SPOT survey gives students a voice


The life of a Franciscan University student come finals week just became less stressful: the Office of Academic Affairs is instituting cutting edge, online teacher evaluation forms for faster instructor access and improved student completion rates.

Known as SPOT, the program fully replaces the standard bubble sheet method of teacher evaluations. “SPOT stands for ‘student perceptions of teaching,’” said director for the advancement of excellence in teaching Kaybeth Calabria, who holds a doctorate in severe disabilities. The new program effectively replaces the paper forms of past semesters.

With SPOT, evaluations are as simple as an email response.

“You get an email to your Franciscan account,” said Calabria, “and one of the things I’ve noticed is how many students do not use their Franciscan accounts anymore; we really want to make sure that they check their Franciscan emails for their evaluations.”

Professors can now choose to email students directly, or to administer the evaluations online during designated class time.

Calabria said that each classroom has a posted SPOT note, and student bulletins also offer reminders. Students will receive three email notices, reminders which will cease upon a student’s completion of each survey. Calabria believes the ease of the new program is rooted in the fact that “evaluations are quick and easy, and the comments are also easier to type.”

SPOT evaluations also offer unprecedented options with regard to form customization, said Calabria.

“The evaluations are not necessarily the same from class to class,” said Calabria. “There are forms for large lecture classes, for lab classes, for clinical classes, for studio classes, for seminar classes and more.”

Professors can elect to administer whichever form of evaluation they feel will provide them with the most accurate feedback. Calabria said this personalization with regard to student response allows professors to receive “the specific information they feel they need to have. Professors can even add specific questions for their courses.”

Another bonus of the new evaluation process is the speed by which professors are granted the results. After final grades are processed, a comprehensive indication of the evaluations results is emailed directly to the professor.

“You’re helping professors become more effective. This means that the faculty can do so much more planning,” said Calabria.

The stigma that professors do not take into account the results of student evaluations, Calabria hopes, is broken by this faster response rate. “The professors do use evaluations in their planning.” said Calabria. “I think students will realize that the professor gets useful information from the ratings.”

Traditional evaluations didn’t find their way into professors’ hands until mid-way through the successive semester.

SPOT evaluations were put into student email inboxes on April 18 and are due back by May 2. The Office of Academic Affairs is currently fine-tuning and debugging the intricacies of the process to allow for smooth student submissions.

The planning process behind the institution of the SPOT system is perhaps as impressive as the employment itself. Calabria headed a task force responsible for researching optimal evaluation methods. From eight studied options, the Franciscan staff selected SPOT evaluations, presented by IA Systems, a program originally designed by the University of Washington.

The program proved the most efficient, Calabria said, “because we liked the online format, we liked the different forms that professors could use, we liked the fact that professors could customize a form and we liked the fact that the faculty would get information back before the semester started.”

Despite the inevitability of a hectic schedule come finals week, Calabria, on behalf of the entire Office of Academic Affairs, maintained the necessity of student-completed evaluations. “This is so important,” she said. “Don’t be under the false impression that you do not matter. You matter, and your opinion matters.”