QSSET to replace USAT as survey of student learning experience

Surveys containing discriminatory remarks not to be included in evaluation process  

QSSETs will be implemented in the fall term.

Queen’s is launching a new survey to assess teaching during a remote semester, replacing the traditional USATs.

Queen's Survey of Students' Experience in Teaching (QSSET) presents an accessible, tech-based assessment of teaching during a semester of online, socially distanced learning. 

According to John Pierce, vice-provost (teaching and learning), the QSSET has been developed over a period of several years in consultation between the University and the Queen's University Faculty Association (QUFA). 

Presenting an entirely new version of the University Survey of Student Assessment of Teaching (USAT), QSSET will be formally implemented during the final weeks of the fall term. It will become the official survey of the learning experience at Queen's. 

Pierce said similarities between the USAT and QSSET extend only to the degree by which they are both the official survey for the University to help instructors improve their teaching and to provide an assessment and evaluation of instruction by Queen’s faculty for performance review, contract renewal, tenure, and promotion. 

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The contents of the survey are based on the criteria outlined in Article 29 of the Collective Agreement between the University and QUFA. It will be administered entirely online, unlike the paper-based assessment used in the past.

The survey is divided into four sections: Student, Instructor, Course, and Course Infrastructure. Each section allows for open and extensive comments by students. 

The electronic format also provides space for an overall final comment section, with written material viewed only by the instructor and used to assess formative aspects of teaching and learning. 

“The QSSET moves away from the idea that it is a formal assessment of an instructor's teaching ability and research expertise and toward a registering of the student's experience of the learning environment,” Pierce wrote in a statement to The Journal

“Assessment implies years of developed expertise in a particular area and a judgment by peers or senior academics, whereas a survey of experience attempts to record the immersive, direct encounter of a student with learning in a classroom, in an online environment, or a blended modality.” 

Pierce said the USAT didn’t receive regular review, but the QSSET will be overseen by a standing committee which will report to the Joint Committee to Administer the Collective Agreement (JCAA), providing assessment and approval for additional questions from Faculties and Schools. 

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“While the USAT allowed for individual questions to be added by the instructor to the core set of questions, these questions were not reviewed or approved by any external body,” Pierce wrote. 

“The result was an unevenness in the quality of the questions and sets of questions that often were either too narrow or too wide ranging.” 

The survey will include an opening statement indicating that students may not make comments that are disrespectful, demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing in nature. 

“Surveys containing such comments will be discarded and form no part of the evaluation process,” Pierce wrote. 

Replacing the USAT, the QSSET will be used going forward, even after the eventual return to on-campus classes. It will be administered in the final week of a course, and instructors won’t receive results until all grades for the course have been submitted and released to students.

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