Take everything with a grain of salt! If anything I think the best thing Instructors can do is talk with their students BEFORE they do the evaluation and tell the student how important their feedback is to the Instructor. If students think their feedback is wanted and appreciated then they are more likely to take it seriously. In addition, either the Instructor on the directions on the evaluation need to specifically remind students to provide useful feedback. So no, "this class sucked". If it sucked, then explain WHY it sucked. What specifically made it suck. What could make it not suck? If you loved the class then wonderful, what specifically did you love about the course?
So ultimately for me the biggest thing is if you aren't getting good feedback then you're not going to get any value/results back from the feedback. If you're getting good feedback then I'd review all evaluations from a course and see what themes/patterns emerge. So basically you're doing qualitative research on your evaluations.
Thanks so much for your comment Kona. Students are definitely a rich source of information and letting them know that before they do the course evaluation can go a long way in getting better quality responses. Stressing the importance of their feedback in helping the instructor improve the course. My research has also revealed that many institutions are recognizing the importance of text-based comments so “this class sucked” is definitely not useful when it comes to extracting real insight. The struggle comes in analyzing the qualitative data on course evaluations and making useful conclusions from the themes/patterns. That’s where a good online evaluation system and a text analytics tool can provide real value. This blog is taking on a life of its own – wish me luck! Thanks again for your help
Hi Chanel, and great question!
I found a great article on student perspective of course evaluations, and here is a quote:
"All the students agreed it is essential for faculty to get feedback in order to know where they stand in the eyes of the students. However, some expressed concern about what is done with the feedback, and if it is used at all: “I sometimes wonder if anything ever comes of them,” said one. Some felt it’s not possible to grade an instructor by simply assigning numbers: “Using a scale system to rank a teacher can hardly give enough insight to whether or not they are being an effective professor” and “It is too hard to get accurate description with attention to intricate details from a scantron.”
Instead, most of the students felt that asking more specific questions would help students express themselves better and give instructors more useful feedback. They felt that “other comments” was far too vague and broad a category: “Having a response like ‘comments about the professor’s tests,’ ‘comments about the professor’s teaching style,’ or ‘comments about the grading system’ would be more helpful.” Some students also questioned the quality of the feedback obtained: “Evaluations are a little too well structured, so they limit the student’s ability to provide genuine feedback.” "
Read more at From the Student's View - Student Course Evaluations
Every study I have read in the last year (and I have read lots because our college went to a new online evaluation system) is that students need to know that the feedback is used - by the instructor to improve the course and by the school to improve instruction. Faculty explaining to students the changes that have resulted from past surveys is very helpful in both improving participation rates, and the quality of the participation.
Here is a great blog posting from Doug McKee in Teaching where he discusses: How I extract Value From Course Evaluations.
And finally, a little something from the dissenting voices, because not everybody agrees on the value of course evaluations, and this is a nice moderate view from that camp: Rethinking the Course Evaluation from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
I hope this extra reading is useful.
Thank you Kelley. Although the blog is completed, I did read the articles you mentioned above and was delighted to find that I came across a lot of the same opinions during my research. I especially enjoyed the article from Vanderbilt U because sources that included the student's view were lacking during my search for credible sources. I plan to revisit this topic in the future and these articles will definitely come in handy. Thanks again.
I agree - it is very important to listen to our students, and not just by running a course eval, but also their feedback on the entire eval proccess.
This is such a great topic, Chanel, and thanks for posting! Because no single answer is likely to stand out as uniquely "correct," I've changed its format to a discussion. And, to enhance its visibility, I've shared it with the Higher Education and K-12 groups.
Thanks Stefanie - I'm still figuring out Canvas so any help is always appreciated.
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