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Course Evaluations

Types of Feedback on Teaching

There are several ways that instructors and administrators can collect feedback on their teaching. 

End-of-semester student surveys. These are mandatory and administered by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment. Summary reports are found at courseevalum.umd.edu. These types of surveys are the most commonly used in higher education, and at UMD they include both quantitative and qualitative questions. The surveys are useful because they provide a snapshot of students' opinions on the teaching in the course. However, a significant body of research has found that they are biased against instructors of color, women instructors, and other groups. Therefore, results must be interpreted with this potential for bias in mind, and they should not be used alone to evaluate teaching. 

Mid-semester student surveys. These are optional and conducted by the instructors of a particular course. At UMD there is a mid-semester evaluation tool in canvas commons (search for TLTC) that was created by the TLTC research team. The scale has been validated for use in face-to-face and online courses. Because these surveys are at the discretion of the instructor, they can be tailored to the interests of the instructor or department. Additionally, they are purely formative, as instructors only need to share them with administrators if they choose to do so. 

Peer Observations. These are optional, and can provide insight into areas where students are not strong sources of information. For example, a peer instructor who is also an expert in the subject can provide feedback on whether the course content is up-to-date with the latest research in the field. An observer can also give feedback on pedagogical choices that students might not immediately value, but have been shown promote learning. It is important to request that someone who has the right expertise act as the observer. TLTC staff are available to serve as pedagogical peer observers. Observations can be documented in a formal letter, or discussed informally between the colleagues. 

Using Teaching Evaluation Data at the Departmental Level

  • Create a climate of teaching growth and conversation
  • Be clear about the teaching expectations of the department
  • Use multiple methods to assess teaching
  • Discuss results with faculty to find the context of the feedback
  • Take the research on the bias inherent in teaching evaluations into account when making high-stakes decisions
  • Listen to and support instructors who have received racist, sexist, otherwise discriminatory, or cruel comments from students

Related Articles 

Kohut, G. F., Burnap, C., & Yon, M. G. (2010). Peer observation of teaching: Perceptions of the observer and the observed. College Teaching, 55(1), 19-25.

Linse, A. R. (2017). Interpreting and using student ratings data: Guidance for faculty serving as administrators and on evaluation committees. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 54, 94-106.

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