ICES ratings give feedback

By Rob Warren

The Illinois Student Senate will post Instructor and Course Evaluation Systems results at the end of the Spring 2006 semester for the first time in two years.

In October 2005, ISS posted partial results of the ICES forms from the Fall 2002 throughthe Spring 2004 semesters online.

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Brian Pierce, junior in LAS and former ISS chair of academic affairs, and Illini Media Company employee, said he believes the Web site is important because it introduces accountability for professors to students. Professors and teaching assistants will have more initiative to improve their methods if students actively choose higher ranked instructors.

Caitlin Bizzotto, sophomore in business, was unsure if ICES encouraged professors to improve.

“I don’t know if professors take the results seriously,” Bizzotto said. “I’ve had friends who have had professors in different semesters and they haven’t changed.”

The service is not as useful as it can be, partly because only data from Fall 2002 through Spring 2004 is available, Pierce said.

Chris Ham, ISS webmaster and senior in Engineering, said only results from those semesters are on the Web site because ISS stopped using the data given to them by the Center for Teaching Excellence, the division of the University that administers the ICES forms. After the ISS stopped using the information, the center did not send them the ICES data for two years.

In 1987 the Illinois Student Government Association, a former body of the student government, printed “The Outlook,” a pamphlet listing faculty scores on Student Government Association provided questions. Faculty decided whether the questions would appear on their ICES forms and if the data would go to the Student Government Association.

Chris Migotsky, head of the center’s ICES division, said when the government changed, the project stopped. A similar project started in the ’90s, although as a Web site instead of a pamphlet, and it also failed.

Pierce said the latest program will not repeat past mistakes. In order to prevent it from failing, the ISS made new rules, such as making it mandatory to use ICES data when it is provided by the center, Pierce said.

After the ISS made the changes, the Center for Teaching Excellence provided them with the data again, Migotsky said.

This semester will be the first time the ISS program displays students’ survey results in two years. Professors and teaching assistants will still decide whether the ISS questions appear on their ICES forms, Migotsky said.

Only questions submitted by the ISS and the first two questions – the ‘effectiveness of the instructor’ and ‘quality of the course items’ – which are standard on all ICES forms, will be given to the ISS. This semester the ISS drafted new questions to replace those written by the Student Government Association in the ’80s, Migotsky said.

In previous years, only 30 percent of faculty members put ISS questions on their ICES surveys, Migotsky said. Unless a majority of the faculty use the questions, the Web site will not be as useful as it could be, Pierce said.

“Student feedback to a faculty member’s courses is a vital part of the educational process,” said Bruce Fouke, associate professor in LAS. “I want my students to understand that I take their feedback seriously, that I consistently evaluate and adjust my own teaching approaches based on student feedback, and that I am willing to openly share this feedback with future students in my courses.”

Pierce said only a couple professors in his department opted to allow ISS questions on their survey, and so the ICES ISS Web site was not useful to him personally.

Pierce said he hopes with more pressure from students interested in a better database and new, better questions, more professors will allow ISS questions on their surveys, making the Web site more useful.