After analyzing your evaluation results, consider the following next steps to help you implement any changes that you feel will improve the course and the learning experience of your students.
5.1 DISCUSSING EVALUATION RESULTS WITH STUDENTS
Discussing evaluation results with students has three primary goals: 1) to clarify student responses, and help identify means to improve the course; 2) to help students understand how their feedback is used; and, 3) to reinforce the priorities of the course and the importance of student learning habits. In this way, feedback becomes a tool not just for change, but for discussion of the learning experience and of students’ role therein.
A note on discussing evaluation results with students
While the opportunity to communicate evaluation results with students is one of the benefits of conducting mid-course evaluations, instructors should take care, in discussing evaluation results with students, to avoid a situation where students discuss an instructor’s teaching ability or competence. Such a conversation could damage classroom dynamics and the instructor’s ability to manage the class in the future. Do not feel that you have to discuss all evaluation results with students. Instead, conversations about evaluation results should focus on course components or activities, or connections between student behaviour and evaluation results, but not instructor characteristics.
Clarify appropriate actions
Present students with your summary of the evaluations and any plans to adapt the course based on the evaluations. If there were any confusing elements in the evaluations, a discussion offers students a chance to further consider and articulate their responses in a way they can’t do on paper or online. Discuss changes that can be made for the rest of the semester and changes that cannot be made.
Help students understand the evaluation process
Provide students with some feedback on their feedback. Note examples of useful comments. Demonstrate to them how you organized their feedback, and explain how you interpreted particular items of feedback in the context of the goals of the course.
Reinforce course outcomes and expectations
An important aim of this discussion is to help students better understand the structure of the course. It is also an opportunity for you to explain why you have made certain choices in designing the course. Not only does this kind of information lead to more engaged students, but it will also help students provide more informed responses to their end-of-semester evaluations, leading to a more accurate portrayal of the success of the class on those evaluation measures.
- Help students draw connections between their learning habits and their comments. You may wish to show them some of the data you’ve compiled. For example, you may be able to demonstrate that students who attend class regularly find the readings easier to manage.
- Reinforce the course’s outcomes or your pedagogical priorities for the class. If students are not responding well to something that you feel is important to the course, explain why you developed that policy or activity, and why you feel that it is important to maintain.
For more information on discussing the results of your evaluation with students, please see:
Centre for Teaching. Vanderbilt University. Student evaluations of teaching. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/student-evaluations/
Lewis, K. G. (2001). Using mid-semester feedback and responding to it. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 33-44.
Sargent, C. (2007). Using mid-course evaluations to encourage active learning. In Teaching concerns: Newsletter of the teaching resource center for faculty and teaching assistants. Charlottesville: University of Virginia.
Tiberius, R. (2001). Making sense and making use of feedback from focus groups. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 63-75.
5.3 ADJUSTING THE COURSE BASED ON EVALUATIONS
After the evaluations and following discussions are completed, return to your evaluation goals and compare these with the feedback you’ve received. The results will hopefully have pointed you towards some actions you can take to ameliorate any problems, and will have provided you with some information about particular components of the course or about your strengths as an instructor.
In the immediate term, do not make any major changes to your ongoing course based on evaluations, particularly to the marking scheme, deadline, or list of assignments.
For small changes that can be implemented immediately, such as lecture formats and in-class activities, use your goals or learning outcomes for the course as your guide. Students may have many suggestions or wishes, but not all of them will promote learning, or adhere to the goals you have set for the class.
5.3 USING EVALUATIONS TO IMPROVE YOUR TEACHING
Student evaluations can be a very useful element of your long-term development as an instructor. Though many instructors feel hesitant about placing too much weight on student evaluations, if used thoughtfully and deliberately they can provide you with a great deal of information about the priorities you have identified in your own teaching.
There are many ways that you can employ your mid-course evaluations in the process of becoming a better instructor. These include:
- Using these evaluation results to make changes to your course design and teaching behaviours in future semesters.
- Discussing evaluation results with a trusted mentor or colleague who may be able to help you interpret the feedback and point you to resources addressing any issues that arise.
- Asking a mentor or colleague to conduct an in-class observation of your teaching to provide collegial feedback on any issues arising from the evaluations.
- Visiting the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, or other University teaching centres for a consultation on your evaluations, for resources on teaching activities and techniques, or for seminars and roundtables on teaching.
- Using evaluations to direct you towards appropriate professional development workshops, resources and activities.
Remember that mid-course evaluations in particular are formative, and ultimately are a tool – both to assist you in improving the course in which they are conducted in the immediate term, and as a valuable component of the improvement of your teaching in the long term.