To motivate students to complete end-of-course evaluations and to provide useful feedback through those evaluations, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning recommends instructors talk with their students about the importance of course evaluations and how those evaluations are used.
By setting aside 20 minutes during class for students to complete course evaluations, just like the custom when evaluations were done with pencil and paper, you are not only increasing the overall student response rates, but you are also increasing the likelihood that students have time to think through their responses. As a result, students will have the opportunity to produce less rushed, more thoughtful feedback, especially if this strategy is combined with the other recommended strategies below. Using class time thus may be a way for you to differentiate the type of serious, considered input appropriate for course evaluations from common brief and off-the-cuff input on social media, customer feedback, and other online forums. Finally, setting aside class time communicates to students the importance of evaluations in the teaching mission of the university.
It should also be noted that when setting aside time in class for students to complete course evaluations, you should leave the room to help ensure that students feel free to provide authentic responses.
Adapted from “Some Guidelines and Principles to Consider In Making Sense of Evaluation Feedback” by Kathleen Hoover-Dempsey, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University.
When considering student evaluations:
When dealing with negative student feedback:
When deciding how to further your development as a teacher:
When planning steps to improve the feedback you receive in evaluations, consider the following options:
Course evaluations can be and should be thought of as a part of a larger classroom narrative, one that focuses on improving students’ learning experiences from beginning to end along two intertwined paths: student feedback and improving teaching.
There are multiple opportunities to solicit student feedback throughout the semester. The feedback students provide about your teaching on their end-of-semester course evaluations is the most identifiable form of feedback and can be valuable in helping you improve and refine your teaching. Soliciting mid-semester student feedback has the additional benefit of allowing you to hear your students’ concerns while there is still time in the semester to make appropriate changes.
The CITL offers a service called a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis, which is a method of gathering anonymous feedback from students about what is helping them learn and what is not, in a course. This completely confidential service is an excellent way to assess students’ response to your teaching mid-semester.
Lastly, for soliciting informal feedback from students on their learning throughout the semester, consider adapting some classroom assessment techniques (CATs) from our CATs teaching guide that best fit your classroom. One example of a CAT is the minute paper, during which time students take one minute to write a response to a question or statement prompt. This can be especially illuminating if the prompt is intended to collect feedback on their learning experiences in the course.
The process of incorporating student feedback towards the improvement of your teaching can sometimes seem like a daunting process. The CITL can serve as a support system for you in this process through the following:
CITL individual consultations. We are available for confidential consultations on any teaching questions or topics you might like to discuss.
The CITL also hosts faculty learning communities on various teaching topics. These communities provide NIU faculty opportunities to learn from and with each other as they develop their teaching skills.
Outside the CITL, peer evaluations are another way to get valuable feedback from colleagues and to potentially create a community of teachers in your department. For more information, please see the guide on the Peer Review of Teaching.
Interpreting and Working with Your Course Evaluations, a resource from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University, featuring suggestions for improving one’s scores on particular student evaluation questions.
Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, published by the National Research Council (2003). [available as an eBook through the University Libraries].
The following articles can be found in the journal, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Volume 2001, Issue 87, Special Issue: Techniques and Strategies for Interpreting Student Evaluations . Issue Edited by Karron G. Lewis.
Student Ratings of Teaching: A Summary of Research and Literature (IDEA Paper 50) by Stephen L. Benton and William E. Cashin, IDEA Center. This white paper “summarize[s] the conclusions of the major reviews of the student ratings research and literature from the 1970s to 2010. That literature is extensive and complex; a paper this brief can offer only broad, general summaries and limited citations.”
Student Ratings: Myths vs Research Evidence, by Michael Theall, Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Theall, a research expert in instructional design, development and evaluation, explores the myths and truths behind Student Ratings (reprinted with the permission of the Brigham Young University Faculty Center).
How To Evaluate Teaching, by Richard Felder, from Chemical Engineering Education, 38(3), 200-202 (2004). “A key to effective teaching evaluation is to collect data from multiple sources [peers, students, instructors, administrators]…making sure that all education-related activities are rated by the people best qualified to rate them.”
Questions Frequently Asked about Student Rating Forms: Summary of Research Findings,” by Matthew Kaplan, Lisa A. Mets and Constance E. Cook, University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. This article answers questions such as, “What do we know about the relationship between grades and student ratings? What do student ratings tell us about teaching effectiveness?”
Student Evaluations and Gendered Expectations: What We Can’t Count Can Hurt Us, by Kelley Massoni, University of Kansas, and distributed by the Sociologists for Women in Society. “How does gender enter into students’ evaluations of their teachers. Scholars who have attempted to answer this question are divided in their findings. …This fact sheet is designed to make sense of the research on gender and teaching evaluations.”
Gender and Student Evaluations: An Annotated Bibliography, at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
This work is adapted from Student Evaluations of Teaching by the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License