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As we reach the end of the semester, the students in my class are being asked to do their evaluation of my teaching, as is common at most universities. As with most evaluations that I know of, I have been given an opportunity to provide open-ended prompts for the students to respond to.

I would like to craft open-ended questions for the students that will help me to improve my class/teaching style. This class was a large (~100 students) lecture, so I would like to focus the questions on how to improve myself in teaching large classes. Has any research been published showing which questions (or which types of questions) generate answers that are most effective at helping teachers to improve at teaching large lectures? If no research, is there any anecdotal evidence of "most helpful" questions?

  • The more multiple-choice questions, and structured question, the less student will write in the open-ended questions, i think. – Per Alexandersson Nov 13 '14 at 19:18
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    Related: UPenn Alternative Open-Ended Questions for Faculty Not a study, but a bunch of questions that are recommended that don't ask the generic stuff. – Compass Nov 13 '14 at 19:20
  • @Compass Thanks! There are some other links on a document from that page as well: web.princeton.edu/sites/mcgraw/midterm_eval_question.html teaching.berkeley.edu/compendium – darthbith Nov 13 '14 at 21:23
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    I think the question is too broad. Assessment is a major branch of education research, which frequently uses qualitative methods such as open ended questions. I suggest you identify a more specific kind of improvement you wish to achieve. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 14 '14 at 4:17
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    It might be helpful to give the students some hints regarding the issues they can address. For example, I used free text to assess presentations, but gave students a list of criteria (e.g., slide design, articulation, etc.). Students picked what they found noteworthy (positive and negative). In any case, if you suspect some strengths/weaknesses in your style, you might want to narrow down the questions to these specific issues. – Daniel Wessel Dec 15 '14 at 18:10
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+25

Actually, based on my experience, it is better to ask the questions to the students at the end of the next semester.

During the semester, an average student usually concentrates on passing the course, rather than thinking about the outcomes of the course. I think one realizes what the course gave him/her after about one semester. And this is the time that they use their knowledge of your course to understand or pass another course.

Of course, the questions are highly dependent on what you want to improve. However, it is always more clear what to improve when the students have a chance to use the course outcomes without any expectation of the grade. If a student says "I wish you underlined the importance of Unit 6. Thus I could understand XX201 better", this is a good feedback, whereas "This course is sooooo hard." is not.

As for the questions, this is what I ask to my students after one semester. Not like a questionnaire, but face-to-face:

  1. Do you use what I've taught you for this semester?
  2. Are there any redundant topics that I've covered?
  3. How would you study if you were to take the course this semester?
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    This is great advice, but I don't think my university provides a mechanism to do this. I could probably contact the students outside the official mechanisms, but that seems likely to be no as helpful as anonymous feedback. Anyways, thanks for your comments! – darthbith Dec 23 '14 at 23:01
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I asked a similar question in April. In my case, I was specifically interested in a very short survey that I could ask students to fill out out after every every single class so I could make adjustments to lectures, class organization, and readings as the course progressed.

As I detailed in my answer to my own question two quarters later, I went ahead and used a series of four open-ended questions very successfully. Since late September when I left that answer, I have used those four questions very successfully in another class as well.

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I will provide a no-answer (which someone can delete if need be).

It seems you are primarily looking for feedback on your teaching in order to improve. In so doing you are looking for questions to have the students provide that input. Although I admire your trust in students, it is a bit like the blind leading the deaf. The likelihood that you will receive in-depth feedback on how to improve seems small. I am sure you will get lots of pointers about many details so it is not pointless but you should probably consider one or a few other approaches in parallel.

First, consider looking into a university pedagogics course. Hopefully your university provides such courses for teachers where experience is the foundation for the teaching. Second, ask fellows to attend your class(es) and provide feedback from their point of view. Third, have a fellow video-tape a lecture from the back of the room (communicating with the first rows is not difficult but the back of the room is different).

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