Working with IDEA

Once again, it’s that time of the semester when we’re thinking about final student projects and evaluating their performance in our courses. And as we ponder those, we begin to think about evaluating ourselves and our courses as well. Part of being an effective teacher is being a reflective practitioner. We should take the opportunity (after the semester’s dust settles, of course) to reflect on our practice, on what worked and what didn’t, on what we did well and what we want to work on.

Any good reflection requires data, though. Our own observations, student grade distributions, and course feedback are all great food for thought. Moreover, the IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction that we use are also a source for rich data. Students’ assessments of how far they moved toward the course goals we establish for them are significant elements of any reflection on—and possible revision of—a course. IDEA can also help us discern what techniques and assessments worked well with our students and for our own course goals. And we can use the IDEA data collected over time to look for longer-term trends in our classes that might help us see genuine progress from ourselves and our students.

So what are some of the best practices associated with using this tool? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED:

  • Make sure that your course objectives and the IDEA objectives use similar language. If the students aren’t clear on what you have been teaching them, they may not understand the language of the forms.
  • Be sure to choose only 1-2 essential objectives and no more than 2-3 important objectives. Be realistic in your choices!
  • Make sure that the objectives you have chosen tie in to a significant portion of students’ grades. For example, don’t choose working with groups as an objective if you don’t teach how to work with groups as a course goal and specifically assess students on what they learn by doing so.
  • Fill out the Faculty Information Form completely and correctly. It can have a significant impact on your scores if not done mindfully. If you have any questions, ask your department chair or feel free to contact Kevin at CETL.
  • You can give the IDEA forms to your students any time after you get them. They have already decided about your class, and the next few weeks won’t make much of a difference if you give them right away. If everyone waits to the last week, students express fatigue with filling out all their forms at once. (You may want to carry the forms with you and be ready to give them when the majority of your class is present. It may take a few days to reach the quorum you desire).
  • Pass out the forms in the first 15 minutes of your class. Be sure to stress to students how much you value their feedback, and ask them to take care with the questions and their responses.
  • You may wish to have a proctor in the room when students fill out the forms. If you feel your students may compare notes and do a “group” IDEA response, this is especially important. A proctor can also let students know just how serious you are about their feedback.

It’s important to note that IDEA, while it provides a lot of good information, is one tool out of the many we have in our pedagogical toolbox. And, as with any tool, there are ways to use it well and specific purposes to use it for. I wouldn’t use a hammer to remove a splinter from my finger, for example. If you’re wondering about how you might use IDEA to inform your teaching, or to expand on your current use, the CETL staff can help you use IDEA in ways that work for you and your teaching philosophy. We can help you analyze the data and see what conclusions it might lead to. And we can use the data to assist you in making decisions about pedagogical and course tools.

Looking for ways to tie certain teaching styles and techniques you use to IDEA course outcomes? The IDEA site has a great collection of Teaching Notes that can help you do exactly that! Click HERE to be taken to the site.

Looking for resources? Ideas? Help?

Click here to contact CETL

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