For the past six or seven years Fairfield University has been evaluating the teacher evaluation form that students have been filling out at the end of each semester.

Usually administered on the last day of class, these anonymous forms ask several broad multiple-choice questions.  There has also been a follow up yellow-form, which allows for open-ended comments.

This semester, Fairfield has decided to implement the new teacher evaluation forms that it has spent all of these years developing.

The new, improved form is called, “Individual Development and Educational Assessment,” or simply, I.D.E.A. Students may have already previewed the form already as it was featured at the CORE unmasked event at the end of October.

Students may also recognize some features of the new form because for the past few semesters, faculty and students have been involved in pilots of this form which asks questions in a number of areas that had previously been unaddressed.

The creators are hoping that the new form that consists of approximately 48 multiple-choice questions that will take about 20 minutes to complete, will offer a much stronger analysis of various elements of the course.

Dr. Angela Kim Harkins of the Religious Studies Department is also chairing the Faculty Development and Evaluation Committee, a group that has been involved with the implementation of the I.D.E.A. form.

Dr. Harkins hopes that students will “take the time to think and answer honestly” because these forms are extremely important to professors.

“Professors care a great deal about teaching at Fairfield and are constantly seeking ways to improve teaching,” she said.  The I.D.E.A. form offers faculty great deal of data about student learning and also offers special resources on how faculty can make improvements to their teaching, like the “I.D.E.A. Papers;” targeted tutorials that suggest strategies and methods for faculty to improve various elements of their teaching. End of course evaluations are also very important because they figure into decisions about promotions and raises. Because of these reasons, students should take the forms seriously and offer thoughtful responses.

The first twenty questions involve descriptive analysis of the teaching techniques and behaviors used by the professor.  Questions 21-32 ask students to evaluate their own learning in the course. These questions ask students to think about how much they learned content-wise or skill-wise.

The questions give professors a great deal of data about the students’ experiences of learning.  Some questions will be more relevant than others, because different courses in the core curriculum are focused on teaching students different things. Some courses teach skills (how to write) and other students teach content (terminology, facts).

For example, a composition course in the English department focuses on analytical skills, while a History course may also teach analytical skills but have a greater focus on the mastery of content.

As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield’s core curriculum distinguishes it from other types of universities. Its focus is to offer a broad-based education and to encourage students to be well rounded in what students know and how they think.

The questions on the new form give professors information about their teaching by asking students to reflect upon their learning and to report how much they have learned. Reflection is an important aspect of Jesuit education and so helps the university to move toward its goal of education.

Other parts of the new evaluation form (questions 33-35) ask students to compare the present course to other courses offered at the University.  Questions 36-47 ask students to assess their own motivation and personal effort in the course

New F.U.S.A. questions have been formulated for the new I.D.E.A. form and will correspond to nos. 48-52 on the evaluation form and these results will be published for student use.  Just like the old forms, professors have the right to opt out of having these results published.

For the next two years, students can expect to keep seeing the open-ended yellow forms.  Here students will still be able to express their opinions on the course. One new feature of the I.D.E.A. form is its online capability. About 45 courses this semester will have their evaluation forms done exclusively online. Whether completed online or otherwise, Computer Networking Services will be handling the data collection for analysis.

How students on the whole will react to this form is impossible to determine.  While the pilot was a success, this year students and faculty alike will be getting used to a new form.  F.U.S.A. Senator John Moore’12, who is in charge of registration issues on the senate, feels that the change in format will not be an issue.

“In class, students will take it as they’ve always taken it and not look at it any differently. Developers would like to remind students that this is your chance to have your voice heard and to make Fairfield University’s education better than ever.

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