Evaluating Teaching on Your Terms: Course Experience Assignment

Standardized student evaluations are full of problems. Administrators can ascribe too much weight to them. Students may lash out inappropriately. Female instructors tend to be more harshly rated than males.

However, instructors may wish to administer their own course review before students complete standardized evaluations by assigning a course experience evaluation. A course experience evaluation moves away from summative questions, which focus on instructor characteristics (Was the teacher organized? Was the material explained clearly?) to experiential questions, which focus on how students experience a course.

Using instructor-created course experience evaluations has several advantages. By designing questions that encourage students to think critically about course content and their own performance, instructors gain valuable input about the class’s perceptions and experiences. That information can help instructors adjust teaching strategies the next time the course is taught.

In addition, once students have reflected deeply about their experience in the course, that analysis prompts more thoughtful responses when they do respond to standardized evaluations. While this approach doesn’t guarantee better scores, at the very least these reflections offer a different set of evaluative information.

Use the following tips to administer an instructor-generated course experience assignment.

  • Introduce the task by telling students they will answer questions only they can answer as members of the course. Doing so will encourage students to take the assignment seriously.
  • Tell students you will use their responses to make you a teacher who helps future students learn more effectively. Thinking about how others may benefit from their comments can focus student responses to provide helpful input rather than simplistic criticism.
  • Decide if you want the task performed in class or as homework. If the writing is to be completed during class time, have students print the assignment and put it in your mailbox or office later. If the assignment is done as homework, ask students to bring a printed, unnamed response to turn in on a day of your choosing.

The prompt below offers various ways for students to think about the class they are leaving and provides instructors with more meaningful information than standardized evaluations do. Download a PDF of the exercise here.

End-of-Semester Course Experience Assignment

Your insights about your learning experience in this course can help me see our class from your side of the desk. Please respond to any three of the statements below (more if you’d like.) Submit these anonymously; I will use them as I plan my courses for next semester.

In this course …

  • what most helped my learning of the content was when…because…
  • my learning of the content would have benefited if…because…
  • the assignment that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
  • the reading that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
  • the kinds of homework tasks that contributed most to my learning were…because…
  • the approach I took to my own learning that I benefited from the most was…because…
  • the biggest obstacle for me in my learning the material was… because…
  • I was most willing to take risks with learning new material when… because…
  • on the first day, I remember thinking…because…

What is something covered in this course material that you can do now that you could not do? Anything you did not fully understand at the beginning of our class?


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