Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not just SFTs

Posted on: July 6, 2021

SFT is short for student feedback on teaching. There is some variant of this initialism in practically every higher education course.

The intent of SFTs is the same: It is supposed to let the instructor know what they did well and what areas need improvement. However, they end up as administrative tools for ranking instructors and are often tied to annual appraisals.

The teaching staff might get the summary results so late, e.g., the following semester, that they cannot remediate. As a result, some teaching faculty game the process to raise their scores while doing the bare minimum to stay employed.

Using SFTs alone to gauge the quality of a course is like relying on just one witness to a traffic accident. It is not reliable. It might not even be valid if the questions do are not aligned to the design and conduct of the course.

Instead, teaching quality needs to be triangulated with multiple methods, e.g., observations, artefact analysis, informal polling of students, critical reflection.

The tweet above provides examples of the latter two from my list. It also indicates why SFTs might not even be necessary — passionate educators are constantly sensing and changing in order to maximise learning.

The next tweet highlights a principle that administrators need to adopt when implementing multi-pronged methods. Trying to gauge good teaching is complicated because it is multi-faceted and layered.

You cannot rely only on SFTs which are essentially self-reporting exit surveys. This is like relying on one frame of a video. How do you know that the snapshot is a representative thumbnail of the whole video? At best, SFTs offer a shaky snapshot. Multiple methods are complicated, but they provide a more representative view of the video.

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