University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources
http://www.umn.edu/ohr
612-625-2016

Small Group Instructional Diagnosis: Student Feedback through Consensus (SFC)

“The consensus group student feedback approach has been a valuable tool for our department in our efforts to upgrade our undergraduate curriculum, improve graduate and undergraduate classes, and gauge effectiveness of student learning communities. This approach minimizes biases arising from a small number of vocal students and provides an overall assessment of the student group.”

What is an SFC?

Student Feedback through Consensus (SFC), known elsewhere as Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID), is a technique that uses guided discussion and consensus to generate clear, prioritized, and confidential student feedback on classroom instruction or curriculum. When you request an SFC, a consultant from the Center for Teaching and Learning guides your students through a two-step consensus-generating process.

First, students work in small groups to agree upon answers to the questions:

  • “What are the strengths of this course that help you learn?”
  • “What changes would improve your learning? How should these changes be implemented?”

Next, as groups share their ideas with the class, the consultant clarifies and facilitates group discussion on each point before conducting a class-wide vote to determine extent of agreement. When changes are suggested, the consultant probes for specifics on how the changes could best be implemented.

Why request an SFC?

For course improvement, request an SFC in the third or fourth week of the semester

By finding out early in the semester what helps students learn, instructors can maximize the effectiveness of teaching strategies they already use, and implement student-driven changes for the remainder of the semester. The results include:

  • better student learning;
  • students who appreciate having a voice in shaping the course; and
  • no surprises (hopefully!) in the end-of-term student ratings of your teaching.

For curriculum revision or programmatic queries, request an SFC at the end of the semester.

End-of-term feedback provides valuable student input to those in charge of curriculum revision. Before implementing changes, curriculum revision teams may query students in all sections of a particular course. Similarly, student input might be sought on issues such as:

  • course sequencing;
  • achievement of curricular objectives throughout a degree program; and
  • specific threads, such as the perceived importance of study abroad in the curriculum.

What is the process?

The four essential steps of an SFC are outlined below.

  1. Hold a Pre-SFC conversation with a Teaching Consultant. When you request an SFC, a Center for Teaching and Learning consultant will contact you to set a date for the SFC and find out if there are any particular aspects of the class you would like feedback on.
  2. Set aside the last 25 minutes of a class period for the SFC. The consultant will observe the class and begin the feedback session after your departure. Additional time may be required for large classes or more in-depth feedback.
  3. Engage in a confidential consultation. Soon after the SFC is complete, you will receive a written summary of the student feedback and discuss possible next steps in a meeting with the consultant.
  4. Address concerns with students. At the start of the class period following the SFC, thank students for their input and spend a few minutes summarizing what you learned from the process. Let them know which of their hoped-for changes you plan to implement. If their suggestions will not be incorporated, explain why not.

View a Short Video About the Student Feedback through Consensus Process

Request an SFC

Most SFCs are solicited for the third to fourth week of the semester, please submit your request as early as possible.

Complete the SFC request form