Faculty Affairs Committee Explores Revision of SET Forms

Since 1984, Student Evaluation of Teaching, SET forms, have become a facet of the Colgate curriculum. However, in the Fall of 2010, the Faculty Affairs Committee began an ongoing discussion about the structure and use of the SET form and potential changes to its design and application, including the introduction of qualitative multiple choice questions.

The current form asks students to assess the quality of teaching through a series of four questions, including why the student chose to take the course and what the student thought were the strengths and weaknesses of its instruction. According to the Office of the Dean of Faculty, SET forms are reviewed by the professor of the course and his or her department chair immediately following submission of grades to the Office of the Registrar and by other members of the faculty’s department, the Dean and his or her advisory council when that faculty member is up for promotion or personnel review.

Over the past two years, the Faculty Affairs Committee has formed a subcommittee which has met and held open discussions with faculty regarding potential changes to the SET forms. Additionally, a consultant of student evaluation of teaching was brought to Colgate’s campus to aid the committee in their decision to take on this project. The committee officially decided to begin revising the SET forms in the Spring of 2011.

In revising the form, the Faculty Affairs Committee closely researched student evaluations both on and off of campus.

“The research literature on student evaluation of teaching points to several dimensions of teaching that seem to be especially important. The Faculty Handbook describes what Colgate considers to be excellence in teaching, and all the revisions have followed the handbook guidelines,” Associate Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department Rebecca Shiner said.

In the Spring of 2011, Fall of 2011 and Spring of 2012, the committee also introduced revised versions of the SET forms into classrooms and sought feedback from the professors and students who used the alternative forms. The revised SET forms included multiple choice questions to be answered via Scantron. Senior Sarah Cable filled out the trial SET forms in one of her classes in the Fall of 2011.

“It was very extensive and covered just about any form of criticism or praise you would want to give a professor. There was no need to write anything after filling out the Scantron due to the amount of questions asked,” Cable said.

The current revisions differ from the trial run. The Committee plans to include space for a few qualitative responses, similar to the original SET form, but will also have a series of around twenty quantitative questions where students will answer based on choices ranging from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.”

“It is not clear at this point when the revised SET form will be presented for consideration to the faculty,” Professor Shiner said. “The Faculty Affairs Committee has since taken up the revision of the procedures for faculty promotion and tenure, and discussion of the SET form will resume when that other revision has been completed.”

No official changes to the SET forms have been made.

“The Faculty Affairs Committee will take up the issue again in the near future, and decide when to bring the new SETs to the full faculty meeting; the faculty as a whole will decide whether to adopt them,” Professor of History Jill Harsin said.

Many students question the necessity and benefits of changing the SET forms.

“I have often drawn in a numerical rating system on my SET forms, which I use to evaluate my professors so I do not believe that creating multiple choice questions will change the information that is obtained from my responses,” senior Will Delano said.

While the Committee hopes that the SET forms will include new sections that will be more beneficial to those who assess and those who review the forms, both Professor Shiner and Harsin agree that the overall goal of the evaluations will remain the same.

“SET forms have always been important as a means to evaluate teaching in matters of tenure and promotion, along with peer evaluation,” Professor Harsin said.  Professor Shiner adds, “SETs will continue to play an equally important role in decisions about promotion and tenure no matter what version of the SET forms is used.”

Contact Taylor Fleming at

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