The College of Education was happy to participate in a pilot of new items for end-of-course student evaluations. Although response rates have not improved, we found that participation in the pilot was useful on several levels.
First, the pilot provided the college with the opportunity to carefully examine our response-rate data. In that examination, we noted that many courses with very few students had no responses. In the future we hope to eliminate course evaluations for independent studies, practicum courses, and other courses with very few students. Practicum courses and independent studies do not have traditional course structures that can be evaluated via a universal survey. Very small courses are not conducive to anonymous surveys. Eliminating course evaluations will provide a more accurate assessment of our response rates and better data for continuous improvement.
The pilot also allowed us to provide students with an end-of-course evaluation that was not only streamlined and simplified, but also focused explicitly on a) the delivery of the course (via the three “Instructor” questions) and b) the course itself (via the three “Course” questions); the former providing instructors feedback on their instruction, and the latter providing useful information to be taken into consideration relative to the course itself. The shorter set of six specific and concrete items allows far fewer opportunities for implicit bias, guiding students toward a focus on the delivery of instruction associated with the course as well as the structure of the course itself, rather than the personal attributes of the instructor. The new open-ended items similarly request that students provide specific and tangible feedback relative to course objectives. In examining students’ responses to the open-ended items, we noted that the first two items were especially useful in generating specific and actionable suggestions for improved instruction – in course delivery and course design. Once implemented and a culture of continuous improvement is fostered across campus, we believe that the revised end-of-course evaluation will provide instructors and supervisors with more robust and generative data for continuous improvement of courses and instructional skills.