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Because students directly experience our teaching, it makes sense to collect feedback from students on our teaching effectiveness. Feedback from students is often enlightening and actionable, as their shared perceptions can help you identify what you are doing successfully and areas for improvement of which you may yet be unaware.  

Beyond Student Evaluations of Teaching 

There are many ways to collect student feedback, but one of the most common is through student evaluations of teaching (SETs) which occur at the end of a semester. There are certainly benefits to SETs: they are convenient, and careful reflection on the metrics and student comments contained in SETs can be a valuable method for revising one’s teaching approach. However, SETs are not the only means, and they are often weighted inappropriately heavily as measures of teaching effectiveness during high-stakes decision making processes such as promotion and tenure reviews. Moreover, research has shown that SET data is biased Associate Professor Melissa Mazan leads a video teleconference presentation at the Cummings Veterinary School on Feb. 8, 2017. Vet students connected with contacts from the American Fondouk and Equitarian Initiative, two nonprofit organizations that provide free veterinary care for working donkeys, mules and horses in the developing world.against instructors of non-dominant and minoritized gender, racial, and ethnic identities.   New efforts to evaluate teaching have been built upon a general consensus that in order to evaluate teaching and student learning, multiple sources of evidence and information are necessary.  For more, see the article Bias in Course Evaluations  and the POD Cast The Research on Course Evaluations
Formative feedback (i.e., feedback for learning and improvement) is mutually beneficial for instructors and students and often very easy to gather. This kind of feedback can give you information on learning from a particular unit or day, how students are experiencing the course climate, how they reacted to an activity you tried, or whatever you are curious about understanding in your course. Because it is timely, this feedback allows you to make immediate changes, revisit concepts, or reshape how you structure learning activities. Here are some ways to gather timely, formative feedback: 
  • Midway through the semester, survey your students. Ask the questions about their learning experiences (what’s working well, what isn’t) and the classroom environment. Make adjustments to your teaching based on their responses.  Here is a link to a short example based on CELT’s Midterm Feedback process.  A second example linked here has some course-specific questions.  For more advice see Integrating Student Feedback During a Course on Teaching@Tufts.
  • Request a mid-term feedback session with CELT. A CELT colleague will take 30 minutes of class time to guide students through an evidence-based process to gather and prioritize feedback, and then meet with you to process and determine how to respond to the feedback. 
  • Apply for the Pedagogical Partnership Program through CELT. This program partners a faculty member and a student for a semester to specifically explore a course through a lens of engagement, diversity, equity and inclusion. 
  • In a large course, create a student advisory group to represent the class that meets with you regularly to give you insight into the student experience and offer suggestions for improvement. 
  • Use regular, short formative assessments (e.g., minute paper; muddiest point) throughout the semester that allow you to make changes in real time, and while students can benefit from those changes. 
  • Add customized, targeted questions to the standard course evaluation form – for example, “What are the 2-3 most important things you learned in this course?” Some schools at Tufts allow faculty to add custom questions in the Student Evaluation System Blue
Want more information on teaching feedback and evaluation?  
  • The Evaluation webpage from Teaching@Tufts compiles online resources on midterm feedback, student evaluations, peer observation, self-reflection, teaching philosophy statements, and teaching portfolios. 
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