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Tips and tech for gathering student feedback

February 28, 2011

It’s the time of the semester when many faculty ask students how things are going in their courses. Our center encourages people to consider asking for feedback earlier than halfway through, but often this is the point at which it happens.

What (not) to ask

Here are some suggestions about the kinds of questions to ask as part of early semester feedback, as well as some things to avoid.

  • Ask about specifics – strategies, methods, and activities, rather than “how am I doing?”
  • If you don’t want to change something, don’t lead students to believe you might. Why ask about the amount of reading if you won’t consider reducing it?
  • Ask questions related to the major goals for student learning in the course.
  • Include open-ended questions as well as multiple-choice
  • Avoid complex wording and negative language. You want students to understand the questions!
  • Ask questions that will provide data you can use. If you only learn that students disagree with “The amount of time spent watching videos is appropriate” you won’t know how they disagree. Ask instead for degrees: is the amount way too much, just right, or way too little?

In case you were wondering, not all of the above advice applies to end-of-course questionnaires.

Technology options

There are lots of ways to present surveys to students using technology. Here are the three that we most often recommend.

  1. Concourse (Blackboard) – see Concourse for student feedback..
  2. Google Form – see Gathering data with Google forms – can be embedded in Concourse and results come in the form of a spreadsheet.
  3. Survey Monkeysee their tutorial page – provides the greatest variety of question types and reports, plus other features.

Faculty at Notre Dame should feel free to contact the Kaneb Center for help formulating questions and delivering them online. They may also wish to download a handout from our workshop, “Early Semester Evaluations.”

[Photo “Friday… Test…” by Robert N on Flickr]

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