Form layout in the Syracuse University course feedback system:
Course feedback forms are made up of blocks of questions that appear to students as one seamless survey. The blocks are displayed in the following order:
- Academic Affairs common questions
- School/college and department questions
- Individual instructor questions (if applicable)
Important steps for departments to strengthen the course feedback process:
While consistency in course feedback forms over time is important, periodic reflection on the instruments is also an important undertaking to ensure that helpful information is being collected from students and to minimize potential bias in their responses. The University’s transition to a new online course feedback system two years ago presented a good opportunity for this discussion, and some departments and schools/colleges revised and refined their forms. For those academic areas that continue to use student ratings forms from the prior OIR system, we strongly recommend dedicating time for faculty to review those forms and create a new one.
Important practices in collecting course feedback have been identified in the literature, particularly to minimize bias in the responses, including:
- Take the emphasis off the instructor and reframe questions to focus on students’ engagement in their own learning and specific course/instructional elements (the Academic Affairs common questions are an example of this reframing).
- Ensure that the questions being asked are ones to which students can reasonably respond (i.e., have direct knowledge of). “Instructor’s knowledge of the field” is often used as an example here with some questioning whether students can accurately gauge this of the instructor.
- Eliminate global questions along the lines of “Rate this instructor” or “I rate this instructor as effective.” These types of questions have been shown to result in biased responses. Additionally, interpretation is difficult as effective teaching can mean different things to different students, and it is impossible to know what students are taking into consideration as they respond.
- Move away from calling the process “student ratings,” “course evaluations,” or “student evaluations of teaching” (SET), in favor of “course feedback.” A key message to convey is that students are being asked to constructively share their perspective on the course experience, not to evaluate or rate the course or the instructor.
These practices should be considered in the departmental form revision process. Additionally, faculty should:
- Eliminate questions that overlap with the Academic Affairs common questions.
- Adopt the University’s six-point scale if an agreement scale is being used (the neutral option is replaced with “somewhat disagree” and “somewhat agree” to address central tendency bias).
- Engage students in this reflective exercise of determining appropriate and meaningful questions.
The IEA course feedback team is available to meet either virtually or in-person to support this effort, as well as listen to faculty input, share information, and answer questions about the University’s course feedback process and system. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.
Academic Affairs Common Questions
The following seven common questions are included on all course feedback forms:
|My key reasons for taking this course were: (Select all that apply.)
|For this course, on average, I spent the following time, outside of synchronous or in-person class sessions, on course work:
|I feel that I performed to my potential in this course.
|The syllabus was an accurate guide to course requirements.
|Student participation and the contribution of ideas, comments, and questions were encouraged.
|Course assessments (e.g., exams/quizzes, papers, presentations, projects, performances, etc.) allowed me to demonstrate what I learned.
|I received helpful feedback from the instructor to guide my progress in this course.
School/College and Department Questions
Some Syracuse University schools/colleges have one form for their entire academic area; in others, forms are created at the department level and the school/college may or may not choose to include a few questions that are included across all course forms.
Schools/colleges and departments can use the item banks to develop their forms or work with IEA to incorporate existing questions into the new system. The item bank questions are available within the platform and as an accessible PDF.
Each school/college determines whether individual instructors can include their own items on the feedback form for their course(s). If access is provided, instructors can develop their own or select up to five forced-choice and/or open-ended questions from the item banks for each course. The item bank questions are available within the platform and as an accessible PDF. To learn how to select and add instructor items, visit the Information for Instructors page.
The following schools/colleges have enabled the custom question option for instructors:
- School of Architecture
- College of Arts and Sciences
- School of Education
- College of Engineering and Computer Science
- Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics
- College of Law
- Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
- College of Visual and Performing Arts