Teacher Feedback: What Do We Want?

We regularly get course evaluation results, and they aren't the kind of feedback most of us want. At least, that's what the results of a recent survey showed. Questionnaire responses from almost 350 biology faculty members representing 185 different institutions found that 41 percent were dissatisfied with end-of-course evaluations and 46 percent were only satisfied with them “in some ways.” The reasons given for the dissatisfaction were many: the evaluations didn't provide constructive feedback; response rates were poor; the evaluation questions didn't align with the instructor's objectives; the focus was on student satisfaction, not learning; and the process wasn't designed to really engage students in providing useful and insightful feedback. It did not matter where these faculty respondents taught. Even those at institutions where teaching was ostensibly valued were not satisfied with course evaluation feedback. And it did not matter what sort of teaching practices the respondents reported using. Those who lectured were just as unhappy with course evaluation processes as those who used active learning.

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