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I started to do questionnaires and surveys to assess my teaching methods and the learning gain of my students. How to convince the students to participate in these surveys? Is it OK to give small course credits for taking these surveys (say 1%)? otherwise, what are the incentive for the students to take these survey?

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    Why force them? If you force them them the results are less likely to be relevant - and “bribing “ them with grades.... So, I just identify those students who have a serious mature attitude and ask them - usually in a group 2 or 3 of them, and say “I’m considering changing X” what do you think? They will say “oh thats good or don’t change all of it - just consider this bit” . I find the feedback from the serious students - even asking students who did the course the previous cycle / semester - is always constructive and you can discuss options which they consider constructively . – Solar Mike Feb 1 '18 at 6:00
  • What you can or cannot give credits for should be regulated somehow. At least at my university (in Germany), you cannot give any credit for this. Also, enforced feedback is not going to have the same quality. People just tend to select the most neutral option for anything and get over with it. Or they might even be annoyed by it and that can show. I know you are not exactly enforcing it, but not being able to get full credit for a course unless you give feedback can feel like it. – skymningen Feb 1 '18 at 7:35
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    @SolarMike "Serious" students often have a different perspective from those less passionate about the subject -- and those students are often precisely the ones whose responses to various teaching methods we are most interested in. Getting a more complete sample is always good. – jaia Feb 1 '18 at 8:32
  • @jaia and the not so serious students give responses looking for an easier ride... – Solar Mike Feb 1 '18 at 8:44
  • @SolarMike Yes, but at least they are giving responses. In my experience, they do give their honest opinions, which is all you want in a survey. – jaia Feb 1 '18 at 8:48
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I think that giving some small course credit for a survey like that can be a good idea. Taking the IRB protocols as a model, you might give course credit for the survey, and also some alternate assignment for a student who has some point of principle that makes them not want to disclose personal info like that. Then you've really covered your bases.

In my own case, I give a study survey like that after the first exam. Since this happens to be in sequence and in the same format as three earlier quizzes, I think many students assume that it's for credit and complete it without me saying one way or the other (it's not, and has a different title, but it serendipitously works in my favor that way).

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I am at a program at a public university in the US where we often ask students to fill out these kinds of surveys. To get the broadest participation, it is customary to either make the surveys worth a small amount of credit (especially if the class has a "participation" category in grading) or give a bit of extra credit, say 1-2% on the final exam. Personally, I prefer the latter.

Of course, this credit should be awarded regardless of what the student says. Do you use course management software? My university uses a custom version of Moodle, which includes a Questionnaire module. You can set this up to automatically award participation points with no connection to what the student said. Other course management software may have similar functions. You can also use SurveyMonkey and download a list of responders.

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At my university, there are standardized surveys for this kind of thing that are run by the student association. They contain both general satisfaction grades (on a scale from 1 to 6) in different categories (quality of lecture, use of media, ...), and a free-text field for written feedback. The survey is filled out on paper and then returned to the student association, who does the analysis. This is done by default in every course of our department.

The aggregate results of the satisfaction survey are made public for everyone to see, and a more detailed report is sent to the lecturer.

The survey is filled out during one of the last lectures, where we usually reserve a 10-minute timeslot in the beginning for this. We usually get close to 100% participation, for a number of reasons:

  1. Culture. This is normal at our institution, so no one questions it.
  2. Trust. It is run by the students themselves, so no one thinks "oh no, I can't write anything negative, what the professor recognizes me?". This is also helped by the fact that many of our lectures have 50+ and some have 200+ students in them.
  3. Transparency. 1. and 2. are hard to emulate at your university, but if you promise to release the aggregate results, it may drive participation, as this helps other students decide if they want to take a course (I have decided both for and against attending a number of courses based on the evaluation results I saw from previous years).
  4. Feedback. Some of our faculty also take the time to respond to the feedback in the last lecture (if the results are delivered in time) or in a course-wide eMail (if the results are provided late). There, they answer common questions, give justifications for specific decisions that were criticised, and commit to specific improvements that were pointed out. This shows the students that their concerns are really taken seriously, and that their answers aren't just ignored without reading. Extra credit if you start off the next iteration of the lecture with "based on previous feedback, we have decided to change X."

So, while 1. and 2. will be infeasible for you, maybe providing Transparency and Feedback for the students (and committing to this before you have them fill out the forms) would drive participation, regardless of extra exam credit.

Also, if you like taking the hard route, you could try to get your student association / any organized student body to organize these feedback things for all lectures in the department or even the whole university. This will obviously be a non-trivial change and may take more time than you are willing to invest, but would probably be an improvement that all students would be thankful for.

  • These are good (I think most schools have something of the sort) but because they're standardized, they typically won't include the questions a particular instructor most wants to ask. And they're done at the end of the term, which is too late to be of use until the next time the course is taught. – jaia Feb 1 '18 at 9:09
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    @jaia In our case, the instructor can add up to three questions (there are fields for "instructor question 1, 2, 3") orally while the sheets are filled out. The fact that they are done at the end of the term is a curse (you can't improve earlier) but also a blessing (the students can give feedback on more aspects of your lecture). We also like to do a separate anonymous poll in our eLearning-system after 4 weeks and after the exam to get more feedback, which usually gets less participation, but still gives some good info (especially the one about the exam - which questions were good / bad). – malexmave Feb 1 '18 at 9:38
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I would just choose 1 day at an appropriate time in the semester and give everyone in the class a survey sheet when they come in. You don't need to even say much, maybe even just "take a feedback questionnaire" or "here's a survey sheet" or something.

Have no place on there for their names, the surveys should be anonymous.

When most students have come in and sat down, and you are ready to start the class, start your class by mentioning the survey sheet and ask them to complete it during the class and place the form in the box on their way out at the end of the class.

You don't need to mention it again, and you don't even need to check and ask people at the end of the class. If people don't complete it and don't put it in the box, then it's fine.

Most people will have completed it and will put it in the box on their own at the end.

Any more pressure than that and you will get sheets from people with the opposite of the information they want to give, their way of countering the pressure of being forced to submit the form: "Ok, you're forcing me to submit the form? Then I'll choose all the worst choices so it will skew your data the other way"

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I'm going to go the other way, and say this is a bad idea.

If you were trying to do research with the survey, rather than just evaluation, the answer would be an absolute 'no'.

A problem I see with this even for this purpose is that to allocate marks you need to record who has submitted the survey (and if you don't want to reward blank/stupid submissions, also who submitted which one). That is not a good method for getting the students to say what they really think (although it might reduce the number of deliberately inappropriate comments).

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    -1 Not true. It's common, esp. in psychology, to have a default course requirement that students participate as subjects in research; but have alternative assignments for those who opt out to get the same credits. One example university policy here: faculty.fgcu.edu/koneil/sona/alternative.html – Daniel R. Collins Feb 1 '18 at 14:46
  • @DanielR.Collins It might be ok where the research is something that is not affected by whether the person has been paid. When the topic of the research is something dependent on expressed opinion, paying the subjects would impact the results. Also, I can see being a research subject as a legitimate learning exercise for psychology students, as they would benefit from understanding how it feels to be in a study. – Jessica B Feb 2 '18 at 7:52

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