Student Evaluation of Teaching: Information for Instructors

In Fall 2007, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) Advisory Board formed a committee to explore best practices related to student evaluation of teaching (SET). Class Climate is an online course evaluation tool that helps measure an instructor’s achievements in teaching.  

Who Oversees Class Climate? Who receives the course reports?

Each department at Iowa State University has local control of the departmental questionnaire, course evaluation time period, results, and reports. If you have specific departmental questions please contact your departmental administrator. The results are confidential to the instructor and the Chair or Dept./College Designee; they are the only ones who can access the results unless the instructor gives permission.

  • Departmental Administrator: inputs the questionnaire(s), distributes survey(s), creates reports and overall averages. Administrator also sends reports to chair or departmental/college designee.
  • Instructors: encourages students to participate in the Student Evaluation of Teaching. Receives reports from the departmental administrator through Class Climate (sent from
  • Department chair or department/college designee: receives appropriate course reports from the departmental administrator.
  • ITS (Information Technology Services): populates the courses directly from the Office of the Registrar database, and maintains the software and servers.
  • CELT (Center for Excellent in Learning and Teaching): trains departmental administrators on how to use Class Climate.

What do the evaluations and emails look like?

It is important for you to know what communications students will see during the evaluation process.  We have developed a few template examples for you to gain a better understanding. It is important to note that each department has the ability to customize these emails, and the online survey at the local level. Please contact your departmental administrator if you have specific questions.

When are evaluation invitation emails sent to students?

Each course evaluation departmental/college administrator has local control of when an evaluation is released to students. The software system creates an extensive mail queue. An example of this would be – if a department releases evaluations on Sunday at 6:00 a.m., and 10 other departments choose around the same time period – the system queues the emails according to when the surveys were generated. If a department administrator generates surveys at the beginning of the set-up period  – that department will be earlier in the queue. This process may take 24-72 hours.

How can students access an evaluation if they lost the initial email?

In addition to the email invitation, students may access their surveys through the learning management system, learn about it via the How to access My Survey Dashboard webpage.  

Where can I direct my students to learn more about the evaluation process?

To help students learn more about the process, instructors are encouraged to share the Best Practices for Students and How-to Complete the Evals website. Students can learn more about the following: why they should complete evaluations, who reads the results, providing constructive feedback, making the most of open ended comments, and completing the course evaluations.

Midterm Evaluations and Plus/Delta Assessment

It is important for you, as an instructor, to know how things are going in your course from a students’ perspective. The PLUS/DELTA Classroom Assessment Technique (sometimes called Plus/Change) is a means of identifying what is going well and what needs to be changed. It is a quick and easy tool that is typically used at the end of a class period to gather information.

You may contact your departmental administrator to create and distribute an online Plus/Delta assessment to your students for your midterm evaluation. Or request the departmental administrator to include the Plus/Delta assessment along with the standardized midterm evaluation.

Effective Practices for Instructors

  • Tell students directly how much you value their feedback. Let them know how you have incorporated past feedback into your courses. Assure them that all evaluations are anonymous and that instructors do not see results until after final grades are submitted.
  • Let your students know what percentage of the class has responded and that you would like to get feedback from everyone.  Ask your departmental administrator to let you know what the current response rate is for your course(s).
  • Once the evaluation is available students will receive an invitation email from or locate it using the My Surveys tool in your Canvas course. If it isn’t already enabled — enable the My Surveys tool on your course navigation using view the How do I reorder and hide Course Navigation links? web guide.
  • Include evaluation period dates, if appropriate, in your course syllabus or class schedule for future terms.  As of September 2012, each department sets their own start and end times.  Please contact your departmental administrator.

Three Steps to Better Course Evaluations

  1. Understand and accept today’s students. First and foremost, students want us to know who they are. They want us to know their names and to know about their world. Today’s students are busy, technologically savvy, and multitaskers.  To help them, we can provide background knowledge in our subject areas. We also need to share the rationale behind what we do and ask students to do. I recommend making invisible expectations explicit. I regularly start class by saying, “We are learning this because …” When students understand why and how the material is relevant to them, they find more motivation to study and end up rating the course more highly.
  2. Establish clear criteria for grading. All students want good grades, and they want to know exactly how to get those grades. College students today have experienced criteria sheets and rubrics since elementary school, and they want the same in college. They want to know where they stand on any given day in the semester.
  3. Get formative feedback early. The end-of-course evaluation is a summative one. Although it aims to help us improve future courses, it does not enable us to respond to the needs of the students currently enrolled in the course. Formative feedback collected early in the course accomplishes that goal.

Clement, M. (2012, July 30). Three Steps to Better Course Evaluations. Faculty Focus.

Analyzing Student Feedback

Comments Analysis Worksheet (PDF)

The Worksheet is intended for instructors and teaching assistants to use to make sense of student comments. Often multiple comments are related to the same category; for example, 10 students may all make comments about the assignments being unclear. This is not really 10 different comments but rather one comment 10 times. The multiple mentions give it weight, but it is only one area that needs to be addressed for improvement.  Tips for Analysis:

  • To facilitate organizing the comments, we have created a table that identifies the categories for the questions.
  • The Comments Analysis Worksheet helps organize student comments and make sense of the written data. The worksheet has been organized alphabetically in sections according to most frequently commented categories.
  • Note any student comments that will help in interpretation.
  • Indicate positive and negative comments.
  • Record the frequency of comments surrounding each theme to help identify the areas where students felt most strongly.
  • Add any personal notes that will help in the process of building on the feedback received.

Comments should be tracked according to the category(ies) they relate to and whether they are positive or negative. Note that one comment may contain multiple points related to different comment categories. Any comments that are particularly insightful or constructive should be noted.

Individual Strategies for Analyzing Student Feedback

  1. Control your defense mechanisms.
  2. Analyze the source of your students’ reactions in a way that sheds light on any issues and problems that have been identified.
  3. Work hard not to under-react or over-react to information that you receive via evaluation feedback.
  4. Divide the issues raised by students into actionable and non-actionable categories.
  5. Communicate with students before and after their provision of feedback.
  6. Do not make the simplistic assumption that all positive responses are related to good teaching and all negative responses are related to bad teaching.
  7. Remember that small changes can have big effects.
  8. Develop a teaching enhancement strategy that takes into account the evaluation feedback (145-6).

Moore, S., & Kuol, N. (2005). A punitive tool or a valuable resource? Using student evaluations to enhance your teaching. In G. O’Neill, S. Moore, & B. McMulline (Eds)., Emerging issues in the practice of university learning and teaching (pp. 141-148). Dublin: All Ireland Society for Higher Education. Adapted from McGill University