Consult an instructor on student feedback
Educational developers – often called instructional consultants at the introductory level – typically work in the context of a university or college’s teaching and learning center. Educational developers engage in a range of activities to support the teaching and learning infrastructure on university campuses, from individual consultations with instructors to large-scale, institution-wide faculty development programs. In some universities, educational developers have a teaching appointment and work as an instructor in their home discipline in addition to their educational development responsibilities. See the resources section for additonal descriptions of educational development.
One core service that educational developers provide is one-on-one consultation with instructors, oftentimes mid-semester when instructors are seeking formative feedback on how their course is going. These feedback sessions are most often called Small Group Instructional Diagnostic (SGID), but different campuses have different terminology for this service (e.g., Midterm Student Feedback or Small Group Instructional Diagnosis). This simulation focuses on this core service that the vast majority of instructional consultants perform as part of their role.
Gathering student feedback serves as a formative assessment and is a critical component of supporting student learning. Often instructors have difficulty getting candid formative feedback from students prior to the end of the term because students worry that giving feedback may negatively impact their grade in the course. Because the SGID is a confidential process that takes place without the instructor present, the instructional consultant can play a crucial role in helping instructors collect feedback. Further, they are able to analyze student feedback and help the instructor reflect on it in helpful ways. An instructional consultant can help a course instructor recognize any concerns in a course, including those related to course climate, and address these concerns appropriately for the remainder of the term.
After an SGID, the instructional consultant consults directly with the instructor about how to respond to the feedback. Research shows that it is critical for instructors to acknowledge the feedback to their students and transparently share with students their plan for responding to the feedback. The instructor then makes the changes to their course that they have determined will improve student learning based on the students’ feedback and the consultation with their instructional consultant.
An instructional consultant will –
- Meet with the instructor for a pre-meeting to review goals and logistics for the SGID.
- Observe a class and conduct the SGID in last 15-20 minutes of class. The SGID is confidential, and the instructor leaves when the SGID starts.
- Debrief with the instructor at a meeting, going over the feedback in person. This meeting is typically one hour.
- Give the instructor a copy of a written report summarizing the feedback and follows up with an electronic copy, if desired.
- Help the instructor craft a plan for course revisions and communication of those changes with students, if desired. The instructional consultant is typically not involved in helping the instructor implement changes to their course, but an instructor will typically acknowledge the feedback to their students and their plan to incorporate changes to their course.
This exercise illustrates a typical SGID, Small Group Instructional Diagnostic. You are conducting a classroom observation and SGID for an intermediate level course with 20 students. The instructor has several years of teaching experience, but they are teaching this course for the first time.
The instructor invited you to gather feedback because they were interested in hearing how the course is going for students, especially since this is their first time teaching this specific class. You conducted a “standard” SGID in which you put students in four groups of five and asked them to comment on strengths of the course, as well as suggestions for improvement. You conducted a large group debrief of these small group discussions for about 10 minutes. This large group debrief included inviting the four groups to share key points from their small group discussions. The entire class then indicated if they agreed with each point by voting (with a simple show of hands) on whether they agreed or not with each point. You also passed out an additional half sheet for students to complete individually, asking them to comment on the classroom climate.
For this exercise, you will analyze the three forms of data (listed below) from these simulated SGID raw data:
- Large group debrief data (that you typed up during the large group discussion)
- Small group feedback forms data (that you collected from each of the small groups)
- Individual climate question data (that you collected from every student)
Tasks & Deliverables
1. Summarize and write a report of student feedback
Integrate the three data sources (large group debrief data, small group feedback forms data, and individual climate question data) into a digestible 1-2 page report for this instructor. These reports typically are given to the instructor for their records, and also serve as a launching point for a one hour in-person consultation.
2. Develop a consulting debrief plan
In addition to the report summarizing the SGID data, develop a plan (no more than one page) for how you would approach sharing this data with the instructor. What questions would you ask the instructor? What points would you want to be sure to touch upon with them from the student feedback? How will you prompt the instructor to generate ideas for addressing the students’ suggestions?
Some questions you might consider as you reflect on your consulting debrief plan:
- How might your approach change if you observed one or more alienated students? What if those students were from a historically marginalized background?
- How might your approach change given social identities of the instructor?
- Under what conditions might you share your own observations – e.g., about who participated, students being distracted by technology, etc. – with the instructor?
- How might your approach change if the instructor told you that they were required by their department chair to get student feedback due to poor evaluations in the past?
- How might your approach change if your client was a lecturer/adjunct instructor, whose promotion was contingent upon strong student feedback on their end-of-term evaluations?
- Definition of the field of education development: https://podnetwork.org/about-us/what-is-educational-development/.
- The national professional organization for educational development is the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network: https://podnetwork.org/. They have many excellent resources to help you get started learning about the field.
- This article, “From graduate student or postdoctoral scholar to CTL staff member” was written by the POD Network Executive Committee in collaboration with the Graduate and Professional Student Development Committee, October 2016, to support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows seeking to transition to teaching center work: https://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/Getting-Started_GradPostdoc.pdf
- Attending the POD annual conference is also a way to learn about the field. If you could benefit from a scholarship/funding to attend the conference, the annual Graduate Student, Professional Student, and Postdoctoral Scholar Development (GPPD) Career Development Award funds several graduate student and postdoctoral fellow awardees to attend the national POD conference: https://podnetwork.org/about-us/grants-and-awards/
- A Guide to Faculty Development (2010) is another resource from POD Network. This edition offers a fundamental resource for faculty (educational) developers, as well as for faculty and administrators interested in promoting and sustaining faculty development within their institutions. This book offers an introduction to the topic; and provides the most relevant information on a range of faculty development topics by leading experts in the field. Topics include establishing and sustaining a faculty development program; the key issues of assessment, diversity, and technology; and faculty development across institutional types, career stages and organizations. https://podnetwork.org/publications/a-guide-to-faculty-development-2nd-ed/
Skills Used to Perform These Tasks
- Build trusting relationships and establish rapport
- Deep listening skills
- Ask powerful questions
- Engage others in reflective practice
- Focus group facilitation skills
- Quickly and clearly synthesize ideas from diverse students
- Summarize and integrate feedback in a group discussion process
- Survey design skills
- Collaborative problem-solving skills, including ability to help a client identify action steps they are willing and able to take to address problems
- Adapt one’s consultation approach to a client’s unique needs and background
- Find patterns and themes in data, including qualitative and quantitative data
- Respect and maintain client confidentiality
- Remain flexible and adapt one’s approach based on unexpected changes to the SGID plan (e.g., less in-class time for the SGID than anticipated, students departing in middle of the SGID process, etc.)
Skills Used in This Field
- Absorb ideas from a wide variety of perspectives, fields, professional practices
- Inclusive teaching/facilitation skills
- Work independently and as part of a collaborative, diverse team
- Work effectively in settings of social and intellectual diversity
- Knowledge of the literatures on the science of learning, faculty development and inclusive teaching
- Knowledge of universal and backwards design principles
- Design inclusive and accessible workshops and programs
- Evaluation and assessment skills
- Project management skills, such as ability to organize and monitor multi-partner projects involving different campus units and groups, manage timelines, and meet deadlines for tasks
- Capacity to negotiate difficulties with transparency individually and when working in teams
- Reflexivity about and openness to feedback on one’s own work (teaching, facilitation, consulting, etc.)
- Manage difficult discussions, crucial conversations, and conflicts professionally and respectfully
- Outstanding oral and written communication skills
- Sensitivity to the teaching and learning needs within the context of your university’s mission
A professional in the field of educational development may also perform these tasks:
- Conduct research on teaching, learning, TA training, or faculty development issues
- Plan and facilitate events related to teaching and learning (e.g., campus-wide convenings, customized workshops, department retreats, etc.)
- Design and lead campus TA training and or new faculty training efforts
- Manage teaching grants/awards programs
- Consult with faculty on teaching portfolios, teaching grants, scholarship of teaching and learning projects, etc.
- Consult with departments/programs about curriculum
- Conduct educational evaluation or assessment research
- Teach one’s own course(s) on pedagogy
- Organizational development projects, such as work with individual colleges, departments, or programs on teaching improvement or faculty development initiatives
- Serve on or lead campus-wide committees related to teaching and learning mission of the university
- Teach one’s own course(s) in one’s home discipline
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Simulation authors – Gina Shereda, PhD and Laura Schram, PhD, Rackham Graduate School at University of Michigan
Simulation vetted by members of the Graduate Career Consortium