Tips for a Successful IDEA Experience

#1 - Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

AlthoughTennessee Tech has been using the IDEA instrument since 2006, many students claim that their instructors never talk about it.  Research from The IDEA Center suggests that the best way to ensure that students take the process seriously is if the faculty member demonstrates the importance of the assessment.  This can be done in several ways.

Link IDEA objectives to your course learning outcomes and assignments.  This will help students see the connection between what they complete at the end of the course and the work they have done all along to get there.  An example of this link might look like the following:
Identify IDEA objectives on assignments.  This is a tangible way to demonstrate that students have had opportunity to make progress on the objectives you have selected.
Share a sample of the IDEA diagnostic form so that students have a sense of what will be involved completing it.
Communicate that student feedback matters.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about the IDEA instrument, find a way to let students know that their feedback matters to you.  When possible, share a story of how student feedback made a difference in your teaching.
At the end of this course, students should be able to:

Associated IDEA Objective

Assignments that assess students’ level of accomplishment of learner outcome

Demonstrate comprehension of the statistical concepts utilized by social scientists when conducting basic research.

Gaining factual knowledge

Homework/Lab assignments; Research articles; In-class tests

Correctly calculate, analyze, and interpret the statistical procedures covered in the textbooks

Learning to apply course material;

Developing professional skills

Homework/Lab assignments; Tests; Application Exams

Tip #2 - Structure Your Course to Maximize Student Learning

If you have aligned your course learning outcomes, IDEA objectives, and assignments (see first bullet above), you are likely structuring your course with student learning in mind.  If you have used some other method to design your course (like following a textbook chapter-by-chapter), consider a quick audit to ensure that the course you have designed actually accomplishes what you believe it should.  One quick check would be to ensure that every course objective on the syllabus has an assignment, test, or project attached to it, and that every assignment, test, or project directly relates to a course objective.  If either are “hanging out there without the other,” you may be creating ambiguity with your students, and they will not clearly see their learning.

Tip #3 - Do a Mid-Course Evaluation or Use the Feedback Tool

According to faculty-led Teaching-Learning research, soliciting student feedback mid-way in the course is an excellent way to improve relationships between faculty and students, as well as to get valuable feedback as to whether students are learning.  The simple act of asking students how things are going increases goodwill as well as the probability that students will respond favorably on IDEA at the end of the semester.  It also gives faculty time to make course corrections that can result in a better learning experience for students.  Consider using the new Instant Feedback tool.

Tip #4 - Conduct the IDEA Assessment in Class!

Even though the new process enables students to complete the IDEA assessment from any type of mobile device, it is still important for faculty to give context to the assessment and to do whatever they can to ensure a high response rate.  Taking time in class accomplishes both of these outcomes.  Schedule a time to conduct IDEA and publish it in the course schedule or announce it early in the semester.

Tip #5 - Incentivize Engagement

If achieving high response rates is a challenge, find ways to encourage students to engage the process.  Consider a group incentive (such as extra credit points, special snacks, etc.) if the class response rate hits 70%.  Have fun competitions (e.g., gender wars) to see who can get the highest response rate (note: be careful to preserve student anonymity at all times). 

Tip #6 - Use the Feedback!

Regardless of what you think about whether students should be able to evaluate their learning (and, subsequently, your teaching), there is likely something helpful in what you receive from the student feedback if you take a serious look at the diagnostic report.  If the feedback makes sense, implement a change, and let the next class of students know about it.  This communication from you signals the importance of the feedback and increases the likelihood that students will engage.

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