Photo courtesy of Joshua Ocampo.
California State University, San Bernardino

Behind the SOTE: A free voice for students

SOTEs allow students to provide valuable feedback. Photo courtesy of Joshua Ocampo.

CSUSB students are all too familiar with the forms they receive every quarter asking them to rate their experience in the classroom and the quality of teaching from their professors, but just how helpful are these surveys?

For Fall 2017, SOTE (Student Opinion of Teaching Effectiveness) evaluation forms were distributed to the different CSUSB colleges and departments on Nov. 1. The SOTEs will be administered to students between Nov. 9 and Dec. 4.

Administered every academic quarter, SOTE surveys allow CSUSB students to give feedback on their professors anonymously.

The structure of the SOTE form consists of five questions, three of which focus on the interest, attendance, and reason for the student taking the class while the remaining two questions ask their opinion about the instructors’ teaching strategies.

According to the university website, SOTEs are designed to give faculty members information about the effectiveness of their instruction so they can continue to improve their teaching methods. SOTEs also inform evaluators about how certain faculty members are performing through student input.

“CSUSB values feedback from students. SOTEs provide a process whereby students can provide feedback on a faculty members’ teaching, provide instructors with feedback to improve their teaching and provide evaluators with adequate data for the retention, promotion and tenure recommendations and decisions,” stated Assistant Director for Diversity Initiatives Dr. Lori Collins.

Collins operates in the Academic Personnel office, which works to ensure the implementation of the SOTE policy. Printing services then handle the distribution of the SOTEs to the various colleges and departments on campus.

Although SOTEs are meant to benefit the professors, students can also get some helpful insight of their own from the evaluation forms.

The Academic Personnel office in the Administration building facilitates the distribution of SOTEs. Photo courtesy of Crystal Harrell.

“To my understanding, the SOTE surveys assists the campus by letting an overall perspective on how their educators are coming across to their students regarding course material and likeability,” said CSUSB senior Feliciano Ayon. “SOTEs lead to the possibility of searching for recommendations. There is a chance that students may converse with each other after the survey to acquire a different perspective on their course and professor.”

Students have participated in the evaluation of teacher effectiveness for over 35 years.  The current SOTE form used today was first implemented in the 2006-2007 academic year.

A new SOTE policy approved last month states that colleges and departments must prepare and distribute SOTE packets to the faculty members during the seventh week of the quarter. Faculty members are then responsible for administering the SOTEs to their students sometime between the eighth and tenth week of classes.

Written or electronic SOTE evaluation is required for all classes that faculty teach, with some exceptions to this rule. Classes with less than five students enrolled and team-taught classes do not utilize the SOTE.

Field experiences, thesis research, distance learning classes, independent study, recitations, and internships are also exempt from the evaluation.

Student responses are confidential and are not to be discussed while filling out the actual SOTE form. Even faculty members cannot connect a response or comment to individual students.

“What I like about the SOTE is that I can be very critical of professors who I think aren’t carrying out their class in the best way. Instead of not saying anything, I’m able to voice my opinion without fear of being judged or blamed,” stated CSUSB sophomore Rachel Jimenez.

Results of the SOTE are given to faculty only after their evaluation grades have been submitted. In the effort to accommodate a productive learning environment, the SOTEs grant students, and faculty the chance to better CSUSB class curriculum.