Students can fill out class climate surveys until the last day of classes on Dec. 10. Collegian file photo.
SARAH NITTI | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Class climate surveys, which opened on Nov. 29 and will close on Dec. 10, allow students the opportunity to anonymously reflect on their classroom experience in each of their 2021 fall semester courses. With the faculty and staff highly encouraging students to take these surveys, some wonder what their significance is.
Brooke Barnett, Butler University’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, sent an email out to students regarding the surveys and said she hopes students understand the need for them.
“We use them to improve the classroom experience,” Barnett said. “So it’s really important to inform our colleagues about the student perceptions of the classroom experience. It’s a part of developing and becoming better and getting information that helps you to improve.”
Barnett said a lot of time was spent on selecting this program and it’s questions in order to achieve this effectiveness.
“There was a faculty and administrative committee that looked at possible different things so there’s the questions themselves and then the way you administer the questions,” Barnett said. “Those are kind of two separate things and there was a group who looked at several different options and determined both the system and this subset of questions.”
The class climate surveys are not required for students to take but have been heavily recommended by most faculty. Terri Jett, professor of political science and peace and conflict studies, hopes all students see the importance of taking the surveys seriously.
“[Faculty] do need to try and push the majority because we need the information to be relevant,” Jett said. “I would strongly encourage students to do it because it’s information that we need as faculty members to know whether or not we’re missing something. Whether or not you’re feeling comfortable, whether it’s a good learning environment for you. Also, we need the information for our tenure and promotion process. And just our annual evaluations also so these surveys are used in a very critical manner.”
Once submitted, student responses go through a team of people who thoroughly review them before handing them off to professors. Jett said results first go to the dean’s office in each college, then to each department chair and then to each faculty member themselves.
Negative responses from students do not go unnoticed. Oftentimes the faculty member is encouraged to reflect and look at the places they can improve.
“We would encourage the faculty member to go observe someone who is seen as like a master teacher,” Jett said.
Barnett said if there are negative patterns in student responses, the faculty member will be notified and might have to talk through their teaching methods with those who oversee their position.
“You look for patterns,” Barnett said. “You look for the sort of things that hang together. You sometimes say ‘Hey, that’s an outlier comment, that may be just one person’s experience but let’s talk through that and see what may be happening. And part of the evaluation process is that faculty members comment on the student evaluations and then reflect on their own teaching and things that they might consider doing differently in the future.”
Jett said she has found these surveys helpful while thoughtfully creating future lesson plans.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better because I’ve been here for so long,” Jett said. “And so, you know, I’ve grown and learned a lot. I’m constantly trying to learn. It’s so important to us [faculty]. The feedback that we’re getting from the students and it’s not just because it’s our career, it’s more than this. It’s just something that we really want to do a good job.”
Jett said this evaluation process, which was put into place over the past few years, has proven to be effective.
“The class climate is just a few years old, but it’s part of any evaluation process that has always taken place in the classroom,” Jett said. “It’s really giving us the information that we need to improve the work that we’re doing in the classroom, and also if it’s a good indication of the student perspective.”
Josh Clark, a first year pharmacy student, said most of his professors have done a good job at informing students about the importance of thoughtfully filling the surveys out.
“[Professors] said it was very needed to, one, help them kind of figure out what they needed to work on, what they were doing good, as well as what students were taking from the coursework in the positives and negatives of that,” Clark said.
Clark said that although students should fill out the survey, if a true problem occurs, he encourages them to advocate for themselves with individual professors.
“I would say do the survey but then also talk to the professor there,” Clark said. “These professors here are really good. They are very open minded. From my experiences, at least, they are very welcome to explain that kind of stuff like they do a really good job of treating you like an adult and not as a student.”