. This will require that instructors, administrators, and students be fully aware of their particular roles, options, and responsibilities in the system. The Teaching Council believes the modifications outlined in the specific recommendations below will enhance the validity and usefulness of information collected in student surveys, and should address to a great extent the issues and concerns that have been raised.

Specific Recommendations

A. Name
1. Change the name of our system from the Campus Teaching Evaluation Program to the Student Assessment of Instruction System.
B. Forms
2. Replace the current "CTEP" forms with the most recent set of IAS (University of Washington) forms A-J and X adapted as appropriate for our campus. Options would remain for addition of specific questions by departments or instructors and use of the open-ended comment sheet.
C. Result Reports
3. Develop an on-line database to allow comparison of individual course means with university-wide means for courses with similar basic characteristics, such as class size, course level, disciplinary type, and reason for taking course, and for courses with similar instructor classification, such as GTAs.

4. Remove percentile rankings and comparisons of individual course means with overall department, college and university means from the result reports.
D. Implementation/Administration
5. Develop and distribute written material to administrators and personnel committees providing guidance and caution in interpretation of student ratings.

6. Develop an informational and educational effort to insure that instructors understand all survey options and policies/procedures for survey administration.

7. Clarify appropriate channels and procedures for receiving and dealing with questions or complaints about improper administration of student surveys.

8. Enhance the student survey system for distance learning courses by developing on-line capabilities.

9. Extend the student survey system to cover courses taught during the mini-term and summer terms.

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