Creating Good Questions for Mid-Course Evaluations
Before you conduct your evaluations, take some time to reflect on the reasons why you wish to conduct this evaluation and what you hope it will achieve. Primarily, you should decide the degree to which your goal for the evaluation is to evaluate elements of the course, and the degree to which it is to evaluate you as an instructor. Is the course new or has the course been significantly redesigned and if so, do you want to evaluate how students are responding to the new elements? Are you trying a new teaching technique or using a new resource and want to see how it has affected student reactions to the course? Are you new to the institution and are unsure of how students are responding to your expectations? The questions on your evaluations should reflect your goals. Please see Appendix B for a worksheet to help you develop goals for your mid-course evaluation.
Your goals will help you shape your questions, and will also help you to interpret and react to the feedback you receive. Depending on your goals, the following ideas may be useful in developing your questions. In general, however, the best mid-course evaluation questions are as specific as possible.
Use the individualized nature of mid-course evaluations to your advantage by asking questions that relate directly to your course activities and assignments and to particular pedagogical techniques that you have employed. As such, the following examples are only guidelines that should be adapted to your particular course.
2.1 Identifying Topics for Questions
Mid-course evaluations can be used to address or explore several aspects of the course, as well as to provide feedback on both student and instructor performance and activities. You may choose to address areas of particular concern, or conduct a broad survey of class activities.
- Questions about student activities
You may wish to explore the work that students are actually doing for the course, the degree to which they find those activities manageable, and which activities they find most and least useful.Examples: Please describe how you usually prepare for each class session.
- Questions about student expectations and outcomes
Such questions might address whether students are learning or doing what they thought they would learn or do in the course, or how they expect to perform in the course.Examples: Was there anything you expected to encounter in this course that we haven’t addressed and doesn’t appear to be on the syllabus?
- Questions about instructor activities
These questions might evaluate whether the instructor is easy to understand, is available outside of class, creates a respectful learning environment for all students, and presents the material in a way that allows students to learn.In developing these questions, you may wish to incorporate characteristics of good teaching. Relevant sources for this information include Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education” and Murray’s “Teaching Behaviours Inventory.” These are outlined in Appendix C.Examples: Please describe the interactions you have had with the instructor – in class, in office hours, or via phone or email.
Do you leave each session with a sense of the most important points learned that day?
- Questions about instructor expectations and objectives
These questions provide an opportunity to reinforce pedagogical priorities and ask if students are meeting outcomes or objectives set for the course.Examples: How has your writing / lab work changed as a result of the feedback you’ve received?
Please see the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation’s publication Developing Learning Outcomes: Guide for Faculty for more information on developing goals and outcomes for your course.
2.1 USING DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS TO CONTEXTUALIZE WRITTEN RESPONSES
While most questions on mid-course evaluations will ask students to provide a written response to a question about a particular aspect of the course, you may also wish to include questions with quantitative responses that ask students to note the frequency with which they perform a particular activity, the degree to which they agree or disagree with a statement about the course or the instruction, or that discern the academic background of students (such as their year and previous courses they have taken). Such questions can provide a way to compare responses across classes or individual students. Make sure that you provide students with a clear scale to use in responding to these questions if appropriate.
Please see Appendix A for additional examples of demographic and contextualizing questions.
2.2 HOW MANY QUESTIONS TO ASK
The length of your evaluation will be dictated primarily by how much time you have allotted to conduct, analyze, and discuss the evaluation, and the size of your class. Avoid evaluations that take longer than 15 minutes to complete. Effective evaluations can be very short or very extensive; however, the following course characteristics might benefit from more detailed questionnaires:
- If the course is new or revised, or if you are a new instructor, you may wish to gather substantial information about many elements of the course.
- Large lecture courses may require additional information about student characteristics (for example, previous courses taken or academic year) and student work habits, as they may be less evident to the instructor than in a small seminar.
- If there have been any particular problems or challenges in the course, or if the course previously received low student ratings, you may wish to investigate these issues in more depth.