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Ken Ryalls - IDEA. Omaha, NE, US

Ken Ryalls

President | IDEA


Ken Ryalls is dedicated to the improvement of learning in higher education through research, assessment, and professional development





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IDEA Coffee Talk Series: Myths and Misconceptions of Student Ratings-Gender Bias and More




Ken Ryalls is president of The IDEA Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing analytics, resources and advice to improve learning in higher education. After graduating from Indiana University with a PhD in Social Psychology, Ken served in a variety of traditional roles in higher education, including professor, program director, division chair, dean, and vice president for academic affairs. His keen interest in the improvement of learning outcomes permeated his career at colleges and reflected his dedication to improving the quality of the student experience through better teaching, effective leadership, and enhanced coordination between academic and student affairs. He currently satisfies his passion for quality education through leading a professional staff of academics in research and development at IDEA, asking questions of academic interest around pedagogy, leadership, and student experiences; designing effective assessment and feedback systems; and writing and speaking about the impact of IDEA research.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (5)

Higher Education

Adult Education

Public Speaking

Distance Learning

Program Development

Education (2)

Indiana University Bloomington: PhD, Social Psychology

The University of Texas at Austin: BS, Psychology

Affiliations and Past Experience (2)

  • Nebraska Methodist College : Former VP for Academic Affairs
  • College of Saint Mary : Former Chair - Arts and Sciences & Professor

Media Mentions (5)

From Futile Reviews to Meaningful Student Feedback



Student ratings of instruction inspire passion. This feedback can have a very personal effect on those who teach. As a former professor, I can still remember some of the most scathing reviews I got from students. It doesn’t go away. So while I do not deny that student feedback is sometimes misguided, useless or even downright cruel, we must keep in mind that students spend more time observing the faculty member’s teaching than anyone else on campus. They’re uniquely positioned to provide meaningful insight into our teaching...

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Student Evaluations Of Professors Flawed

Stanford : The College Puzzle  


The IDEA Center, a 40-year-old nonprofit that spun off from Kansas State University, thinks it has a student-ratings system that overcomes two chief critiques of most surveys: poorly designed questions and misused results. Its course-evaluation tool, which has been steadily gaining traction on campuses, is designed to help professors judge how well they’re meeting their own course goals. “It’s all about the improvement of teaching and learning,” says Ken Ryalls, the center’s president...

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Flawed Evaluations

Inside Higher Ed  


Of course, not all course evaluations are created equal. Ken Ryalls is president of IDEA, which offers colleges and universities research-based course evaluation systems that can control for class size, student motivation and other factors. He said he understands faculty concerns about low response rates baring statistically insignificant data, but that the correlation between response rates and teacher ratings is actually quite low...

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When Students’ Prejudices Taint Reviews of Instructors

Chronicle of Higher Education  print


Kenneth R. Ryalls, president of the IDEA Center, a nonprofit group that researches and develops such assessments, agrees that administrators should ignore evaluations with passages that are "clearly inflammatory or threatening." He argues, however, that, because all people have biases, more subtle evidence of them should not be seen as disqualifying evaluations from consideration. "You just have to use them wisely and try to get a big picture over time," he says.

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Student Voices Need to Be Heard in Teacher Evaluations

Chronicle of Higher Education  print


Students are certainly qualified to report what they observe happening in class, rendering judgments about how much they perceive they learned in the course, how well the course was delivered, and their desire to take the course.

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Event and Conference Appearances (12)

Combining Faculty Perceptions and Chair Self Reflections in Performance Review

Academic Chair Conference, February 2017  New Orleans, LA

Using IDEA's Student Ratings of Instruction as an Indirect Measure of Impact at a Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

American Association of Colleges and Universities, January 2017  San Francisco, CA

Deep Learning: Research on High Impact Teaching Methods

Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD), November 2016  Louisville, KY

Using Student Ratings of Instruction in Faculty Development

Assessment Institute (IUPUI), October 2016  Indianapolis, IN

Opening Comments

IDEA Regional Workshop, September 2016  Kansas City, KS

The Design and Use of an Effective Student Ratings of Instruction (SRI) System

Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, June 2016  Asheville, NC

Alignment of Global Outcomes for Assessment and Accreditation

Association for Institutional Research, May 2016  New Orleans, LA

Breathing Life Into Your Instructor Feedback Data

Higher Learning Commission, April 2016  Chicago, IL

A Summary of Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Student Ratings

WASC Academic Resource Conference, April 2016  Garden Grove, CA

Alignment of Global Outcomes for Assessment and Accreditation

Academic Chairpersons Conference, February 2017  Charleston, SC

Three Sessions: Practicing Group Report Interpretation, Using IDEA for Accreditation, Response Rates

IDEA Teaching and Learning Workshop, February 2016  Charleston, SC

Using IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction to Improve Institutional Effectiveness and Student Learning

American Association of Colleges and Universities, January 2016  Washington, DC

Articles (5)

Alignment of Global Outcomes for Assessment and Accreditation

Academic Chairpersons Conference

2016 Influential higher education organizations aspire to measure different sets of global student outcomes, yet widespread agreement exists. This presentation centers on how IDEA's Student Ratings of Instruction Learning Objectives align with global outcomes from AAC&U's Value Rubric, Lumina's DQP, HLC's Criteria for Accreditation, and NSSE's Engagement Indicators.

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Valuing the Undervalued: Professional Development for Chairs and Adjuncts

Academic Chairpersons Conference

2014 Department chairs and adjunct instructors share some things in common. They do much of the work but receive little recognition, and they frequently assume their professional roles under-prepared. What can be done to support their professional development? IDEA’s multi-faceted feedback system will be described followed by guided discussion.

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From Futile Reviews to Meaningful Student Feedback



Student voice matters. We need to take the time to listen.

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Myths and Misconceptions of Student Ratings: Gender Bias and More

IDEA Webinar


IDEA President, Ken Ryalls, Ph.D., and IDEA Senior Research Officer, Steve Benton, Ph.D., take part in a moderated conversation addressing many of the misconceptions around SRIs and students as evaluators, as well as faculty frustration with misuse of data. We’ll also take a closer look at some of the recent press focused on gender bias in student ratings and offer an objective view on the topic.

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Advancing Innovation of Teaching and Learning with a More Holistic Approach

Campus Intelligence: A Campus Labs Podcast


In this episode, JD White, PhD, of Campus Labs talks with Ken Ryalls, PhD, about shifting the paradigm for teaching and learning. Most current approaches, for instance, emphasize using course evaluations to evaluate a faculty member instead of focusing on professional development to improve instruction methods. Ken advocates a holistic system that neither ignores nor overemphasizes student feedback, and rewards classroom engagement, improved teaching, healthy risk-taking, and a pursuit of innovation. Ken Ryalls is President of IDEA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement of learning in higher education through research, assessment, and professional development.

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