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.
Show and use the video
Show this video in your classroom or share it with your students in a quick message!
Use the computing laboratories
Recommend to your students that do not have electronic devices to use the computing laboratories on campus. You can also use them to view your evaluation response rates in real time!
Check out the list to find a computer near you!
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 choose up to 10 questions from the bank of customized 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:
- 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.
- On the EvaluAction platform, you will see a list of all the courses you are teaching at the moment. Choose one of these courses to add questions. Note that you can add the same questions to all your courses.
- The questions are categorized by theme. In each category, click Show section to see all the questions in a given theme. Select the questions you wish to add to the questionnaire (maximum of 10 per course).
- Click Submit.
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.
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 if possible, and leave the classroom.
You can also show your students the video on the evaluation of teaching and courses!
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!
[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.
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.
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!
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) webpage.
Do not hesitate to contact the TLSS’ Centre for Innovative Pedagogies and Digital Learning (CIPDL) for assistance or for any other question related to teaching.