IDEAblog

Completing the Faculty Information Form: Part 4

September 10, 2012

By Amy Gross

This is part four of a four-part series on IDEA’s Faculty Information Form: its purpose, how to select learning objectives, why your selection of objectives is important, and contextual questions.

One of the questions faculty most frequently ask about the Faculty Information Form (FIF) is “how will my responses impact my results?” The first three posts in this series address the most important part of the FIF - identifying which of the 12 learning objectives are emphasized in your class. This post addresses the contextual questions.

The short answer to the question “how will my responses to the contextual questions impact my results?”  is that your responses to the contextual questions do not influence your IDEA results...but keep reading.

The next question you will ask is likely, “then why should I take the time to answer them?” And the short answer is, because you care about teaching and by taking a few minutes to think about the contextual questions you will have an opportunity to more deeply reflect about your class and what types of things may have been happening to impact student learning. (Well, maybe that answer was a little bit longer.) Faculty responses to these questions are also summarized on the Group Summary Reports, which provide useful information about faculty perceptions of the circumstances that are influencing student learning (see sample GSR, page 9).

But wait - there is even more!

Faculty responses to the contextual questions have been extremely valuable in research conducted by The IDEA Center to better understand teaching and learning and to provide evidence of the system’s validity. The validity studies have compared how faculty responses compare to student responses. For “data geeks” like me, the results are some of the most exciting that IDEA has produced - yes, seriously I get all excited because the results make sense! A couple of examples will hopefully help you see what I mean:

When faculty indicate that they emphasize “much” critical thinking, students report making more progress than when the faculty say “none” was emphasized (4.07 compared to 3.54).1 Similarly, when faculty indicate they emphasize “much” writing, students report making more progress than when none was emphasized (4.01 compared to 3.36).1

Faculty also indicate the primary type of student enrolled in the course and we find that, as we would expect, students are more motivated to take upper level courses in their major than lower level courses to meet a general education requirement - and most motivated to graduate level courses.

Student Motivation Ratings by Type of Course (as defined by Faculty on FIF)1
Course Type Strong desire to take course Wanted course regardless of instructor
Lower General Education 3.34 3.11
Upper General Education 3.55 3.21
Lower Major 3.86 3.49
Upper Major 3.86 3.44
Graduate/Professional 3.92 3.49

You may think that we are stating the obvious, but this is really important data to demonstrate that students (and faculty) are responding thoughtfully to the IDEA surveys, which helps us have confidence in their use. And, it makes the research quite fun for me!

1Technical Report No. 12, Basic Data for the Revised IDEA System

Other research that used the contextual questions from the FIF:

  • Research Report 1, A study focusing on the relationship between various instructional approaches on one hand, and both instructional objectives and instructional outcomes on the other.
  • Research Report 2, Assesses the validity of the IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction system using new evidence.
  • Research Report 3, Answers the question, "Are Quantitatively-Oriented Courses Different?"
  • Research Report 5, Discusses the fairness of student ratings for teachers of General/Liberal Education Classes.

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