09 May UND’s new SELFI initiative a product of University Senate with input from Student Government
Kara Kohns has a vivid memory of the first day of one class this spring, when a professor told the class how she was going to change her teaching style.
“She said, ‘this is what my student evaluations said, and this is what I’m going to do to improve your education compared to last semester,’” said Kohns, a senior who will graduate this month with a human resources management major from Plymouth, Minn.
That’s why the SELFI (Student Evaluation of Learning & Feedback for Instructors) is so important, said Kohns. “That professor talked about last semester’s reviews and what she was doing to improve her teaching. That matters to me.”
Starting this week, SELFI scores will be available to students, faculty and staff through a dashboard that will allow users to view data for classes, instructors and departments. It will also include class enrollment and the number of students who responded to the survey. The dashboard is available here.
The initiative is a project of the University Senate with input from UND Student Government.
Kohns, who serves on Student Government as director of internal affairs, said her interest in student evaluations of faculty teaching traces back to her father.
“My dad was in student government 40 years ago at Moorhead State, and they advocated to have evaluations of faculty,” Kohns said. “There is so much value in having this access, and to see the value of continuous engagement and feedback.”
Taking it seriously
“We faculty take teaching seriously,” said Paul Todhunter, chair of University Senate and professor of geography in the UND College of Arts & Sciences. “And we also take the SELFI seriously. Students may not understand how much faculty appreciate constructive comments. Those comments are a way to help faculty improve teaching.”
Starting this summer session, most courses will be included in the SELFI dashboard. Department chairs and deans will be provided with the information, and the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA) will offer services to help faculty interpret SELFI data and use it to improve their teaching effectiveness.
Todhunter said that today’s students have different learning styles, and that the SELFI feedback will help faculty better understand those learning styles and be better teachers. The key is constructive comments.
“When I properly introduce the survey to students, I let them know that faculty use them,” Todhunter said. “The comments section is the most helpful. It takes effort on the student’s part to tell us what helps their learning, what areas of the course to keep or expand, and what parts of the class did or did not work. If you get enough comments, you can make changes to the course to better fit students and their learning.”
“I’m ecstatic to see the finish line on this project,” said Erik Hanson, former student body president. “The transparency of reviews will improve the performance of faculty and improve learning outcomes. Everyone we worked with was focused on how to do the right thing for students.”