Advisory Committee Resolutions and Recommendations

Resolutions

Resolution for Replacement of Item III.F. of the Faculty Handbook on Teaching Assessment and Improvement

Faculty Senate Adoption:  First Read Feb. 2, 2016, Second Read April 5, 2016

Whereas, The UB Course Evaluations Advisory Committee reaffirms the University at Buffalo’s recognition of the importance of quality teaching to the university’s overall mission; and

Whereas, In the Fall of 2014 UB introduced a new campus-wide course evaluation system; and

Whereas, the UB Faculty Senate approved the use of this new evaluation system;

Resolved, That the statement below replace Item III.F. of the Faculty Handbook on Teaching Assessment and Improvement.

  1. Each department or school should assume a central role in teaching evaluation. Teaching should be judged by evidence from multiple sources such as peer evaluation, learning outcomes assessment, sample student work and support letters, teaching portfolios and teaching evaluation by students. Teaching evaluation by students, including the quantitative results of student evaluations, should be an integral part of the evaluation of faculty for reappointment, promotion and tenure.
  2. The quantitative results of student evaluation of core items from both the university-wide course evaluation system and unit course evaluation (prior to fall 2014) should be included in tenure dossiers and presented in a standardized summary or tabular form, with an analysis of the summary as part of the Chair’s or Dean’s letter. Averaged results, based on data from the department or school, should be presented as a basis for comparing the candidate’s individual teaching effectiveness with other faculty in the department or school.
  3. Interpretation of quantitative results of student evaluation at all levels should take the size of the course and the response rate into consideration.  Because representativeness of a sample of student responses depends on the size of course enrollment, degree of error tolerance, and level of statistical confidence, a guideline should be in place at the department or school to define the required response rates by class size commensurate with the purpose of evaluation.
  4. All courses with an enrollment of 5 or more students should be evaluated using the university-wide course evaluation.  Department Chairs/deans and faculty should make efforts to encourage students to complete the course evaluation. Course syllabi should include a statement that reminds students of their responsibility to participate in the course evaluation process in order to support the continuous improvement of UB courses. Faculty should remind students of this responsibility when the course evaluation period begins.
  5. Department Chairs or deans should ensure review (at least annually) of the results of student evaluations for each faculty member in order to provide faculty with the opportunity and mentorship to improve their teaching.
  6. The University at Buffalo has ownership of data from the student evaluations of courses. The university may release quantitative evaluation results of core items for the courses that exceed the set minimum response rates to students with password protected access.

Course Evaluation Items

Beginning in the summer 2015 administration, the overall course and overall instructor items will be reworded for clarity and to correspond more closely to the PICES item set.

The former item 6, “Overall, this was an excellent course” will become item 1 in the following format:

1. Overall, this course was:

  • Very Poor
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
  • Excellent

The former item 15, “Overall, this was an excellent instructor” will become item 11 in the following format:

11.  Overall, this instructor was:

  • Very Poor
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
  • Excellent

Beginning in the spring 2015 administration, the core course and instructor items will revert to a five-point scale:

  • 1 = strongly disagree
  • 2 = disagree
  • 3 = neutral
  • 4 = agree
  • 5 = strongly agree

The instructor items will also include a not applicable option. 

Beginning in the spring 2015 administration, existing item 7 regarding reasons for enrolling in the course will become two separate questions:

For what primary reason did you enroll in this course?

  • Required
  • Elective
  • Other

If they respond “Required,” they will see a follow-up question:

This course is required for:

  • Undergraduate Major
  • General Education
  • Graduate Program
  • Other Educational Program (e.g., Honors, Undergraduate Academies, Certificate, etc.)

Administrative Dates

During fall and spring semesters the evaluation administration period will last three weeks (i.e. weeks 13, 14 and 15) and include stipulated reading days; administration will end just prior to the start of the final exam period to avoid any real or perceived skewing effect of finals on student evaluations.

Summer session administrations will last for a period of two weeks, ending prior to the last few days of the session to avoid overlap with days when final exams are given. The winter session administration will last one week, beginning half-way through the second week of the session and ending prior to the last two days of the session.

Any units that need to extend course evaluations through the final exam and/or grading period for accreditation purposes may petition to extend the administration dates by sending a request to ubce@buffalo.edu. The UBCE Advisory Committee must approve these requests before any adjustments to evaluation periods can be made.

Recommendations

Course Evaluation Items

Custom questions should be kept to a minimum and should not replicate existing core questions. As the number of items increase, students are more likely to drop out of the evaluation or simply respond with the same rating for every item. In addition, if they feel evaluations are too burdensome, they may not participate at all in subsequent terms.

Incentivizing and Encouraging Course Evaluation Completion

  • Identifying individual students who have completed evaluations for the purpose of awarding extra credit is not permitted. Completion rosters will not be provided to instructors. However, extra credit may be awarded to an entire class for collectively achieving a pre-determined response rate. The amount of extra credit awarded should be modest to avoid any skewing effect on the evaluations. Since research shows that prizes are not effective in incentivizing students, these should not be considered.
  • Instructors should personally remind students once a week in class during the administration period. Chairs and deans should also send personalized, not boilerplate, electronic reminders to their own majors twice during the administration period—an initial message at the beginning and a final reminder at the end. All electronic reminders, both from central administration and from departments, sould be kept as short and as simple as possible to avoid “reminder fatigue” that might alienate students from the process.

Course Evaluation Administration

Given its positive effect on response rates, the subcommittee recommends conducting evaluations in class whenever this is possible. For many smaller classes (50 or fewer students), issues of bandwidth typically do not prevent an entire class from using Wi-Fi to complete their evaluations during class. For larger classes, where bandwidth is a problem, it is recommended that recitation sections—typically 15-30 students—be used whenever possible for in-class evaluations of both the large class and the recitation.