Improving End-of-Semester Student Evaluations of Teaching (Dialogues recap)

November 30, 2017

wide shot of Miles Lincoln and Oliver O'Reilly at dialogue about end-of-semester course evaluations

On November 13th, more than a dozen faculty and staff members joined panelists Oliver O’Reilly (chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching), Richard Freishtat (Center for Teaching and Learning), and Miles Lincoln (ETS Teaching and Learning Services) for a dialogue on course evaluations, with a particular focus on strategies to improve response rate and quality.

This discussion was initiated in response to challenges expressed by instructors with regard to achieving sufficient response rates.

The group reviewed the Center for Teaching and Learning’s recommendations to instructors, which include:

  • Using time in class to complete evaluations
  • Talking to your students about evaluations:
    • How they are used
    • How they have impacted your teaching in the past
    • Sharing examples of valuable feedback
  • Adding personalized questions to the evaluation
  • Adding the evaluations to your course syllabus [as a “to do” item, not a requirement tied to a grade]
  • Periodically checking the response rate during the evaluation window, and taking additional steps as necessary to achieve your desired response

Additionally, instructors noted various incentives they have used, including:

  • Giving students who complete the evaluation extra credit (typically using the honor system)
  • Giving all students extra credit if an established response rate is met (e.g., 95%) 

A number of potential service improvements with the goal of helping instructors achieve increased response rates were proposed and discussed:

  • Improved messaging to faculty and students
  • Implementation of new bCourses integration for course evaluations
  • The addition of student-to-student questions, the results of which would be made available to students to inform course selection and strategies for academic success in a course (e.g., “Make sure you read the textbook or you’ll be lost during lecture.”)

A follow-up dialogue event is planned for the spring to continue this conversation, and efforts to improve course evaluations through service and policy changes is ongoing.


Additional information about the campus course evaluation service (including help articles) is available at:

Suggested questions and categories for course evaluations, compiled by the Center for Teaching and Learning:

Academic Senate policy on end-of-semester course evaluations:

Now in its fifth year, Dialogues is a regular campus-wide discussion on pressing topics related to teaching and learning, hosted by the Academic Innovation Studio, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Academic Senate's Committee on Teaching.

For one-on-one consultations on teaching-related topics, including suggestions for other ways to engage students in a lecture-style setting, please contact