The IDEA Instruments are three, end-of-course evaluation tools (see also the anytime, Feedback formative assessment tool). The Diagnostic Feedback (DF) instrument is the primary tool that provides full, formative feedback and other features for which the IDEA system is well-known. The other two instruments offer some features of the DF with fewer question items. While all three instruments do provide useful feedback, campuses should choose the alternative Teaching Essentials (TE) or Learning Essentials (LE) instruments based on their needs.
As demonstrated in this chart, the DF offers an exhaustive formative feedback report in addition to the summary Progress on Relevant Objectives (PRO) score. The TE offers a scaled-down version of the DF formative feedback with no PRO score since the focus is on the observation of teaching methods. Conversely, the LE offers the full PRO score, but with no formative feedback since the focus is on the perceptions of progress on the learning objectives.
Considerations in choosing an instrument
In many cases, the primary reason for a campus to consider making anything but the DF available is to reduce the number of survey items students must respond to each term. Of the three, Teaching Essentials (TE) is the shortest, followed by Learning Essentials (LE), and then Diagnostic Feedback. All three instruments can be useful in assessing the effectiveness of courses and providing useful feedback for instructors. As noted above, the DF provides the most comprehensive report to aid faculty, and many campuses use the DF exclusively in all courses. When formative feedback is of prime importance, the DF is the instrument of choice. If there is concern, however, that students are being burdened by too many surveys on campus, it may make sense to use the other instruments or to use them in combination with the DF.
Some campuses set campus-wide policies to use the DF, TE, and/or LE instruments for all courses or in some combination in part to meet desired goals for faculty improvement of instruction or as part of faculty evaluation. Some, for instance, might insist that all tenure-track faculty use the full DF for all courses until tenured and allow tenured faculty to use a shorter instrument in each class or even just once a year or allow tenured, proven instructors to use the LE or TE. Some encourage the use of the DF in each individual course taught by a faculty member once a year—to get the full benefit of the formative feedback for the particular course—while using either the LE or TE in other courses. In some cases, an institution might use the TE for part-time faculty to provide basic insight into the course from students point-of-view while worrying less about the long-term development of the part-time faculty member via the DF.
Some institutions allow faculty to choose the instrument they wish to use for particular courses, while others may make this decision for them based on policies for departments or other units. If you leave it to faculty to choose an instrument, this Choosing an Instrument guide helps individual faculty think-through which instrument to use when given the choice. Recognize also that if you allow faculty to choose for themselves, you will need a mechanism for letting them report their choices to the campus administrator so they can be setup accordingly.
If a campus chooses to use some combination of instruments rather than just one, it is important to point out that different instruments must be in separate administrations. So, if you are using two instruments in a term, you must create two administrations (one for each instrument). While this is not insurmountable, it does add to the work load each term for the campus administrator.