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Student Progress Review

The Student Progress Review (SPR) requirememt was implemented in 2017 at the request of students and faculty to support the regular exchange of constructive, written feedback between advisees and advisors. It codifies a process for research degree students and their special committees to have at least one formal conversation per year about academic progress and future plans. Using the SPR form, students are asked to reflect on their recent accomplishments, identify challenges, and set goals. Committee chairs then review their students’ SPR forms and enter constructive feedback. Chairs indicate whether progress has been excellent, satisfactory, needs improvement, or is unsatisfactory. Feedback that is documented on the SPR will be made available to the student, all members of the student’s special committee, and the DSG/GFA of the student’s field.

Overview of the SPR Process

Step 1: Each graduate field sets its own timing and annual due dates for the SPR process; fields send students instructions and a link to the SPR form at the appropriate time.

Step 2: Student schedules the SPR meeting with their special committee chair (some fields may expect that this occur in conjunction with a meeting of the special committee). 

Step 3: Student completes their sections of the SPR form. Depending on the field’s practices, the student may then submit the form or save and download a draft version before meeting with their full special committee.

Step 4: SPR face-to-face dialog.

Step 5: If the student saved their SPR form as a draft, they may edit it as needed after meeting with their advisor and/or special committee. Upon submission by the student, the form is routed to the special committee chair.

Step 6: The special committee chair enters comments and evaluates student progress on a four-point rating scale (unsatisfactory, needs improvement, satisfactory, excellent).

Step 7: Contents of the form will be available to the student, the student’s special committee, DGS, and GFA.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is required to complete a SPR? All MA, MS, and doctoral students in who are in the second year of their program or beyond must complete a SPR form each academic year. Students on leave of absence are excluded from this requirement.  

What is the deadline for me to complete my SPR? While the Graduate school simply requires that a SPR be completed once each academic year (by June 15, 2018), each gradaute field sets its own timeline for students and faculty to complete the SPR. To confirm when the SPR is due for your field please contact your GFA or DGS.

How long will it take me to fill out the SPR form? For most students it should not be difficult to complete the self-reflection and goal-setting portions of the SPR process. If you run into difficulties or have questions it may be helpful to discuss these with your advisor. The online form allows you to save your responses and return later.

Some of the questions on the SPR don’t seem relevant to me.  What should do? While most questions on the SPR form will be generally applicable to students across a range of fields and academic disciplines, some questions might not apply to your specific situation. It’s perfectly acceptable to note that a question is “Not Applicable,” or to contact your advisor or GFA for more specific instructions.

Who will see my comments? The purpose of the SPR form is to document, in writing, a conversation that should be happening between students and their mentors so the the primary audience of the competed form is, of course, the student and the special committee. Graduate fields provide support and oversight to this advising relationship so the DGS and the GFA will also have access to completed forms. The final SPR, with comments from both the student and advisor, will be added to the student’s file. Staff of the Graduate School will not regularly review SPRs but may contact students who receive ratings of “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” to help develop support plans. 

Is a SPR needed if students and their advisors already communicate on a regular basis?  Most faculty advisors strive to provide regular, thoughtful feedback.  However, the Graduate School has frequently heard that students expect more structured feedback in writing. This is especially important for establishing shared and agreed-upon expectations, for overcoming information that may be incorrect or misunderstood, and for when problems arise. Additionnally, research suggests that “formal annual evaluations tend to increase the numbers of students who complete, and are therefore preferable to sporadic and informal reviews . . . Some form of progress-tracking, annually or each semester, allows the student and supervisor to meet and establish objectives for the year. This ensures that both students and advisors be held accountable for timely progress and for constructive feedback” (Council of Graduate Schools, Ph.D. Completion and Attrition).