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Taking stock of teaching

Pilot survey reviews how students evaluate their instructors.

Students attending class in an auditorium.
The Queen's Survey of Student Experience of Teaching pilot project has completed its first phase. (Photo by Garrett Elliot)

Last fall, students from 53 Queen’s University courses participated in a new survey as part of a pilot project designed to help improve existing teaching assessment methods. The pilot, tentatively called the Queen’s Survey of Student Experience of Teaching (QSSET), will proceed to its next phase when meetings with members of the campus community are assembled to examine the survey process and the effectiveness of the questions.

“We’re very excited about our preliminary findings and look forward to sharing these initial observations with the Queen’s community,” says Denise Stockley, QSSET pilot lead, and Professor and Scholar in Higher Education with the Office of the Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “As the pilot project continues to progress, we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of students’ perspectives on teaching and tools that can be used to determine these perspectives.”

Members of the Teaching Assessment Implementation Committee (TAIC) engaged in the development of the QSSET are currently in follow-up discussions with respondents and participating faculty following the survey, and will now invite the Queen’s community to learn about the pilot’s first-phase data in a series of upcoming meetings. Two in-person meetings are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 and Wednesday, Feb. 13, and an online meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 14. Those interested in attending a session are asked to register in advance.

“This is an exciting opportunity to renew an important process and I’m pleased to see that the first phase of the QSSET pilot has been a success,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning).

The Joint Committee to Administer the Agreement (JCAA), a group comprised of representatives of the Queen’s University Faculty Association and the university administration, convened the TAIC with a mandate to review the existing University Student Assessment of Teaching (USAT) survey. The USAT has been used to assess student satisfaction of teaching since the early 2000s, and TAIC was asked to review the current survey and propose potential revisions to improve the effectiveness of the tool.

Undergraduate and graduate students across all faculties completed the pilot survey, including those in a variety of lecture, lab, tutorial, and seminar courses. Uniquely, the QSSET pilot survey also surveyed online- and blended-learning courses; courses the USAT survey and its predecessors have not traditionally evaluated. Questions were divided into four categories to collect information on a student’s experience, the instructor, the course, and course infrastructure.

“The work of the TAIC group has been rigorous and has led to fruitful discussions with our pilot participants about teaching and learning at Queen’s,” says John Pierce, TAIC Co-Chair. “We’re looking forward to engaging with the wider campus community as we continue to examine the survey feedback, and to providing our full recommendations on how best to evolve teaching assessment surveys.”

The TAIC will present a report and recommendations to the JCAA for its consideration by late March.