Raising Student Evaluation Response Rates

Student evaluations of teaching play a crucial role in professional and course development and in the personnel review process. If they are to be useful, it is important that the data they provide be as accurate as possible. Unfortunately, students are not always motivated to complete them, perhaps because they don’t realize their voice is valued in this process. It is also well-documented that response rates for online evaluations are lower than for in-person administration. There are concrete strategies available to increase participation; however, and research points to creating a positive classroom culture and having explicit discussions of evaluations and specific ways they have been/will be used to inform courses as particularly effective (Chapman & Joines, 2017). A summary of some additional techniques is included below.

  • Make an announcement about evaluations in person (if possible) and in your Canvas course. Do this at the beginning and near the end of the survey period. Be sure to explain why student feedback is important and give specific examples of how you have used it in the past to revise classes. If you are teaching online, you could accomplish this with a short video.
  • Provide some time in class or a space online for students to ask questions about evaluations and their uses at UWGB.
  • Allow students time in class to complete their surveys, making sure to leave the “room” when you do. You should not be present when students complete evaluations. If you do provide time, note that ending class early to do so may only result in students leaving. In online courses, you might factor additional time for evaluations into your calculations of workload for the week and let students know that.
  • Assure students that the surveys are anonymous. Reinforce the point by leaving the physical or Zoom room when the students take them.
  • Include the direct link or QR code for your specific course evaluation in the Canvas announcement. You might also attach this helpful Knowledge Base article so students know how to locate the surveys for all their classes or even show in-person students where to find the necessary information.
  • Put “Complete Course Evaluation” as a task in your Canvas shell and include it on the calendar so it shows up on students’ “To Do” list for the class.
  • Bring the topic of the evaluations up several times during the period they are open, so they remain top of mind for students, even if you’ve already allowed time to complete them in class.
  • Monitor overall response rates for your classes during the open period. Ethically, you cannot award credit for completing an evaluation, and remember they are anonymous. You can, though, make classes aware of response rates and even create a contest between course sections to see who can achieve the highest overall response rate by a specific date. Offer a non-tangible prize to the winning class, such as bragging rights or a choice on a final assignment.
  • Throughout the semester, foster an environment of open communication and respect with students, which may motivate them to see their feedback as valued and worth taking the time to provide for you.

Chapman, D.D., & Joines, J.A. (2017). Strategies for increasing response rates for online end-of-course evaluations. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1), 47-60. http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/

Follow up: Collecting and Working with Mid-semester Feedback

Below is the recording of the “Collecting and Working with Mid-semester Feedback Workshop” hosted on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. We’ve provided the video as a PlayPosit Bulb so that you can engage with questions from the workshop facilitator.

To view the bulb, type your first and last name, then click “Save.”

Here are the resources discussed during the workshop:

We’d love to hear from you!

Let us know how you collect and work with mid-semester feedback. What strategies have you employed? What works? What do students like and what are some areas to avoid? Feel free to share sample prompts and success stories. Comment below or drop us a line at catl@uwbg.edu.

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Collecting Mid-Semester Feedback from Your Students

Have you been wondering if the ways you’re engaging your students in the first half of the semester have been effective from the student perspective? Collecting feedback from your students is a great way to find out! To do this we have a few models that may provide useful insight into how you can help students meet the course learning outcomes.  

Why might you wish to collect feedback now? 

This semester is unique, so you may find that what you’ve done in the past isn’t hitting its mark—gathering feedback at mid-semester allows instructors to: 

  • make sure that course lessons connected with students 
  • find out where students need support 
  • discover the impact of instructional changes you’ve made this semester before summative course evaluations 
  • uncover changes that you may yet want to make for this semester 
  • avoid surprises in end-of-semester evaluations 

What are some of the best practices for collecting feedback from students, mid-semester? 

How should I ask students for this kind of feedback? 

We have a few models and sample surveys you can download and import into your Canvas courses. Surveys in Canvas are a special kind of “quiz” that has unique options available. If you’re unsure how to import Canvas resources into your class, see these instructions. For information on how to retrieve survey results in Canvas, see this resource. 

Feedback focus groups 

CATL is currently refining a process that allows for instructors to benefit from feedback generated through a small group discussionThis process involves a neutral third party, a CATL staff member, conducting a form of a focus group with students. This would likely take 15-20 minutes. The feedback from the students is then synthesized and communicated to the instructor. 

Process adapted from Northeastern University’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research 

The steps in this process are: 

  1. The instructor and CATL staff member meet virtually to discuss goals and agree on questions for the session. 
  2. The consultant visits the class or a group of students from the class virtually. The instructor introduces the CATL staff member and explains that they have asked them to gather feedback, then leaves the virtual meeting. 
  3. Students are asked to compile responses to one question. For large classes, students are divided into small groups. The groups then report out while the CATL staff member records responses. This process is repeated for each question. 
  4. The CATL staff member synthesizes the feedback and reports back to the instructor. Themay discuss how the data can inform teaching practices at this point. 

The benefits of this process include: 

  • The feedback is being gathered by a neutral third party, which may encourage honesty among students. 
  • The consultant can help you shape the questions asked of students and interpret results. 

If you’re interested in piloting feedback focus groups, or would like more information about designing or implementing mid-semester evaluations, please email CATL@uwgb.edu. 

Helping students self-reflect 

Mid-semester is also a time in which you can help your students critically self-reflect on their own actions for their performance at this point in the course. Here are some questions to help frame the ways you’d like students to think metacognitively about their choices throughout the semester: 

  • What do students have the ability to change going forward in the course?  
  • Where might students improve their time management? 
  • Might there be a place for peer-to-peer feedback that could help build community and increase personal responsibility? 
  • What types of assessments might students need to better prepare in order to be successful in the course?  

Borrowed strategies 

What are some strategies you can provide to students to help them get back on track? Self-reflection, metacognitive exercises, and exam debriefings are a few of the strategies that other teaching and learning centers have created resources around: 

For any of these methods, you could create an assignment that doesn’t count towards the final grade or could be an opportunity for extra credit. Here’s how to set up extra credit in a Canvas course. 

We Want to Hear from You

How have you collected feedback from students at mid-semester? Do you have some advice to share about how to increase student engagement with the process? What has been effective when you do make changes? Have you found students are responsive to those changes you are able to implement? 

For those of you who’ve done self-reflective work with students—have you found certain techniques (like those below) particularly effective? Are there others we’re missing? We’re sure of it—please share! Feel free to drop a public comment below or email us at CATL@uwgb.edu.