Standard course evaluation forms
My university uses a standard course evaluation form across courses which is required across the university. This standard form includes the typical kinds of items that I imagine are pretty common across higher education. For example, students are asked Likert scale questions about:
- The instructor's knowledge of the subject matter of the course
- The organization of content and learning experiences of the course
- The instructor's presentation and explanation of course content
- The instructor's openness to diverse opinions and questions
I'm sure your unit has similar standard questions. While I find these helpful, I like to ask a few additional questions that provide me with the information I need to modify the course content or my teaching in future semesters. We now have a way to do this within our course evaluation system. Prior to this, I used Survey Monkey to create a second course evaluation form for students to complete. Below I offer some suggested item types that you might find helpful in eliciting productive student feedback.
Mode and format
When trying out different course modes and options, it can be very helpful to get feedback on what the students think. For example, two years ago, I flipped much of the class, so that students would work through material prior to class time. For the most part it seemed to work well, but on the course evaluation form I created, students reported frustration with using several different technology tools during this time outside of class. The next semester, I pared down the number of technologies, and students responded much better to these outside activities.
Key elements of the course
In a similar vein, if you're trying out new elements in a course, you should ask specific questions to gauge students' engagement. Last year I implemented a three-week fully online activity during a primarily face-to-face course. I initiated this in part so that students could work more independently and at their own pace. On the evaluation form, however, students reported feeling isolated and disconnected from both me and their peers during this online module. In the fall, I plan to build in more opportunities for communication and collaboration to encourage this sense of connection.
New strategies or ideas
This semester, one of my colleagues is experimenting with Zaption - a tool that allows the instructor to create interactive, video-based lessons. The instructor selects and sequences video clips, interspersed with questions, discussion prompts, and other activities to guide the learning experience for students. While her in-class feedback on the activities has been positive, sometimes students are more reflective and/or honest in their feedback on an anonymous evaluation.
In my courses, I often have a number of different assignments and projects over the course of the semester. It can be difficult to judge, however, which of these experiences are most beneficial for students. Typically, I ask students to rank them in order based on what was either most interesting or most helpful in their learning. I've also offered opportunities for students to add comments on particular assignments as well.
Most significant experience
I've just recently started adding questions like this, "Please tell me about the most significant learning experience for you in this course. Be sure to include why it was particularly meaningful for you." This question has elicited some interesting and substantive responses from my students. When I see that a particular course reading, assignment or activity was most significant for a number of students, I know that I'll want to keep this in future iterations of my course. I also suspect that as I use this question across courses, I can better understand the kinds of experiences that are most powerful for my students.
What course evaluation questions do you find helpful?
Please post your comments below.