The Paradox of Course Evaluations (and How to Solve It)

Insight from the Stockholm School of Economics

Assia Viachka – Academic Controller
Kristin Petersmann, PhD – Data Insights Manager

Student feedback surveys are an important tool that should support teachers in the development of pedagogical skills and course delivery. They should motivate teachers to keep improving and help identify the measures that would help students to learn even more effectively.

Yet, the feedback often ends up being used primarily by management when deciding on which courses and/or teacher positions should be maintained, and by prospective students when choosing between available courses.

Instead of improving quality, course evaluations can sometimes exacerbate quality issues. Low satisfaction numbers discourage students from taking courses, which in turn often decreases the allocated resources and as a consequence the possibility of recovering from negative feedback.

How can we confront this paradox?

Generating, collecting, and reporting course evaluations is often a labor-intensive, time-consuming and largely manual process. The majority of the academic year is often spent on “getting evaluations done” which leaves little margins for designing feedback surveys that go beyond course satisfaction and actually take individual teachers’ needs into consideration.

Further, due to late reporting and hard-to-understand reports, the collected data is in some cases not even used by the teachers, leaving students with the feeling that their feedback is not valued.

Here is a list of topics that institutions often struggle with, and which this webinar will provide practical advice in tackling:

  • Flexibility of course questions in accounting for variations in course structure.
  • Timely delivery of results to allow teachers to work with feedback while the memory of the course is still fresh.
  • Data analysis to help teachers easily identify what they should focus on.
  • Integrated reports and dashboards to help heads of institutions focus on key areas for improvement, instead on performance of individual courses/teachers.
  • Creating a feedback loop between the students and the teachers which creates transparency while maintaining privacy.
  • Adequate response rates to ensure survey results are representative and valid.

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