Month: November 2016

Prepare to Administer Student Evaluations of Teaching, Nov. 2016

Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) are open now 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 review 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.   For help interpreting SET results or using past SET results to help guide your revision of a course, please contact Suzanne LaFleur.

Reduce End-of-Semester Stress, Nov. 2016

We all suffer from stress at the end of the semester, and in the fall that stress is often compounded by the colder weather, reduced exposure to daylight, and ever-looming holidays.  Following these steps may help you to control that stress before it gets out of hand:

  • Make a List—The first step to getting a handle on completing tasks during this busy time of year is to determine just what those tasks are.  Make a list.  Include everything that matters—preparing exams, grading papers, submitting next semester’s textbook order to the bookstore, requesting next semester’s HuskyCT site, etc.
  • Create and Stick to a Schedule—Create a daily calendar that includes ample time for all the tasks on your list, but also add things like shopping, working out, cleaning the house, and spending time with family—whatever you want to accomplish in the next few weeks.  Get started early; do whatever you can do today to relieve stress during the final days of the semester.
  • Limit the Time You Spend on Grading—Determine a reasonable amount of time to spend on grading student work, and stick to that schedule.  If you haven’t already done so, consider using grading rubrics and offering only minimal comments.  In most instances, the grading you do now is summative in nature; thus, adding specific suggestions designed to enhance learning may not be the best use of your time.  For more information on rubrics, see the MAGNA 20-Minute Mentor Video “How can rubrics make grading easier and faster?” and perhaps try creating a rubric using the Rubistar Rubric-Making Software.  You can even imbed rubrics right into your HuslyCT site assignments; see HuskyCT Rubrics for details.
  • Take Care of Yourself—As you work through piles of papers, take short breaks often: get a cup of coffee, take a brisk walk around the block, check in on the soccer game, or try a few yoga moves.  We tend to take less care of ourselves during times of stress, but now is when eating and sleeping well and taking time out for ourselves can really make a difference.  Consider listening to these Stress Management Audio Downloads or taking a look at these Coping Strategies.

If you are concerned that stress is negatively impacting your relationships or work, please feel free to contact the Employee Assistance Program or find additional resources through Human Resources.


For more information, contact the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at

Teaching Tools at your Fingertips, Nov. 2016

Are you interested in learning more about leading class discussions, flipping the classroom, conducting large classes, assessing student learning, or other useful teaching tips?  Mentor Commons is free to use and available any time online.

This series offers video-based programs designed to answer a specific question related to teaching and learning, delivering actionable insights in highly focused 20-minute presentations designed to fit busy schedules.

Subscribe to Magna’s 20-Minute Mentor Commons Today

As a member of the UConn campus community, you have free access to all of the 20-Minute Mentor videos, which cover a broad range of faculty development topics, at all times. Sign up today and help energize your higher education career:

STEP 1: Activate your 20-Minute Mentor Commons subscription

  1. Go to
  2. Enter information in each of the required fields.  To obtain the authorization code, please contact Stacey Valliere (

STEP 2: Access the 20-Minute Mentor Commons library

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your email address & password & click Submit. If you do not know or remember your account password, use “Forget your password?” to reset it.
  3. On the left side of the screen, under My Account, My Online Access, select Subscriptions. The online content you have access to will be listed to the right. Click the appropriate link to view the content.

Need help?  Email or call 800-433-0499 ext. 2 (office hours are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday).

Please contact UConn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for more information.