Here are some strategies that you can use to encourage student participation.

Teaching strategies

There is no consensus in the postsecondary education research on the definition of an effective teacher or a list of efficient teaching strategies, partly because each professor has his or her own methods and affinities. Among the various options and practices outlined in the literature on this topic, we are proposing that you consider one, or a combination, of the following strategies to improve student participation in course evaluations.

There is unanimous agreement in the literature that the commitment of academic leaders—including instructors—to the evaluation of courses has a very positive impact on participation rates. For example, simply asking students, by email, to fill out the evaluations shows the professor’s interest in course evaluation and can have a significant impact.

In general, you can convey the importance of course evaluations to your students in the context of your course. Below are some strategies that you can use to encourage student participation.

Customized formative evaluation

The customized formative evaluation is an optional tool tailored to your individual needs that provides feedback on specific aspects of your courses. You can write up to 10 questions to be added to the official evaluation of your course. You alone will see the answers to the questions you have added once the final marks are considered official.

To include these questions, proceed as follow:

  1. You will receive an email inviting you to add your customized formative questions on EvaluAction. Click on the link provided in the email or log in to VirtuO. Under the "Teaching" tab, click on the “Evaluation of teaching and courses (EvaluAction)” link.
  2. On the EvaluAction platform, you will see a list of all the courses you are currently teaching. Choose one of these courses to add questions. Note that you can add the same questions to all your courses.
  3. Click Submit.

Encouraging student participation

Include the evaluation in the course syllabus

You can include the evaluation in your official course syllabus by:

  • Adding the dates of the evaluation in the syllabus;
  • Listing the course evaluation as a task to be completed by students.

Ask for constructive comments

Explain to students what kind of comments you find useful by giving them examples of constructive criticism, for example one that identifies the problem, offers a possible solution and states why solving this problem will improve the learning process.

Find out more about effective feedback (PDF, 1.65MB) and share it with your students.

Allocate time in the classroom

At the beginning of class, give students a 10 to 20-minute period to allow them to complete the course evaluation. During that time, display the slide (PDF, 350KB) if possible, and leave the classroom.

You can also show your students the video on the evaluation of teaching and courses!

Explain the importance of the evaluation

For many students, the evaluation process seems to have no impact. To counter this, we encourage you to explain to students how you will use their comments. For example, you could describe a few of the changes that you have made to your course based on comments received from students in previous terms.

Dont know where to start? Show them the Evaluation of Teaching and Courses video!

Use the Virtual Campus

  • Add the course evaluation deadline to your calendar;
  • Start a conversation on the course discussion forum;
  • Add a note about the course evaluation at the beginning or end of a compulsory reading, the course introduction, or an exercise to be completed as part of the course;
  • Sending an email to the students in the course adds a personal touch and shows your interest in their feedback. Here is an email example:

Your opinion matters!

Hello everyone,

[Today / March 14] marks the beginning of the course evaluation period, which will end on [March 24].

Over the course of this two-week period, I urge you to provide feedback via the online form which can be accessed by logging into uoZone. Simply select "EvaluAction" or click on the link provided in the email sent by the University.

Evaluating the course is an excellent opportunity for you to take part in enhancing the course because your comments will help me revise certain aspects of it. This is anonymous, quick and simple—and greatly appreciated by your professor!

Thank you for your participation.


Do a mid-term course evaluation

Mid-term course evaluations are entirely optional and can be used to ask your students for feedback on the course before it has finished. Unlike the more formal end-of-term evaluations administered by the University of Ottawa, mid-term evaluations are completely under your control and you get the results immediately. This allows you to discuss the survey results with your students and, if applicable, make certain adjustments to your course based on their feedback.

Mid-term course evaluations have a positive impact not only on participation rates of formal, end-of-term course evaluations, but also on the students’ view of the course (meaning better results on the actual evaluations).

(See Gross Davis, Teaching Tools, 2nd edition, 2009; Lewis, Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001, Vol.2001(87), p.33).

Resources for you

To learn more about mid-term course evaluations, visit the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS). Do not hesitate to contact the TLSS for assistance or for any other question related to teaching.