Faculty Council endorses proposed revisions to the ACE survey to make answers less biased

The University of Iowa Faculty Council endorsed the proposed revisions to the ACE survey presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

Faculty+Council+members+gather+for+a+Faculty+Council+meeting+on+Tuesday%2C+January+28%2C+2020.+

Wyatt Dlouhy

Faculty Council members gather for a Faculty Council meeting on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter


The University of Iowa Faculty Council unanimously voted to endorse recommended revisions to the Assessing the Classroom Environment survey in an effort to reduce implicit bias in certain student evaluations of instructors.

The proposed revisions include switching from CollegeNET, the current software program used to conduct the survey, to a new one that will allow faculty members to extract data from the survey more easily, Ken Brown, Tippie College of Business associate dean and co-chair of the task force, said during the Faculty Council meeting on Tuesday.

Switching to a new software program would cost at the most $100,000 without any negotiations, and could be as low as $24,000, Brown said. Additionally, $55,000 would be needed for software installation and video and marketing production would cost $10,000. The Office of the Provost would allocate the funding after control of the program shifts to them, he said.

The task force has also proposed creating videos for administrators discussing systematic bias in instructor ratings from students, Brown said.

They also want to make videos for faculty members to show during class times to discuss why it’s important to fill out the survey, Annette Beck, director of operational services in the university college, said.

The new proposed survey would have three questions about the instructor of the course, three questions about the course itself, and three open-ended prompts for students to answer, answering the request from students to make the survey shorter, Brown said.

The ACE task force was comprised of 19 faculty, staff, and students on campus who initially got together to talk about how to improve response rates for the survey, but then those conversations turned into discussions about how to improve the survey as a whole, he said.

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The task force listed three driving principles in revising the survey: advancing the assessment of teaching to facilitate improvement, increasing student voices in process by maintaining their input, and reducing known bias in ratings and comments against women and underrepresented faculty members, Brown said.

“We need to acknowledge the bias in our society, fundamentally against women and people of color, but we don’t want to throw out student voice,” Brown said. “So, [we had the question], ‘Is there a way we can elevate student voice and produce nonbiased ratings and comments?’”

Suggestions endorsed by the faculty council for improving the survey include: reducing the number of questions on the survey, encouraging outgoing student feedback, promoting systematic peer feedback, using existing campus expertise, offering comprehensive resources on how and why to complete the surveys as well as the administrator-oriented implicit bias videos, and building a supportive culture and infrastructure.

The College of Nursing and College of Education piloted the task force’s recommendations, and the group received positive feedback from faculty and administrators in both colleges regarding the revisions, Brown said.

“We want do a lot of cultural stuff. In fact, what we’ve been working toward is trying to change the culture around assessment here to make it more fair or systematic or pervasive, so that we improve teaching,” he said.

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