16. Reimagining the Student Evaluation: Using Democratic Frameworks in College Teaching and Learning
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V. Applied Classroom Practices and Social Justice 297 16 Reimagining the Student Evaluation: Using Democratic Frameworks in College Teaching and Learning Phillis George Student evaluations are among the most widely accepted and common assessments for teaching (Boyer, 1990, 1996). Yet they rarely provide substantive feedback on ways to enhance teaching and learning (Hutchings, Huber, & Ciccone, 2011). This conceptual chapter seeks to address the issue by focusing its lens on the student evaluation and reimagining it through a unique framework that delineates critical strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to improve teaching and learning. The goal is to reenvision the student evaluation as more fluid and consistent, mutually beneficial and empowering for students and instructors, and seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the course. A tailored SWOT analysis is provided to outline instructional and/or course design (a) strengths that aid learning, (b) weaknesses that inhibit learning and inquiry, (c) opportunities for instructional and/or course improvement, and (d) threats to learning. The SWOT analysis is intended to serve as an effective and efficient democratizing tool. Specifically, it is meant to promote a decentralized and shared framework for students and instructors with hopes that they will continually assess and evaluate the quality of teaching and learning taking place while simultaneously taking ownership of quality improvement and maximization efforts. A Review of the SWOT Analysis Many may find the intentional pairing of the student evaluation and SWOT analysis an unconventional and rather curious combination. While uncommon in academic settings, the SWOT analysis is considered commonplace in other corporate and 298 | George organizational settings. It is frequently used as an analytic and strategic planning tool to improve corporate efficiencies and overall effectiveness. Many credit the origins of the SWOT analysis to Albert S. Humphrey. Although initially trained as a chemical engineer, Humphrey (1926–2005) was widely known as an American corporate and management consultant whose specializations included cultural change and organizational development. While working at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International ), Humphrey oversaw an extensive research project from 1960 to 1970 designed to explore and analyze organizational failures of Fortune 500 companies and to create effective and sustainable change strategies that improved corporate planning and management (Humphrey, 2005). As Humphrey described in a paper published in the December 2005 edition of the SRI Alumni Association Newsletter, corporate planning and restructuring served as the true foci of his research at that time: Corporate planning struck first at Du Pont in 1949, and by 1960 every Fortune 500 company had a Corporate Planner. But nearly all of these companies felt that Corporate Planning, aka Long Range Planning, was not working. They knew that managing change was difficult and often resulted in questionable compromises. From 1960 through 1969, we interviewed some 1100 organizations. A 250-item questionnaire was designed and completed by over 5,000 executives. Seven key findings led to the conclusion that the Chief Executive should be the Chief Planner and that his immediate functional directors should be the planning team. (pp. 7–8) Although Humphrey’s research focused on long-range planning or corporate planning, it prompted corporations to document inefficiencies and efficiencies by analyzing satisfactory, opportunistic, faulty, and threatening (SOFT) practices (Humphrey , 2005). SOFT analysis (as it was termed) was a precursor to the SWOT analysis, and the corresponding framework was one in which satisfactory practices were associated with being good in the present, whereas opportunistic practices were deemed good for the future. Conversely, faulty practices were associated with being bad in the present, and threatening practices were deemed bad for the future. Humphrey’s SOFT analysis was modified during a long-range planning seminar in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1964. British delegates Lyndall Urwick and John Leslie Orr, founders of the management consultancy Urick Orr and Partners, introduced the concept of the SWOT analysis by changing the F in faults to W to signify organizational weaknesses (Brech, Thomson, & Wilson, 2010; Morrison, 2012). As a result, Humphrey’s SOFT analysis evolved to what is now generally considered the SWOT analysis. The basic SWOT framework differs slightly from the SOFT analysis because of the emphasis on key strengths (previously referenced as satisfactory practices), weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to organizational optimization. The SWOT analysis is commonly presented using a two-by-two matrix, which was introduced in 1982 by Heinz Weihrich (Morrison, 2012). The matrix is generally termed the SWOT matrix (see table 16.1). Reimagining the Student Evaluation | 299 Weihrich’s SWOT matrix served as a critical tool for advancing Urwick and Orr...