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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY 



PROPOSAL FROM THE EDUCATIONAL POLICY COMMITTEE TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE BASIC FORM COURSE EVALUATION

On March 31, 2014, and on behalf of the Educational Policy Committee, Professor Mary Rose (committee chair, sociology) submitted the following proposal recommending modifications to the Basic Form Course Evaluation. On March 17, 2014, Professor Rose presented a report of required and recommended changes to the Faculty Council seeking feedback (D 11450-11460). The final proposal is a result of the committee's hard work and the thoughtful comments and recommendations made by Council members.

The Secretary has classified this as general legislation. The Faculty Council will act on the motion at its meeting on April 14, 2014.
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Dean Neikirk, Secretary
General Faculty and Faculty Council



Posted on the Faculty Council website on March 31, 2014. 


PROPOSAL FROM THE EDUCATIONAL POLICY COMMITTEE TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE BASIC FORM COURSE EVALUATION

Background, Proposal, and Policy Rationale
As described in a detailed report to the Faculty Council (dated February 27, 2014), UT Austin must revise its current course evaluation forms in order to come into compliance with a UT System mandate that requires five specific questions to appear on each UT campus’s course evaluation form. EPC began with edits to the Basic Form, which is the default form (i.e., instructors must affirmatively ask for the Expanded Form) and which, according to CTL, is the most commonly used form. (We will shortly have a proposed Expanded form for Faculty Council to consider).  EPC extensively discussed what the Basic form should look like and how to use the mandate as an opportunity to improve the whole of the current form. The Faculty Council Executive Committee made its recommendations about content to EPC, and at the March, 2014 meeting, Mary Rose oversaw a discussion with the full Faculty Council. Based on feedback from that meeting, discussed then and sent in email to Chairperson Hart, EPC re-considered its recommended form and now submits a final version for vote to Faculty Council.

The bulk of decisions are detailed in the February 27 report. I hear summarize the changes made in response to the excellent suggestions that arose at the March Faculty Council meeting. These edits are:
  1. Instruction at beginning: The Executive Committee recommended, and EPC agrees, that the form should contain an instruction to clarify that the “Neutral” category is NOT the same as “Not applicable.” (As described in the February 27 report, some departments, for example in Fine Arts, feel that their instructors are penalized when particular issues – e.g., the assignment of texts – are not relevant to their courses, but students do not know how to convey that on the form. They may select “Neutral,” which artificially lowers a score). We propose that an instruction at the beginning of the form says something like:
    “Note: In the scales below, "Neutral" means “no strong opinion one way or another,” not "Not applicable/cannot rate."

    At the same time, EPC recognizes that because formatting needs/spacing may require changes in the actual wording of the instructions. Therefore, EPC’s recommendation is that CTL (who is responsible for generating the actual form) be given leeway to edit the instruction as they see fit. Thus, we say: “The precise wording of the instruction can be edited for formatting/spacing purposes, but it must convey the above substance.”

  2. Course organized: Per Faculty Council request, we are adding one item that asks, "The course was well organized." This actually retains an item we deleted because we had concerns about overall form length. Representatives of CTL have reported that the addition of this item should not impair their ability to represent information on one page or produce response fatigue in students.

  3. Student feels he/she learned: Per Council request, we have added one item: "Overall, I learned a great deal in this course." This will be the last item in Section 1 and replaces an alternative item we proposed about whether the student felt the instructor was interested in student learning.

  4. “About right” for middle category on workload: Unlike other items, for the workload question in Section 2, the two endpoints are both “bad” (workload is excessive or insufficient at each end), whereas the middle category is the positive rating. In the current version, this item has the wrong word in it - "Average" – and EPC previously proposed fixing it. Consistent with all survey designs that have two negatively-valenced endpoints, we opted for “About right” as the positive/middle category. This structure is commonly used in survey design (e.g., when interviewers ask something akin to: “Would you say Too much/too little/or about right?”). The strengths of “About right” are that it is commonly used, clearly complimentary in valence, but allows for slight deviations from ideal (e.g., it doesn’t say “Perfect”). Although a faculty council member critiqued this response category as potentially colloquial (and perhaps hard to decode for students who are non-native speakers), EPC continues to recommend it because, compared to other alternatives (which we researched), it is the clearest in meaning.1 We prefer a response that is most commonly used when questions take this form.

The structure of the proposed Basic Form appears on the next page.


Final Version of the Basic Course Evaluation Form As recommended by the Educational Policy Committee, March 31, 2014

To revise the Basic Form to meet new UT System mandates, we recommend the following structure to the first section of the form (note: questions 1 – 5, including the response categories, are mandated and cannot be altered):

 

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly Agree

  1. The instructor clearly defined and explained the course objectives and expectations.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The instructor was prepared for each instructional activity.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The instructor communicated information effectively.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The instructor encouraged me to take an active role in my own learning.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The instructor was available to students either electronically or in person.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The course was well organized.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The instructor made me feel free to ask questions, disagree, and express my ideas

1

2

3

4

5

  1. The course materials (e.g., text and supplemental materials) were helpful to me.

1

2

3

4

5

  1. Overall, I learned a great deal in this course.

1

2

3

4

5



We propose that the second section will read:
  1. Overall, this instructor was

Very unsatisfactory

Unsatisfactory

Satisfactory

Very Good

Excellent

  1. Overall, this course was

Very unsatisfactory

Unsatisfactory

Satisfactory

Very Good

Excellent

  1. In my opinion, the workload in this course was

Excessive

Somewhat high

About right

Somewhat light

Insufficient

  1. My overall GPA to date at UT is

Less than 2.00

2.00 – 2.49

2.50 – 2.99

3.00 – 3.49

3.50 – 4.00

  1. My probable grade in this course is

A

B

C

D

F



In addition to the above items, EPC requests that CTL add in the following instruction to the form: “Note: In the scales below, ‘Neutral’ means ‘no strong opinion one way or another,’ not ‘Not applicable/cannot rate.’”

TL can edit the precise wording for formatting/spacing purposes; but it must convey the above substance.


1 Some suggestions have been “sufficient,” “appropriate,” and “satisfactory.” The first one is limited because, in addition to gauging a student’s feeling on the level of the workload, some may also ask, “sufficient for what?” which adds measurement error. The other two raise concerns about alternative meanings (“appropriate” can mean “not offensive”; “satisfactory” can sound like a less-than-ringing endorsement because it can be construed to mean "so-so"). -