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Tip: Better Student Evaluations
Throw out the flawed institutional student evaluation process in favor of surveys that ask students what you really want to know.
Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are terribly flawed. Ample research indicates they exacerbate issues of bias against women and faculty of color and that high scores correlate to perceived “easy graders” and expected final course grade rather than any aspect of quality teaching. Even when assuming that student evaluations are not biased and that they are valid and reliable instruments, they are unreliable indicators of teaching effectiveness or student learning. (More on issues with the reliability of SETs).
For many years now, I have used a survey to supplement the institutional student evaluation. I include some similar questions on my survey to see if there are overall any differences in how students respond to each of the two surveys - for topics like instructor responsiveness to students and students’ perception of learning over the semester. Mostly I use this survey to focus on asking students to tell me about their experience in the course in ways that will actually benefit me as I plan for the next semester.
With my own survey I can ask specifically about the materials, asking whether students had a print copy of the texts, or only an e-book copy, and whether they used the supplemental online publisher resources or not. I can narrow in on what I want to know about course activities - particularly helpful in semesters where I’m piloting a new major assignment and want to get feedback on how it worked.
This works for me in part because I’ve already set expectations with students through the use of midterm surveys that I will actually read and attend to the comments they provide. Because I’ve demonstrated that I make changes based on their feedback, I think they are more willing to provide helpful comments at the end of the semester.
For more reading…
Suggestions for using institutional student evaluations (Vanderbilt Center for Teaching)
Creating useful student evaluation questions (Univ. of Michigan Center for research on Learning & teaching)
7 ways to make your student course evaluations more effective (Qualtrics blog)
What would you most like to learn from your students at the end of the semester?
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