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Students audit classes to give professors feedback
Program helps professors make changes early in the semester.
Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 9-30-2012
MANKATO — A social work instructor at Minnesota State University, Mankato had a hunch that her students weren’t quite clear on class expectations, including assignment guidelines.
So she called Students Consulting on Teaching and Matthew Lindquist was assigned to the case.
“She wanted to know how she could be more effective and clear in what she required out of assignments,” Lindquist said. “She wanted to be more clear about due dates and what the students saw in her class.”
Housed in the Center for Excellence in Learning, SCOT connects students with professors to offer feedback. Five students are involved in the program this year. Typically, a professor from any department or college across campus will call and request that a student sit in on a class one day and survey his or her students at the end.
One of the five SCOT students will audit a class and make observations. Fifteen minutes or so before class ends, the professor will leave the room and the SCOT student will hand out an anonymous survey with open- ended questions, such as: What do you like about the class? What don’t you like? What would you change?
The idea is to give the professor feedback early in the semester so he or she can make changes.
Evaluations at the end of the semester don’t give the professor time to make those changes in time, said graduate assistant Brett Biebel, who is the liaison for the program this year.
Lindquist, a junior finance major, said his experience last year with the social work class allowed the professor to better communicate assignments.
“When I talked to (the students) before the survey, they all ended up asking about the one thing she was concerned about,” he said.
“Clarity was a little bit of a factor.”
Lindquist said he wanted to be involved again this year because he believes in the program as a helpful tool for teachers. Biebel said SCOT is not evaluative, but informative.
“We just want to make sure we offer something where faculty can get feedback that comes from the students in a way that is sort of productive and helpful,” Biebel said.
The program was developed by Stewart Ross, former director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. He modeled SCOT after similar programs at other universities, Biebel said.
Biebel said the students involved in SCOT are usually juniors and seniors. They look for “motivated, hardworking undergrads who are a little more advanced in their career,” Biebel said.
After professors show interest in having a SCOT student come to their class, they do a brief consultation with one of the students to explain the feedback they are seeking. Then they set up a time and day for the student visit.
“The goal is to get the students talking to a fellow student,” Biebel said.
After the surveys have been conducted and the professor receives the feedback, the professor fills out a form explaining how the consultation went for them.
“Usually, the response is really positive,” Biebel said.
“They really like getting that student feedback, and they really like that it can happen at any time during the semester.”
Moriah Miles, a senior international relations major, is a SCOT student for the second year, too. She performed three consultations last year with large classes of more than 60 students. Gathering that much information was a challenge, she said, but she was happy to help professors gain insight into their students’ perspectives.
One professor was particularly interested in what students had to say, she said.
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