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The literature on student evaluations of teaching is extensive, covering over 80 years and encompassing over 2000 published papers. Although there are some ambiguous and/or contradictory studies about the reliability and validity of student evaluations, research suggests that well-designed and tested evaluation surveys can give you useful data that can help you improve your teaching, particularly when combined with other means of assessment.
The following step-by-step guide is designed to help you author questions for and glean the most useful information from your end-of-course evals.
Course evaluations present an opportunity to get students’ feedback and solicit their suggestions for further developing your course. However, you need questions that give you good data. The following resources offer guidance for authoring course-specific questions that you can add to the generic ones preloaded on UVACollab. Remember that responses to the questions you add are visible to you only; you can solicit student input without fear that it will negatively impact your performance review.
Given the current climate, we recommend that you include the following two questions about inclusiveness of the learning environment to gauge what works and doesn’t work for your students with different experiences, backgrounds, and identities. Again, the answers to questions you add, including these, are visible to only you and will give you valuable information you can use to make changes if necessary.
NOTE: We invite you to let us know if you are including these questions in your end-of-semester evaluations. Next semester, we will invite you to a focus group with other participating instructors to gauge your experience with student responses to these questions.
By design, end-of-semester evaluations are intended to give you insight into your students’ experience with the course. It is important to consider: What are the questions that only students can answer? How can they be framed in a way that they solicit concrete, constructive, nuanced feedback? As you write the questions, consider:
For information about when and how to add your questions to UVACollab, see these FAQs. Please note that the deadline for adding questions is typically posted in the site's announcements section each semester.
Here are steps for maximizing response rates and inviting students to offer constructive feedback:
Sifting through the noise inherent in student perception data is not always easy, especially since we’re somewhat hardwired to focus (and dwell) on negative comments and lower-than-expected numbers. The following questions can help you overcome your initial reaction to your student evaluation data and uncover the trends that point to meaningful course improvements.
Instructor Perspective: “How I Read My Student Evaluations" by Cedar Riener
While student perception data can be meaningful and ultimately useful in improving your instruction and future iterations of the course, care must be taken to determine the significance and validity of the data. Here are some general principles and guidelines to help you get the most out of the numerical data and written comments reported on evaluations.
Instructor Perspective: “Taking Stock: Evaluations from Students” by Robert F. Bruner
Instructor Perspective: “The Course Evaluation Follow-up Form” by Cheryl Krueger
This resource from Vanderbilt University summarizes the good practices for instructors and research about student evaluations.
Benton, S. L., & Cashin, W. E. (2012). Idea paper# 50: Student ratings of teaching: A summary of research and literature.
Need more support?
We are happy to help you with authoring questions or making sense of your students’ responses. Please reach out to us for an individual consultation.
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