Assessing and Improving

Evaluating Your Teaching

Student Feedback/Third Party Feedback

Improving Your Teaching through Feedback from Others

Teaching can be a rewarding experience. At the very least, it is an opportunity to share information about a field that is stimulating and interesting to you. Just as important, many instructors find that teaching is an occasion for discovering aspects of their field that they might not have otherwise noticed. How you feel about your teaching experiences will largely depend on the quality of the exchanges you have been able to have with your students. That is, success and proficiency tend to beget enjoyment.

Getting feedback from your students is a good way of developing better teaching skills. Unfortunately, obtaining candid and useful information from your students is not always easy. Most of them will be reluctant to evaluate your efforts openly. However, there are a number of things you can do, including asking your students, in order to obtain the kinds of feedback that will be essential to improving your teaching.

Objective third-party observation is one frequently used method of obtaining feedback about your teaching. There are many people who can help you think critically about improving and evaluating your teaching. Many graduate student instructors will be routinely evaluated by the faculty member in charge of the course. If this is not an integral part of your instructional assignment, you can still ask to be evaluated. If you have not been assigned a supervising faculty member, you might want to approach someone who has an interest in undergraduate education and whose teaching you respect.

Alternatively, many beginning instructors find it easier to be evaluated initially by a fellow beginning teacher. This person can be someone in your own department, but this is not absolutely necessary. People outside your field can often provide extremely valuable information about your teaching, especially with regard to those parts of the material that will be the most difficult for your students to understand.

Even if you decide to invite a third-party observer to your classroom, remember that asking your students for feedback about your teaching may provide different kinds of insights. However, the timing of this feedback is very important. Most people tend to think of a student evaluation as something that occurs at the end of the quarter, but this is in fact not the best time to obtain, or use, the information your students can provide. Rather, you may want to consider getting feedback from your students as early as the third or fourth week of the quarter.

When you request feedback early in the quarter, most students realize that the information that they provide influences how the rest of the class sessions will proceed. Students in the College will generally respond quite positively to this realization by providing constructive comments about your teaching. Many experienced instructors are comfortable obtaining feedback informally and verbally from their students. Less experienced instructors often are more comfortable reserving a few minutes at the end of a class to ask their students to fill out a questionnaire.

A model for such a questionnaire follows. Although this questionnaire was designed to be used by new instructors in mathematics, instructors in other disciplines can undoubtedly see which kinds of changes are necessary to make it suit their own purposes and class situation. The important thing in designing such a questionnaire is to ask as many questions as possible that will require students to describe as well as to evaluate your performance in the classroom.

Mid-Quarter Student Feedback Questionnaire

Instruction is most effective when there is a good fit between student and teacher. Creating a good fit requires feedback—both from teacher to student and from student to teacher. This questionnaire has been designed to help me learn about those aspects of my teaching that have been the most and the least useful to you thus far. Most of the questions are fairly open-ended, so please be as descriptive and constructive as possible. Thank you.

  1. How do you feel about the pace of this course? Is it (circle one) too slow? too fast? about right? If you circled either "too fast" or "too slow," what would you like to see changed?
  2. Do you generally feel encouraged to ask questions in class? If so, what has encouraged you the most? If not, what could I do to make it easier for you to ask questions?
  3. Do you generally find the text to be useful and easy to follow? What aspects of the text, if any, are confusing or difficult to follow?
  4. When I use the blackboard, what is my greatest strength? My greatest weakness?
  5. When you go over the homework and quizzes that are returned to you, do you understand the comments and corrections that have been made? What kind of feedback has been the most helpful? The least helpful?
  6. Do you find that my office hours are ones that would be convenient for you if you needed to see me? If not, what hours might be more convenient?
  7. Do I have any annoying habits that I should know about (e.g., do I say, "um," six times in every sentence)? ( Please use the back to answer this question.)

Further Resources

Documenting Your Teaching (Teaching Portfolio)

Teaching Philosophy/Teaching Statement

Articles from the Excellence in Teaching Network

The following article on Teaching Statements was originally published by The Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education. To view more articles in the series, please visit the Essays on Teaching Excellence.

Further Resources

Creating a Complete Teaching Portfolio

Articles from the Excellence in Teaching Network

The following article on Teaching Statements was originally published by The Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education. To view more articles in the series, please visit the Essays on Teaching Excellence.

Further Resources

The Profession of Teaching