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SRI results to be released online

Reading your prof’s ratings


Gazette LogoDalhousie students are going to get a look at how their peers rate their professors thanks to changes approved by the University’s Senate on December 7. Fay Patel, Associate Director (Curriculum Planning and Student Ratings of Instruction), updated the Dalhousie Student Union’s Council on the changes at the last Council meeting of the fall semester.

Most students are already familiar with the “student rating of instruction” (SRI) process at Dal. Towards the end of each semester, profs distribute two surveys to students, asking them to provide feedback on their teaching. One of the forms is a standard comment sheet. The other is an eight question survey, asking students if they agree with statements like “the instructor conducted the class/clinical in such a way that I was stimulated to learn” and “the instructor showed enthusiasm for the subject matter of the class/clinical.” The results are then aggregated and included in the professor’s permanent file (and considered when the prof is up for promotion, grants, or even a new job).

According to Dal’s “Centre for Learning and Technology” website, “under University policy, students will (now) have access, via a secure website, to the results” of the eight question survey for all Dal professors.

This is good news for students.

Results from the SRI process can help students as they plan their degree. Researching a prof on websites like “” is common practice for many students, but the comments there aren’t always reliable. For example, students may be more motivated to logon and complain about a prof that they really hate, or to gush about one that they really love, then to rate one who’s teaching style simply “gets the job done.” Because SRI’s include almost every student, you tend to avoid those extremes.

SRI questions all relate to “instructional ability.” Many faculty (and students) have pointed out that a prof’s “hotness” (one of the qualities you are asked to rate on really doesn’t have anything to do with their ability as a teacher.

All this is not to say the change will completely throw open the door to SRI results.

As already noted, professors must agree to make their results available to students. Patel explained at the DSU meeting that one reason for this is that new, inexperienced professors need some time to become comfortable in the classroom. If they receive a poor rating simply because they are still “green,” having that known to students could undermine their confidence.

Some DSU councillors thought that making the results available should be “opt-out” rather than “opt-in” (in other words, by default student’s can see the results). DSU President Chris Saulnier pointed out that the collective agreement between the University and faculty association states that faculty aren’t expected to share SRI results. According to Saulnier, having an “opt-out” system would likely result in grievances being filed by the union.

The obvious flaw is that professors who may not be quite up to par- weather it’s because they are new, lack the necessary skills to teach, or simply don’t care- likely won’t want students to see their results.

At the end of the day, these changes point Dalhousie’s SRI policy in the same direction as many other Canadian universities. Although the results may not be as widely available as students would like, some will at least be available for review. And when you are facing nearly the highest tuition costs in the country, it’s good to know you are getting the best bang for your buck.


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