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Small-Group Instructional Diagnosis

Small-group instructional diagnosis is an evaluation technique that uses an outside facilitator to elicit students’ feedback. It is usually conducted at midterm so that changes can be made during the second half of the course. The purpose is to give instructors reasonable suggestions for improving their courses.

The process has four steps:

  1. The instructor arranges a date for the evaluation.

  2. On the day of the evaluation, the instructor introduces the facilitator as someone who is there at his or her request to elicit feedback about the course. The instructor then leaves the room. After a brief overview of the process, the facilitator asks the students to divide into small groups. The groups have approximately seven minutes to complete a one-page evaluation sheet containing three questions: What do you like about this course? What do you think needs improvement? What specific suggestions do you have for changing this course? Each group can list as many or as few responses as it desires to each of the three questions; however, the comments recorded on the evaluation sheet must be arrived at by group consensus. The spokespeople from each group report back by writing their responses on the board or screen in three columns: LIKES, NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, and SUGGESTIONS. The facilitator checks for consensus of the whole class, and responses are either eliminated or rewritten. The second half of this step takes another ten minutes.

  3. Several days after the classroom visit, the instructor receives a written summary of the class responses. The instructor may request a follow-up visit with the facilitator.

  4. To close the loop, it is important for the instructor to discuss with the class what can or can’t be changed.

How much time does it take?

The process takes about 20 - 30 minutes in class. The facilitator should plan on an hour for writing the summary.

When does it occur?

It can occur anytime, but midterm is optimal. 

How do instructors use the results?

To make small changes in instruction. To confirm the positive things instructors are already doing.

To request and schedule an appointment, email Meg Skinner, ECTL Director:

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