Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


Making student evaluations of teaching useful

Posted on September 15, 2015 at 7:10 AM

On September 24, I’ll be speaking at the CoursEval User Conference on “Using Student Evaluations to Improve What We Do,” sharing five principles for making student evaluations of teaching useful in improving teaching and learning:


1. Ask the right questions: ones that ask about specific behaviors that we know through research help students learn. Ask, for example, how much tests and assignments focus on important learning outcomes, how well students understand the characteristics of excellent work, how well organized their learning experiences are, how much of their classwork is hands-on, and whether they receive frequent, prompt, and concrete feedback on their work.


2. Use student evaluations before the course’s halfway point. This lets the faculty member make mid-course corrections.


3. Use student evaluations ethically and appropriately. This includes using multiple sources of information on teaching effectiveness (teaching portfolios, actual student learning results, etc.) and addressing only truly meaningful shortcomings.


4. Provide mentoring. Just giving a faculty member a summary of student evaluations isn’t enough; faculty need opportunities to work with colleagues and experts to come up with fresh approaches to their teaching. This calls for an investment in professional development.


5. Provide supportive, not punitive, policies and practices. Define a great teacher as one who is always improving. Define teaching excellence not as student evaluations but what faculty do with them. Offer incentives and rewards for faculty to experiment with new teaching approaches and allow them temporary freedom to fail.


My favorite resource on evaluating teaching is the IDEA center in Kansas. It has a wonderful library of short, readable research papers on teaching effectiveness. A particularly helpful paper (that includes the principles I’ve presented here) is IDEA Paper No. 50: Student Ratings of Teaching: A Summary of Research and Literature.

Categories: Upcoming events, Sharing & using results, How to assess