Effective Student Evaluation of Teaching: What Can Instructors Do?
By Chanel Sutherland
It's the beginning of a new term, and chances are you're using this fresh start as an opportunity to improve your teaching and learning process. Perhaps you received an undesirable rating on last term’s student evaluation of teaching (SET). Or your New Year resolution goal is to become a tenured professor. Maybe you simply want to improve your teaching practice for better learning outcomes. Whatever your reason, SETs will undoubtedly form part of the data set considered in the evaluation of your performance at the end of the term.
While many in academia have expressed concerns about SETs, most higher education institutions still use them as a primary measure for justifying rewards of faculty members. With so many variables outside of instructors’ control, what can you do to ensure that your SET results are effective in identifying areas of success and those that require improvement? We hope that these tips combined with suggested tools will offer useful strategies to help improve the quality of data provided on your next SET.
Capture Continuous Feedback for Improvement: While SETs are customarily conducted at the end of the term, instructors should start collecting feedback from the very first day of class. Formative feedback will help ensure that assessment of student learning is frequent, helping you make real-time adjustments that align with course goals. Asking for feedback regularly from your students also sends a clear message - their opinion matters. While end of term evaluations measure the level of success that has been obtained, formative assessment impacts the learning environment immediately. You and your students are beneficiaries of the process:
- Students experience firsthand the benefits of voicing feedback
- The instructor/learner relationship is developed and improved over the course of the semester
- The clutter of non-constructive feedback provided on end-of-term SETs are reduced
Ask Questions that Students are Qualified to Answer: Spend a little time thinking about the questions you want to ask on your next student evaluation of teaching. Now ask yourself this: Are your students qualified to answer them? Many SET forms are predesigned with questions that may lay beyond the limits of your students’ expertise (e.g. this instructor is the best in the program). Furthermore, some types of questions may not be helpful in evaluating your areas of interest resulting in incomplete or inaccurate responses. Make sure you are asking your students to comment on things they are qualified to evaluate (e.g. the instructor provides clear constructive feedback, the instructor presents content in an organized manner).
One of Blue’s most powerful features is the ability to customize your evaluation questionnaire. In addition to common question types such as rating, ranking, multiple choice, and numeric, you can also incorporate open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow your students to use their own words rather than a preselected list of answers. With an efficient text analytics tool, these comments can be converted into meaningful themes and trends for deeper insights.
Take a Big-Picture View of Feedback Trends: Now that you have the data you want, what are you going to do with it? Many instructors make the mistake of treating evaluation results as a term by term plan for improvement. It goes without saying that improvement is a continuous process that can lead to interesting finds over time. The observations from a time trend analysis of student feedback can help you understand patterns in the data that you may have previously missed.
A robust tool like Blue® will easily integrate with your institution’s IT environment, making it easy to collect, pull, and analyze large quantities of data. You can look at student success and retention rates over the period of a few years and compare those to the corresponding SET results. What does the data tell you? Cross tabulate student demographics (gender, age, major) with response data to uncover unique relationships. Customize reports and share them with multiple users or better yet – use these reports as part of your teaching portfolio to support promotions or tenure applications.
What are some roadblocks to effective student evaluation of teaching, and how is your institution dealing with them? Comment and let us know.
To learn more about the Blue all-in-one evaluation system, contact us today.
Chanel M. Sutherland
Marketing Content Specialist, Explorance