University of Calgary campus
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Nov. 18, 2021

New USRI recommendation report informed by student and faculty consultations

Working group releases draft report to university community; feedback invited by Dec. 14, 2021

Whether you are a student or academic staff, you’re likely familiar with the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction (USRI), an 11-item questionnaire that gathers student feedback in UCalgary courses at the end of each term. In January 2019, a working group with members from across campus began a detailed review of the USRI with the goal of developing recommendations for improving this course feedback system.

The university launched the USRI in 1998 to serve as one facet in understanding teaching quality and student experience in its courses. Since then, there have been major advancements in the understanding of how people learn, what feedback is helpful and how best to gather it. However, the USRI system has remained relatively unchanged since its inception.

In early 2019, the working group developed a comprehensive consultation plan informed by a review of the research literature on course feedback, as well as a review of the processes used at other institutions across Canada. Consultations with the campus community began in January 2020, involving students, instructors and staff from every faculty and school. Other groups that participated were the Campus Mental Health Strategy’s teaching and learning committee, Indigenous scholars and the Office of Indigenous Engagement, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Network Committee and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Campus consultations drove report’s recommendations

Associate professor Dr. Andrew Estefan, PhD, is the Faculty of Nursing associate dean of curriculum development and program evaluation and co-chair of the USRI working group, which reports to the General Faculties Council Teaching and Learning Committee.

“Some of the questions explored in the consultations dealt with the key challenges and issues associated with the current USRI and what is the most meaningful feedback students could provide on their learning experiences through an instrument like the USRI,” he explains.

“It was apparent consultation participants cared about the quality of teaching and giving and receiving feedback,” Estefan adds. “However, the current system was not viewed as ideal.”

Students’ Union vice-president (academic) Renzo Pereya, a member of the working group, speaks to the importance of the student voice. “The USRI is a direct opportunity for students to provide feedback on their learning experiences in a course. This student feedback allows instructors to learn what went well for students in a course, as well as where the course can improve for future iterations in semesters to come.”

The facilitated consultations included academic staff and student groups, as well as academic leaders. The feedback was aggregated for anonymity and thematic analysis, the results of which have informed the recommendations presented in the report:

  1. A system overhaul is needed
  2. Focus students’ feedback on their learning and course experiences
  3. Adopt a technology platform that allows flexibility and customization
  4. Advance equity, diversity and inclusion in a new system
  5. Embed Indigenous Ways of Knowing in a new system
  6. Improve communication and education
  7. Collect student feedback at the right time, in the right way

The campus community is encouraged to read the recommendations and to provide feedback through a form. 

"The extensive consultation process undertaken in this review speaks to the dedication of the working group to include all voices in this important area,” says Dr. Teri Balser, PhD, provost and vice-president (academic). “This report represents the experiences, feedback and ideas of our campus community.” 

“Our next steps are for this report to go through our governance committees for feedback and approval over the next few months. I look forward to continued discussions on this important initiative.” 

Read the USRI Working Group Draft Recommendations Report here.