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Update for Fall 2020

Due to the COVID-19 transition to remote instruction and university-wide hiring freeze, we are currently unable to hire and train new student consultants for the 2020–2021 academic year. As a result, we have had to temporarily suspend our SCOT services, but Faculty Center staff members are available for consultations and observations.

The Student Consultants on Teaching (SCOT) program aligns with the Faculty Center’s mission to actively support excellence in teaching and learning. Consultants are carefully selected and trained to provide descriptive observations and work as a resource for faculty. The consultants all have an interest in supporting excellence in teaching and learning, and they receive training in observational techniques and classroom data.

SCOTs are undergraduate or graduate students who, when requested, can provide you with a unique outlook on your classroom dynamics because they have a student perspective but are not enrolled in the courses they observe. Student-conducted observations are not meant to be content-focused, but instead provide you with feedback from highly motivated students who are dedicated to improving teaching and learning on campus.

Please note: SCOTs are selected and trained at the beginning of each academic year and typically become available for observations by November.

Services Offered

SCOTs can supplement peer observation or student perception of instruction by providing an objective student perspective through several different services. Each of these services can be customized to accommodate your needs.

  1. Recorder/Observer: During an observation, a SCOT will sit through your class, taking notes on the classroom dynamics. The SCOT will look at how you are teaching rather than focusing on what you are teaching. The SCOT will prepare a report that generally contains observations on teaching, the classroom layout, and a breakdown of how class time was spent. Observations can be tailored to focus on a specific concern or they can be general. Having an observation is usually the first step in working with the SCOT program as it gives the SCOT an idea of how you teach.
  2. Focus group: A SCOT will facilitate a focus group with your students during the last 15 minutes of class while you are not present. The SCOT engages in a conversation with students using questions which may be suggested by you, designed by the SCOT, and/or located in an established protocol. The aim of the discussion is to identify what you do that helps students learn, what hinders their learning, or what students think of the course overall. This information is relayed to you in a written report. The students’ identities are kept anonymous so that they are comfortable providing feedback.
  3. Online observation: In an online observation, the SCOT is enrolled in an online class as an “FCTL Observer” in a “non-grading TA” role. This allows the SCOT to view the content and assignments (even before they are released to students), and to observe student-to-student interactions. The SCOT cannot view student grades or private student-to-instructor interactions. Typically, the SCOT will begin the observation as a student, experiencing how a student might orient themselves to the course. The SCOT will also observe the overall organization of the course and conduct an in-depth observation of a module of your choice. Observations can be tailored to focus on a specific concern or they can be general.

How the Program Works

Step 1:  Inquire or request. The process begins when the instructor submits an inquiry or request form to the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. The form is then forwarded to the student consultant coordinator. The SCOT coordinator will either respond to the inquiry or assign a student consultant to the instructor. SCOTs are assigned based upon availability and discipline. SCOTs are not assigned to faculty in their discipline.

Step 2: Schedule initial meeting. Once a SCOT is assigned to the instructor, the SCOT will reach out to them via email or phone to schedule an initial meeting.

Step 3: Meet with your SCOT. During the initial meeting, the instructor and the SCOT discuss a plan of action. The success of the services provided is highly dependent upon this crucial step. In the initial meeting, the SCOT introduces themselves to the instructor, becomes acquainted with the course and the instructor’s needs, and reviews different options that are available for feedback.

Step 4 : SCOT conducts service. After the plan of action is created, the SCOT will conduct an observation or a focus group. The SCOT will gather data on the class session, online module/course, or focus group/interview session, which will be typed up in a written report.

Step 5: Receive feedback. After the student consultant has completed their assignment, they contact the SCOT coordinator to review their report. After review, the SCOT sends the written report to the instructor. The instructor has the option to meet with the SCOT face-to-face to discuss the report.

Step 6: Follow up. After the initial services are complete, the instructor can request more services from their SCOT or terminate the consultation process. At any time, an instructor can request a new SCOT or new services. If the instructor would like to contact their previous SCOT directly, they may do so.

Step 7: Evaluate your SCOT experience. Upon completion of services, the instructor will be emailed an evaluation form. This information will be used to improve the program.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can request the services of a SCOT by submitting a request form. Once the form is submitted, it will be processed by the SCOT coordinator, who will assign you a student consultant. You will receive an email confirmation of your request. Once a SCOT has been assigned, they will contact you for the initial consultation within one week.

You are not being evaluated by the student consultant. SCOTs provide their services for your benefit. They seek to help you enhance your course by providing feedback that is descriptive and objective, but not evaluative. It is important to understand that a SCOT functions to help faculty members gain a better understanding of what is going on in class from a student perspective. SCOTs describe classroom activities using various methods, but they do not judge or formulate opinions of what is correct or incorrect. They work with instructors to provide valuable and constructive feedback for course development.

The SCOT coordinator will not assign you a SCOT from your discipline. SCOTs are not from the same area of study as an instructor requesting their services. First, it is more difficult for a SCOT to observe a class in their field because it is easier to get distracted by the content during an observation. SCOTs are supposed to be focusing on observing multiple aspects of the class, not the course content. Second, we avoid putting our SCOTs in the potentially awkward position of observing a former or potential instructor. Although the observations are not evaluative, our SCOTs have great respect for their instructors, so we want to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation for both parties. The SCOT program is interdisciplinary, and all SCOTs are trained to provide the same level of service with competence and excellence.

All services provided by SCOTs are confidential. The information that is provided during the consultation will remain among the faculty member, the student consultant, and SCOT coordinator. We respect the demands and privacy of all students and faculty members who participate in the consultation process and will not reveal any information that is not authorized to be released.

Each consultant has experienced a wide variety of classroom structures and can provide a helpful perspective. They are trained to provide unbiased feedback about what they observe while carrying out their assignment. A SCOT can also be instrumental in receiving feedback because students tend to be more comfortable with their peers and may engage more freely in discussions about their courses.

Of course! SCOTs can be assigned to your class as a “non-grading TA” so that they will not be able to view student grades. SCOTs will be able to observe the instructor-student and student-students interactions in your online course, the course’s overall structure, or conduct an in-depth observation of a module of your choice.

The SCOT program strives to accommodate all requests. We do not limit instructors with larger course sizes to any of our services. All services offered by the SCOT program are flexible and can be tailored to fit all environments and situations.