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Foreign Students to Be Involved in Selecting the Best Teachers

Each year, HSE holds a competition for the best teacher. For the first time, this year’s elections for the best teachers will be open to foreign students at HSE on academic exchange programmes. Elena Artyukhova and Svetlana Samsonova speak about how voting will be organized for foreign students. 

Elena Artyukhova

Deputy First Vice Rector

What is the history of the competition for the best teachers?

The basic idea of holding a vote among students for the best teachers is to enable students to honour those teachers who were the most memorable to them in the preceding academic year – those teachers whose lectures or seminars they consider the most vivid and informative.

We began this project in 2011, and the start turned out to be quite successful. We have seen that students have a desire to express their gratitude and respect for teachers whom they got to know in the classroom. For teachers chosen as the best, this status has been a source of special pride. I remember how everyone would go and congratulate one another: ‘You are the best, congratulations!’ Since then, feelings about the vote have not changed; it is held every year and has become a strong tradition at the University.

The best teachers are selected not only by students but also by alumni. Each year the Centre for Institutional Research conducts a survey that produces three winners in each faculty. Among the best teachers, we also include students’ academic supervisors who won the competition of student research works in the previous year.

Over the past four years, the turnout for the vote has increased significantly. In 2011, about one third (31%) of the students came, but in 2014, nearly half (49%) of the student body was taking part – almost 8,000 students at the Moscow campus. In St. Petersburg, turnout was 66% in the first year of voting, which was in 2014.

How does the election take place?

Every year we try to bring something new to the voting procedure. In the first election, students filled out paper ballots. In 2012, we moved to an electronic voting system that used a computer programme specially developed by the Centre for Institutional Research. The duration of the election has been increased from two days to two weeks in order to help students more easily find time to vote in their academic schedule. On the appointed days, students come to the computer room, open the e-form for voting and select teachers from the final list.

To count votes correction factors were introduced that allow for consideration of teachers from both large lecture courses and small groups. There is a separate page on the HSE website that provides information about the voting process during the election period. It is also possible to see the results of elections held during previous years at any time.

What changes will occur in the voting process this year?

This year, for the first time, we are allowing foreign students who have come here to study for one semester to take part in the voting. Previously, only foreign students who were enrolled in a particular faculty could vote. Beginning this year, students on exchange programmes who are studying under individual study programmes are able to vote. Many of them do not have the opportunity to express their views during university-wide elections since they go home at the end of the semester. Nowthey have the opportunity to honour memorable teachers and even write them letters, as HSE’s Russian students do during the election. A preliminary election stage that will take place in December will be organized for foreign students.

Counting of votes cast by foreign students will take place during the overall vote count for HSE in June 2015. 

Svetlana Samsonova

Head of International Students Unit

What categories of foreign students at HSE can take part in voting for the best teachers?

There are two categories of foreign students who are here on exchange programmes. The first category is made up of students who come to HSE on inter-institutional academic exchange agreements. It is this group, attending regular courses, who will be allowed to vote starting this year.

The second category is made up of students in special (thematic) educational programmes (e.g., Math in Moscow and Building Business in Russia). They are not taking part in the vote because the classes for these programmes are taught only for them and are not incorporated into working curricula for other students.

Exchange programmes can last one or two semesters (i.e., the entire academic year). Students who come on exchange during the second semester or for two semesters will be able to participate in the university-wide vote together with Russian students, but there will be some differences in the voting process.

What is special about how the elections are organized for foreign students?

Foreign students who come to study at HSE on an exchange programme are a special category of students in terms of how their educational process is organized. The peculiarity lies in the fact that they choose their courses from different faculties and different educational programmes. As a rule, one student attends courses in two or three faculties, and not only in English. More than half of the students who come to HSE on exchange programmes speak Russian at the level of intermediate to pre-advanced. They usually choose 5-7 courses per semester (depending on the duration). In the current semester (modules 1 and 2), foreign students enrolled in 292 classes, 96 of which are taught in Russian. These courses often belong to different educational programmes, and our task is to organize the elections in such a way that relates all of the courses attended by students with the teachers who conducted these courses.

 I would like to note that the University supports including foreign students in the vote for the best teacher. Additional resources are being mobilized to hold the elections. In contrast to the vote by Russian students, which takes place in late May to early June, for foreign students studying at HSE on an exchange programme, a preliminary stage of the vote is taking place in December since many of them leave for home at the end of the semester.

Yulia Grinkevich

Director of the Office of Internationalization

How do you assess the initiative of including foreign students in the intra-university teacher competition?

I am very pleased that our international students here on exchange programmes will be able to vote for the best teacher. This is a very important part of the learning experience and life at HSE. Elections have become a strong tradition, and I want to ensure that our foreign students can take part in it by expressing their opinion and feeling that their opinion is important. While their studies at our university are often limited to one semester, during this time they are full-fledged citizens of HSE.

In addition, we should note that for teachers of courses in English, it is important to get feedback from their foreign students. Their responses can be very different from the usual ones given by Russian students.

The results of student voting influence the evaluation of teachers, so it is important to take into account the views of all students, including those who are here on academic exchange.

9 декабря, 2014 г.

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