Course rating system tested for midterm


Jay Kahl

Starting last fall, the Academic Affairs Office began testing a new way for Augustana students to evaluate their teachers and classes.

Student Ratings of Instruction, also referred to as SRIs, are the forms students fill out at the end of the semester to review their classes. According to Jay Kahl, assistant vice provost for assessment and academic excellence and a key figure behind Augustana’s SRIs, the current edition has not been revised in years.

As a result, a new SRI called Form B was introduced last semester. It is shorter and more qualitative than the standard SRI, Form A. While students fill out Form A at the end of the semester, Form B is administered after midterms.

Kahl said the new form “signifies the move for Augie to be an institution that is focused on continuous improvement.”

According to Kahl, Form B gathers formative data that allows professors to make adjustments to the learning environment of their classes as the semester goes on. Professors know what changes to make through questions that focus on students’ overall experience in class.

Form B’s focus on the student experience is fairly different from Form A, which gathers more cumulative data. This cumulative data looks back on classes and the teaching style of professors, while the formative, qualitative data of Form B looks forward.

Despite it being only recently introduced, the benefits of Form B have already been seen in classes.

During the fall semester, junior Holden Sutter was enrolled in Newspaper Writing: Critical/Editorial, a class that utilized Form B. In a class heavily based on writing and peer review, Holden said he and his classmates collectively made suggestions regarding how group work should be handled. Their professor, Jeffrey Miller, took that feedback into account and tweaked the class following midterms.

Sutter said that Form B would be beneficial to other classes, as it allows students to give personalized suggestions.

Although it has already been utilized in a positive way, Form B, as well as SRIs in general, have the potential for problems. For example, religion professor Ann Pederson worries about biases making their way into instruction reviews.

“Sexism and racism . . . can shape the results of SRIs,” Pederson wrote in an email.

Despite the possible downfalls, Pederson still recognizes the usefulness of SRIs and Form B.

“Students often recognize things that I don’t, and vice versa,” she wrote.

In light of potential problems, Dr. Kahl has welcomed suggestions to Form B, which will be reviewed and possibly implemented as the new SRI continues its launch.

According to Kahl, the introduction of Form B has gone well. If this success continues, he said Form B could replace Form A as the standard SRI for Augustana, possibly as soon as next fall.

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