Evaluations: Making the Most of Student Feedback

Collecting fruit

After the semester ends, students will be asked to evaluate their courses confidentially. You will receive a link to your course feedback via email once the evaluation period ends. Evaluations are a great way for you to get a sense of your students’ experiences and shape any future courses you may teach at the Extension School. But, it can also be nerve-wracking to read feedback on something you’ve spent a lot of time on and is close to your heart.

Reading your course evaluations doesn’t have to be a painful exercise. Here are some ways to make the most out of student feedback for your future teaching:

Think diagnostically

Try not to use your evaluations as a judgment set in stone. Your evaluations can serve as a formative way to improve on your course should you teach it again at the Extension School. You can explore common causes of low ratings and the remedies for it in our new Evaluations RX tool.


Find the story behind the feedback

While your students may not be experts in how to best build your course, they are experts in how they experienced it. If a comment doesn’t seem particularly useful in how you can improve on your course, think about why that specific comment came about. For example, student comments that say the course is too hard might mean you can spend more time at the beginning of the class articulating expectations of prerequisite knowledge and workload.


It helps to get feedback within more timely context. Give your students a mid-semester survey to get a feel for what they are struggling with and what is most helpful for them. It is helpful to get feedback from them while they are actively grappling with the content of your course and it gives you the chance to adjust before the semester ends. 


Small changes, big impact

Small changes can make the biggest impact on your students’ experience. Here are some simple and common fixes for challenges that give rise to less-than-stellar course evaluations: 

  • Set expectations early -- be explicit about the learning goals you have for your students and your expectations for them. Your students might think they are wasting their time working in groups, for example, and might not know it is a central part of the field your course resides in. “Assignment 0”s or skill check assignments are especially useful for courses with prerequisites.

  • Amp up your course organization -- students get frustrated when they can’t find files, due dates, or readings, and thus get frustrated with the course. Use Canvas modules to bring a consistent organization system to your course so students can easily find what they have to read or do each week. 

 Our course design team can help you with your skills check assignments and course organization. You can sign up for an appointment with them there.