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Teaching Tip: A New Way to Look at Student Evaluations

November 26, 2015

doonesberryIt is that time of year again–student evaluations. The comic strip Doonesbury hit on it last week in a sad sort of humorous way.

Most student evaluation forms are summative, writes Faculty Focus (Nov. 23, 2015), concentrating on teacher characteristics: “Was the teacher organized?” or “Did the teacher explain things clearly?” By the end of a semester, we have a sense of how a course went and what activities and actions supported student learning. But through some painful experiences we’ve learned that sometimes what we thought happened was contradicted by what students experienced.

Here is an alternative “course experience” evaluation approach:  Begin by telling students that you’re asking questions only they can answer. Explain that this is feedback that can help you become a teacher who helps students learn more effectively. Below are some examples of sentence stems that can yield useful information.

Your insights into your learning in this course can help me see our course from your side of the desk. Please respond anonymously to any 3 of the statements below to help me plan for next semester: 

In this course …

  • it most helped my learning of the content when…because…
  • it would have helped my learning of the content if…because…
  • the assignment that contributed the most to my learning was… because… 
  • the kinds of homework problems that contributed most to my learning were…because…
  • the biggest obstacle for me in my learning the material was… because…
  • during the 1st class day, I remember thinking…because…
  • what I think I will remember five years from now is…because…
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