Formative Teaching Evaluations
Formative teaching evaluations give instructors the opportunity to monitor student learning and gather feedback to improve their teaching. In contrast, the primary goal of summative teaching evaluations (such as end-of-course evaluation forms) is to measure instructors’ teaching effectiveness so as to guide personnel decisions.
Why use formative teaching evaluations? Formative teaching evaluations can provide actionable information that faculty can use to make adjustments during a course, something that is impossible to do using end-of-course evaluations. Formative evaluations allow instructors the opportunity to gather feedback on their teaching without having to share it with one’s department, colleagues, or reappointment, promotion, or tenure committee. Also, as students respond to formative teaching evaluations, they get to think about their own learning. This meta-cognition contributes to their self-awareness as learners and helps them better engage with their learning.
Tips for Responding to Student Feedback
- Develop a tender heart but thick skin. Try to empathize with students’ concerns, but don’t take things too personally. Keep in mind that there are lots of reasons (not having anything to do with you) that could have caused a student to have a bad day. Don’t let extreme outlier comments get to you–look instead for themes in the comments.
- Respond in a way that feels right to you. You can discuss survey results with the whole class, or you can prepare an email to the class if you don’t want to use class time. Remember that you do not have to share all of the information that you received on the survey. You can be strategic about the information that you share.
- Make sure that students feel that they were heard and that you care. Thank them for giving you feedback. Clarify any misunderstandings or questions that they might have had. Explain how they can ask for help or get their questions answered. Present the positive aspects of the course that students appreciated and talk about how you will continue or augment those practices. Summarize the negative feedback and describe concrete, specific changes that you will make as a result. Avoid having a defensive or overly apologetic tone.
- Respond in a timely manner.
- Get advice from people you trust. Ask a trusted colleague to review the feedback with you and get suggestions on your plan of action. Remember that CTL staff are available to help as well!
- Be strategic about what to share with your dean or reappointment/promotion committee, if anything. If you got some nice encouragement from students about your teaching, file those notes so you can find them later. Demonstrate your growth as a teacher by documenting how you responded to any negative feedback and what effect your actions had on students or their learning.
Other Useful Resources
- If you’re looking for a way to determine how much class time you spend on various activities (lecturing, having students doing small group work, etc), check out this software tool called Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching (DART). There are also a variety of other tools for gathering this kind of information, but that require a human, such as Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) or Generalized Observation and Reflection Protocol (GORP).
- How to respond to student feedback on mid-semester evaluations, from UC Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning
 Benton, S. L., and W. E. Cashin. “Student ratings of teaching: A summary of research and literature” (IDEA Paper no. 50). Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Center. (2012).
 Braunstein, Daniel N., Gary A. Klein, and Mark Pachla. “Feedback expectancy and shifts in student ratings of college faculty.” Journal of Applied Psychology 58, no. 2 (1973): 254.
 Brown, Michael J. “Student perceptions of teaching evaluations.” Journal of Instructional Psychology 35, no. 2 (2008): 177-182.
 Keutzer, Carolin S. “Midterm evaluation of teaching provides helpful feedback to instructors.” Teaching of Psychology 20, no. 4 (1993): 238-240.
 Murray, Harry G. “Does evaluation of teaching lead to improvement of teaching?” The International Journal for Academic Development 2, no. 1 (1997): 8-23.
 Overall, J. U., and Herbert W. Marsh. “Midterm feedback from students: Its relationship to instructional improvement and students’ cognitive and affective outcomes.” Journal of Educational Psychology 71, no. 6 (1979): 856.