For some of us instructors summer courses are in full swing. The spring semester feels like ages ago, but at some point during the summer, the end-of-semester evaluation feedback becomes available. As we’ve already moved on to other classes, looking it over and making any suggested changes to the course may not be at the top of our priority list. It was reported that only 77% of instructors made changes to the course based on feedback received in evaluations (Spencer & Flyr, as cited in McDonnell & Dodd, 2017). This statistic to me seems outrageous! How will our courses/teaching improve if we don’t listen to our captive audience? One idea that’s already been used to alleviate this issue is to implement mid-semester feedback. Using this technique does increase instructor ratings (Cohen, as cited in McDonnell & Dodd, 2017). But isn’t there something more that we can do?
Indeed there is! McDonnell and Dodd (2017) collected course feedback from students four times during a one-semester course. At each evaluation point, the students could suggest minor changes be made to the course that the instructor could easily implement. During this study, these were the changes voted on by the students: show more supplementary videos, cover sample exam questions at the end of lecture, and include more real-world examples during lecture.
They found for all of the implemented changes that at least 94% of the students indicated the change improved the class experience. Students also indicated that the system for course feedback improved the course as a whole, and they hoped to see this system implemented in other courses. Additionally, the authors compared this semester’s course to the same course taught in an earlier semester where only traditional end-of-semester feedback was used. Instructor ratings during the semester with multiple chances for feedback were higher compared to the course with traditional feedback. For two of the exams, grades were higher for the semester with multiple chances for feedback than the course with traditional feedback. The authors suggest that the increased course ratings and exam performance could be due to the importance of choice in learning and how this may increase students’ intrinsic motivation.
This system for feedback (or some modified variation) seems like it would be a worthwhile addition to our courses. It gives students the opportunity to “take the wheel” and have more of a voice in their courses because we’re actually listening to them! We’re able to give them what they want without completely derailing the course structure set in place by the instructor. The next time I teach I plan on using a similar system for course feedback.
McDonnell, G. P., & Dodd, M. D. (2017). Should Students Have the Power to Change Course Structure?. Teaching of Psychology, 44(2), 91-99.
Written by Jen Blush
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