Saint Louis University

SGIF FAQ

  1. What are SGIFs?
  2. When should I schedule a SGIF?
  3. What questions are asked?
  4. How is the SGIF structured?
  5. What does the Reinert Center tell my students about the SGIF?
  6. What should I tell my students about the SGIF?
  7. What does the Reinert Center do with the feedback?
  8. How long will it take to get the results of the SGIF from the Reinert Center?
  9. What will I get back from the Reinert Center?
  10. How should I interpret the feedback the Reinert Center gives me?
  11. How should I respond to the feedback?
  12. Will asking for this kind of feedback suggest to students that I am not confident about my teaching or somehow damage my credibility with them?
  13. Will the Reinert Center conduct a SGIF with my students at the request of my chair / dean?
  14. Does the Reinert Center give the results of the SGIF to my chair / dean?
  15. How do I schedule a SGIF?
  16. Can I request a SGIF for an online class?
  17. What if the course is co-taught?
  18. What if I have a Teaching Assistant (TA) in the course?

 

1. What are SGIFs?

SGIFs are short focus groups with students initiated at the request of an instructor and intended to collect formative feedback that can be acted upon in the current semester. A SGIF takes about 20 minutes of class time. Instructors (and any T.A.s) are asked to leave the room while the session is being conducted. All feedback is anonymous.

2. When should I schedule a SGIF?

Due to the purpose of a SGIF session - to obtain formative feedback at a time when you can act on that feedback for the current group of students - we typically conduct SGIFs only around the mid-term point of a course (regardless of the duration of the course). When requesting a SGIF, you'll want to select a couple of possible dates at or around mid-term. Given staffing limitations and the volume of SGIF requests, we may or may not be able to accommodate your top choice. Choose dates upon which you can give up 20 minutes of your class meeting time.

Ideally, Reinert Center staff will come in the last 20 minutes of the class period, so that you don't have to guess when you should return to class; students are then dismissed from the SGIF. In classes that meet only once a week, this may not be feasible; in those cases, we recommend that you try to schedule the SGIF for just before a short break, so that you know clearly when to return to class. The main reason for scheduling this way is so that you don't accidentally walk in on the focus group.

3. What questions are asked?

We ask students two open‐ended questions: 1) What aspects of this class do you feel are particularly effective for helping you learn the course material? And 2) What suggestions do you have for improving your learning experience in this class? There is also a space for "Additional Comments," in case they want to record something that doesn't quite fall into one of those questions.

Instructors occasionally ask to add other questions. However, doing so adds additional time to the process and may compromise the integrity of our current process. The open-ended nature of our SGIF questions is intended to allow students to determine what is most important to them. Typically, the specific issues an instructor wants to ask about will come out organically in response to our questions.  

4. How is the SGIF structured?

Reinert Center staff begin by introducing themselves and providing a brief overview of the process. Then, we ask students to write down individual responses to the two questions described above; this allows students time for reflection and to record their thinking prior to discussing the questions with their peers. Next, we divide students into small groups (typically arranged by convenience); groups are asked to answer the same two questions and arrive at consensus for their responses. Finally, we ask the groups to report out, and we try to get a sense of how many other groups/students agree with the small-group responses. The full-class debrief is crucial since it allows students to see how their perceptions of the course align with - or diverge from - the views of their peers. 

5. What does the Reinert Center tell my students about the SGIF?

Typically, we begin by introducing ourselves and explaining that 1) we are there at the instructor's request, because s/he really wants to know how they are experiencing the course and how to make it a better learning experience; 2) we seek their honest and specific feedback (with details and examples wherever possible); 3) the session must not turn into a complaint session-for every complaint, they should provide a specific suggestion for what the instructor could do to improve the experience; 4) all feedback will be brought back to the Reinert Center, typed up, and arranged according to patterns, and sent to the faculty member with no names or identifying information included; and 5) students can expect the instructor to discuss with them patterns identified and if/how they plan to respond to the feedback. 

6. What should I tell my students about the SGIF?

Please do make sure to let them know we're coming, at your invitation, because you genuinely value their feedback on the course and want to improve their learning in the ways you can. You can also tell them their feedback will be anonymous and encourage them to be as thoughtful, critical, and specific as they can be in their comments. You might also point out to them that this sort of focus group offers you formative feedback, of the sort you are probably giving them to help them assess their own learning, and that they'll have a chance to offer summative feedback at the end of term in student evaluations and any other forms you've chosen.

7. What does the Reinert Center do with the feedback?

After the SGIF session, we bring everything back to the Reinert Center, type it up, and group like comments together, so that you can easily see patterns. Typically, we put the full‐class debrief and small group comments at the beginning, so you can see what was most pressing for students. Then, we list the individual comments, arranged according to patterns. After we send you the results, we will delete the electronic file and shred all paper forms. 

8. How long will it take to get the results of the SGIF from the Reinert Center?

We try very hard to get the feedback to you prior to your next class meeting, so that you can go in relatively quickly and discuss the feedback with students, make needed adjustments, etc. In busy times, we may be unable to get it to you before your next class meeting, but we aim to get it to you as soon as possible.

9. What will I get back from the Reinert Center?

You will receive a typed report divided into three sections: 1) the results of the full‐class debrief; 2) the results of the small group discussions, arranged by group; and 3) individual student comments, arranged so that like items appear together. The first section will list the comments that emerged in the full class debrief. It also will include notes indicating how many students/groups agreed with each item. The second section will provide a transcription of notes recorded by small groups, arranged by group. Finally, the third section will provide a transcription of individual written comments, with like comments grouped together; these will appear in order of most to least frequent responses. 

10. How should I interpret the feedback the Reinert Center gives me?

Try to focus on the most common responses and those about which there was broad agreement among students. This will help you to see quickly what's working well and what sorts of adjustments you might wish to make. Also, compare the group feedback with the individual feedback; usually, there is overlap between these sections.

However, occasionally, we see classes where students' individual feedback (i.e., the feedback they generated on their own, without influence from one another) differs markedly from the group responses. This may be a sign that there are a few dominant students in the class whose comments in the small group and full‐class discussions overshadowed other students' views. Of course, it may also be a sign that, in discussing the questions with their peers, students identified other things as more noteworthy than the items they recorded individually. In cases where there is a gap between the sections, we encourage you to mention it to students, just so they will have context for understanding which suggestions you act on and which ones you don't.

Finally, keep in mind that you cannot respond to every single suggestion students make. We encourage you to focus on the top 2‐4 suggestions and areas of feedback as you consider how you might respond, and leave outlier and other comments for another time.

If you'd like to talk to someone about the feedback start with the Reinert Center staff member who conducted your session.

11. How should I respond to the feedback?

At a minimum, you should plan to address the feedback with students within a class or two of the SGIF session. For SGIFs to be most effective (both for your teaching and for your relationship with students), it is crucial that students feel heard and perceive you as taking their suggestions seriously.

Start with patterns for what's working well, and focus on the top 2‐3 comments. Summarize what you learned from the feedback, and assure students that you will continue doing those things they identified as working effectively for learning.

Then, summarize the 2‐3 most frequent or agreed upon suggestions, and let students know whether or not you can act on those suggestions (and if not, why not). You need not take every student suggestion in order for the SGIF to be successful. Most often, we find that students do recommend things the faculty member can easily act on. However, students sometimes suggest things that you would never do (because it conflicts with your philosophy of teaching or because the research on teaching and learning clearly suggests it's not a best practice). In those cases, it can be very helpful for students to hear your rationale for not acting on the suggestion-and it's often the case that you can think of something else you could do instead, that would address the need students have identified.

If you'd like to talk to someone about the feedback start with the Reinert Center staff member who conducted your session.

12. Will asking for this kind of feedback suggest to students that I am not confident about my teaching or somehow damage my credibility with them?

No. In fact, students often tell us, as we're leaving the classroom, how much they appreciate being asked about their experience, and they express deep gratitude that the instructor cares so deeply about their learning experiences. By all accounts, SGIFs positively impact student‐faculty relationships, and emerging research indicates that they also positively impact faculty's end‐of‐semester evaluations. Note: there is one exception to this rule of thumb: SGIFs can work against you, if do not follow up with students afterward to summarize the feedback and explain how you will respond to it.

13. Will the Reinert Center conduct a SGIF with my students at the request of my chair / dean?

No. All SGIFs must be requested by the faculty member herself/himself.

14. Does the Reinert Center give the results of the SGIF to my chair / dean?

No. All materials collected belong to you. Whether or not you wish to share the results of the SGIF session with others is entirely your decision.

15. How do I schedule a SGIF?

All SGIF requests should be made through our online request form, which is available from the beginning of the semester through mid-term. You will need to provide possible dates, your class meeting day(s)/time(s), the number of students, and the classroom location.

16. Can I request a SGIF for an online class?

Yes. Currently, we recently piloted an online, asynchronous SGIF process. If you're interested in trying it out, please email Dr. Gina Merys.

17. What if the course is co-taught?

In cases where a course is co-taught, all course instructors must agree to have the Reinert Center conduct the SGIF session, and all instructors will receive a copy of the SGIF results.

18. What if I have a Teaching Assistant (TA) in the course?

Unless the TA is listed as a co-teaching instructor of record, results of the SGIF session will be sent only to the faculty member. However, the course instructor certainly may opt to share the SGIF results with the TA. Please note: all Teaching Assistants must leave the classroom prior to the beginning of the SGIF, along with the instructor.

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