Helping Students Provide Better End-of-Semester Feedback

How do you get better feedback from more students on the end of semester evaluations?

Focus on the Comments in Student Evaluations

The advice to focus on student comments is aligned with the 2019 findings of a faculty senate task force charged with evaluating the state of S-RATEs, RIT's system of student evaluation of instruction. Review the task force report for more information. RIT login is required to access the report.

The RIT task force report found that while numerical results were reviewed by a majority of RIT instructors, comments from students were more useful for informing teaching practice. The two open-ended questions on the S-RATE survey that provide this useful feedback are "What did this instructor do well?" and "How can this instructor improve?" While students should still give you whatever feedback they wish in these open responses, consider asking students for specific feedback in a concrete way.

Ask Students about Their Experience of the Course

Students can provide excellent feedback on their experience of your course if you make sure to ask questions that students can answer. An approach that the CTL uses in small-group instructional feedback sessions is to ask students to provide Keep-Stop-Start feedback--how did the instructor or an instructional strategy help you learn, what about the class was not helpful for your learning, what change might help students in future classes?

Explain How You Will Use the Feedback from S-RATEs

Tell students what instructional strategy you used and why. Here's an example of how to set this up in your class.

In an announcement in class or on the homepage of myCourses, tell students what additional feedback you'd like them to give in the S-RATE open ended questions and why. In this example, an instructor wanted to make communication in her synchronous online class a bit easier, so she created a Slack workspace for the class.

I created a Slack workspace for this class because I know it's important for you to have a way of getting in touch with me and with the other students in this class. Open communication supports learning. I'd like to know from you whether the Slack workspace was effective. There are two open-ended questions on the S-RATE survey: "What did this instructor do well?" and "How can this instructor improve?" In addition to the feedback that you were already planning on giving me, can you let me know how the Slack workspace was helpful as a communication tool? Please also let me know how it wasn't helpful and what suggestions you have for improving communication in this class. I'll use your suggestions over the break to improve how I use Slack in class.

In addition to mentioning it in class, consider posting your request in myCourses (or in the class Slack workspace) so that the post can serve as a reminder that you hope to gather this additional feedback on the S-RATE survey. 

Be Strategic

You will get better feedback if you keep your requests focused. Ask for feedback on one goal and perhaps no more than two changes to your instruction. Because you're asking students for a favor with the additional feedback, keep the request well-defined and respect their time.

Getting Feedback on Your Feedback

Teaching consultants in the CTL will help you interpret the qualitative feedback on the S-RATEs and help you plan for adjustments to course design or teaching practice. Request a consultation.

Learning Goals and Strategies to Consider Assessing

The following are learning goals and strategies that you might consider implementing and assessing in your classes. UDL on Campus provides context for these goals and strategies.

  • A syllabus statement invited students to discuss their needs and ask questions about course content
  • The instructor verbally invited students to discuss their needs and ask questions about course content
  • Student feedback on the effectiveness of the instruction was gathered throughout the semester
  • Interactive technology was used to facilitate class communication and participation (e.g., discussion board, Slack workspace)
  • Cooperative learning strategies (peer learning, small group activities) gave students an opportunity to learn with and from each other
  • Electronic versions of lecture notes, presentations, outlines, and other materials were provided to students
  • Supplemental course materials were provided in a variety of formats (e.g., podcasts of lecture, course readings available as audio files, books available in electronic format)
  • All course materials were accessible
  • Materials and examples represented a diverse range of identities and/or backgrounds
  • Information in class was presented in a variety of formats (e.g., lecture, text, graphics, audio, video, hands-on exercises)
  • Class featured a variety of activities in addition to lecture, such as small groups, peer assisted learning, and hands-on activities
  • Students had flexibility in submitting assignments electronically (email attachment, digital dropbox)
  • Students had flexible response options on assignments or exams (e.g., providing students with a choice of written, oral, ASL, e.g.)
  • The instructor used a variety of assessment types (posters, portfolios, lab reports, critiques, journals, etc.)
  • The instructor repeated student questions back to the class before answering 
  • The instructor helped students to refine their questions by asking clarifying and probing questions before answering
  • The instructor began each class session with an outline/agenda of the topics to be covered
  • The instructor summarized key points throughout each class session
  • The instructor connected key points with larger course objectives during class sessions
  • The instructor provided students with criteria and standards for successful assignment completion (i.e., rubrics)
  • The rubric was provided with the assignment, and not used solely as a way of giving feedback 
  • Students had the opportunity to correct/improve assignments or tests
  • Tests reflect how the instructor taught and how students received feedback on their work (i.e., new material or types of question were not used in an exam setting)