Course evaluations allow you to use student feedback to inform decisions. They should be an integral part of each semester, designed to solicit the most useful and informative feedback. The best course evaluation questions will help you perform more robust analyses and make the wisest choices regarding faculty and curriculum.
Learn what you can do to improve your higher education course evaluation feedback questions. While it might be easy to overlook, courses in various fields or areas of study should have unique course evaluations. A few general questions can apply to a course in any field, while specific questions help create a more nuanced understanding. Any institution of higher learning should know how to design and implement actionable department course evaluation questions.
Best Course Evaluation Questions
Good course evaluation questions address issues related to instructors, course content, and self-reflection on student performance — and some may not be questions at all. You might phrase them as statements with an accompanying Likert scale to show how much a student agrees with the statement. For instance, an evaluation “question” might be, "I enjoyed this course and the material I learned in it." The student will be able to choose one option from the following, showing that they:
- Strongly agree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Strongly disagree
The Likert scale is helpful because it shows the intensity of the survey-taker's feelings regarding the subject. The scale might include additional options to show greater accuracy. However many points are on the scale, symmetry is important — neutrality should be the centermost option. Some questions will require other responses, such as "yes" or "no" or an open-ended answer. Make sure you double-check your course evaluation, ensuring each question contains relevant response options.
What Do Good Survey Questions Achieve?
The main purpose of your course evaluations should be to aid your reporting and analysis about what's happening on your campus. The data you gather through in-person or online course evaluation surveys should guide your decision-making. It should allow you to build a plan of action so you can apply what you've learned.
Designing the best possible survey and encouraging thoughtful responses can help an institution achieve a great deal. When deciding what questions to include, consider both general questions and department-specific questions.
Certain general questions apply to courses in any field or area of study. General questions encourage reflection among students, regardless of the course's department. Such questions provide insight into how useful and relevant students feel their courses are. They also reveal students' perceptions of instructor performance. Here are some examples of general course survey questions:
- What were the learning objectives of the course?
- How would you rate your overall experience of the course?
- How likely are you to recommend this course to a friend/colleague?
- How did this course help you develop professionally?
- What will you do differently now that you've completed the course?
- As a result of taking this course, how likely are you to ____ ? (include some of the learning outcomes that are relevant)
- What did you like most / least about the course?
Inquiries about the course help departments determine how students feel about each course, which might inform decisions about what courses to offer.
In addition, student self-evaluation questions help to determine the nature of the student taking the evaluation, which might help legitimize survey results. Finally, open-ended questions are a vital part of the process, as they give students a chance to provide a more detailed explanation or address something not posed in another question.
When designing your evaluation, use the following course evaluation survey template questions. Some are general while others are related to a specific area of study.
Below are some sample course evaluation questions in the general category. Here are some sample questions related to the instructor and their performance:
- How knowledgeable was the instructor?
- How clearly did the instructor explain the course material?
- How would you rate the instructor’s mastery of the material?
- How easy was it to approach the instructor with questions or concerns?
- How well did the instructor answer students’ questions?
- Did the instructor present the course material too fast, too slow, or just right?
In addition to questions regarding the professor, the course evaluation questions should include general inquiries about the course itself. However effective an instructor might be, course material, design, and structure are just as important. Course-related questions might include:
- The course material was well-suited to the level of the class.
- The course assignments and lectures corresponded well.
- The course's organization was helpful and sensible.
- The course helped me improve my critical thinking skills.
- Throughout this course, I feel I've learned a lot about the subject matter.
- The course helped me synthesize my knowledge and skills.
- The course followed the syllabus.
Student Self-Evaluation Questions
Finally, some general questions can measure student self-evaluation. The way students measure their own performance can help you strengthen your evaluations in a few ways. For one, you can determine the credibility of the survey-taker — if a student evaluates a course or instructor poorly but admits to rarely attending class, you might consider the bias of their results, for instance. Here are a few questions to ask regarding student self-evaluation:
- How many classes or sessions did you attend?
- Did you complete all reading assignments for this course?
- How many hours per week did you spend on this course?
- How would you describe the level of effort you put forth in this course?
- Was this a course you wanted to take?
- What kind of grades do you tend to earn in most courses?
- What grade would you give yourself for this course?
Teaching Assistant-Related Questions
If one or more teaching assistants (TAs) aid with instruction, grading, or other tasks, it's necessary to ask some evaluation questions about them. Such questions could include:
- The TA returned assignments and exams with thorough and helpful feedback.
- The TA was able and willing to explain evaluations of my work.
- The TA was adequately knowledgeable and prepared.
- The TA promoted communication and discussion.
- I was comfortable asking my TA questions about the course material.
- The TA always arrived at class on time.
- The TA was available outside of class time.
Answers to these questions help institutions determine how well their TA programs are working for students. The data could also help professors choose the best TAs for their courses.
It's important to give students a chance to answer some open-ended questions as well. These questions will give students the opportunity to elaborate on the most important aspects of their evaluation or express concerns not addressed in other questions. Some sample open-ended questions might include:
- What did you like most about this course?
- What improvements would you suggest for this course?
- What advice would you offer this course instructor?
- What advice would you give to a student considering this course?
Questions for Arts Courses
It's also a good idea to vary your surveys based on the nature of the course in question. For instance, specific questions should accompany arts courses. These classes have different learning outcomes, priorities, and standards than others. Here are some of the questions you might ask students following an arts course:
- The course helped me learn to present ideas in an artistic medium.
- The course helped me improve my writing skills.
- The course helped me improve my critical reading skills.
- The course involved relevant and interesting material.
- The course allowed me to provide constructive criticism for my peers.
- The course helped me improve my communication skills.
- The course gave me the opportunity to create original creative work.
- The instructor treated me and my work with respect.
- The instructor challenged me to develop my abilities.
- The instructor clearly articulated the standards of performance.
Keep in mind that students will respond to questions like these using the Likert scale of agreement. These questions address the key purposes of arts courses, so they vary from questions for other types of courses. For instance, courses in the arts should help students improve specific artistic skill sets and give them an opportunity to create original work.
Questions for Science Courses
Courses in the sciences are unique for several reasons, and their surveys should reflect that. Science courses often involve labs, out-of-classroom experiences, and report writing. Some questions will be related to labs, if relevant:
- The course lab helped me understand the lecture material.
- The course lab complemented the lectures.
- The course lab sections were well organized.
- The instructor used fair and standard methods for evaluating lab reports.
- Good-quality equipment was always available to me.
- The instructor followed lab safety protocols during this course.
- The lab instructor supported my learning.
Other science course questions, unrelated to labs, might include:
- The instructor delivered course instruction in a variety of formats, such as readings, lectures, and videos.
- The course was intellectually challenging for me.
- The course involved field trips outside the classroom.
- The course helped me understand relevant ethical concerns.
- My subject knowledge level improved during the course.
These questions address some of the main objectives involved with science courses — making sure the material is intellectually challenging, delivered in sufficient forms, and addressing ethical issues. It's also important to ensure that the students are actually learning throughout the duration of the course. Since many science classes involve TAs, it's important to ask questions regarding TAs, as well.
Questions for Business Courses
Business courses have objectives unique from arts and science courses. These courses help build an understanding of financial, legal, ethical, operational, and administrative concerns related to business. Their course evaluation questions might include the following:
- The instructor engaged the class in productive discussions.
- The instructor provided helpful feedback on assignments and exams.
- Assignments contributed to my knowledge of the subject matter.
- The course developed my collaboration skills.
- The course helped me recognize concepts relevant to business ethics and responsibilities.
- The course developed my ability to use quantitative and qualitative tools.
- The course helped me develop my communication skills in written and verbal format.
These questions address the key objectives of a business course — understanding the subject matter, developing collaborative and communication skills, and understanding ethical concerns.
Should Each Department Have Different Course Evaluation Questions?
As you can see, it's necessary for courses in separate departments to have different course evaluation questions. The arts, sciences, and business courses have extremely different objectives, methods, and purposes. While every course is unique, courses in the same department should have certain goals in common.
With that said, the course evaluation questionnaires should have some similarities across departments. Whether a course revolves around creating pottery or understanding biological chemistry, all courses in higher education have a few objectives in common. In all courses, instructors need to present information clearly, help students understand course material, and return assignments with helpful feedback. In addition, all courses should have an effective organization, corresponding lectures and assignments, and should follow their syllabi as closely as possible.
General questions about instructors, courses, students, and TAs will give your institution the tools to measure basic standards across departments. When designing course evaluation surveys, it's a good idea to include both general and department-specific questions.
Another important factor is the timing. Be sure to consider when you plan to distribute your questionnaires and when you'll start and stop collecting data. While end-of-semester evaluations are extremely useful, you might also want to establish mid-course evaluation questions. These questions will help you gauge how students are responding to a course while in the midst of assignments and instruction. Mid-course questions might include:
- Lectures are clear and organized well.
- The readings for this course help me understand the material.
- I would recommend this class to other students.
- The course is on track with the syllabus.
- The instructor is available outside of class time.
- The instructor provides helpful feedback on assignments.
- The course is extremely difficult.
- The course is extremely easy.
Questions like these allow you to better understand student mindsets during a course. Students may feel differently from the middle of the course to the end.
Contact Watermark to Learn More
Course evaluations are an incredibly valuable tool for institutions of higher education. They help you understand how effective, engaging, challenging, and enjoyable a course is for the students who take it. They also allow you to measure instructor performance, revealing how well instructors perform their duties and help students learn. With that said, course evaluations are only as useful as the questions within them. It's vital to make sure you're posing the right questions and learning what you need to learn.
When designing your course evaluations, make sure you're asking useful and relevant questions. It's also necessary to use the right tools for collecting, reporting, and analyzing the data. Consider using Watermark Course Evaluations & Surveys to help you simplify and improve the process. At Watermark, we provide colleges and universities with a centralized means of collecting, managing, and measuring data to drive improvement efforts.
Our Course Evaluations & Surveys tool makes it easier to capture and analyze student feedback. Built specifically for higher education, it'll instantly gather insights from students' responses while increasing response rates. The data will help you make decisions and improve your institution. If you're interested in learning more, request a demo today.
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