Mid-Term Course Evaluation Tool User's Guide
This resource is designed to help instructors develop and use feedback tools that can provide important information about students' perceptions of how a course is going.
Building a Mid-Term Evaluation Tool Guide
Mid-term course evaluations are formative feedback tools that can produce valuable information about how students are experiencing a course. When properly constructed and implemented, mid-term course evaluations can provide instructors with practical improvements or adjustments to a course that both the instructor and their students can make to enhance learning and teaching experiences (Hampton & Reiser, 2002; Yao & Grady, 2005). Thus, the use of mid-term course evaluations promotes a commitment to excellent teaching practices, and an investment in offering students a high quality teaching and learning experience. As stated in its strategic plan for Destination 2020, the University of Ottawa aims to “enrich the learning environment inside the classroom and out” by incorporating “the quality of teaching as part of our institutional culture” (p. 3). Destination 2020 also includes a commitment to “increase student-professor interaction” (p. 3). The collection of student feedback can offer an additional channel of communication in order to develop an understanding of students’ perceptions of a course.
Link to Destination 2020: http://destination2020.uOttawa.ca/documents/destination-2020-strategic-plan.pdf
In essence, mid-term course evaluations are an opportunity for students to:
- Express their level of satisfaction with multiple aspects of a course
- Share constructive comments about a course early enough for instructors to be able to respond and to enact changes
- Offer practical suggestions to improve their learning experiences in a course
- Offer practical suggestions to improve instructors’ teaching experiences in a course
- Offer feedback or communicate with an instructor confidentially and anonymously
- Develop a professional student-instructor relationship
- Become more actively engaged in a course and in their own learning more generally.
Furthermore, mid-term course evaluations are an opportunity for instructors to:
- Learn more about students’ specific needs
- Collect feedback that will enhance certain aspects of the course while it is currently in session
- Design a customized evaluation to collect specific feedback that is not effectively gathered during the regular course evaluations near the end of the semester
- Receive feedback directly from students
- Reflect on one’s teaching practices
- Re-evaluate the direction of a course and review the objectives
- Develop a professional student-instructor relationship
- Demonstrate to students that they are interested in the quality of their learning experiences
- Collect feedback that they may include in their ‘Teaching Dossier’.
Whether it be through a willful demonstration that feedback is welcome, that students’ opinions and suggestions are valued, that quality teaching practices and quality learning experiences are very important at the University of Ottawa, or even that an instructor-student relationship exists, the use of mid-term course evaluations has strong pedagogical value and is built from an understanding that teaching and learning are complex, and ever-evolving processes.
The creation, use, and response to mid-term course evaluations are proactive and can help eliminate the risk that problems may persist unresolved throughout the span of a whole course. Numerous educational researchers speak in support of mid-term course evaluations and the ongoing collection of student feedback. The following is a sampling of prominent arguments and significant reasons for engaging in this reflective practice at the post-secondary level.
- The ongoing collection of student feedback strengthens the student-instructor relationship by demonstrating that students’ expectations, observations, and experiences are valued and appreciated in the classroom (Nilson, 2010).
- Mid-term course evaluations can target aspects of a course that students are often too shy to bring up in class, thus creating an alternative channel for communication (Angelo & Cross, 1993).
- Requesting students’ feedback serves as a motivator for students, allowing them to feel like contributors within a course (Hampton & Reiser, 2002). Informal course evaluations are an opportunity for students to reflect on their learning experiences and to participate in the development of a positive and productive learning experience by offering constructive feedback to instructors about potential changes that could enhance the course.
Students’ Performance & Satisfaction
- Mid-term course evaluations produce valuable information about how students are performing and perceiving a course (Yao & Grady, 2005).
- Informal ongoing evaluations can enable an instructor to evaluate not only students’ achievement and success in a course, but also students’ interests, engagement, and perceptions of their own learning experiences. Using both types of data as a reflection of the success of a course and the quality of teaching is recommended (Mohanty, Gretes, Flowers, Algozzine, & Spooner, 2005).
- Students’ feedback can help identify areas of a course where students may be struggling and in need of further clarification or assistance. “Early feedback activities can elicit the specific comments and constructive criticism [. . .] need[ed] to improve students’ understanding of the material and their subsequent performance on exams” (Davis, 2009, p. 461).
Greater Possibilities for Change within a Course
- Informal evaluation tools can be used to help inform about adjustments that both the instructor and students might make to enhance the learning and teaching experience (Hampton & Reiser, 2002; Yao & Grady, 2005).
- The ongoing collection of student feedback throughout the semester can lead to a cultural shift within the classroom where students can develop a better understanding and appreciation of the use and value of course evaluations. This can lead to improved end-of-term evaluations. Moreover, as a result of being able to implement changes throughout a course, rather than merely receiving feedback after a course is over, mid-term course evaluations generally lead to course enhancements, which consequently also lead to higher end-of-term evaluations (Davis, 2009).
- While traditional end-of-term course evaluations may not be ‘flexible’ enough to collect specific data about the effectiveness of innovative teaching practices (Kember et al, 2002, as cited in Huxham et al, 2008; Kolitch & Dean, 1999, as cited in Huxham et al, 2008), mid-term course evaluations can be customized to collect this data (Huxham et al, 2008). Ongoing course evaluations support experimenting with new or innovative approaches to teaching by enabling instructors to get immediate feedback when planning to make a change in a course, and/or immediately after making a change in a course.
Faculty Development and Mentorship
- Using ongoing informal course evaluations is an active demonstration of an investment in continued professional development and self-improvement. In addition to seeking feedback from others, self-assessment is also important (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011, p. 343). Student feedback enables an instructor to pause and reflect on their practices and make appropriate adjustments where needed.
- Instructors who practice formative mid-term evaluations in a number of courses, and over a period, may be able to “look for repeated areas of criticism” or may be able to “identify patterns and trends” (Nilson, 2010, p. 319). This can give instructors greater insight into their practice and how it is evolving and improving over time.
- Using mid-term course evaluations can lead to building a professional support network. “Whatever form of feedback you use, research clearly shows that you are more likely to improve if you discuss the feedback with someone” (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011, p. 342).
Additional Evidence of Teaching Experience
- The feedback received from mid-term course evaluations can serve as additional evidence of teaching effectiveness in a teaching dossier or portfolio (Baldwin & Blattner, 2003; Osborne, 1998)
- “Mid-term course evaluations are a supplement to end-of-term evaluations” (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011, p. 341). Instructors may ask different questions, and collect an entirely different set of data about their teaching practices and strengths that may more accurately reflect their instructional approach.
- With mid-term course evaluations, instructors will have the ability to compare and contrast students’ original responses on the mid-term course evaluations with the end-of-term course evaluations (Davis, 2009). The ongoing collection of student feedback enables them to better understand students’ responses and to better understand how they reflect on their courses from beginning to end.
Feedback can be collected through individual tasks, many of which are anonymous, as well as through group tasks. The following examples present different ways in which feedback can be collected in the classroom:
Traditional Survey, Evaluation Form, or Questionnaire: These are also known as ‘Student Rating Forms’ (Davis, 2009, p. 534). A mid-term course evaluation can resemble the traditional end-of-term course evaluations conducted by the University. A questionnaire or survey can be prepared with a number of Likert-style statements, a few open-ended questions, or a combination of both. Students typically recognize and are familiar with this format. This type of feedback tool can be used in the middle of a course to collect feedback on multiple aspects of the course. Questionnaires can be prepared and administered periodically throughout the course as part of an ongoing assessment practice. A survey can have as few as 1-3 questions. It is recommended to not make surveys that are too lengthy, but rather to engage students on more than one occasion.
One-Minute Paper: Pose 1-2 questions to which students can identify the most significant things they would like improved in a course. The questions can be very general or quite specific. Have the questions written out or projected at the front of the room. Ask students to write their responses on a strip of paper, and to submit their response sheets in a pile at the front during a class break or before leaving at the end of class. The following is a list of sample questions or prompts:
- What top three things have you retained from today's class?
- List two things that you now see from a different perspective.
- What are two points you would like clarified further?
- How has this session helped you think about_____?
Start, Stop, Continue: Students divide a sheet of paper into three columns where the first column is titled ‘Start,’ the second ‘Stop,’ and the third ‘Continue.’ Students are asked to take note of the things that they would like to see ‘start’ in the class, ‘stop,’ or ‘continue’ taking place. For example, perhaps students would like to start having group work activities, would like the professor to stop using an overhead projector, or would like to continue receiving feedback on their weekly reading responses. [See the template in section 3 of this resource.]
Documented Problem Solutions: Choose 1-3 potential problem areas in a course, and ask students to write down all of the steps they can take, and that they would suggest be taken by others, to help improve the situation with an explanation of each step. This highlights the importance of constructive feedback with practical solutions, while emphasizing the need for problem-solving skills. Note: This can also be completed individually or turned into a class discussion.
Opinion Polls: This is an effective way to receive rapid feedback. Students can be asked to raise their hands in response to a series of questions to determine what the general feeling is in the class. Opinion polls can also be done electronically through Virtual Campus or using clickers in the classroom. The following is a list of sample questions for an opinion poll:
- Do you understand this concept?
- Do you require additional examples to help further clarify this concept/strategy?
- Do you think we need to review this material at the beginning of the next class before moving on to the next chapter/text/problem set?
- Would you find it helpful to discuss these issues in greater detail in small groups during the next class?
Suggestion Box: Place a box near the door of the classroom. Distribute strips of paper to students, or ask that they write on a sheet of paper, and deposit their comments in the box when leaving at the end of the class.
Exit Cards: Similar to the one-minute paper (described above), ask students to respond to a few prompts that require them to reflect on what they have learned, and connections they can make between the lecture material and their own lives, or applications to their future career. Instructors may also wish to ask students about the effectiveness of a particular lesson or teaching practice, about what they may want clarification on for the next class, or on what issues they would appreciate receiving additional references, resources, or support. The prompts or questions can be written down on a half sheet of paper distributed to each student, or projected/written at the front of the room. Students can turn in the exit cards at the end of the class.
Student Advisory Committee: A small group of students in the class can volunteer to be responsible for collecting feedback informally from their peers, and helping to construct possible solutions and modes for improving a course. These volunteers will act as liaisons between students and the instructor. In other words, they are student representatives supporting both their peers and the instructor. An instructor can meet with this group of students to gather feedback about certain aspects of a course on a periodic basis.
Focus Groups: Ask for student volunteers who would like to participate in a focus group facilitated by a third party. Prepare a few questions to elicit discussion and constructive feedback from students about the course. According to Davis (2009), “Faculty who use this technique report animated discussions that contain helpful suggestions” (p. 466).
Beyond the strategies presented here, instructors may find it helpful to create their own customized evaluation tools to better meet the needs of their students in a specific course. Although ready-made questionnaires are time-efficient and appear to be easy-to-use, they are not likely to provide instructors with the feedback that is most relevant to their course, their teaching practices, and the needs and interests of the students presently taking their course. Rather than using sample questionnaires, it is recommended that instructors create their own mid-term course evaluation(s) to suit the specific course they are teaching, their expectations of students and their teaching style. In doing so, instructors will be able to focus on the specific areas of a course that they feel (and/or that students feel) would benefit most from students’ feedback. Creating a customized course evaluation shows that instructors are actively welcoming student feedback. Mid-term course evaluations are not just a formality. They are intended to serve the instructor and lead to changes, when necessary, that can be implemented throughout the remainder of the course as appropriate. Creating a customized evaluation also shows that instructors have given some consideration to specific aspects of their course and teaching practices, perhaps based on students’ comments or concerns to date, and that they are looking for suggestions that will help them in providing students with a productive and positive learning experience.
Before creating a mid-term course evaluation tool, there are a number of design considerations that are important to explore. For instance, before selecting or creating the statements/questions, it is recommended that instructors write a list of the most significant features of their course and teaching practices. In other words, if instructors could receive specific feedback from their own students about how to enhance both teaching and learning experiences tomorrow, what questions would be most appropriate, relevant, and conducive to improvement? In addition to selecting or creating relevant questions, instructors will have to consider a format that will work well with the number of students in a course, and the amount of time they are willing to assign. See the following list of design considerations, guides, and templates for added direction when creating an informal course evaluation.
- Decide what to assess.
- Tailor the questionnaire to the objectives and approaches of a specific course and instructor. No standard set of questions can assess a specific context or approach.
- Only ask about items that an instructor would be prepared to change. For example, the room or time of the course may be out of the instructor’s control and cannot be changed.
- Ask a reasonable number of questions based on the time students will be given to complete the evaluation. A reasonable number of questions would be about 15 quantitative questions, 3 qualitative questions, or a combination of 5 quantitative questions and 2 qualitative questions.
- Consider questions that encourage students to think about their own learning, such as:
- How have you prepared for class today?
- What strategies did you use when studying for the mid-term exam?
- How many different types of resources did you consult while completing your project?
- What is one thing you plan to improve on for your next assignment?
- Use a variety of informal evaluation strategies throughout the semester. (See Section 2)
This template is for a ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ evaluation task, as outlined in Section 2. An instructor may customize the introduction, fill in the course code and instructor’s name, and/or change the instructions to meet the needs of a specific course.
This template is for a Questionnaire with space for 15 Likert-style statements. An instructor may select Likert-style statements from those previously listed, consult the additional resources that have lists of statements, use statements from the sample questionnaires available, and/or create new statements. An instructor may also customize the introduction, fill in the course code and instructor’s name, and/or change the instructions to meet the needs of a specific course.
This template is for a Questionnaire with space for 5 Likert-style statements and 2 open-ended questions. You may select Likert-style statements and open-ended questions, and/or create your own statements and questions. You may also customize the introduction, fill in the course code and instructor’s name, and/or change the instructions to meet the needs of your course.
- For larger classes, consider using the University of Ottawa’s Exam Scanning Services (Scantron Answer Sheets)
- Create your own questionnaire through the Virtual Campus. (More information to be added soon.)
- Consult sample questionnaires to get ideas. (See Section 5)
When creating or selecting questions for a mid-term course evaluation, consider the difference between presenting ‘Likert-Style Statements’ and ‘Open-Ended Questions.’
- Likert-style statements require students to select a response along a 3-5 point scale, such as ‘Always, Sometimes, Rarely, Never,’ or ‘Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.’ This is an example of a quantitative feedback tool.
- Open-ended questions require students to write responses using their own words. Open-ended questions can also invite students to provide examples or an explanation to clarify a response. This is an example of a qualitative feedback tool.
A mixed or combined approach, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, is quite common. In fact, Davis (2009) recommends using a mixed approach, stating that “Forms that include both quantitative and narrative data give the broadest picture of students’ reactions” (p. 537).
The following list of questions may be of assistance when first beginning to create a mid-term course evaluation. Instructors are encouraged to select and/or create statements and questions that are specific to the context of their own course, teaching style, and approach, and that will be relevant to the students currently taking their course.
Course Requirements and Instructor’s Expectations
- I know what is expected of me in this class.
- The objectives of the course were adequately explained.
- Objectives for each class session are clear.
- I always understand why we are covering a certain topic in this course.
- The amount of work expected for this course is reasonable.
- The instructor makes clear precisely how my performance will be evaluated.
Teaching Practices—Delivery of the Material and Interaction with Students
- The topic of the lessons is being effectively introduced.
- The instructor clarifies material which needs explanation.
- The instructor speaks audibly and clearly.
- The instructor makes the course interesting.
- The instructor is well-prepared for class.
- The instructor makes good use of audio-visual material (videos, slides, models, etc.).
- I generally understand the material presented in this course.
- The instructor gives examples, illustrations, or applications to clarify abstract concepts.
- The instructor presents diverse approaches to problems and their solutions.
- The instructor provides sufficient direction such that groups can function effectively.
- The instructor seems receptive to new ideas and others' viewpoints.
- I was able to get individual help when I needed it.
- Which aspects of my teaching have you found to be the most useful to you so far this semester? Please give examples.
- What are the strongest features of this course and of my teaching? In other words, what contributes more to your learning?
- Has my use of [name new innovation or specific teaching method] specifically helped your learning in this course? Please explain.
- Is the pace of the course too fast, just right, or too slow?
Students’ Engagement: Communication, Needs, Expectations, Interests, and Students’ Self-Assessment
Asking students to self-assess their engagement and expectations of a course helps make students more accountable for their learning and commitment to a course. Reflecting on one’s own study habits, attendance and participation in lectures, discussion groups, and/or labs, and preparation for each class can help students identify their own problem-areas. Students can then begin to work towards improving their learning experience by working on these, and other, areas.
- I feel free to express and explain my views in class.
- I participated more in class discussion in this course than in other courses.
- This course provides an opportunity to learn from other students.
- The instructor allowed adequate time for answering questions in class.
- My attendance at this section has been approximately _______%.
- I have visited the instructor during office hours _______ times.
- This course has stimulated me to do outside reading on my own.
- This course was helpful in developing new skills.
- I learned more in this course than in similar courses.
- I felt that this course challenged me intellectually.
- I have become more competent in this subject area as a result of this course.
- This course helped me develop critical thinking skills.
- I actively participated in the e-mail discussion groups used in this course.
- I performed up to my potential in this course.
- What steps could you take to improve your own learning in this course?
- What part(s) of this course are you finding most valuable?
- What aspects of the class have helped your learning the most?
- What suggestions can you offer that would make this course a better learning experience?
- Has anything hindered your learning in this course? If yes, please explain and suggest what might be done differently.
Effectiveness of Assessments and Evaluations (Design/Format, Frequency, Preparation, Relevance to Course, Feedback, Results)
- Class projects are related to course goals and objectives.
- The assigned readings are at an appropriate level.
- The number and frequency of assignments is appropriate.
- The assignments/tests/exams are clearly worded.
- Directions for the laboratory assignments are clear.
- The assignments tests/exams help me better understand the course material.
- The assignments tests/exams are worth the time that they take.
- The number and frequency of exams/tests is appropriate.
- I had enough time to complete the assignment/exam/test.
- The answers to the exam/test questions are adequately explained afterwards.
- The feedback I am getting in the course is helpful.
- The grading system was adequately explained.
- Laboratory reports were graded fairly and impartially.
- The instructor’s grading system encourages me to work hard.
- My grades accurately represent my performance in the course.
- What other types of assessments would help you to better improve your understanding of the material?
- Which assignment have you found to be most challenging, and why?
- If you could create an assignment in this course, what would you propose?
- How much time do you spend working on this course (reading and assignments) outside of class hours?
- Do you feel that the assignments are helping you to learn more about the material and to practice the skills introduced in class? Please support your answer with specific examples.
Learning Environment (Campus Classroom, Virtual Campus, Online Course, Laboratory, Access to Resources)
- The classroom environment is conducive to learning.
- I feel safe in this class.
- I enjoy working with other students in small groups.
- The professor is receptive to student feedback in the course.
- I feel confident in the professor's ability to deal with sensitive issues.
- I have access to the necessary resources to support my learning.
- The software/technology/website used in this course is easy to use.
- As a result of using technology in this course, I interact more with other students.
- I am learning a great deal from the fieldwork experience in this course.
- The laboratories used for this course have adequate facilities.
- The field trips are useful learning experiences.
- The resource material is sufficient and available.
- The guest speakers contribute significantly to this course.
- My placement/internship is/are appropriate to my career goals.
- What resources might help you further succeed in this course?
- What resources do you find most helpful in this course?
- For which lessons to date have you found the discussion groups most helpful?
- How can we work towards increasing class participation in our course?
Instructors may also consider asking students “to give advice to prospective students,” which can be posted on a website or shared on the first day of the course the next time they are teaching it. “If new students know that you have taken past students’ comments seriously, they may be more inclined to provide thoughtful responses when they next complete a rating form” (Davis, 2009, p. 540).
Instructors may also want to ask students “to suggest questions for future rating forms” (Davis, 2009, p. 540). This will show that they recognize that students may have different interests than them, and that they are open to hearing any/all of students’ constructive feedback, not only the responses to a few specific questions that would benefit them most.
For additional information, consult the following resources:
University of Ottawa:
Bank of customized formative questions
This is a 7-page list of Likert-style statements for course evaluations. Questions are divided into different themes for ease of use. For instance, there are questions about discussion groups, labs, placements, clinical teaching, the use of technology, etc.
Iowa State University:
This Website offers a list of questions with a suggested rating or numeric response scale. There are questions about: teaching methods/strategies/practices, student involvement/engagement, student learning/affect, evaluation of course materials (resources, assignments, and assessments).
This Website offers a page of questions that focus on problem-solving and labs, discussion-oriented classes, team work or group work, and a few general questions for many courses.
This Website hosts a list of possible questions for your mid-term course evaluation(s). Questions are categorized by theme: course organization, lectures, assignments, discussion/work groups, labs, classroom environment, as well as a few more general questions.
Before beginning to create an evaluation tool, instructors may find it helpful to consult sample course evaluations. The following mid-term course evaluation tools have been used by instructors at other postsecondary institutions. Each of these evaluation tools highlights a number of useful features, such as the inclusion of an introduction, a sampling of different combinations of Likert-style statements and open-ended questions, and a variety of formatting options.
Short and Simple 3 Questions
This short questionnaire by Carnegie Mellon begins with an introduction and has two open-ended questions and one multiple-choice question about the pace of the course. The questions ask about the strongest aspects of the course and the teaching and what specific suggestions students have for changes to improve the course and how it is taught.
Combination of Likert-Style Statements and Open-Ended Questions
This questionnaire by Vanderbilt University includes nine Likert-style statements and three open-ended questions. It contains self-assessment statements and statements about the instructor’s effectiveness.
Check Boxes and a Tally Chart for Responses
This Website by Concordia University features a simple questionnaire with 10 multiple-choice questions. Also of interest is a useful sample sheet that can be used to tally students' responses to each question:
Responses on a Rating Scale with Comments
This questionnaire by New York University has an introduction, 15 questions that students respond to according to a scale, and an open-ended question regarding general feedback.
‘Start, Stop, Continue’ Task
This Website by New York University features a variation of the ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ task. This questionnaire has three open-ended questions including an introduction. An alternative version can be found at:
An Online Quiz on a University’s Virtual Platform
This Website presents a sample questionnaire by an instructor at Pennsylvania State University with 12 Likert-style statements, eight multiple-choice questions, and three open-ended questions. This format was used because the evaluation tool was created as a quiz on the University’s virtual platform as part of an online course. This enabled the results to be quickly collected, organized and analyzed.
Integrating a new practice in a classroom environment can be overwhelming for both the instructor and students at first. Before distributing evaluation sheets to students, or requesting that students give feedback, consider how the ongoing collection of student feedback will work most effectively in the classroom environment. The following is a list of tips that can help instructors successfully integrate mid-term course evaluations into their classroom.
Introduce the Evaluation Task
An introduction on the evaluation form, as well as a verbal introduction of the activity to students at the outset, will help ensure students understand how the evaluation process will work. Explain the purpose of the evaluation and how it benefits both them and the instructor. Emphasize that responses are anonymous, and ask for constructive feedback that includes specific examples and suggestions for improvement.
Some students may need clarification about what type of feedback an instructor is looking for. Explaining the value of constructive feedback will help make the collection of student feedback a better experience for everyone involved, particularly students in first year courses who may not have had experience with course evaluations. Constructive feedback is productive and it focuses on specific elements of a course. It is recommended that students provide comments about what is supporting and enhancing their learning, and about what is inhibiting their learning as well. When providing constructive feedback, students are encouraged to reflect and comment on their learning experiences critically. This means that students may try to understand why they enjoy and learn best from particular parts of a course, and try to understand what the cause of negative experiences might be. This information is helpful when professors read through the feedback, and make decisions about what should remain the same in a course, what needs to change, and how certain elements of the course could change to better serve students’ different needs and interests. Constructive feedback is supportive in nature, and it aims to improve the learning environment for all.
Thank students for their comments, and explain how and when the instructor plans to share and respond to the results.
The following is a sample introduction that could be used on evaluation handouts:
The goal of this exercise is to collect student feedback. Please respond to the statements and answer the questions honestly and constructively. Your responses will help me to find out how the course is going so far, and they will give me some idea about whether any changes are needed. Your participation is voluntary, and will remain anonymous. Thank you for the taking the time to provide me with your feedback.
The ideal time to administer an informal course evaluation is at the beginning of a class. This way, students are not biased by a particular class, and are more likely to think about the course as a whole.
It is not recommended to administer a course evaluation after a test or after the return of an assignment. Students’ results may skew the feedback students choose to offer at that time.
Most evaluations should be completed within 5 minutes. Complete the evaluation (or ask a colleague to do it) to ensure that it can be completed in the time that will be given to the class to complete the task.
Ensure that there is enough time to introduce the task, distribute documents or write the question(s), complete the evaluation, and then collect the materials.
Anonymity & an Instructor’s Presence
If instructors are asking that students complete an evaluation anonymously, to demonstrate that they honor and respect the anonymity of the evaluations, consider asking a student to collect the forms, or to have all students turn them in face down at the front of the room.
Receiving student feedback about a course, about teaching practices, and about students’ learning experiences can be overwhelming. Having a few strategies in mind when reading through the evaluations that have been received can help make this step a little easier. The following is a list of tips and strategies to help instructors interpret students’ feedback. Before reading students’ responses, remember the importance of perspective, consider how to organize or categorize the responses so that the important message can be retained, shared, and responded to, and have a plan in place to be able to handle challenging or inappropriate comments.
Importance of Perspective
- Focus on the positive and constructive parts of the feedback. It can be difficult not to take critical feedback personally.
- Look for themes and try not to focus primarily or solely on the outliers where one opinion differs drastically from the rest of the class, unless of course an individual student has a specific concern that needs to be addressed.
- For quantitative data, one option for categorizing comments is to create a spreadsheet itemizing the frequency of responses for each item along the Likert-scale. With a spreadsheet, it can be easier to see the trends in how the majority of students were responding to the statements.
- For qualitative data, a strategy that works well is to read one question at a time, and pile surveys by theme. For instance, combine all of the comments relating to assignments, comments relating to the textbook, etc. Take note of the common themes, and then start over for the next question.
Handling Challenging and/or Inappropriate Feedback
It is important for instructors to be aware of what they can and cannot change about a course. For instance, the date and time when a course is offered, the evaluations listed in the syllabus, and in some cases also required reading cannot be changed in a current course. This said, comments relating to similar items may be helpful when developing/preparing future courses.
If there are some very helpful comments expressed by multiple students, but an instructor is struggling to find a possible solution, it might be helpful to return to the class with this information and seek students’ suggestions. Problem-solving as a class demonstrates how students can also be involved in making a course a successful experience for everyone. It is possible that no single solution will work for everyone, but coming up with a list of options might help students in the process.
Although it is not the norm, there may be cases when an instructor receives comments that are defamatory and unacceptable. Davis (2009) suggests that when an instructor receives “some upsetting or hurtful comments [...] put them aside until your emotions subside. Ask yourself what might have influenced a student to write the comments, and whether the comments capture something relevant to your teaching. Some comments may contain a constructive kernel; others simply reflect a student’s immaturity, frustration, and general unhappiness. A specialist from Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) or supportive faculty colleague can help put such comments in perspective” (p. 545). Instructors are welcome to bring any concerns to the TLSS where trained professionals can help navigate these comments. Instructors can also seek professional counseling within the University, if the results of an evaluation are having a negative impact on their work and well-being. It can be helpful to talk about the results of course evaluations with others as a sort of mentorship to better understand the comments and how they may help enhance one’s teaching practices.
After creating a course evaluation tool, integrating it into the class, and interpreting the feedback, instructors are strongly encouraged to respond to students’ feedback. The following suggestions may help instructors through the process of responding to students’ feedback and putting the results of the course evaluations into action.
Responding to Feedback
Sharing the feedback with all students lets them know that what they say matters and is important to the instructor. It also lets students know that they are contributing to how the course is taught. However, be cautious about summarizing and sharing data from questionnaires that were completed anonymously in a small class (Davis, 2009).
It is recommended to provide a thoughtful and timely summary of students’ feedback during the following class. Consider presenting comments by theme or through a graph. Some students might be surprised to see that they were not , or maybe that they were, the only ones to see something a particular way. It may be helpful to share with students a selection of “conflicting responses” in regards to those things that can be changed in a course, those things that can only be changed the next time the course is taught, and also those things that cannot be changed at all (Davis, 2009).
Developing a Plan of Action in Response to Feedback
What is the instructor planning to change and not change? Begin by categorizing what an instructor can change now (e.g., approach, delivery, feedback), what can be changed the next time the course is taught (e.g., text, assignment, structure), and what cannot be changed.
It is important to discuss what cannot be changed and why, as students may not be aware of certain limitations.
Clarify what role the instructor plays in enacting the changes and implementing the feedback, as well as what role students can play to help enhance the course.
Mid-term course evaluations can be an important resource for both instructors and students. The ongoing collection of student feedback promotes interaction between instructors and students, seeks to improve students’ experiences and performance in a course, and can help instructors continuously improve their teaching practices. There are many different types of mid-term course evaluations, and using a variety of strategies appropriate for any given course will help keep students engaged while providing students with many different opportunities and modes to communicate their thoughts and reflect on their learning. The sample questions, the templates, and the many different tools, strategies, and resources available to instructors outlined in this guide aim to help make the integration of mid-term course evaluations a realistic and productive addition to any course at the University of Ottawa.
For additional informations, consult the following resources:
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Baldwin, T., & Blattner, N. (2003). Guarding against potential bias in student evaluations. College Teaching, 51(1), 27-32.
Brinko, K.T. (1993). The practice of giving feedback to improve teaching: What is effective? Journal of Higher Education,64(5), 574-593.
Centra, J. (1993). Reflective faculty evaluation: Enhancing teaching and determining faculty effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Huxham, M., Laybourn, P., Cairncross, S., Gray, M., Brown, N., Goldfinch, J., & Earl, S. (2008). Collecting student feedback: A comparison of questionnaire and other methods. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(6), 675-686.
Kember, D., Leung, Y.P., & Kwan, K.P. (2002). Does the use of student feedback questionnaires improve the overall quality of teaching? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 27(5), 411–425.
Kolitch, E., & Dean, A.V. (1999). Student ratings of instruction in the USA: Hidden assumptions and missing conceptions about ‘good’ teaching. Studies in Higher Education, 24(1), 27–42.
Mohanty, G., Gretes, J., Flowers, C., Algozzine, B., & Spooner, F. (2005). Multi-method evaluation of instruction in engineering classes. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 18(2), 139-151.
Nilson, L. B. (2010). “Evaluating and documenting teaching effectiveness.” In Teaching at its best: A research-based resources for college instructors (pp. 315-328). 3rd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Osborne, J. L. (1998). Integrating student and peer evaluation of teaching. College Teaching, 46(1), 36-38.
Perry, R. P., and Smart, J. C. (1997). Effective teaching in higher education: Research and practice. New York: Agathon.
Seldin, P. (1999). Changing practices in evaluating teaching. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Sojka, J., Gupta, A. K., & Deeter-Schmelz, D. R. (2002). Student and faculty perceptions of student evaluations of teaching. College Teaching, 50(2), 44-49.
Svinicki, M., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Wright, W. A., et al. (1995). Teaching improvement practices: Successful strategies for higher education. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Yao, Y., & Grady, M. L. (2005). How do Faculty make formative use of student evaluation feedback?: A multiple case study. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 18(2), 107-126.
A number of other Canadian universities have also created information guides about the use of mid-term course evaluations. If you are interested in other institutional perspectives on this matter, consult the following links:
Guide from Carleton University:
Guide from York University:
Guide from the University of Guelph:
Guide from the University of Manitoba: