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What is SATAL?

The Students Assessing Teaching and Learning (SATAL) program is a resource available to support academic programs and/or course level assessment for faculty, chairs, and deans. The SATAL program, sponsored by the Center for Research on Teaching Excellence, offers carefully selected and trained undergraduates to gather information about student learning or satisfaction on behalf of individual instructors or academic programs. For example, in support of program assessment, SATAL students can conduct exit interviews with graduating seniors or focus group interviews with students at key transition points in a curriculum. Results are then summarized in a professional report.

Who are the SATAL students?

SATAL students are undergraduates representing the three schools who have been trained in classroom observation, interviewing and reporting techniques. They have been carefully selected and interviewed and some of them are going to pursue a career in education. As experienced students, they provide an unbiased outsider’s view.

What We Do

What do SATAL students do?

SATAL students can serve as a recorder/observers who focus on teaching behaviors, student participation and learning in the classroom. They can also film a class, interview your students or provide other feedback to improve teaching and learning.

What types of things might SATAL students observe?

SATAL students notice what is being done well (e.g. well-facilitated discussion, clear examples and explanations, effective use of media), what can be improved to increase student learning and what could be hindering student learning.

Why not have a colleague or program chair observe my teaching?

Benefits of using SATAL students to gather this type of indirect information about student satisfaction or learning include obtaining data tailored to a program or instructor’s particular needs, increased objectivity and confidence in results because students will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts with trained peers who have no link to the program or its faculty, and access to a trained workforce. Maintaining confidentiality is part of the students' training as well, so please feel assured that the collected feedback will be shared only with appropriate faculty members.

Is the SATAL student from the same program as the instructor?

Sometimes SATAL students are from a different program than the one they are assigned to observe. This contrast provides an impartial outside perspective. They focus only on teaching behaviors, student participation, and learning — not on content.Excluding classes that SATAL students are currently taking, they can be assigned to any undergraduate class, including those they have previously completed.

Why consider having SATAL students interview your students?

When SATAL students conduct an interview in your class, your enrolled students have the opportunity to anonymously share what parts of your course help them learn and what parts might hinder or inadequately support their learning. This information can be quite useful for you, especially to inform adjustments in delivery of current or future courses. For instrance, it gives you the chance to make mid-course adjustments instead of waiting for a new semester to implement possible changes based on end of semester student ratings. It also provides opportunity to assess the effectiveness of any changes across several semesters.

How can I know if the SATAL will provide helpful feedback?

There is no guarantee that you will find all the feedback you receive helpful. SATAL students have chosen to participate in this program because of their interest in the teaching and learning process and have been trained by the program coordinator. They are eager to assist you in whatever capacity you think will be most helpful to you. You always have full control of how, or if, SATAL results will be used.

How do I request SATAL students?

Complete a request form on the Teaching Commons website/SATAL page or contact the program coordinator, Adriana Signorini, at 209 228 4766 or send an email to

What kind of summary reports will I get back?

SATAL students will aggregate data and produce a summary report. For surveys and focus group results, the most frequent comments are tallied. Students’ individual comments will not be linked to their names.

How often can I use this assessment service during an academic year?

We invite individual faculty and entire programs to use the services up to twice a year and recommend that requests for services be submitted a week in advance at the latest.

What We Don't Do

Does SATAL share summary reports with faculty?

All findings are strictly confidential. The distribution of the SATAL reports will be at the discretion of the requesting faculty. SATAL will only submit reports to the faculty requesting our services. It is up to the faculty to decide if results will be shared with anyone else.

May SATAL reports be used for official evaluation of faculty performance?

Upon faculty request, SATAL collects and analyzes evidence of student learning for formative assessment purposes only. SATAL reports are not intended as official evaluation of faculty performance. However, faculty can elect to use findings as a line of evidence to demonstrate teaching effectiveness.

For focus group or interview sessions, how are the participants selected?

One challenge common to many programs is to gain sufficient student participation to have confidence in focus group conclusions. We encourage but do not require faculty involvement for students’ recruitment. The SATAL program has tried varous means of enticing students to participate in focus groups. These include gifts cards, raffle drawings, and faculty encouragement, but we have observed that some extra points factored into a final grade seem to be the most successful strategy in gaining students participation. At the very least faculty or teaching assistants must be involved in the recruitment process for encouraging student participation. The SATAL Program does not assume responsibility for recruitment of students to participate in focus group or interview sessions .

May non academic units on campus request the SATAL services as well?

Due to limited resources, SATAL serves faculty, program chairs, and school deans to collect and summarize evidence of in-classroom learning. Although intended for academic units primarily, SATAL support will occasionally be provided for co-curricular programs depending on the o availability of SATAL students. SATAL support for non academic programs has been suspended.