If you’ve been following this series of posts about building an online course by design, you’ve framed your course, selected your materials, chosen your assignments, written your policies, and added all the other information your syllabus needs.
Now is a good time to review your syllabus to a make sure it includes everything it needs to have:
- Course name
- Course number
- Catalog description
- Program Goals
- Course objectives
- List of required materials
- List of prerequisite course and prerequisite skills
- Page numbers
- Office hours and ways to contact you, including any instructions about how to write an email
- Academic integrity policy, with a link to the student handbook
- Plagiarism policy
- Due dates
- Missed Work
- Late Work
- Grades and Grading
- Sensitive Material Policy
- Information about campus services and who to ask for help
- Classroom Interactions Policy
- Recording Policies and Privacy Policies for Students
- Student Privacy Policies
- Disability services
- What constitutes an A, B, C, D, and F
- What constitutes a passing grade for the degree program
- Drop and withdrawal dates
- Policies about incompletes
- Your policy about revising the syllabus
- Policies about assessment data, as well as how students can opt-out of it
- Policies about course evaluations, including how students can opt-out of them
- Any other requirements from your university
- A schedule that includes every text, assignment, and due date
Done with your syllabus? Time to dance! Celebration by William Henry Hunt, 1815
Ah, that makes sense. I didn’t realize some folks require student evals in that way. And I have never talked to students about the right to opt out–I just knew some chose not to do them electronically. I also have taught at institutions where I handed out paper evaluations. I always talk to them about how evaluations are used, but I haven’t talked to them about having the right to not fill them out. I should do that! I do leave the room when students are doing evals (as has been required by every university I have taught at), so theoretically anyone could refuse to do it, but that doesn’t mean they know they can.
And I have only participated in an assessment of a department once, and it was an internal assessment, and the names of student’s weren’t blocked out! You are right, students should have the right to opt out of their work being used that way.
What do you mean by assessment data and how to opt out? And evaluations and how to opt out?
“Assessment” is the large process by which universities collect data to show that their teaching is reaching its goals. This is guided by the accrediting standards, so it varies a bit, but a general framework is this:
The university decides on its academic outcomes (things all graduates can be expected to do), and then pushes these out to departments, which articulate program outcomes that align with them. Then the department makes a curricular map that shows how each class’s outcomes contribute to the program outcome. Then each professor decides on course objectives that support these.
So, for example, if the university writes an outcome about students demonstrating quantitative literacy, then the sociology department may decide that this outcome can be supported in its stats class. Then the stats professor writes objectives for the specific class. Maybe it’s something like “can identify correct sample sizes and sample populations for quantitative social science research.”
Then, somewhere in the course, you have to measure if students are really learning this. THAT is the “assessment data.” Typically, the higher level the course, the more demanding the assessment assignment. So in lower level courses, you’re typically asking questions from the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy; by the time you get to seniors, you are assessing their knowledge through work they create.
To show that students are learning, you have to evaluate their ability to meet the objective you are assessing. In the stats example, you might give them a published article that has been criticized for bad sampling and ask them why it was incorrect and what a better sample would have looked like. Or you could give them a real-life question and ask them how they would decide which sample size to use. Or you could assign a quantitative research paper and include sampling as a criteria on your evaluation of it.
You collect that data and strip it of identifying student information and share it with your assessment director (typically a person who never gets invited to parties because faculty have a strong tradition of hating assessment), who adds it with all the other university data and decides if students are learning. Some universities actually have teams of normed faculty who review the student artifacts, so you, the teacher, are removed from the process.
The promise is that this is never to be used to evaluate individual teachers, only programs. But, if it’s done right, you can tell where a weakness is in your program, which means you know who isn’t teaching well.
Programs do it differently, of course. Some evaluate every class every semester. Others focus on just one program outcome, so if your class contributes to that one, then your class will be assessed. Others assess only gen ed courses.
Somewhere deep in your handbook, you likely have a policy that says that students can opt out of their data being included in this review. I understand why departments don’t want to encourage that (More data is more helpful.), but it’s a fundamental breach of research ethics if we don’t allow it. Students produce their work so that THEY can learn, not so that WE can assess how effective our programs are. If we are using their work for another purpose, we need to tell them and give them the option not to participate.
Same with course evals. They have to have the ability to opt out. A few years ago, Arkansas State University shifted to online evals that students HAD to complete before they could take their finals. It was highly stressful, because students would open the LMS to login to take a test and find it locked until they completed a course evaluation. Then you have a pissed, stressed student filling them out.
We don’t have a right to any of this data from students, so we have to make sure they understand that they are not obligated to participate in it.