Student feedback on teaching

As part of the focus on continuous improvement of teaching and of academic programs, lecturers and sections get feedback from students on courses. This comes in a number of forms:

  • Quick feedback (~ smoke detector) through an indicative feedback: students can give brief feedback for each of their courses during week 9/10 of the semester.
  • More detailed feedback through:
    • a compulsory in-depth evaluation, carried out by the section.
    • an elective complementary evaluation, requested by a teacher and carried out by the Teaching Support Centre with personalized feedback and support.

Quick Feedback: Indicative feedback

An indicative feedback process for all Bachelor and Masters courses is launched automatically during week 9/10 of each semester (doctoral courses are also automatically evaluated, but, due to the differences in their format, another mechanism is used). In order to maximize the response rate in the indicative feedback process, students express their level of agreement with a single statement: “Overall, I think this course is good”. Students are also provided with an opportunity to leave comments. The response rate for the indicative feedback process is typically between 50% and 60%. About half of all student respondents also leave comments. According to the 2011 ATMOS II survey, 73% of teachers find the feedback from students useful.

Where more than 30% of respondents ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ that a course is good, a compulsory in-depth student feedback process is undertaken (see below). It is important to note that an indicative feedback is simply an ‘indication’ – it is not a good overall assessment of a professor’s performance or of a course. When more than 30% of students disagree that the course is good does not mean that there is a problem with a course per se, rather it means that there may be issues which may merit further investigation and discussion.

You can see how the feedback appears to teachers here .

Detailed Feedback: Compulsory In-depth Student Evaluation

While the indicative feedback provides regular feedback from a reasonably large proportion of students, more detailed feedback from students is also valuable. This is provided through in-depth evaluations involving a multi-dimensional student evaluation questionnaire, administered by the section. In-depth evaluations of the teaching are provided under three circumstances:

  • an in-depth student evaluation of teaching is required for all courses at least once every five years.
  • an in-depth student evaluation of teaching is required for all new lecturers of an existing course and/or all new courses.
  • where a course has an “insufficient” indicative student feedback score, the section director is responsible for ensuring that an in-depth student evaluation of teaching is carried out. The results of these in-depth evaluations are discussed between the lecturer and the section director, with a view to identify whether an issue exists and, if so, how it can be addressed.

For courses which fall into the three categories above, there is a standard procedure in place to ensure that the data are collected in a timely fashion. This standard procedure normally involves providing paper questionnaires to students at the final exam. The printing, distributing and collection of the questionnaires is managed by the section administration. All reports produced for courses in these categories are made available to the teacher(s) and to the director of the section responsible for the course who, in turn, reports to the Dean of the Bachelor and Master programs.

Examples of standard questionnaires

The links below present examples of standard questionnaires. As many sections also have specific questions added, please contact the pedagogical advisor for your section to see the specific standard questionnaire which will normally be used for your course.

All courses which require in-depth student feedback will be identified by Week 11 of each semester through communication between Teaching Support Centre and the sections. Relevant teachers will receive an email with the specific deadline for contacting Teaching Support Centre if they wish to modify the standard procedure.

This process has been put in place to simplify the reporting process and does not necessarily require any intervention from the teacher. However, if the teacher wishes to discuss or modify the process the appropriate pedagogical advisor from Teaching Support Centre should be contacted by the specified deadline.

Detailed Feedback: Elective Complementary Student Evaluation

A third format for student feedback is the complementary evaluation. Any lecturer can request a complementary student evaluation of teaching, administered by the Teaching Support Centre.

Complementary evaluations enable the teacher to develop a questionnaire that addresses their needs  and to get feedback on issues that are of particular interest or at times which suit their needs, for example for a promotion dossier.

The questionnaire is often administered during the exam, thereby ensuring an effective 100% response rate (but can be administered at other times if the teacher prefers). A teaching advisor prepares a written report, integrating both quantitative and qualitative data, and meets with the lecturer to discuss feedback and analysis. If the course does not fall into any of the three categories of compulsory in-depth student feedback, this report is confidential to the lecturer in question. In other cases, the report is also provided to the section director.

For more information, you can check the Teaching Support Centre Evaluations of Teaching.

For further details on the student teacher evaluation, you can have a look at the Directive concerning the evaluation and  recognition of teaching at the EPFL.