Student feedback is essential for evaluating your teaching. You need feedback from your students to judge whether your teaching is ‘working’ for them. Student evaluation questionnaires are often the best way to get feedback because they give you a snapshot of all your students, but sometimes you might also want other ways of getting student feedback.
Evaluating small groups
Using a questionnaire to collect feedback from small groups of students is sometimes problematic as the potential lack of confidentiality may inhibit students from making full and frank responses, and data from small samples has less validity than larger samples. The following options show other ways to get student feedback that mitigate some of these issues, and which can provide more extensive or detailed feedback.
You might combine the questionnaire data from several small groups into a single set of results to increase the sample size. This can only be done if the same questions have been asked in similar groups (e.g., multiple clinical or tutorial streams). You can request that data is combined either: (1) when requesting questionnaires for each group, or (2) after you have run the questionnaires and have received reports for each group.
- Questionnaires are run with each group of students but the results are only processed when all groups have completed, at which point you are sent one set of results. The advantage of this method is that student confidentiality is improved as the lecturer does not view the questionnaire responses from each small group. The disadvantage is that the teacher will be unable to identify any interesting differences between groups. You can request this option when ordering your questionnaires through Otago inFORM (in the notes section).
- After completing separate questionnaires with each of your small groups, the Evaluation Service can provide an extra analysis which combines the data from the groups. The main advantage is that this combination can be done retrospectively and can even include data from many small groups over a number of years. The disadvantage is that confidentiality may be compromised as you are receiving separate results for each small group. Contact the Evaluation Service to organise to combine data.
Due to the number of different teaching situations at Otago please feel free to contact the Evaluation service for advice about what is best in your teaching situation.
You can also get student feedback using informal questionnaires in class or via email/text. For example, you might ask for quick feedback during class by asking students to put their hands up for yes/no questions such as: hands up if the class is too fast, or hands up if too slow, or hands up if just right. You can get more detailed written feedback by asking them to submit a piece of paper at the end of the class or to respond to an email/text. Lecturers often place some boxes at the front of a class that students can drop their feedback in. For example, you can ask them to write about one thing they liked and want to continue, and one thing they would like to change; or you could ask for feedback about specific things you want to know about, for example, what did they think of the new assignment?
Instead of using a questionnaire you can ask a colleague to collect student feedback as part of a peer review process. This peer can talk to your students instead of, or as well as, observing your teaching. This increases the level of confidentiality as the student responses are reported back to you indirectly, in a way that does not identify individual students. For more detail, view the peer review page. A variation, especially useful for getting feedback from research students whom you supervise, is to get a peer to send a questionnaire to those students, but the peer only reports to you a summary of the results.
Feedback from class representatives
Similar to the peer review process, you might ask your class representative to talk to other students and then to anonymise the feedback and report it to you.
Focus group with small groups of students
You can run a focus group or group interview with your students to gather their feedback. You can facilitate this, or you might ask a third party such as a peer reviewer to be the facilitator. The focus group can be fairly formal where you ask questions about specific aspects of your teaching, or an informal chat over coffee about how your teaching is going.
Sometimes your students send you unsolicited emails or cards. These are a very useful source of feedback, and often valuable when applying for awards or promotion, or for your Otago Teaching Profile.
The Quality Advancement Unit runs two annual surveys which ask students for feedback about their whole course of study and about their experience at Otago. The results may include useful feedback for you about the courses you teach, and thus indirectly about your teaching.