February 19, 2020

Revised student evaluation program sees increased engagement

A new approach to Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) at Wayne State has led to greater participation, helping more students have their opinions heard and providing valuable feedback to instructors.

In fall 2019, the university’s Testing, Evaluation and Research Services office partnered with a new platform for SET — Blue, from Explorance Inc. — to evaluate, analyze and improve the student learning experience. This new platform enabled the end-of-semester SET survey to be administered online via Canvas for the first time. The average student response rate was 75%, and 90% of courses had at least a 50% response rate. This engagement marks a significant increase, up 5% over paper-administered surveys and up 34% over Qualtrics-administered surveys from previous years. 

“Student success and faculty success are connected and, in many ways, dependent on one another,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield. “This innovation in the SET process serves both in an accessible and efficient way, and we’re optimistic that gathering more valuable student feedback will enable us to continue improving teaching and learning on campus.”

While the presentation and format of the SET questionnaire has changed, the questions have not. Students are asked about course material organization, instructor preparation, communication, enthusiasm, and overall workload and grading.

“This improvement is part of a trend as evaluations continue to move from pen and paper to digital platforms,” said Laura Woodward, director of testing and assessment. “We believe that the students’ familiarity and trust in Canvas has helped us better connect with them to gather their valuable input.”

The flexibility of the new system will support some of the improvements under consideration by the 2N SET Committee, which is composed of faculty and administration dedicated to improvements in evaluation and teaching.

Placing the SET survey in Canvas allowed Wayne State to remind students throughout the final week of the semester to complete the survey. Doing so has increased the reliability of results, according to Woodward.

“Around 10,000 students participated, and the ability to gather more feedback enables us to get a clearer picture of teaching and learning from a students’ perspective,” she said. “While it’s not 100% participation, we’re optimistic that this increased response is more accurately representative of the student experience.”

The digitized SET process has also allowed for instructors to receive feedback faster. While the numeric scores are sent to the instructor; their respective department chairs; and the Department of Testing, Evaluation and Research Services’ Evaluation Search tool, written responses are only shared with the instructor. While it is more convenient for instructors to use Canvas for the updated SET process, it is not required because students still receive the evaluation via email.

“Early feedback indicates that the new process has improved evaluation for both students and instructors,” Woodward said. “SET is only one part of the overall evaluation process, but it plays a critical role in helping to understand if students are learning, and what they need to be successful in class.”   

The shift in process is part of Wayne State’s broader focus on innovation in teaching and learning, which includes a variety of free workshops and resources centralized in the Office for Teaching & Learning (OTL), including the professional development opportunities, course design and development support,  the new One Button Studio, and more.  

“The OTL exists to help improve classroom outcomes, and our hope is that a new, digitized SET process will equip and empower faculty with additional feedback,” said Sara Kacin, OTL director. “Additional feedback creates further opportunities for growth and future innovation.”  

To learn more about SET, visit testing.wayne.edu/evaluation or contact set@wayne.edu or 313-577-2777.