Conducting Student Evaluations of Teaching, Nov 2014

Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) are now open for most fall courses.  Thus, we are tasked with encouraging students to complete the surveys—to evaluate, as objectively as possible, both their courses and their instructors—at a time when they are in the midst of perhaps the greatest stress and heaviest workload of the semester.

Now that the SETs are administered online, it’s easier than ever for students to choose not to do them at all.  But because SETs can provide us with valuable information on our teaching strategies and effectiveness, and many departments seriously consider the results of SETs in their evaluations of our teaching, we need to find ways to inspire students to earnestly reflect on their courses and complete the evaluations.

Here are a few ideas for preparing students for the SETs:

  •  Choose a day to complete the SETs in class, and announce that you’d like everyone to bring a laptop, tablet or, if necessary, smartphone to class, if they can.  It might make sense to choose a day when you know you’ll see good attendance, perhaps when a paper is due in class, there’s a scheduled quiz, or you will conduct a final-exam review.
  •  Some time prior to the in-class SET date, provide a brief overview of the course, including course goals and student learning objectives or outcomes.  The SETs will ask students to comment on the course’s and instructor’s ability to meet goals, but unless you take the time to review them here or have reiterated and emphasized them often throughout the semester, students are unlikely to even recall what those goals are.
  •  On the chosen day, introduce the SET and emphasize its value in course development.  Depending on your rapport with the group, maybe even convey how important the SETs are to you—that you value students’ insights and will take their responses seriously as you revise the course for next year.
  • Step outside the room, giving students time in class to complete the SETs online.
  • Reconvene the class and continue on with your planned activities.

These steps may help students gain the perspective they need to reflect fairly on your course, and they will increase the response rate tremendously.

For more information on SETs, contact OIRE.

If you would like help interpreting your SET results, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at