Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Collecting and Documenting Student Feedback on your Course

Collecting formative student feedback on your course is an effective part of critically reflecting on your teaching in order to improve. Just like the formative feedback instructors provide to students, formative student feedback to instructors helps improve and adjust teaching strategies and methods, part of what Brookfield (2017) describes as being a critically reflective teacher.

Depending on when the feedback is requested, instructors can also make adjustments to their course while it is still happening, or apply feedback to future course iterations. And evidence from student feedback can be useful as one of many types of evidence of teaching effectiveness documented in a teaching dossier.

Here are a few considerations when preparing to collect student feedback.

Sections:

A Note of Caution
Prompting Students to Give Good Feedback
Using onQ to Set Up a Student Feedback Survey
What to Do with Feedback After You Receive it
Additional Resources
Other References

A Note of Caution

In Fall 2020, the QSSET (Queen’s Survey of Students’ Experience of Teaching) replaced the USAT (University Survey of Student Assessment of Teaching) as the official survey for institutional evaluation of teaching at Queen’s University. More information on QSSETs, including a copy of the survey and discussion of its development, are available on the Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) website.

Any feedback on teaching collected by a Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) Member beyond the official survey must follow the rules of the Queen’s—QUFA Collective Agreement, specifically Article 29.4.

Article 29.4. Member’s Course Survey

  1. 29.4.1  In order to improve course design and/or teaching effectiveness, a Member may conduct a written survey in her/his classes, provided that the students consent to participate and provided that the procedures of the survey protect student confidentiality and are carried out in a way that prevents confusion with the QSSET evaluation.
  2. 29.4.2  Member’s course surveys are not for the same purposes as the QSSET and shall not be used in its stead, in whole or in part. Nonetheless, a Member may submit the Member’s course survey as part of the material to be examined in the assessment and evaluation of the Member’s teaching performance, provided that full details of the instrument and its administration are included.

It is critical, therefore, that QUFA Members

  • provide clarity that any feedback surveys are not a replacement for the QSSET
  • write questions that are as specific as possible to the Member’s course, instructional strategies, and content. Questions should not be the same as/similar to QSSET questions, in order to avoid confusion. A full list of QSSET questions is available on the QSSET website.
  • create the survey themselves rather than using a pre-designed or generalized survey
  • set up the survey so that student comments are anonymous when submitted to the instructor
  • make it clear to students that their participation in the survey is optional, not required
  • ask students to consent to participate and have their comments shared. An opening statement like the following could be helpful for this purpose:

    “By completing this survey you consent to your anonymous answers being shared by the instructor for the purposes of formative feedback on their teaching and course design.”

It is important to note that non-QUFA members (e.g., teaching fellows) are not bound by the terms of the Collective Agreement.

Questions about tenure, promotion, and re-appointment criteria should be directed to QUFA or your Department Head.

Prompting Students to Give Good Feedback

This is always a challenge, but fortunately there are many things you can do to help students provide feedback that’s useful to you.

  1. Explain that you value feedback, take it seriously, and use it to improve your teaching. Students are more likely to give meaningful and thoughtful feedback it if they think it will be valued.
     
  2. Prompt students to reflect on the whole course, not just the last few classes, by reminding students of the learning outcomes for the course as a whole, directing their attention back to the syllabus, and reminding them of the course timeline in terms of content, assessments, and instructional activities.
     
  3. Give students samples of the style feedback you find helpful. Share an example of what constructive feedback looks like to you, or provide students with questions that guide them towards meaningful comments. Ideally, you will have been modelling this type of feedback in the feedback you’ve provided to students throughout the semester.
     
  4. Be aware that results may be biased. Research is mixed, but does suggest that student feedback on courses could be influenced by instructor identities (e.g., gender, race), the learning environment, and students’ first impressions of an instructor. Student feedback on courses should always be one of many means for assessing and evaluating teaching; peer review of teaching and teaching materials, scholarship of teaching and learning, and professional observation reports are also key pieces of evidence of teaching effectiveness.

Using onQ to Set up a Student Feedback Survey

We recommend that instructors develop feedback surveys using the survey tool in onQ, as this is the most widely-used and well-supported software currently available at Queen’s. Instructors may use other tools if they wish, as long as they conform to the recommendations above, particularly regarding student anonymity and privacy. It’s also preferable to use a tool that students and the instructor are both familiar with.

Instructional videos explaining how to set up the survey are available through our YouTube Channel:

              Creating an anonymous survey in onQ

              Generating a report of survey responses

The CTL is not able to provide generic questions for instructors to use in their surveys, but we are happy to review questions with an instructor once they are developed and assist with survey set-up in onQ. Email ctl@queensu.ca to set up an individual consultation.

What to Do with Feedback After You Receive It

The CTL is happy to consult with you individually in terms of how to interpret results, look for common themes, and find areas of strength and for improvement.

You can include summaries and points you wish to emphasize in the ‘evidence of effectiveness’ section of your teaching dossier. Refer your readers to the appendix for the full survey. A well-designed teaching dossier will have many different types of evidence of effectiveness, and the CTL’s teaching dossier resource goes into more detail on what those could be.

QUFA Members should follow the requirements laid out in the Collective Agreement Article 29.4 (above). Include a statement explaining how you administered the survey, the response rate, all questions asked, and any other pertinent information.

A sample format might be as follows:

End of Course Survey

Course: [COURSE CODE & TITLE]

Description:

End of term onQ survey created by the instructor for a course taught in the Winter 2020 term for the purpose of receiving formative feedback from students in order to improve course design and/or teaching effectiveness. All responses were voluntary and anonymous. See Appendix for the instructions given to students, the full survey, and all responses.

 
 
Question Mean Score
[pertinent question 1]  
[question 2]  
[etc.  

Representative Student Comments: [INSERT]

Instructor’s Responses to Comments/Plans for Improvement: [INSERT]

Additional Resources

Watch the 28-minute webinar: Collecting and Documenting Student Feedback on your Course - Please note that this webinar was delivered in the context of the Winter 2020 semester, when official student evaluation of teaching was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CTL resources on teaching dossiers

Queen’s University USAT information page

QUFA Collective Agreement

Official statement from Provost’s Office about the suspension of USATs for the Winter 2020 term (PDF, 128KB)

Other References

Brookfield, Stephen J. 2017. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching – Student Evaluations of Teaching
https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/student-evaluations/

University of Calgary Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning – Formative Feedback Resources
https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/formative-feedback/resources