A. A. Milne described organizing as “what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” Pragmatic and indispensable words for improving student satisfaction in higher education. Whether it be a single PhD student in a research laboratory or several hundred students in a lecture hall, the most important steps taken by educators happen long before walking into any teaching opportunity. Habitual reflection refines the process of building better student learning experiences. In academia, choosing to be organized is the equivalent of Robert Frost choosing the road less travelled, in that it makes “all the difference.” Student learning opportunities are predicated by the organizational efforts of the educator.
Many colleges and universities rely on course evaluations to determine faculty teaching effectiveness. While relying solely on course evaluations to measure teaching effectiveness is controversial, there is face validity in their ability to measure student satisfaction with the education process. Student satisfaction is an important consideration for institutional success across all higher education campuses and faculty development plays a major role.
As part of our strategic plan for faculty development in the Loma Linda University Doctor of Physical Therapy program, administrators meet with faculty every quarter to review individual course evaluations and develop action plans for continuous quality improvement. A common theme emerging from course evaluations is organization, and occasionally, the lack thereof. Based on hundreds of course evaluation reviews and countless hours of reflecting on the art and science of effective teaching in higher education, the following strategies rise to the top of the list for improving student satisfaction:
- Organize the structure of every class before the course begins. Consider building a detailed agenda outlining the estimated timeline for content delivery.
- Organize content volume and congestion on slides. Consider that sometimes less is more and pay close attention to what really needs to be on each slide.
- Organize the process of synchronous educational delivery. Consider various learner-centered teaching modes for individual classes within a course.
- Organize the process of asynchronous communication. Consider weekly workloads to enable punctual student response times.
- Organize course objectives and assessment tools. Consider clarifying what students should learn in each course and refining the tools used to measure success.
Improving student satisfaction emerges from a sustained and thoughtful process that typically begins with the end in mind. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines process as “a series of actions or operations conducive to an end”. Student perception ultimately drives satisfaction with every learning experience. Foundational to delivering an end product of student satisfaction is crafting an organized learning experience long before the first day of class. Inevitably, course evaluations are influenced by the charismatic professor, but that is not a strength all educators possess. Proverbs 30:25 states “The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer.” While educator strengths and weaknesses certainly influence student perception, the academic playing field can be leveled in favor of improved student satisfaction through the continual process of organization.