Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

The Impact of a Learner-Centered, Mid-Semester Course Evaluation on Students

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

The Impact of a Learner-Centered, Mid-Semester Course Evaluation on Students

Article excerpt

This study explored the impact of a learner-centered, mid-semester course evaluation process called the small group instructional diagnosis (SGID) on student perceptions of dimensions of teaching that promote effective learning. Classes where instructors requested the SGID were randomly assigned to either traditional or learner-centered SGIDs and then students from these classes were surveyed at the end of the semester. Results reveal that the SGID process, independent of format, favorably affects student perception of the overall learning environment. However, the learner-centered SGID had a significantly higher impact on student perceptions of select dimensions of teaching including understanding of course assignments and tests, interactions with classmates, course preparation, motivation to excel, and enthusiasm. Moreover, students in the learner-centered group were significantly more likely to report positive changes in their own behaviors following the SGID.

Incorporating opportunities for students to provide mid-semester course evaluations allows instructors to collect formative feedback from students, which can provide valuable insights regarding the impact and efficacy of course components on student learning. Administering traditional paper or on-line surveys to collect student feedback provides some useful information about the learning environment but lacks the opportunity for rich, informed dialogue with students. Thus, it is no surprise that one of the staple programs offered by most centers for teaching and learning is the interactive, mid-semester course evaluation process termed the small group instructional diagnosis (SGID). Three characteristics distinguish the SGID from other strategies used to collect student feedback on the learning environment (Abbott, Wulff, Nyquist, Ropp, & Hess, 1990). First, the SGID occurs during the middle of the semester, which allows the process to be formative rather than summative. Second, a consultant facilitates a guided, group discussion with the students, focusing the feedback session on issues pertaining to learning or other aspects of the course. Finally, the SGID gives the instructor the opportunity to provide an extended, thoughtful reaction to the current students in response to their feedback.

Generally, the SGID process involves a consultant meeting with the class without the instructor present to engage students in a dialogue about what is helping and hindering their learning, and suggestions they have for improving their learning in the course (Redmond, 1982). The students discuss answers to these questions in small groups, write their responses on the board, and then the SGID consultant facilitates a discussion with the entire class about their collective responses. Under the guidance of the SGID consultant, the large group discussion remains focused on issues related to the course. After the SGID, the consultant meets with the instructor to discuss the results and explore ways that the feedback can be used to improve the course. Rather than assembling a collection of statistical scores or vague written comments, the SGID engages the students in a guided dialogue about the course, providing the instructor with rich written and verbal feedback contextualized by the SGID consultant. In turn, the instructor can use this information to close the feedback loop by promoting a constructive dialogue with the students, addressing their concerns.

Faculty and students report a high level of satisfaction with mid-semester evaluation opportunities like the SGID (Abbott et al., 1990; Finelli et al., 2010; Heppner & Johnston, 1994). Faculty and students also report that the SGID process is more useful than other feedback strategies and often results in meaningful changes to the course (Clark & Redmond, 1982; Craig, 2007; Coffmann, 1991). Diamond (2004) reports that faculty who participated in SGIDs made changes including amending course grading policies, adapting new pedagogies, clarifying course expectations to students, and adjusting the focus of course content during the current semester and in future semesters. …

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