The survey tool students have been using to critique professors since Florida Gulf Coast University was established in 1997 is finally getting an upgrade. The Student Assessment of Instruction will soon be replaced with a new document that will include open-ended questions and eliminate questions that don’t give professors helpful information.
Professor Linda Serro and a team of eight professors began working to replace the SAI in fall 2013, after professors on the Faculty Affairs Team of Faculty Senate began to discuss whether it was actually helping them learn about and improve their teaching.
“We wanted something that would give us better information about the learning environment,” Serro said. “We are a teaching institution. In order for us to improve we need this feedback.”
After researching similar assessment tools used by universities across the country, getting feedback from faculty at town hall meetings and piloting the new assessment in several classes in spring 2014, Serro said that the new “Student Perception of Instruction” will be ready for use in spring 2015.
While the current SAI involves a scale system where students can agree or disagree with statements such as “the instructor is prepared” and “I will recommend this instructor,” along with one section for comments, SPoI will contain a combination open-ended and scale questions and a comment box to provide additional information.
Instead of having students rank how prepared the instructor was for class, the instrument will ask questions such as “Which assignments (paper, project, homework, things you turned in, etc.) supported your learning most and which were most troublesome?” and “To what extent did the textbook help your learning?”
Serro said she is excited for this new survey.
“We’re going to get much richer information,” Serro said.
Administration members such as Provost Ron Toll believe that this change is overdue.
“This new instrument will be a significant improvement over the current one,” Toll said. Before coming to FGCU, Toll worked at four other institutions and saw eight different SAIs. “It’s not unusual that universities change these instruments over time.”
This year, as a university with more than 14,000 students, FGCU is using essentially the same SAI tool that it used when it was a new university in 1997 with 2,500 students.
Students such as junior marketing major Christina Garcia, are ready for the new assessment.
“The one now is definitely not very helpful,” Garcia said. “The professor’s teaching the class, so I assume they are prepared. But did I use my textbook? Maybe not. But you don’t really find that out with the assessment we have now.”
Serro would like to encourage all students to fill out the SAI on Gulfline at the end of this semester, and look for the SPOI next semester.
“I know it’s the end of the semester, and all you want to do is get out of class, but it is so important to fill this out. Your feedback will benefit students who take the course after you. The purpose of SAI and then SPoI is to help improve teaching at FGCU,” Serro said.