May 02, 2017
By senior year, students probably have the questions on the Faculty Course Questionnaires memorized.
FCQs, which are filled out by students for each course at the end of every semester, provide quantified feedback and comments to professors.
Since the summer of 2016, four committees formed to redesign the questionnaires for the FCQ Redesign Project, which aims to address and resolve several issues surrounding the anonymous evaluations of courses and their instructors.
The committees consist of CU system staff, faculty and students.
A pilot of a redesigned FCQ was distributed online to 16 UCCS courses last semester, which included a total of 522 students.
Through May 4, the pilot FCQ is being distributed online to collect data on technical issues, response rates and other factors in 15 courses at UCCS.
Emails requesting students in selected courses to take the pilot FCQs were sent on April 24. Reminder emails were sent to students on April 27 and 30. If students have yet to take these FCQs, two additional reminder emails will be sent on May 2 and 4.
After students complete the pilot FCQ, they will be prompted to fill out a survey about the FCQ.
Current FCQs ask students to rate courses on a one to six scale with questions like how well professors encouraged interest in the course material and the intellectual challenge of the course. Students can also write in comments.
Though the first two pilots have not yet been evaluated, the FCQ Redesign Project website said that one of the goals of the new design is to provide students with less perception-based questions and instead ask students about specific observable behaviors.
The current FCQ questions, are rephrased into statements like, “I would recommend this course to a friend,” “I had a strong desire to take this course” and “My interest in this topic increased because of this course.”
Instead of assigning questions a numerical rating, students choose statements from “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree” to best represent their thoughts in accordance to the statement.
Peter Braza, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said that student input on FCQs is important, especially the written comments, to understand what students think and value.
After the semester is over, the questionnaires are reviewed by professors to help improve their courses. FCQ scores also inform annual instructor evaluations and the tenure application process.
Faculty across the four CU campuses (CU Boulder, CU Denver, UCCS and CU Anschutz Medical Campus) were invited to complete a survey distributed in September 2016.
Approximately 4 percent of CU faculty that completed the survey commented that “Faculty, particularly non-tenured faculty, work in fear of their FCQ scores” and that FCQs are too heavily emphasized in the evaluation process, according to the committee’s website.
Braza explained that the scores provided on FCQs are not a chief determining factor in granting tenure.
“They are used primarily for annual evaluations, but every teacher is up for tenure during their seventh year,” he said.
“If your student evaluations have not been good over a period of years, then in that case, it could be used against you. Likewise, positive evaluations could be used to support tenure.”
According to Sean Forrest, film studies lecturer, anonymity is a necessary characteristic of these evaluations as it ensures honest feedback.
“They can only help the teacher and bring about things that need to change. If you have an overwhelmingly negative feedback time and time again, that is a red flag for sure,” he said.
Another issue addressed by approximately 15 percent of faculty was the feeling that FCQ’s are “essentially an exercise in measuring popularity.”
All FCQ scores are made public and can be found at fcq. colorado.edu/uccsdata2.
“Students and any other teacher can look over specific instructors and professors to find out what their scores were,” Forrest said. “They are available on the CU system website, and I can see how that would help students determine whether or not they want to take that course.”
All frequently asked questions and more details about the FCQ Redesign Project can be found at www.colorado.edu/fcqredesign.