Center develops assessment tool

eTAP allows students to offer professors feedback prior to end of semester

The University's Teaching Resource Center has partnered with Information Technology and Communication to develop the eTAP, an online tool that allows instructors to collect mid-semester feedback from students. The eTAP, which stands for electronic teaching analysis poll, launches today on UVaCollab and features a standardized method to gather feedback for immediate use.

The mid-term data collected through the eTAP differs from the summative end-of-course evaluations currently offered through UVaCollab because it is a formative assessment, said Michael Palmer, assistant professor and assistant director of the University's Teaching Resource Center.

"Formative assessments provide information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening," Palmer said.

The project began about three months ago with the goal of improving courses and student learning during the semester. Prior to the eTAP, some faculty members implemented mid-semester evaluations in their classes. These assessments were usually ad hoc, however. The eTAP standardizes the process through 11 pre-set questions but also permits instructors to individualize the process by adding their own questions.

Students can access the eTAP through the Tests & Quizzes feature of UVaCollab. The eTAP includes four evaluative response questions that ask students what helps them learn, what impedes their learning and what suggestions they have to improve the course.

The eTAP also contains seven likert-scale questions through which students can indicate if they "strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree." The likert-scale questions are similar to those found on the end-of-course-evaluations, which will make it possible for instructors to see the progress they have made throughout the semester.

"I think it's worth experimenting with," second-year College student Zain Shaikh said. "For new professors and teaching assistants it will probably be very useful, but for experienced professors who have been teaching for years, it might not be as beneficial."

Second-year College student Muhammed Shakeri made similar predictions about the new resource tool.

End-of-course evaluations do not provide professors with the time to change their teaching methods to suit the needs of students who provide feedback, Shakeri said.

"It's worth seeing how it will work out, but it could also cause problems for students in terms of major syllabus changes in the middle of the semester," he said.

Palmer encourages students to utilize eTAP to provide "constructive, meaningful feedback about what helps them learn in the classroom," adding that "research has shown that the benefits of collecting mid-term feedback is especially effective when it is part of a faculty development program that includes personal consultation"


Published February 14, 2011 in News




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