New Subject Evaluation Project

by Mary Enterline, Associate Dean, Academic Services, Office of Faculty Support, Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra, Associate Director, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology, Peter Wilkins, Senior Programmer Analyst, Office of Educational Innovation and Tech

A small team from the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE) and Information Services and Technology (IS&T) is laying the groundwork for an online subject evaluation system that will be available Institute-wide. Phase 1 of the Subject Evaluation Project is devoted to discovery of requirements and evaluation of alternative technologies and cost options.

The team for Phase 1 includes: the project business owner, Mary Enterline, Office of Faculty Support (OFS); the project manager, Peter Wilkins, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT); the technical lead, Norm Wright, Student Services Information Technology, and the OEIT sponsor, Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra. Mary Curtin (OEIT), and Matthew Davies (OFS), are providing support to the team.

Staff in the Office of Faculty Support run the current paper-based subject evaluation system, which is used to evaluate more than 700 subjects per term. Deborah Boldin serves as coordinator of subject evaluation; working with her are Aaron Wark and Matthew Davies.

The team is meeting with departments that are currently using the OFS paper-based system as well as their own online and paper evaluations, and with members of the MIT community who are interested in subject evaluation.The team is also performing an environmental scan of best practices at other schools, following which they will evaluate commercial and open-source online subject evaluation systems.

Performing Institute-wide subject evaluation is dependent on accurately knowing which instructors are associated with which classes. Currently this information is gathered by “Who’s Teaching What” (WTW), an application that is part of the Student Information System. This project will also examine the changes that will be needed in WTW to support the planned online subject evaluation system.

In the current system students complete paper forms in class during the last week of the term.  Recently two reports recommended expansion of the evaluation process and development of an online subject evaluation system. The Report of the Task Force on Undergraduate Educational Commons (p.126) identifies “making assessment an Institute policy” as a strategic goal. It cites the need to improve the breadth of coverage and the usefulness of end-of-term class evaluations, encourage a feedback cycle between students and faculty throughout the term, and assess the curriculum as well as the teaching.

A Working Group on the Collection of Teaching Data just issued a report to Provost Rafael Reif and Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings. One of the group’s recommendations is, “Under the leadership of for Undergraduate Education, a central online subject evaluation system should be developed.”

The Working Group on the Collection of Teaching Data, which began meeting in summer 2006, was appointed by the Provost and the Dean for Undergraduate Education. It was co-chaired by Lori Breslow, director of the Teaching and Learning Laboratory, and Lydia Snover, director of Institutional Research. Members included representatives from each of the Institute’s five schools, IS&T, Academic Media Production Services, and DUE. Mary Enterline and Babi Mitra, members of the subject evaluation team, were members of the working group as was Mary Callahan, Registrar.

The subject evaluation project also furthers three DUE strategic themes, namely Catalyzing the Undergraduate Education Commons, Championing Information Technology for the Provision of Information to the Students and Faculty, and Advancing from Teaching to Learning in Our Classrooms. The project team will issue its final recommendations by July 30th, 2007.  Please write to the subject evaluation team members at subj-eval-info@mit.edu if you have questions or suggestions.