Giving constructive feedback is never easy. One program taking on the challenge to deliver professors the feedback they need to succeed is the Students Consulting on Teaching program.
Requests for feedback have increased this fall with 48 professors seeking out SCOT services compared to a total of 39 over the course of spring semester, said Melissa Cossey, SCOT Coordinator.
“As far as our services go, we have completed assignments with 11 professors, have 35 working assignments and 2 requests waiting to be filled,” Cossey said.
The SCOT feedback process, which was duplicated from a similar one at Brigham Young University in 2008, begins when a professor submits a voluntary, online request for feedback.
Cossey said after receiving a request, one of 14 student consultants is assigned to meet with the professor to determine what concerns they see within the classroom.
“Based on what the professor’s goals are with using the program, we can do one or multiple services for the professor,” Cossey said. “Multiple observations can be given to see trends over time, or to see if the class we are looking at one day is the same as the next.”
Communication professor Stephen Whyte, who began using the SCOT program in fall 2009, said that aside from feedback from colleagues and Student Rating of Instruction surveys, the program offers an important observation point.
“The constructive feedback from the SCOTs has been very helpful for four reasons: As a trained student consultant, a SCOT looks at me and my class through the eyes of a student, a SCOT provides an impartial outside perspective, a SCOT’s work is confidential and the SCOT’s only purpose is to help me improve my teaching,” Whyte said.
Services provided include class focus groups, classroom observations, class filming and syllabi review. A feedback report is drawn up for the professor, outlining suggestions for his or her teaching methods.
Annette Harrington, a former SCOT and current office assistant with the program, worked with a professor who wanted to try new teaching methods in his live interactive classroom sites last spring.
“I ran into that same professor over the summer at one of our conferences we were having and they actually stood up in front of forty people and gave me credit for the fact that they won some type of award — it was for being an outstanding teacher kind-of thing,” Harrington said. “That’s actually one of the professors that has told me I need to come back and do more services with him this semester.”
Eighty percent of faculty who have used SCOT program services said they were very satisfied with their experience, according to a survey by the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence, which funds the program.
Since the faculty feedback program was implemented, it has become more suggestion-based, stemming from professor demand for more detailed feedback.
Professors aren’t only looking to improve themselves, but the level of education students are receiving, as well, according to Harrington.
“I think the biggest concern professors have is they want their students to care,” Harrington said. “This job has been really interesting for me to see that professors are people, too. It’s not just them standing at the front of a classroom, they genuinely want us to succeed and be excited about the material just as much as they are.”
New student consultant training takes about four hours, though learning how to provide feedback to professors is an ongoing progress, Cossey said.
“Throughout the semester, [students] are continually getting training,” Cossey said. “Each professor is different. Each classroom is different. Every group of students is different, and so it really is this process of, ‘How can I use the tools that I’m aware of in this classroom?’ or, ‘Do I need to start to branch out to find other tools?’”
Student consultants utilize books on learning theories and pedagogy and use one another as resources when developing suggestions.
In an effort to begin developing a program of their own, representatives from Teikyo University in Japan visited UVU and BYU to research both programs earlier this year.
Eight student-to-faculty feedback programs exist in colleges across the U.S.