For years, colleges and universities have been using course evaluation surveys as a means for instructor and course improvement. At the end of each term, students are asked to complete a course evaluation questionnaire that seeks feedback on their learning experiences. While this is a fairly straightforward process, there’s one frequent problem: the feedback received is neither informative nor helpful. Here are the problems: many course evaluation survey questions are poorly written, the surveys themselves are poorly designed, and the distribution methods are off-putting. The result? Students fail to complete the surveys, or they do so haphazardly. This is not to say that course evaluations can’t be useful. With the right questions, design, and distribution, you can create course evaluation surveys that produce meaningful results—and lead to improved teaching methods and outstanding curriculum. Ready to get started? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your course evaluation surveys this term:
The most important part of your course evaluation questionnaire is the set of questions used. In order to solicit informative feedback, your questions must use appropriate wording that is clear and simple. Whether you’re seeking feedback on student engagement or instructor effectiveness, your questions should be written with your specific needs in mind.Here are a few general tips for writing effective evaluation questions:
- Avoid long, complex questions that are subject to misinterpretation.
- Keep questions neutral so as not to lead the student to a particular answer.
- Use questions that can be answered with a rating scale so you can compare results over time.
To help you get started, here is a list of sample course evaluation questions that should produce useful feedback:
- What was your level of knowledge of the subject matter at the start of the course?
- What was your level of knowledge of the subject matter at the end of the course?
- Are you satisfied with the knowledge you gained throughout the course?
- Do you feel you achieved the desired learning outcomes?
- How would you rate your professor’s overall teaching performance?
- How well did your professor communicate course expectations?
- How well did your professor communicate course assignments?
- How organized was your professor?
- How prepared was your professor at the start of each class?
- How effective were the instructional materials used in this course?
- How effective were the learning activities used in this course?
- Did the course meet your expectations?
- Would you recommend the course to other students?
Once your questions are set, you should spend some time on the design of your course evaluation survey. Design can have a big effect on response rates. If your questionnaire is overwhelming or confusing, students are likely to skip out on completing it. The first design rule is to keep your surveys relatively short. Asking students to complete a 100-question course evaluation survey is a recipe for failure. Pare your questions down to the most relevant and necessary set. You can also use a bit of trickery with your design and spread the questions out over multiple pages to avoid overwhelming students with too many questions at once. Another design rule is to use question types that are easy to digest and complete. As mentioned previously, rating scales are a good bet for course evaluation questionnaires. They look great on the page, and they are easy for students to understand.
The final design rule is to ensure you include clear instructions at the start of your questionnaire. Let students know their thoughtful feedback will help improve the professor’s performance and the overall course experience. It’s also a good idea to include a note about confidentiality to ensure students answer honestly.
The final piece of the course evaluation puzzle is distribution. Gone are the days when the best way to gather feedback is by handing out paper questionnaires during class. Today’s college students are tech savvy and busy. Inconveniencing them with a paper form is sure to solicit a lot of careless responses. If you want to gather informative feedback, you have to use a mobile-friendly, online form. College students spend a tremendous amount of time on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, so they are more likely to complete a form they can access on these devices. Giving them flexibility to complete the surveys on their own time also helps you get better quality feedback. Additionally, online forms have built-in validation tools that ensure you get accurate, complete information from every survey submitted.
If your university is looking for an easy way to create and distribute meaningful course evaluation questionnaires, Formstack can help. Click below to explore all our higher ed solutions.