A central mission at BYU-Idaho is that its faculty members are focused on teaching and improving the student experience. Some faculty pursuing such a goal have found success in the program, Student Consults on Teaching, more commonly known as the SCOT program.
The program facilitates interaction between a trained student, known as a SCOT, and a faculty member. Any faculty member can request a SCOT to attend their class, observe a lesson, collect both quantitative and qualitative data, and return a report to the faculty member. The goal of the feedback is to help them tweak their teaching as they learn more about the student experience.
SCOT Program Director Devan Barker's experience with the SCOT program precedes his time at BYU-Idaho, which began in 2006. As an undergraduate, Barker participated in the early stages of the first SCOT program, which was pioneered at BYU and has since spread to several universities throughout the country.
Because of his experience, Barker was asked, along with others, to begin the SCOT program at BYU-Idaho in 2012, just after the Learning Model and the new Foundations program were launched.
"There was a window of opportunity, while people were figuring out the recently implemented Learning Model and Foundations program, to introduce this system that would allow some insight into small changes professors could make that would help increase their effectiveness," Barker said.
That opportunity turned a great idea into a successful program that continues to grow today. The SCOT program grew rapidly when it was first implemented at BYU-Idaho, with about a 30 percent growth rate each semester for the first few years. Now, the program conducts about 60-70 consults a semester and reach about 6-8 percent of faculty each year.
"We believe that we aren't done reaching faculty members; we have room to grow," Barker said. "We think we can comfortably double that number in the coming years."
Of the many benefits the SCOT program offers faculty members, Barker said the central benefit comes from the data that is generated.
"At the end of the day, the real benefit is the ability to get your hands around the data, which can be difficult in education," Barker said. "It is hard to measure some of the things that are most important in the classroom. It is hard to recreate the same dynamic each semester. This program makes that easier for the professors that use it."
Faculty members that use this program can apply the data in meaningful ways almost immediately, to improve their teaching.
"The SCOT program gathers data and feeds that back to the professor in a way that the professor can use it to improve their classroom processes," Barker said. "Once the professor receives this kind of data or feedback, they usually know exactly what to do. That data and insight allows them to be reflective on their work and have that much more control over this sometimes messy craft of teaching."
Many times, faculty use the data collected to make small adjustments rather than fundamental changes.
"This allows the professor to polish their teaching and do the little things that make the big difference," Barker said. "The real role of the SCOT program is to help the good teacher be that much better. It is not to fix problems, but rather to give them the insight and data that will take them up a level."
Susan Thomas, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of English, requested a SCOT consult when she was asked to teach a class she hadn't taught before.
"Because I was teaching my class for the first time, I had a SCOT come in and run some focus groups with my students to collect feedback as a third-party. My SCOT was very professional, responsive, and motivating," Thomas said. "She gave me a report with data and her own interpretation of student comments. I was pleased with the degree to which she was willing to customize her approach according to what I wanted."
The program not only provides constructive feedback to improve instruction, but also to improve the relationship between students and their teachers in the classroom.
"We are charged to continually improve the teaching and learning that happens on this campus each year, and I think the SCOT program is ideal because it gives us that student perspective," said Academic Vice President Kelly Burgener. "It fundamentally changes the student teacher relationship of BYU-Idaho. It is helping our faculty have a window into our students' personal experience in their classroom."