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Peer Consulting:

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Small Group Instructional Diagnosis


Overview: What is a SGID?

The Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) is a structured interview process offered midway through a term to ask groups of students to identify (1) issues that are helpful to their learning and (2) improvements that could be made in a particular course. Using open-ended questions, students are encouraged to discuss constructive feedback in small groups and then in a full class discussion, facilitated by a trained peer reviewer.

For the course instructor, the process involves four steps:

When to suggest a SGID

As in all peer reviews, an initial meeting with the faculty member to determine their goals for review is important. In this meeting you will gather information about the course, the students and the faculty members’ approach to teaching the course. Discussing the faculty members’ perceptions of climate within the classroom is particularly important with this technique. You will want to clarify if there are issues that the faculty member particularly wants addressed, or if the students have been voicing concern over any specific issue.

Your goal is to clarify and agree on what should happen during the SGID session. Make sure that the faculty member understands what a SGID is, and what it is not (e.g., it is not an summative process, a way of understanding small groups in a class, or a method for gathering much quantitative data). A SGID can help with questions about course content and process.

A SGID may be appropriate when…

Skills you will need:
In addition to skills needed to conduct a good initial interview, conducting a SGID requires good facilitation skills. It helps if you are used to highly interactive classroom approaches where you elicit and listen to student comments and summarize them quickly and accurately on a writing surface. You will also need to quickly capture and record the group consensus regarding individual suggestions.

Process: After the initial interview with the faculty member, the SGID process can be summarized as

  1. Individual Writing
  2. Small Group Discussion
  3. Reporting Out
  4. Rating Key Points
  5. Sharing the Results

1. Ask for 30-40 minutes at the beginning or end of a class session. Do not begin until the faculty member has left the room. Introduce yourself and the concept of SGID- making sure that you let students know that their instructor has requested this feedback gathering session in order to help both learning and teaching.

2. Ask students to get in groups of 4-6, including at least two others they have not worked with in this class. Small groups are essential to the SGID since they place extreme student opinions within the context of group consensus, increasing validity and reflecting the complexity of the classroom. Assigned groups minimize cliques and there is a freer exchange of views rather than friends continuing their usual gripes. You may assign roles such as recorder, time keeper and/or facilitator if the students are not used to working in groups, otherwise a recorder should be sufficient.

3. For the first 5-10 minutes, students should individually write/list answers to three questions on a survey sheet or scrap paper. I write the questions on the board, but you can use pre-printed sheets

4. For the next 10-15 minutes, small groups should discuss the three topics listed above. Each student should describe their points before the group comes to consensus with 2-3 main points for each question.

5. For the final 10-20 minutes, student groups report out during a discussion involving the entire class. Try to capture their comment verbatim on the board, then paraphrase and clarify comments until it appears you have a clear understanding of their viewpoint. You may ask “is this what you mean?” or “How can I change what I’ve written so far?” When all points are placed on the board, have the class decide which items are most important through a process of verbal consensus. Look for verbal and nonverbal signs of disagreement. The key points can then be rank ordered and you can note the extent to which the class agrees or disagrees with the group’s consensus. This is important, since it shows where there is agreements among students as well as the strength of that feeling.

6. Very soon after the class interview, you should meet with the faculty member. Make sure you have time and location appropriate for discussing sensitive issues. You can graph or give numerical ratings to the faculty member as you discuss the results with them. Some faculty members may want to justify their actions for any negative point brought up by students, and they may be well founded. You can remind them that these are consensus statements, and they need to hear the comments… remembering that the comments are perceptions of the students in this class, not an evaluation of their teaching performance.

7. Encourage the faculty member to talk with students. At the very least they should thank students for their input. They may also want to summarize what they learned from the process. While some changes in their practices may be appropriate, many times you will find yourself encouraging the faculty member to simply communicate better with students about why the class runs as it does.

Issues & Controversies when using SGID method

The question set: Students can be asked as many as four questions. The most widely used question set is mentioned above, but an alternative might be

Adding other questions: Sometimes either the faculty member or you will want to add other targeted survey questions that are not discussed in the SGID process. This is best done as a small survey on the individual recording sheets. This can be useful when a faculty member has specific concerns that could benefit from simple or Likert scale responses (e.g., “How many times have you referred to the class website?” “Was the XYZ project effective?”) Remember that these responses will not be discussed as a group, so the benefits of the SGID method are less applicable for these questions. More important, these questions increase the time needed in class, and may overtake or bias the small group discussions.

Announcing your visit: The element of spontaneity is helpful in this technique. While the faculty member should let students know that a peer reviewer is coming to class, it is usually better if they do not know particulars of the process. You should, however, stress that student participation in the evaluation process is voluntary, and the strict confidentiality of their responses will be maintained.

Anonymity: All worksheets that students use must be anonymous—only provide typed compilations. SGID facilitators do not discuss the results of any SGID with anyone except the faculty member requesting the process: SGIDs are done only at the faculty member’s request, and the results go back only to that faculty member. Of course, faculty members may choose to use the information from the SGID to make changes in their course and in their documentation of teaching effectiveness.

Recording: In large or particularly animated classes, you may need to capture a larger amount of information. You may also be recording technical terms that you are less familiar with. It is helpful to think ahead about how you will physically record student comments during their session. Will you use a whiteboard or chalkboard? An overhead projector and empty slides? Take into consideration (1) your comfort with the recording medium; (2) student ability to review recorded comments during the process, and (3) how you will take comments back to your office to type up. If you use forms, this concern is minimized.

Forms: You may want to have two forms available. The first form is handed to all students and has the three focal questions. When students list their opinions before

Do not promise any change: often the faculty member will need to think about their response to SGID results or work with students to make changes. You do not want to leave the students expecting immediate action on their comments from the faculty member.SGID


SGID is a participative and consultative intervention, and its clear and simple structure, asking students to give their opinions in an open and fair forum, may feel empowering to both faculty and students.

The SGID is conducted midterm so adjustments can be made during the course to facilitate student learning.

Because students see that their input is taken seriously, the SGID process has been found to increase student motivation.

Feedback occurs at two levels: within groups and between groups

Because a SGID provides more reflective feedback, the information is qualitatively different from end-of-semester ratings.

Want to know more?
SGID was first introduced by D. Joseph Clark, when he was working in faculty development at the Biology Learning Center of the University of Washington. A FIPSE Grant in the 1970s helped popularize the technique.

Websites reviewed for this document include:

An essay by Bryant Keith Alexander (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) on the value of SGID: "Generating Feedback in the Classroom: Three Teacher and Student Based Tools of Assessment"-- 1998, National Communication Association.
Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at Miami University

National Teaching and Learning Forum article explaining SGID (May 1997) and including forms to use.

University of Oregon SGID Page newsletter is accessed at has an article on page 9 about SGIDs. Georgeanne Cooper, Coordinator of the Teaching Effectiveness Program, uses the term "the class interview," rather than SGID. The site includes a modification of the SGID process for online classes at Contours of Cyberspace.

Tufts University Center for Teaching Excellence. You can find information about SGID (with links to online articles with further exploration of its use and value) by using this pathway:

There are also good resources concerning many aspects of peer review at
University of Washington page on using class interviews (SGID)