As a student, I was frustrated by course evaluations. Course evaluations are supposed to allow students the opportunity to provide feedback to improve the course. However, my comments were never received in time to improve my course.
As an instructor, I am frustrated by course evaluations. I do not get a chance to discuss them with my students – to understand their concerns and needs better or to explain my pedagogical choices.
To address these frustrations, I have turned to mid-semester course evaluations. While many such evaluations exist, I use the following in my classroom:
- What is going well for your learning in this course? Be specific as you can.
- What is not going well for your learning in this course? Be specific as you can.
- Based on your answer to question 2, what can I (the instructor) do differently?
- Based on your answer to question 2, what can you (the student) do differently? Other comments?
I email these questions to the students as a text document that they type responses to, print, and return in the next class. To ensure honest feedback, it is important that student responses are anonymous. (One could also use a Google Form to anonymously collect this information.)
I use 20 minutes of the following class to share and discuss the results. It is very important to respond to the evaluations in a timely manner. The sooner you respond to these questionnaires, the sooner your students feel heard and the closer you are to having a meaningful dialogue about what could be done differently on both sides of the classroom.
The short article Taking Stock: Evaluations from Students from the Teaching Resource Center at the University of Virginia newsletter gives some tips on how to interpret and respond to this type of qualitative data.
This particular questionnaire works well for a number of reasons. First, it gives you an opportunity to address student misconceptions or learning difficulties. I am often surprised at my students’ honesty with question 4 and their willingness to take ownership in their learning. Secondly, it gives you a chance to make small changes to the course schedule, assignments, or other activities. This process also helps give students perspective. If one student does not like working in pairs, but the rest of the class benefits from this practice, this is useful feedback. Lastly and most importantly, it communicates to the students that you care about their perspectives on the course, their engagement and learning, and your teaching.
I find that students respond well to the process and enjoy the opportunity to have a constructive hand in their education. As an instructor, I enjoy the chance to openly engage with my students about their learning process.
Yuankun, Y. and Grady, L. M., (2005), How Do Faculty Make Formative Use of Student Evaluation Feedback?: A Multiple Case Study, Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, Volume 18, Number 2 / May, 2005.