IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction

Fall 2019 marks the launch of a new way to deliver course evaluations at Utah State University. The IDEA Center Student Ratings of Instruction, in use since 2011, will continue to assess effectiveness by focusing on learning and curricular objectives. The hallmark of the IDEA system is the opportunity for students to provide feedback on their progress in achieving specific learning objectives that are identified by the instructor, while adjusting for extraneous circumstances like class size. The IDEA system has a documented history of reliability and validity, and the IDEA "Diagnostic" also provides specific feedback on teaching methods and practice.

The delivery model makes it easier for instructors and students to access their SRI information. For instructors, all courses are now accessible via a single dashboard, including current and historical information. At the bottom of the page please find links to documents that can assist faculty in communicating their learning objectives to students (through the syllabus, course announcements, etc.). All faculty teaching courses will receive an email early in the semester regarding their course objectives. These objectives are then used for student responses. For more information about the IDEA system, please contact the Office of Data and Analytics at 435.797.0001

Selecting IDEA Objectives

How many Objectives should I select?: IDEA recommends that a total of 3-5 objectives is a good rule of thumb. You can select them as either "important," or "essential," with essential objectives double weighed (counting twice) in the calculation of your averages. Both important and essential objectives should be counted towards your overall total (e.g. pick 3-5, not 6-10).
The best approach to selecting objectives is to ask three questions:

  1. Is this a significant part of the course?
  2. Do I do something specific to help students accomplish this objective?
  3. Does the student's progress on this objective affect his or her grade?

If you can answer "yes" to all three questions for a particular objective, it should be selected as either "important" or "essential."

Faculty should be "true to their course" when deciding how many objectives to select. In other words, if you are teaching a lab course where only one objective seems appropriate, then just select one. If you are teaching a senior capstone class for the major, and you feel you should select more than five, then feel free to do so. Be true to your course.

The selection of objectives on the Faculty Information Form is a crucial activity for two reasons. First, the IDEA System evaluates teaching by assessing student progress on these unique, instructor-chosen objectives. Second, objectives provide guidance for selecting teaching methods; those that promote progress on one type of objective may differ from those that promote progress on other types. Differential objectives make each course a unique learning experience.

Although objectives can be stated in a variety of ways, they should always focus on expected effects on students, not on the instructor's actions or procedures designed to promote learning. It is desirable for each instructor to develop statements or objectives as precisely and comprehensively as possible. In order to participate effectively in the IDEA program, it will be necessary to interpret these statements within the framework provided by the 12 objectives listed on the Faculty Information Form. The following discussion is intended to help users differentiate meaningfully and accurately among the 12 objectives of the IDEA System.


Although each of the 13 IDEA objectives is desirable in the abstract, it is unrealistic to think that, in a single course, students can make significant progress on all, or even most, of them. Most instructors will be unable to address seriously more than three to five objectives. Those choosing more than five objectives commonly spread their efforts too thinly to impact student learning significantly in all areas.

In selecting "Essential" or "Important" objectives for a particular course, ask three questions:

  1. Is this a significant part of the course?
  2. Do I do something specific to help students accomplish this objective?
  3. Does the student's progress on this objective affect his or her grade?

If the answer to each of these questions is "Yes," then that objective should be identified as E or I on the Faculty Information Form (FIF). The phrase, "Of no more than minor importance," does not mean that such objectives are unimportant. It simply recognizes that such objectives are of considerably less importance than those chosen as E or I; even if some attention is given to them, an M should be selected on the OSF.


The 13 IDEA objectives have been developed over a period of 30 years, both through literature reviews and by consulting faculty who have used the IDEA system. The intent is to provide a useful, practical way to describe the objectives of most college courses.

IDEA Objectives click to for additional details...

  1. Gaining a basic understanding of the subject (e.g., factual knowledge, methods, principles, generalizations, theories)
  2. Developing knowledge and understanding of diverse perspectives, global awareness, or other cultures
  3. Learning to Apply Course Material (to improve thinking, problem solving, and decisions)
  4. Developing specific skills, competencies, and points of view needed by professionals in the field most closely related to this course
  5. Acquiring skills in working with others as a member of a team
  6. Developing creative capacities (inventing, designing, writing, performing in art, music, drama, etc.)
  7. Gaining a broader understanding and appreciation of intellectual/cultural activity
  8. Developing skill in expressing myself orally or in writing
  9. Learning how to find, evaluate, and use resources to explore a topic in depth
  10. Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision making
  11. Learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view
  12. Learning to apply knowledge and skills to benefit others or serve the public good
  13. Learning appropriate methods for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting numerical information


Hopefully, this discussion will help you select IDEA objectives for your courses. To summarize, there are three criteria that are useful in selecting objectives:

  1. The objective is a significant part of the course
  2. Specific and substantive techniques and assignments are employed to help the student achieve the objective
  3. Relevant assessments are made of student achievement of the objective

Objectives should not be regarded as important unless a substantial and explicit effort on the part of the instructor is directed to the achievement of that objective and unless achievement on the objective is meaningfully reflected in the appraisal of student progress.

Frequently, there are differences between the instructor's and the students' perception of the relevance of a given objective. It is recommended that the course objectives be discussed with the students, preferably early in the term.

Ask them to reflect on their understanding of the course's purposes and the way in which they believe the various parts of the course fit into each of the 13 objectives. Student learning will be enhanced if they are committed to clearly formulated objectives.

Based on interviews with a small number of students, we do not believe that holding such a discussion before the students fill out the IDEA Response Form will bias results. Students claim that their report of progress on objectives is uninfluenced by the knowledge that the instructor selected the objective as relevant. However, progress is more likely if students and faculty are agreed on the major purposes of the course. Hence, a discussion of such purposes will not only improve the quality of responses to the IDEA form but also be beneficial to the learning process.

Memo to all USU Faculty Re: Implementing the IDEA System in Fall 2011

Further Reading: