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(Re)Prioritizing Pedagogic Feedback: Faculty Experiences with Qualitative Comments from Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs)

Research Webinar 2020

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In recent years, mounting evidence of the dubious validity of Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) has generated a series of challenges to their use in decision-making on faculty careers across North America. The most noteworthy of these culminated in June 2018 with an Ontario provincial arbitrator ruling in favour of the Ryerson University Faculty Association, whereby SETs scores should no longer be used for tenure and promotion decisions. This established an empowering precedent for faculty elsewhere. However, largely absent from the scholarly literature on SETs, and from the Ryerson decision itself, is what to do with the open-ended feedback students provide on SETs, which faculty are expected to utilize to improve their teaching. There is sparse research into how these qualitative comments affect faculty mental health, wellbeing, professional self-esteem, and pedagogical practise. Yet, anecdotal accounts of unfair, hostile, even harassing comments are increasing with the transition to online delivery of the survey instruments. The potential for unevenness in psychological burden that this imposes raises issues of equity, given that identity-based biases in SETs scores are well documented.

Guest: Dr. Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph

While chairing the PEPC in 2017, one of the three authors of this report, Lisa Kowalchuk, obtained financial support from the CSA for a survey-based study to address these questions. A sharper picture of how SETs comments affect Sociology faculty’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their pedagogy, would provide a basis for recommendations to Sociology departments across the country regarding improved approaches to obtaining student feedback.

Moderator: Dr. Rochelle Côté, Memorial University

Dr. Côté is the current Chair of the Canadian Sociological Association’s Policy, Ethics and Professional Concerns Subcommittee and will be discussing the highlights of the report with Dr. Kowlchuk as well as facilitating engagement with the audience.