Getting Feedback on Your Teaching
Collecting feedback about your teaching is an important component of effective teaching. Feedback is not a one-time occurrence it is better described as a cycle or a loop.
Instructors can get feedback about their teaching indirectly by considering how students are performing on the assignments, quizzes/tests, homework, discussions, class activities, etc. While student performance can provide some information on the effectiveness of teaching, other more directed forms of feedback can provide valuable information to the instructor about their teaching methods, content presentation, rapport with their students, engagement in the classroom, and other topics.
Who can provide feedback?
While there are many different ways of collecting feedback, the main distinction is between methods that use students to collect evidence and those that get evidence from non-students. There are benefits to collecting both types of feedback. Students are in your course and they see all that you do; however, they may not be capable of providing feedback on the quality of your explanations for complex topics. Here are some examples about who may be able to provide you with appropriate feedback on different areas of your teaching:
- Students: as regular participants in your class, students can provide valuable feedback about the teaching and assessment methods used (although they may not be able to speak to whether these methods are appropriate in the context), the organization of the course, the presentation skills and clarity of the instructor, the learning atmosphere, as well as other information about the instructor, such as their interest in the subject matter, their availability, their reliability, and their preparation for course.
- Peers: can provide good feedback on a number of different aspects of your teaching, such as your knowledge of the subject matter, how the course fits within the curriculum and connects with other classes, the teaching and assessment methods used and how well they work, the organization of the course, and the presentation of material.
- Supervisors: may be able to provide good feedback about how the course and the content fit within the larger departmental curriculum, the appropriateness of your teaching and assessment methods, your organization of the course, and also your course goals and learning outcomes.
- Teaching consultants: are trained to provide directed feedback about improving the learning environment for students. Staff members at the Drake Institute can provide constructive feedback about your teaching goals, the effectiveness and appropriateness of teaching and assessment methods, the organization of the course or a class period, the presentation of content, the clarity of presentation, and whether the course has an appropriate atmosphere to facilitate student learning.
From this short list of different sources for feedback on your teaching and the types of feedback that they can provide, it is apparent that to get the most constructive feedback about your teaching it may require multiple perspectives and multiple opportunities to solicit, gather, and review feedback. In the sections below, more information will be provided about the type of opportunities you can use to gather evidence and feedback about your teaching from both your students and non-students.
Evidence From Students
Your students are the most obvious source of feedback on your instruction. Research has shown that students provide valuable information about your teaching if the questions are structured in a useful way. Michael Theall (2002) has written a concise, insightful article in which he debunks several of the myths about student evaluations.
Types of Student Feedback
There are many ways to assess your teaching; using an end-of-term survey is the most popular (and mandatory for most instructors at Ohio State). End-of-term surveys provide instructors with valuable information to help shape the course and teaching strategies for future course offerings. But how can an instructor collect data that could potentially help enhance the course for the current students? Here are a few tools for getting both end-of-term and mid-term student feedback.
Student evaluation of instruction (numerical/quantitative ratings)
SEI (Student Evaluation of Instruction) forms are typically filled out at the end of the quarter. Students are asked to assign a numerical value to various aspects of the course and the instructor, on a scale of 1 (poor) – 5 (excellent). Ohio State faculty and TAs can download their cumulative SEIs through the Faculty Center. Click on the link to SEI Info and choose “Generate New SEI Cumulative Report.” For more information about SEIs, see the online SEI Handbook from Ohio State’s Office of Academic Affairs. Individual departments may have their own unique surveys for instructors to use in addition to or in place of the SEIs.
Discursive student evaluations (qualitative)
Often conducted in conjunction with SEIs, discursive student evaluations are written comments that the students offer in addition to the numerical ratings. These allow the students to add more information about issues evaluated on SEIs and to address issues that do not appear on the SEI forms. For example, you might ask them what about the course or instructor helped them (or didn’t help them) learn; their most (or least) favorite part of the course; how valuable certain assignments were; what they thought about the readings, etc. Some departmental forms use a similar system for collecting open-ended feedback. Discursive feedback does not go to the Registrar’s office, but instead will either go to the department (and may be typed up for an instructor in some cases) or will be returned directly to you as raw data.
Mid-quarter evaluations can be conducted at any time (and several times) during the term. The advantage to collecting mid-quarter feedback is that you can act on it immediately, by the next class.
CATs (Classroom Assessment Techniques)
The Classroom Assessment Techniques described briefly here are taken from Angelo and Cross (1993). These are typically very brief and focused questions or tasks related to the current content of your course. For example, at any point during a class, you may ask your students to write a “minute paper” addressing something specific, e.g., “What were the two most important points covered in class thus far?” Give your students a minute to write their answers, collect them, and use their responses to guide you in constructing the next class period. Another useful question is, “What is the muddiest (most confusing) point from today’s class?” For more information on CATs, see Angelo and Cross (1993) or check out our webpage about CATs.
SGID (Small Group Instructional Diagnosis)
SGIDs are focus groups conducted by UCAT consultants during class time and with the instructor absent. The consultant will put the students in small groups and ask them to talk about and write down answers to three questions: (1) What about the course/instructor is helping you learn? (2) What about the course/instructor is not helping you learn? and (3) What specific suggestions do you have for improvement? After the questions’ responses are transcribed, the instructor and Drake Institute consultant meet, to discuss the feedback and identify constructive ways to respond to it. Instructors receive a document, that can be printed on Drake Institute letterhead, providing a short description of the process as well as the transcribed student responses. This document is shared only with the instructor, but could be a great source of data to include in a teaching portfolio.
Evidence From Non-Students
Other teaching professionals — such as your peers, professors or university teaching consultants — can also provide you with evaluations of your teaching. If you are thinking about getting documentation on your teaching for summative and/or formative purposes, you may want to consider which individuals are appropriate sources to give you written evaluations on your teaching: peers, outside consultants, faculty, an advisor, or others who know your work and the field. Below are some kinds of documents from others that could be included.
Peers, advisors, and other faculty
- Written feedback from a classroom observation that details judgment on teaching
- Written feedback that details judgment on course materials, such as handouts, exams, and syllabi
- Written documentation that details teaching contribution to the department
Documentation from outside consultants
- Written feedback from a classroom observation that details strengths as well as areas for improvement
- Written summary from a classroom videotaping that details strengths as well as areas for improvement
- Written summary of open-ended comments from student evaluations of instruction that details strengths as well as areas for improvement
- Written summary from midcourse feedback that details areas of strength as well as areas for improvement
- Written summary that details the teaching improvement work that you did with the consultant
OSU Feedback Resources
The question of whether or not your students are learning in your class can sometimes make more than exams to answer. Asking your students how things are going at the middle and end of each term can provide valuable feedback as you work to improve your course.
Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI)
Ohio State’s University Rules require students to have the opportunity to evaluate their instructions at the end of every course. The Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI) is the standardized survey instrument used to that effect.
When interpreting your SEIs, the Registrar makes several suggestions, including the following:
- Consider the results within the context of other less quantifiable information, such as the
usual performance of the instructor and special circumstances surrounding the particular
offering that might have influenced student opinion.
- Check response rate to determine if the scores reflect the opinion of a substantial part of
the course enrollment. For small section sizes, look at frequencies as well as mean
scores, since outliers can greatly influence the mean rating.
- The focus should be on patterns of responses and general comparisons rather than on
trivial differences in mean values. To dwell on a trivial difference in mean values is
inappropriate as a basis for comparing one instructor with another. Differences of a few
tenths of a point should not be the basis for personnel decisions.
If you’d like assistance interpreting your SEIs and planning for changes to future courses, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Small Group Instructional Diagnoses
If you are interested in gathering midterm student feedback, the Drake Institute can help you do so in a unique and comprehensive way by conducting a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID).
What is a SGID?
A SGID is a way to gather rich, contextualized information about your course and your teaching through an in-class focus group interview, facilitated by a UCAT instructional consultant. After having an initial consultation with the facilitator to learn what you would like to discover through the SGID experience, you will schedule 20 minutes on a usual class day to step out of the room and allow the facilitator to become a “research tool” for you. The facilitator will ask your students to have small group discussions about three questions related to their learning in your course. Then, the facilitator will pull the smaller groups back into a full class discussion to summarize and clarify their feedback.
After the SGID, you will meet with your facilitator again to receive and review the data he or she collected for you – written feedback from the students’ small group discussions, and the facilitator’s impartial summary of the large group discussion. Together, you will work to interpret the comments to help you decide how you would like to address the student feedback with your class. SGIDs are normally conducted mid-term so that you have the opportunity to react to the information you’ve gathered and apply it to the remainder of the quarter, in whatever ways you see fit.
Why a SGID?
A SGID provides a much fuller picture of student feedback than an SEI or other written evaluation likely would. The facilitator is able to put the students’ answers into context by asking follow-up questions and gathering illustrative examples, give you an idea of how many class members agree with a particular piece of feedback, and explain the tone in which comments were made. Students may also help each other to put their own feedback into context by responding to one another’s comments (e.g., if one student complains about the amount of reading, others might respond that the amount is on par with what should be expected of them).
Moreover, SGIDs frequently result in better instructor-student communication and a greater sense of community in the classroom. Students are often impressed that the instructor took the time to ask for their feedback in a detailed manner, and in return, they respond with insightful, eloquent, and articulate answers.
If you are interested in pursuing a SGID, set up an appointment with an instructional consultant to determine whether a SGID would be a useful tool for you and your class.
Challenging Misconceptions About Student Ratings of Instruction – Stephen L. Benton and Kenneth R. Ryalls
Student Ratings of Teaching: A Summary of Research and Literature – Stephen L. Benton and William E. Cashin