Skip to main content

more options

Student Evaluations

In addition to end-of-semester course evaluations, you can collect mid-semester evaluations to assess how your course is going while it is in progress. You can also check in occasionally with classroom assessment techniques (CATs) that quickly and easily allow you to assess how students are learning in your classes.

Why collect student evaluations?
How can you collect student evaluations?
What factors influence student evaluations?
What do your student evaluations mean?
How can you increase response rates to online evaluations?
What are some additional student evaluation resources at Cornell?


Why collect student evaluations?

  • Student evaluations are useful tools that provide insight for modifying, planning, or re-designing a course.
  • When collected mid-semester, student evaluations provide the opportunity to address issues regarding student learning while the course is in progress.
  • Students may appreciate that their experiences in your course matter to you, and they respond well when they feel that their feedback is valued.
  • Student evaluations of teaching are an important way to measure teaching effectiveness and document instructional development for a teaching portfolio or the peer review process.

How can you collect student evaluations?

  • Create a plan for when (mid-semester? end-of-semester?) and how (online? in class?) you will collect student evaluations of your teaching.
  • Create questions that reflect what you want to receive feedback on. Modify existing student evaluation surveys to address your specific needs.
  • Consider collecting student evaluations with an online survey (Cornell supports the survey tool Qualtrics).
  • Schedule a meeting with a CTE staff member to assist with developing evaluation questions, collecting student feedback on teaching, interpreting evaluation data, and exploring responses to evaluation feedback.

Mid-Term Student Evaluations

Collecting information early enough (once students have experienced your course for a number of weeks) allows you the opportunity to adjust your course to address student learning while the course is in progress. On your syllabus, remember to add a disclaimer that course components are subject to change.

Mid-semester feedback can be a longer student course evaluation survey, or it can consist of one or two questions for students to respond to anonymously.

A resource for collecting mid-semester feedback:

Mid-Term Evaluation Survey Form doc
Ask your students to complete this survey around the 6th week of the semester. This form is learning-focused to help you get a sense of what course components are helping your students learn most effectively. Adapt the questions on the form to meet your needs.

Examples of quick, mid-term evaluation questions:

NC State University Office of Faculty Development's mid-evaluation form
The University of Maryland's Center for Teaching Excellence sample evaluation forms.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

A quick way to gather information is to do occasional classroom assessment techniques (CATs). This involves asking students to take a few minutes to respond anonymously to a prompt.

Example questions:
What was the main point of today’s lecture?
What’s one thing you have still have a question about?
What was unclear about the lecture today?

For more information on Classroom Assessment Techniques see CTE CATs Measuring Student Learning pdf (CU NetID required to access. Link redirects to login page.)

End-of-Semester Evaluations

      • Supplement department course evaluation forms with additional questions that address your needs.
      • Svinicki & McKeachie (2011, pg. 341) suggest using two types of questions: those dealing with the learning goals, and those addressing specific behaviors.

Example questions:
Learning goals questions: "My knowledge of 'x' has increased as a result of taking this course."
Specific behaviors: "I became more interested in this field as a result of taking this class." or " The instructor was organized."

How to collect student evaluations in your class:

  1. Explain to students that you are collecting their anonymous feedback to assess how they are experiencing/have experienced the course. Share with students that you value their feedback and will use it when making course design decisions.
  2. Guide students on giving useful and effective feedback. For example, if they did not like something, ask them to explain why or suggest what they might have preferred. Ask them to also share what is going well.
  3. Provide class time for students to give their feedback.
  4. Review the completed student evaluations for common themes and organize your feedback into three categories:
    - Those you can change this semester (for example, the turnaround time on homework).
    - Those that must wait until the next time the course is offered (for example, the reading or texts).
    - Those that you either cannot or, for pedagogical reasons, will not change (for example, the number of exams or quizzes).
  5. Share your findings with students. For mid-semester evaluations, you can do this in a subsequent class. Let them know what the general feedback was, and what changes you will or will not make along with your rationale. Following through with modifications based on mid-semester feedback leads to improved teaching and, therefore, better end-of-semester evaluations. For end-of-semester feedback, you can share findings with new students the next semester. This communicates the value you place on student experiences and may enhance student motivation to provide you with effective feedback.

What factors influence student evaluations?

According to a recent study involving 200 faculty respondents, the following four factors significantly contributed to improvement of teaching as measured by student evaluations (McGowan & Graham, 2009):

  • Engaging in active and practical learning that emphasizes the relevance of course material to students.
  • Creating the opportunity for significant teacher/student interactions and conferences that allow instructors to connect with students.
  • Emphasizing learning outcomes and setting high expectations.
  • Revisions and improvements to how student learning is assessed.

What do your student evaluations mean?

Research has shown that reviewing student evaluation data in a follow-up consultation is more likely to result in positive modifications in teaching and course design that can influence future evaluations (Murray, 1997). We recommend contacting the CTE via email (cornellcte@cornell.edu) or phone (607-255-3990) to arrange an individual consultation to review and interpret student feedback.

How can you increase response rates to online evaluations?

The following actions may increase the response rate in online evaluations (Nulty, 2008, p. 305):

  • Provide a “live” demonstration of how to submit an online response to reduce any computer-related questions.
  • Make the survey easy for students to access by providing the URL link in an email.
  • Remind students of the evaluation deadline date and the importance of the results. Instructors can also program the survey website to send email reminders to invited participants.
  • Extend the duration of a survey’s online availability.
  • Explain the importance of student feedback to course improvement in the syllabus.
  • Provide class time for students to fill out the online form using their laptops.
  • Emphasize the anonymous nature of student evaluations.
  • Reassure students that their responses will be taken seriously and specific actions taken to resolve issues regarding the course.
  • Create evaluations that seek constructive criticism and allow students to engage with the questions.
  • Keep questionnaires brief.
  • Direct students to a computer lab where they can submit their evaluations.

What are some additional student evaluation resources at Cornell?

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Sample Evaluation Questions
Tips for Successful Evaluations
Student Evaluation Item List
Proper Uses of Questions

College of Engineering
Teaching Excellence Institute Services for Faculty
TA Evaluation Process

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
Course Evaluations

College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Romance Studies Manual for Graduate Teaching Assistants, Teaching Associates & Visiting Lecturers (See Performance Evaluation)

References

Dommeyer, C. J., Baum, P. & Hanna, R. W. (2002) College students’ attitudes toward methods of collecting teaching evaluations: in-class versus online, Journal of Education for Business, 78(1), 11– 15.

Dommeyer, C.J., Baum, P., Hanna, R.W., Chapman, K.S., (2004) Gathering Faculty Teaching Evaluations by In-Class and Online Surveys: Their effects on response rates and evaluations, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 29(5), 611-623.

Murray, H. (1997). Does evaluation of teaching lead to improvement of teaching? International Journal of Academic Development, 2(1), 8-23.

McGowan, W.R. & Graham, C.R. (2009) Factors contributing to improved teaching performance. Innovative Higher Education, 34, 161-171.

Nulty, D.D., (2008) The adequacy of response rates to online and paper surveys: what can be done? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(3), 301-314.

Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W.J. (2011). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.