Thursday, February 2, 2023

The end-of-the-semester class surveys are changing. Here's what students think of them.

December 6, 2022
Students walk to and from classes in the Michigan State University STEM Teaching and Learning Facility on Sept. 21, 2022.
Students walk to and from classes in the Michigan State University STEM Teaching and Learning Facility on Sept. 21, 2022. —
Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

At the end of every semester, MSU students are required to complete a survey form, the Student Instructional Rating System, or SIRS, to receive their final grades in their classes. Now, the form is undergoing its first update since 1979.

“We’re trying to create a new culture around this ... we want SIRS to address what quality teaching looks like on campus,” assistant dean for global education and curriculum James Lucas said.

Lucas presented at the Nov. 10 Associated Students of MSU meeting.

Advertising management junior Analise Macksood said the current 26-question form is too time-consuming during the busyness of finals week.

“I don’t have time to breathe, so how do I have time to fill out a 30-minute SIRS form?” Macksood said. “I think it’s a pain to fill them out ... they’re lengthy and a lot of the questions are exactly the same, just worded differently.”

History education major Andrew Hammond said he thinks surveys are useful for professors but the current format is too long to be effective.

The updated SIRS form will have a 20-question limit and will be formatted in a cascading style, Lucas said. The first several questions will be university-wide, while the remaining will be determined by the class’s respective college, department, then faculty members. The goal is to make the questions more specific and robust, Lucas said.

Macksood suggested a more effective professor rating system should include questions about the interactivity of the class and how cared for and included students felt.

“I’ve had a couple of professors where I have felt really uncomfortable being around and don’t feel like I can talk about that in the SIRS form,” Macksood said.

Creative advertising freshman Danielle Borst said the current surveys lack space to express specific concerns about the class or professor.

“It doesn’t have any place to specifically put what I think,” Borst said. “(For example, maybe) the way the homework was graded bugged me, but there’s no questions on how you feel about the grading system.”

Hammond also said the survey needs more focused questions.

“(More questions about) if you liked the professor, you liked what they had in the class, you liked the style of the class, maybe rating the professor compared to other professors,” Hammond said.

Macksood said the survey should be shortened.

“Make it shorter so that students don’t just click random answers . . . and give a space under each question where you can say why you feel that way, but don’t make it required to say why,” Macksood said.

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