Encourage students to take course evaluations seriously and improve response rates on end-of-term evaluations

February 13, 2015

With the shift to fully online administration of course evaluations, many faculty worry about how their teaching will be evaluated if few students complete the course evaluations. Faculty truest evaluation data more when response rates represent broad student participation.

The following two strategies will help others evaluate the quality of faculty teaching: ensure that students take course evaluations seriously and use additional sources of evidence to document the quality and impact of teaching.

Encourage students to complete course evaluations and take the process seriously   
Students are more likely to complete course evaluations when they believe their instructor takes the evaluations seriously.

      • At the beginning or end of the term, talk to students about how you use course evaluation findings. Describe changes you made to the course based on the feedback students gave in previous semesters.
      • Elicit feedback from your students at mid-semester and use the feedback to make course adjustments during the current term. Distribute a survey (on paper or through anonymous google or eLearning survey tools) or ask a colleague to conduct a mid-semester discussion during class time. Ask students to answer three questions: describe aspects of the class that help them learn, describe aspects of the course that make learning more difficult, and suggest changes that will improve their learning. Summarize the findings and use some class time to talk about common responses to all three questions. Describe changes you are willing and able to make. Explain which changes cannot be made and why (e.g., you must give exams, students must learn difficult content and skills expected in other classes in the major). Contact Claudia Stanny, who has examples of forms you can use to create a google survey and guidelines for how to conduct (or request) an in-class small-group feedback session. Contact the Academic Technology Center (ATC) for assistance with creating an anonymous survey in eLearning.
      • Mentor students on how to give constructive feedback. Describe the kinds of feedback that helped you identify ways to improve your course. You can also describe the kinds of feedback most people consider irrelevant (e.g., comments about physical appearance).
      • Reserve a room with computers or invite students to bring their technology to class and complete the online forms during a scheduled block of class time.
      • Explain how your department uses course evaluations for decision making in your department

 Use multiple sources of information to document the quality of your teaching

Faculty should use multiple types of evidence to document the quality of their teaching. Do not rely exclusively on ratings from course evaluations. Faculty Careers at UWF: Advice to New Faculty, posted on the CUTLA web, discusses the types of evidence faculty might include in a teaching portfolio. More detailed information can be found in Seldin, Miller, & Seldin (2010), who describe the contents of a teaching portfolio and provide examples of teaching portfolios created by faculty from a variety of disciplines. Consult department and college bylaws to determine which types of evidence are most valued for evaluating and documenting teaching quality for tenure and promotion decisions.

Thanks to Angela R. Linse, Ph.D., Executive Director, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Pennsylvania State University, and Steve Ehrmann, University System of Maryland, for suggesting strategies for improving response rates to course evaluations.



Faculty Careers at UWF: Advice to New Faculty. Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, http://uwf.edu/media/university-of-west-florida/offices/cutla/documents/Advice-to-New-Faculty(8-2014).pdf

Faculty strategies for encouraging their students to fill out the SRTEs. Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State. http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/IncreaseSRTERespRate/ 

Seldin, P., Miller, J. E., & Seldin, C. A. (2010). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions (4th ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Updated: 2/13/15 cma