Strategies for Better Course Evaluations and Analyzing Student Feedback

Steps to Better Course Evaluations

Make course expectations explicit

CELT recommends making invisible expectations explicit. Implementing constructive alignment in course design results in explicitly linking teaching and learning activities, to classroom assessments and evaluation, to course learning objectives, and ultimately to course learning outcomes. Resources:

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. Resources:

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.  Consider using a mid-semester assessment, visit the CELT’s PLUS/DELTA Classroom Assessment Technique website.

Analyzing Student Feedback

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.

  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).

To help make sense of student comments, download the Comments Analysis Worksheet (PDF). Recognize that 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.

Adapted from:

  • Clement, M. (2012, July 30). Three steps to better course evaluations. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com.
  • 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.

Where to get technical support for online course evals, Class Climate

For help with online course evaluations, visit ISU’s Student Evaluation of Teaching Canvas site and review the effective practices for online course evaluations guide. Instructors, students and departmental course evaluation administrators will find answers to frequently asked questions, along with guides and tips. For help with:

  • Specific course evaluation technical support (database, grouping courses, departmental admins, etc.), contact the IT Solution Center, email solution@iastate.edu or phone 515-294-4000.
  • Class Climate software and training resources, contact Scantron, email support@scantron.com or phone 1-800-445-3141.
  • Department specific course evaluation questions, contact your primary administrator or department chair.