Survey Will Assess Freshman YearBy Jennifer Lane
Associate News Editor
In an effort to learn about and improve the freshman year experience, a Dean's Office group will send a 10-page surveys to each sophomore tomorrow.
The Education Studies Working Group felt the survey was necessary after analyzing the results from the 1994 Senior Survey, which showed students had concerns about their freshman year, said Associate Dean Alberta G. Lipson, co-convener of the ESWG.
Considering that seniors are somewhat removed from the freshman experience, the ESWG decided to survey sophomores, Lipson said.
The survey focuses on the freshman academic experience, with questions on freshman advising, the improvement of various skills and abilities since high school and over the course of the year, favorite subjects and why they were favored, views on academic policies such as the Pass/No Record system, Independent Activities Period, and academic performance.
The survey also touches on some non-academic issues such as Residence and Orientation Week, living groups, and activity participation.
Questions asked are both multiple choice and open-ended. In pilot tests, the survey took between 20 and 30 minutes to complete.
In order to assure anonymity and eliminate extra survey questions about the background of the particular respondent, such as advanced placement credit and details about high school, each student has been given a random code number that is linked to their MIT identification number.
The Registrar's Office can link the code number to the MIT ID number and report background data, but without having access to the survey data. Similarly, the researchers analyzing survey data will not have access to the MIT ID number.
Survey importance stressed
"The importance of having good data cannot be underestimated; in the past, anecdotal information often sufficed when innovations were considered,"McGavern said. "This is an opportunity for students telling about their own experiences to directly affect the conclusions of others."
"Faculty and administrators find surveys to be a useful way to learn about student reactions to the MIT experience, since it gives them a perspective that is far broader than their own individual experiences with students,"Lipson said.
As an enticement for filling out the survey, the Registrar's Office will randomly select 15 code numbers, and each corresponding student will receive a $10 gift certificate to Newbury Comics.
The ESWG is sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, and is composed of administrators from various offices with an interest in educational research. Many survey topics came from faculty members who teach freshman subjects.
The surveys can be returned via Interdepartmental Mail or deposited in designated boxes in dormitories.