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Weekly Tip: Increasing Course Evaluation Response Rates

Student evaluations potentially offer a great source of insight for instructors and administrators. Often, evaluations can provide invaluable feedback and serve as a foundation for revising a course. However, getting students to complete course evaluations can be tricky, to say the least. So how do we encourage students to participate in course evaluations?

Research shows that creating an environment of mutual respect, in which “student opinions are respected and addressed, and instructor needs are taken into consideration” is key to, and can result, in higher evaluation completion (Strategies for Increasing Response Rates). Explaining the importance of evaluations and how feedback is used to modify a course can also work to increase response rates.

Below are strategies that can be employed to help increase your evaluation response rates:

Environment: Getting Buy-In

  • Get students genuinely interested in the course. One way to do so is to provide opportunities for peer instruction which allows students to teach and learn from each other (see Resources section for more information).
  • Let students know you value their input and success throughout the semester. Have them complete a poll, rank concepts or learning objectives, or write a reflection that identifies areas they are still unclear on or not confident in and would like to review. Topics with the most votes, highest rankings, or that are frequently mentioned can be used to create mini-review activities or lessons.
  • Build personal connections with students. Make time for non-academic conversations to build personal connections with students.
    • Encourage students to share positive things that are happening in their lives.
    • Ask students to contribute random fun-facts to the Blackboard course space. Facts can then be shared at the beginning or end of class. 

The research is very clear that the primary reason students do not complete evaluations is that they often believe it makes no difference.

—Dr. Steve Hines, WSU Pullman

Prepare: Practice and Implement

  • Have students complete a preliminary and/or mid-term evaluation. Preliminary evaluations provide a chance for immediate implementation. In turn, students can see that their opinions are taken seriously.
    • Amend a current aspect of the course to reflect the ideas of current/past evaluations. Point this out so that students can witness the possibilities of using their voices.
  • Provide frequent reminders. Reminders can be delivered in class and through Blackboard two to three weeks before evaluations become available and while evaluations are open.

Incentivize evaluation completion by offering to reveal a question or two that will be on the final once a stated response rate is achieved (80% or higher), before the exam. Students are still responsible for studying and preparing for those questions.

—Dr. Steve Hines, WSU Pullman

Transparency: Making Evaluations Meaningful

  • Explain the significance of evaluations. Help students understand why they are being asked to complete course evaluations by sharing how you and administrators use their feedback.
  • Encourage taking an objective approach. Ask students to use evaluations to let you and administrators know which elements of the course or about your teaching they found helpful to their learning processes.
  • Remind students that course evaluations are anonymous. Let students know that instructors do not see completed evaluations until after grades are submitted.

Explain to students that evaluations are not intended to be personal. Instead, [evaluations] serve as an opportunity to write thoughtful, respectful, and constructive comments.

—Dr. Steve Hines, WSU Pullman

What are ways you can think of increasing evaluation response rates?

Resources

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.