Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates: Tips for Instructors
November 28, 2018
by Hillary Steiner
Associate Director for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Educational Psychology
When students feel they are our partners in improving teaching, they may feel more
motivated to provide the type of feedback that is crucial to our development as instructors.
Concerned about low participation in your course evaluations this semester? Recent research on course evaluation systems offers several suggestions for raising student response rates (Adams, 2012; Hoel & Dahl, 2018; Nulty, 2008). If you struggle to get your students to participate or to provide constructive feedback, consider trying some of the following strategies.
- Provide assurance that you will use their feedback.
Many students do not know how their feedback will be used. Assure them that you care about improving your teaching, help them understand what kind of feedback is most useful, and provide specific examples of how you have used feedback in the past. Some studies show that this is the single biggest influence on whether students will complete course evaluations (Hoel & Dahl, 2018).
- Provide frequent reminders.
Remind students frequently in class and online about evaluation instructions and completion dates.
- Make the evaluation easy for students to find.
Place visible links in your syllabus and in multiple places on your course’s website. Ensure that the links are current and operational.
- Provide time in class to complete the evaluation.
Hoel and Dahl (2018) found that students were more motivated to complete a course evaluation when given time during the regular class period to do so. Alert students ahead of this activity, and ask them to bring a laptop or phone to class if possible. Provide extra laptops or reserve a computer lab if your students do not have access to electronic devices.
- Provide assurance of confidentiality.
Many students may be fearful that their responses can be identified. Assure them that instructors have no way of linking responses to individual students, and will not see the responses until after grades have been submitted.
These strategies are especially important for those instructors teaching courses that serve first-year students who may be less familiar with the evaluation process. Recently, first-year seminar instructor Shana Goodson shared how she increased her course evaluation response rate. First, she asked her students if they had received an email about completing course evaluations. She explained the purpose of the email and the importance of their feedback for her as a teacher and to administrators who review her teaching. She reported that this seemed to provoke an “aha” moment when students understood that these evaluations would be read carefully, and would have a purpose. She then assured them that all feedback is anonymous and that she would not see it until after final grades were posted. Allowing time in class for the evaluation, she stepped out the room for ten minutes while students completed the evaluations on their own devices, then returned and thanked them for their help. Because of her efforts, her response rate is currently an impressive 95%, with several days still left in the evaluation period.
When students feel they are our partners in improving teaching, they may feel more motivated to provide the type of feedback that is crucial to our development as instructors. As you wrap up the semester, remember to set up an environment in your course that encourages substantive, helpful, and timely feedback.
Adams, C.L. (2012). Online measures of student evaluations of instruction. In M. E. Kite (Ed.), Effective evaluation of teaching: A guide for faculty and administrators. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/evals2012/index.php
Hoel, A., & Dahl, T.I. (2018). Why bother? Student motivation to participate in student evaluations of teaching. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1511969.
Nulty, D. D. (2008). The adequacy of response rates to online and paper surveys: What can be done? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(3, June), 301–314.
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