Best Practices and Sample Questions for Course Evaluation Surveys

Meaningful input from students is essential for improving courses. One of the most common indirect course assessment methods is the course evaluation survey. In addition to providing useful information for improving courses, course evaluations provide an opportunity for students to reflect and provide feedback on their own learning. Review an example of a digital course evaluation survey in AEFIS that was created by Testing and Evaluation Services.

Best Practices

The following best practices are intended to guide departments and programs in creating and revising course evaluation questions, and achieving high response rates.

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Achieving High Response Rates

  1. Give students time (10-15 minutes) to complete the digital evaluation during class (just as they do with printed, paper evaluations).
  2. Encourage students to complete the evaluation by discussing its purpose and importance in the weeks leading up to it. If students know that you will read their feedback and seriously consider changes based on their feedback, they will be more likely to complete the evaluation.
  3. Share how you have incorporated past feedback into your courses.
  4. Provide a small incentive for completing evaluations.
    • Examples include making the evaluation an assignment with points attached or giving students a bonus point. One way to do this is to set a target response rate for the class – say 90% – and provide everyone a bonus point if the class reaches the target
  5. Ask students to provide feedback about their own learning relative to the course’s learning outcomes

Creating and Revising Survey Questions - Strategies to Obtain More Effective Feedback

  1. Clearly state the purpose and importance of the course evaluation at the top of the survey
    • Meaningful input from students is essential for improving courses.
    • Obtaining student feedback on their learning is important to you.
  2. Create questions that are clear and focused in purpose.
    • Guide students to the specific type of feedback you are looking for.
    • Students, like anyone answering questions, tend to provide better feedback to more specific questions. Asking about a specific type of activity, or asking students to share the most important point they learned during the semester, may provide more useful feedback.
    • Example: instead of asking “How useful were the instructional materials and activities for this course?”, focus on a specific material or activity.
  3. Avoid leading questions.
    • Yes/no questions can often be leading questions. Instead of asking “Did you learn a great amount from this course?”, a better question would be “To what extent do you feel you mastered the content in this course?
  4. Provide space for both closed and open-ended question types.
    • Asking open-ended questions can help you gain insight you may not otherwise receive. Research by the University of California – Merced is finding that coaching from peers or near-peers can help students provide more effective feedback to open-ended questions. The research includes short videos and a rubric you can share with your students prior to completing evaluations.
  5. Consider not asking demographic questions.
    • Students are hesitant to complete course evaluations if they feel they may be identified by their responses. For example, responding to “level” or “year” when they are the only graduate student or undergraduate senior in a course.

Sample Questions

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Instructor-Specific: Delivery - Teaching Methods, Strategies, Practices and Clarity

  • The instructor was well prepared for class.
  • Individual class meetings were well prepared.
  • The instructor used class time effectively.
  • The instructor was organized, well prepared, and used class time efficiently.
  • The instructor communicated clearly and was easy to understand.
  • The instructor encouraged student participation in class.
  • The instructor presented course material in a clear manner that facilitated understanding.
  • The instructor effectively organized and facilitated well-run learning activities.
  • The instructor’s teaching methods were effective.
  • The instructor’s teaching methods aided my learning.
  • The instructor stimulated my interest in the subject matter.
  • The instructor provided helpful feedback.
  • The instructor provided feedback in a timely manner.
  • The instructor returned assignments and exams in a timely manner.
  • The online course platform was updated and accurate.

Instructor-Specific: Personal / Connection - Clarity and Encouragement

  • The instructor effectively explained and illustrated course concepts.
  • The instructor’s feedback to me was helpful and improved my understanding of the material.
  • I was able to access the instructor outside of scheduled class time for additional help.
  • The instructor was available to students.
  • I could get help if I needed it.
  • The instructor cared about the students, their progress, and successful course completion.
  • The instructor created a welcoming and inclusive learning environment.
  • The instructor treated students with respect.

Course Materials

  • The lectures, readings, and assignments complemented each other.
  • The instructional materials (i.e., books, readings, handouts, study guides, lab manuals, multimedia, software) increased my knowledge and skills in the subject matter.
  • The text and assigned readings were valuable.
  • The workload consisted of less than two hours outside of the classroom for each hour in class.
  • The course workload and requirements were appropriate for the course level.
  • The course was organized in a manner that helped me understand underlying concepts.
  • The course assignments (readings, assigned problems, laboratory experiments, videos, etc.) facilitated my learning.
  • The assigned readings helped me understand the course material.
  • Graded assignments helped me understand the course material.
  • The tests/assessments accurately assess what I have learned in this course.
  • Exams and assignments were reflective of the course content.
  • The course was well organized.
  • The course followed the syllabus.
  • The instructor grades consistently with the evaluation criteria.
  • The course environment felt like a welcoming place to express my ideas.

Student Engagement and Involvement

  • I attend class regularly.
  • I consistently prepared for class.
  • I have put a great deal of effort into advancing my learning in this course.
  • In this course, I have been challenged to learn more than I expected.
  • I was well-prepared for class/discussion sections.

Course Structure

  • This class has increased my interest in this field of study.
  • This course gave me confidence to do more advanced work in the subject.
  • I believe that what I am being asked to learn in this course is important.
  • The readings were appropriate to the goals of the course.
  • The written assignments contributed to my knowledge of the course material and understanding of the subject.
  • Expectations for student learning were clearly defined.
  • Student learning was fairly assessed (e.g., through quizzes, exams, projects, and other graded work).
  • Exams/assignments were a fair assessment of my knowledge of the course material.
  • The grading practices were clearly defined.
  • The grading practices were fair.
  • The examinations/projects measured my knowledge of the course material.
  • This course was challenging.
  • This course made me think.
  • What grade do you expect to earn in this course? Options for this question: A-AB, B-BC,  C,  Below C, Unsure

Student Learning and Course Learning Outcomes

Text in “{}” should be changed to match the specific course learning outcomes (CLO). 

  • This course helped me {develop intellectual and critical thinking skills}.
  • This course improved my ability to {evaluate arguments}.
  • This course helped me {argue effectively}.
  • My ability to {identify, formulate, and solve problems} has increased.
  • My understanding of {basic chemical transformations, reactivity, and properties} has increased.
  • My ability to {recognize the relationship between structure, bonding, and the properties of molecules and materials} has increased.
  • I am capable of {locating, evaluating, and using information in the literature}.
  • I am confident in my ability to {communicate chemical knowledge effectively}.
  • I understand {professional and ethical responsibility related to data storage}.
  • This course helped me analyze {relations among individual, civil society, political institution, and countries}.
  • The coursed helped me {further develop my writing ability}.
  • The course improved my {verbal communication skills}.
  • The course increased my ability to {collaborate and work in teams}.
  • The course increased my {intercultural knowledge and awareness to help me become a global citizen}.

UW Essential Learning Outcomes

  • This course enhanced my knowledge of the world (e.g., human cultures, society, sciences, etc.).
  • This course helped me develop intellectual skills (e.g., critical or creative thinking, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, etc.).
  • This course helped me develop professional skills (e.g., written or oral communication, computer literacy, teamwork, etc.).
  • This course enhanced my sense of social responsibility.

General / Overall Rating

  • I would highly recommend this instructor to other students.
  • I would recommend this instructor to others.
  • Overall, this instructor met my expectations for the quality of a UW-Madison teacher.
  • I would highly recommend this course to other students.
  • I would recommend this course to others.
  • Overall, this course met my expectations for the quality of a UW-Madison course.
  • This course had high educational impact.
  • This course was useful in progress toward my degree.

Qualitative, Open-Ended Response

  • Do you have any specific recommendations for improving this course?
  • What are one to three specific things about the course or instructor that especially helped to support student learning?
  • What are the strengths of this course?
  • What parts of the course aided your learning the most?
  • What are one to three specific things about the course that could be improved to better support student learning?
  • What parts of the class were obstacles to your learning?
  • What changes might improve your learning?

TA-Specific

  • Assignments and tests handled by the TA were returned with useful feedback.
  • The TA was willing to explain grading and evaluation of my work.
  • The TA knew and was confident in the material related to this course.
  • The TA was adequately prepared for discussion sections.
  • The TA was clear in presenting subject matter.
  • The TA presented the material in an interesting and engaging way.
  • The TA fostered intellectual communication among my peers.
  • The TA was able to adequately prepare students for assignments (examination, book reviews, research papers, etc.).
  • The TA stimulated thought and discussion.
  • I felt comfortable asking my TA questions.
  • The TA was willing to answer questions.
  • The TA was able to answer questions clearly and completely.
  • The TA effectively utilizes electronic communication (e.g., Learn@UW, Canvas, email, etc.).
  • The TA is well-prepared for each meeting.
  • The TA is flexible and adapts the learning environment when things do not go according to plan.
  • The TA was available during offices hours or by appointment.
  • The TA arrives to class on time.
  • The TA was committed to teaching and aiding students.
  • The TA is an effective teacher.
  • If given the opportunity, I would enroll in a section led by my TA again.
  • Overall, the TA performed well.

Qualitative, open-ended response

  • Are there distinctive qualities about the TA that you would like to highlight?
  • What are one to three specific things that your TA does particularly well to support student learning?
  • What might your TA do to improve his/her teaching?
  • What are one to three specific things that you would like to see your TA improve to better support student learning?

Contacts

Regina Lowery
Sr. Assessment Coordinator
regina.lowery@wisc.edu
(For general inquiries or to set up a consultation)

Saundra Solum
Applications Administrator, DoIT AT
saundra.solum@wisc.edu
(For technical support)