Spring Student Evaluations of Teaching Can Provide Insight Into Assessment

Student evaluation of teaching for the Spring 2017 semester are in.  Often at the close of the day, I will have a nice glass of wine before reading mine because the comments can be very polarizing.  Comments like, “She is the best professor ever,” and “Why did Syracuse ever hire her?” can be found for the same course.  However, once you get past those types of comments, many of the student evaluations of our teaching can offer some assessment insight into how we delivering course content.  

Take a moment to look for themes between the courses you teach.  With the assessment committee, your department chair, dean or director, see if there were any commonalities regarding course delivery, difficulty of the course, the content uniqueness, etc.

Once you have analyzed the information and looked for themes between the sections you and others teach or between the courses you teach, think about and discuss strategies you should repeat because they seem to work or consider new strategies to deliver the content.  Consider if there is too much repetition or not enough overlapping content so that the courses seem disconnected when they should be sequential.  Write down what you found, what the findings mean and how you use the evaluations to improve teaching and when you might make certain changes.

In fact, you, your department, school or college might even decide to add in questions regarding learning outcomes for the course, the program or the proposed Syracuse 4+4 to understand from an indirect measurement perspective how the unit is preforming from a student perspective.  Then, you would have another indirect measure of student learning. 

Then by presenting the data, analyzing the findings, considering how to make improvements and creating a plan to implement and re-evaluate those adjustments, you have closed the loop on assessment.  That simple – even with those helpful and somewhat irritating student evaluations can be a helpful tool in assessing student learning.

The Middle States accreditation review will look closely on how we as an institution think about assessment as students, faculty, staff and administrators.  It is not difficult and it is beneficial to improving the student experience both in the classroom and outside of the classroom too. 

Gives us your feedback on how Syracuse is doing assessing the instruction and student experience by reading the Draft of Syracuse University Middle States Self Study, especially chapter four sections three and four related to instruction and the student experience.

Assessment matters, to learn more visit assessment.syr.edu.

 By Rochelle Ford

Summer Reading

Graduation is past, Maymester has begun, and for some, summer vacation has started.  Often, we think of this summer break as an opportunity to catch up on reading, research, family time, or sleep—or maybe all of the above. Well, taking a few hours this summer to review the Syracuse University Middle States Self-Study might help with all of the above too.

Reading—We need faculty, students, and staff to read the draft of the Middle States Self-Study.  This document, divided into five chapters, provides insight into how the study was done, what we found, and recommendations for items we want Middle States to hold us accountable for improving.

Research—After you read portions or all of the Self-Study Draft, we have a brief survey for you to complete to give us your feedback on what you have read.  We want to know what areas you found confusing or need more support or are missing that would help illustrate our compliance on the standards Middle States sets forth.

Family-time—Syracuse University is a family. As the Chancellor has said repeatedly and as is part of our Academic Strategic Plan, we are One University.  Therefore, we need all parts of our University family to engage with this draft and give us feedback.

Sleep—Okay, I am just being honest: This may not be the most exciting, electrifying read, but if you need help sleeping, you can attempt to read all 100+ pages in one setting and, well, that might make most tired.  So, if you are like me, you read it in parts and offer feedback as you go along.  (Or cuddle up alongside your laptop or tablet and read until you fall asleep—NOT advisable in terms of recalling information to give feedback.)

So, help your Syracuse University family out by reading the self-study draft, completing the feedback survey, and getting some rest during these spring and summer days.


By Rochelle L. Ford, tri-chair, Steering Committee


Middle States Draft Report is Ready for Your Review

Blog: Middle States Draft Report is Ready for Your Review

April 18 kicked off the University community review phase of the preliminary self-study report. We have shared it with the University Senate, with the members of the eight working teams, the reaccreditation steering committee, the provost and the Chancellor.  Now we need your feedback.

The full draft self-study has been posted for reading and review on a dedicated website http://selfstudy.syr.edu/ and an online mechanism has been set up for members of the campus community to give us feedback, comments, or questions on any portion of the draft report.

The preliminary report will remain posted through September, at which time we will make any necessary edits or revisions based on the feedback received. The final report will be submitted to Middle States by December 22.

The final report will be used as the basis for a campus visit by a team of reviewers from peer universities next spring. They will be visiting campus and talking with students, faculty, and staff to determine if what we wrote in our self-study report is an accurate reflection of what they see and hear during their visit.

We want to hear from you if the preliminary report is an accurate reflection of what you see and hear at Syracuse University.

Additionally, the tri-chairs would like to thank the individuals who chaired the eight working teams and everyone who served on those teams. Thank you for your time, your energy, your good humor, and your patience with this process and with those of us leading it.

Finally, we would like to thank all of the attendees and the volunteers and planning team that helped with the Middle States Feedback Kick-off Forum held on April 18.  A special shout out goes to:

  • Katie Rupert, assistant to the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Melissa Lowry, in the Office of Institutional Assessment and Effectiveness
  • Ellen King and the Special Events team
  • University Communications
  • Jerry Edmonds, assistant provost in the Office of Institutional Assessment and Effectiveness
  • Gabe Coleman, project manager
  • Carol Boll, Public Affairs

The reaccreditation process is very time consuming and complex, and it requires the commitment of many people.

If you have any questions about the reaccreditation process, visit middlestates.syr.edu for more information.

Video: The Middle States Steering Committee Kicks Off Feedback Phase

Video: The Middle States Steering Committee Kicks Off Feedback Phase

Middle States Steering Committee Kicks Off Feedback Phase from Syracuse University News on Vimeo.

Syracuse University’s Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee hosted a campuswide self-study feedback kickoff event on Tuesday, April 18, in the Schine Center’s Goldstein Auditorium. Two identical sessions were held to update the campus community about the process of securing reaccreditation from the Middle State Commission on Higher Education and to invite feedback on the preliminary draft self-study report.

Middle States Steering Committee Kicks Off Feedback Phase

Syracuse University’s Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee will host a campuswide self-study feedback kickoff event on Tuesday, April 18, in the Schine Center’s Goldstein Auditorium. Two identical sessions are scheduled—11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.—to update the campus community about the process of securing reaccreditation from the Middle State Commission on Higher Education and to invite feedback on the preliminary draft self-study report. Read more about it at SU News.

Senate, start your engines: Middle States Self-Study Feedback Needed

This week began with a bang signaling the start of the official Middle States self-study review by the University Senate.

Monday, the tri-chairs of the Middle States Steering Committee met with committee co-chairs of the University Senate to share ideas for University improvement generated from the self-study process. These ideas had been labeled the Parking Lot issues, meaning that some of them were not directly related to Middle States standards but were developed from discussions and were worthy of further attention by various Senate committees or University administrative units. Ideally, Senate committees will review the Parking Lot idea list and determine if the idea is something their committees should help address and/or develop.

The goal is that no idea would go into an internal abyss never to be heard of again. Instead, each idea would be entertained through an appropriate Senate committee and/or administrative unit and then a report be given back to the Middle States Steering Committee before the site team visit in 2018.

Additionally, on Monday, all senators received a copy of the first three chapters of the Middle States self-study draft report for their review and feedback. Chapter Four of the draft was distributed on Tuesday; that chapter details how the University is in compliance with each of the seven standards, showcases areas of strength for the University in each standard, and notes areas where the University must continue to make improvements based on the standards.

Today (March 29), Middle States Tri-Chair Rochelle Ford, Newhouse professor and Public Relations Department chair, presents to the Senate to give an overview of the process and the findings, and to entertain questions from the Senate. Then between now and September, members of the Senate are encouraged to give feedback on the draft.

Particularly since the University Senate functions as an advisory body to the Chancellor and represents all aspects of the University community, the Senate’s feedback is critical to this process of peer review, reflection, and momentum.

Already 22 senators have participated in the Middle States self-study effort to research and write this initial draft. The Middle States Steering Committee appreciates the entire Senate starting its engines in this review process and continuing to provide feedback on the self-study draft.

The entire campus will have an opportunity to review and provide feedback beginning on April 18. For more information visit middlestates.syr.edu.

Rochelle Ford

Middle States Blog: March Madness

Spring Break is over, spring is here, but winter is not gone—all signs of March Madness. March also signaled the first major review of the Middle States Self Study Draft by the Steering Committee.

After the seven self-study teams compiled detailed reports on the seven standards, the tri-chairs combined those reports into one narrative with the help of Carol Boll, a writer and researcher with Public Affairs and the Office of News Services.

Over spring break, the Steering Committee members read the draft and submitted their feedback. On Monday, March 20, it met to discuss the draft to ensure the working groups’ ideas and findings were incorporated as well as recommendations and ideas for continuous improvement.

Later this month, the University Senate will review the draft along with officers and administrators of the University. The Middle States tri-chairs will present to the Senate on March 29, before the draft is opened for a five-month public comment period.

To kick off the public comment period, the University will host the Middle States Self Study Kick-Off Forum on April 18 to help the University community to learn more about accreditation, assessment, and institutional learning outcomes before reviewing the document online.

For now, March Madness is editing for the Steering Committee, and hopefully it will usher in April’s showers of comments and feedback from the University community on the Middle States Self Study.

By Rochelle L. Ford


Q&A: Associate Provost Jeff Stanton on Why Middle States Matters

Last fall, the Syracuse University campus community began hearing frequent references to Middle States and the reaccreditation process now underway. The foundational work leading up to the 10-year reaccreditation review with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education actually had begun a year earlier, and last fall the institutional self-study required as part of the review began taking shape. The self-study looks at every aspect of University operations, focusing specifically on how well our academic, administrative and operational practices align with our stated mission. Read the Q&A at SU News.

Middle States Blog: Empowerment Through Information

Information is power!  Information is empowering! Information is key to decision-making. Finding information easily is critical to our success in the Middle States accrediting process.

One of the requirements for Middle States, woven throughout the seven standards, is communicating well to various constituencies, stakeholders, and members of the University community. Recognizing that we do a lot of communication very well, we still must continue to improve. And improvement takes all hands engaged in the process.

The launch of the University’s redesigned website is an example of our moving forward in an attempt to improve communication. Congrats to the teams of professionals from marketing communications and ITS under the leadership of Nicci Brown, vice president of communications and chief marketing officer. Initial feedback has been very positive.

However, the launch of the website is not the end of the process, and the team continues to want your feedback on how to improve.

One of the features of the new website is the student consumer information page. Bringing together this information met a federal government requirement, which Middle States in turn is required to verify; and the marketing communications and ITS team worked together to ensure this information was easier to find.

Another addition that helps us to meet Middle States requirements is the compliance page, which gives information about how the University addresses various federal and state regulations.

Although we do not like to discuss grievances, disputes and criticisms are part of life in any organization, large or small. The federal government requires that the students’ grievance processes are accessible, and the website team met the challenge. Middle States verifies our compliance for the federal government.

Additionally, the University is attempting to improve communication structure by creating a unified division of communication and marketing communication under the leadership of a new senior vice president who will report to the Chancellor and will be responsible for aligning all its functions, including internal and external communications, branding, web, and social media.

Creating one University, informed, responsive, and proactive, is a goal that the Middle States self-study process has been able to help the University improve.

By Rochelle Ford


Middle States Blog: What’s the Syracuse University 4+4? Integrative institutional learning outcomes needing your input

Syracuse University is known for many things, such as Orange, snow, amazing academic programs and athletics, and—of course—the legend of #44. Often this conversation results in specifying particular sports, schools, majors, research, or groups.

Since Syracuse is more than any one group and is One University, what common knowledge and abilities should all Syracuse University students have?

The University shares a mission and vision, which is achieved through the total student experience—both academic affairs and student affairs. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires, in Standards III and IV of its reaccreditation criteria, that all of its member institutions have either a common set of institutional integrative learning outcomes or a general education program taken by all students.

In 2015, the Academic Strategic Plan (developed through faculty, staff, student, and administrative input and approved by the Board of Trustees) called for the University to develop institutional learning outcomes that all students must achieve before graduation.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Working Group 1: The Student Experience drafted eight institutional learning outcomes that shape and describe what a Syracuse University graduate represents in the marketplace. Achievement of these competencies as well as academic program specific competencies will enable graduates to be ready for a career of their choosing and prepare for a life of learning. Working Group 1 labeled these the Syracuse University 4+4. After input from the University Senate, several University Senate committees, and other groups, such as the University Libraries, the Academic Strategic Plan Implementation Oversight Committee supported the Working Group’s 4+4 recommendation and included them among the implementation priorities submitted to University leadership for consideration.

The 4+4 represents a core set of knowledge and skills common to all graduates. They are in addition to the program-specific knowledge and skills that students develop as part of their chosen field of study. Integrity and ethics are central components of 4+4, filtering through all of the eight competencies. The eight competencies are divided equally between “reasonings” and “abilities.”

  • Creative Reasoning
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Applied and Collaborative Learning Ability
  • Civic and Global Abilities
  • Communicative Ability
  • Information and Technology Ability

The competencies are focused on the outcome of the total student experience, both classes and activities, and are meant to be viewed collectively. Students will achieve varying degrees of proficiency in each competency depending on their discipline and degree.

However, the Syracuse 4+4 is not finalized; we need more University feedback on them so we can better assure that they reflect student, faculty, and staff ideas of what competencies all Syracuse University graduates should possess. Therefore, the Provost’s Office has launched an engagement tour to introduce the Syracuse 4+4 and gather feedback. Members of Working Group 1: The Student Experience are meeting with faculty, staff, and student groups from both the Division of Academic Affairs and Division of Enrollment Management and the Student Experience this semester.

Thus far, Division of Enrollment and Student Experience directors, Whitman, the iSchool, Visual and Performing Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences have participated in the Listening Tour. Dates for others are being scheduled. Email assessment@syr.edu to request a meeting.

Members of Working Group 1 also have reconvened to help the University community refine the Syracuse University 4+4 based on the feedback, to draft rubrics and data collection techniques to gather baseline measures of these outcomes, to begin developing an assessment plan, and to share what is learned in this process.

The results of this listening tour and Working Group 1’s efforts will be incorporated into the Middle States report.

The University needs our engagement with these learning outcomes. I urge you to attend one of the engagement sessions and offer your ideas and feedback.

Together we will help the University fulfill its mission and vision, implement the Academic Strategic Plan recommendation, and meet a Middle States requirement through these institutional learning outcomes called the Syracuse University 4+4.

By Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu