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Student Feedback

Leveraging Student Feedback on Teaching

Crystal Tse, CATE Associate Director
January 24, 2022


WHAT? Heading link

Collecting student feedback on your teaching is one way to assess the impacts of your teaching and use data to inform improvements to your teaching.

Student feedback can be collected in a variety of formats:

  • Before, during, and after individual class periods
  • In a mid-semester questionnaire
  • After the course has finished in student course evaluations
  • As part of your formative assessments, which are lower-stakes learning activities or assignments that contribute minimally to students’ grades and provide both students and instructors with feedback on students’ progress with the course material.

In this teaching guide, you will learn about:

  • Benefits of collecting, reflecting, and acting upon student feedback to enhance your teaching
  • Ways to set up your classroom climate to be conducive to gathering constructive, useful feedback with high response rates
  • Strategies and tools to collect, analyze, and respond to student feedback
Reflective Teaching


WHY? Heading link

Why Collect Student Feedback During the Course?

Collecting student feedback throughout your course comes with several benefits to teaching teaching (Angelo & Cross, 1993; Brookfield, 2017). You can:

  • Make changes in real time. You can proactively address any instructional and/or classroom management/logistical issues.
  • Build trust and rapport with your students. By soliciting and thoughtfully responding to students’ feedback, students can see that you care about, and are invested in, their learning.
  • Develop students’ metacognitive thinking skills (Schraw & Moshman, 1995). When collecting feedback during class, you not only assess the impact of your teaching strategies, but students can also become more aware of their own learning processes – their strengths and areas for improvement, study skills that could be strengthened, and what they could do differently to improve their learning experience in your course.
  • Foster a sense of community among your students. Students, especially in larger classes, can feel less anonymous if they feel that their voices are being heard by their instructor.
  • Help students see the rationale behind your teaching strategies and activities. When reporting out student feedback on your class activities, students can see the value of various class activities to different students. What may not work for one student may be working very well for others. This helps to reduce student resistance to your use of teaching strategies in a class that don’t always align with student learning preferences.

Limitations of Student Course Evaluations of Teaching

A common source of student feedback on your teaching, which is oftentimes used for evaluative purposes and thus may also be considered a rather high-stakes assessment of our teaching, is students’ course evaluations collected at the end of a semester. Recent research has called into question the validity of student course evaluations on measuring teaching effectiveness (e.g., Spooren et al., 2013). For example, Stark & Freishtat (2014) cite measurement issues with student course evaluation ratings, such as overall “teaching effectiveness” ratings being influenced by irrelevant factors, including the time of day of class sessions and the type of course. They also raise concerns about how course evaluation statistics are typically and misleadingly reported (e.g, reporting only means and not acknowledging low response rates, and thus not accounting for the full and possibly multimodal distribution of scores) and incorrectly analyzed (e.g., comparing means for individual instructors to departmental or college averages). Recent meta-analyses also show no correlation between student preferences for learning as surmised from course evaluations and actual student learning (Uttl et al., 2017). Lastly, some research shows bias in student responses on course evaluations that disproportionately and negatively impact women and instructors from marginalized groups (Boring et al., 2016; Kreitzer & Sweet-Cushman, 2021; MacNell et al., 2015).

When used for formative purposes — that is, to inform improvements to your teaching — there is one key limitation to using the information from student course evaluations as the sole source of data. Because this feedback is collected at the end of the course, it cannot be used to make data-informed, mid-semester adjustments to your teaching plan.


By contrast, collecting feedback during the course allows you to make timely changes to address any instructional or classroom management/logistical concerns.

All of these factors should be taken into consideration when using some of the student course evaluation data in the evaluation of teaching. Certain questions, such as survey items inviting students to rank or comment on the overall effectiveness of their instructors or overall quality of the course, are particularly problematic whether used for formative or summative purposes. To work around the faulty nature of course evaluations, consider using the data from these instruments as formative feedback on your teaching, focusing on some of the more common themes that emerge from qualitative responses and expanding the statistics considered when examining the quantitative responses to account for low response rates and distributions that deviate from normality (e.g., means with standard deviations, medians, box plots with distributions of scores, nonparametric statistics). It is equally important to consider collecting data from different sources (e.g., students, peers, education literature, self-reflection) to ensure that all the feedback you are collecting reveals a similar story and outcomes. This process — using at least three points of data to inform educational decisions about your teaching — is referred to as triangulating student feedback from different data sources (Heath 2015; Salkind 2010).

HOW? Heading link

Setting Up Your Classroom Climate

Here are some things you can try to set up your course and classroom environment to be conducive to student feedback (Ambrose et al., 2010, Svincki, 2001):

  • Respond to students’ feedback. It is important to close the loop on the feedback cycle. You can increase students’ motivation to give you feedback by affirming their belief that their feedback will make a difference in your teaching and their learning experience.
  • Reframe office hours as drop-in hours. Shape an open-door policy in which students can approach you with constructive feedback.
  • Set expectations up front about how feedback will be part of your course. Discuss the importance of giving and receiving feedback in the learning process and how feedback can facilitate their learning (e.g., as a writer, professional, scientist, artist, etc.).
  • Model what effective feedback looks like, and give students opportunities to practice giving feedback (e.g., group work, peer review of work). Try to give them feedback as soon as possible after the learning activity is complete.


  • Provide students with choices for formats for activities and assignments. This can give students agency, or a voice in their learning, in your course. It can also give you data on students’ learning preferences to help you decide on the format for the assignments in the next offering of the course. In addition, this strategy supports universal design for learning (increasing the accessibility and flexibility of your course to reach diverse learners) and promotes student engagement.

Strategies and Tools

Classroom assessment techniques (CATs) are strategies you can use to collect real-time feedback on student understanding to make adjustments to your teaching methods (Angelo & Cross, 1993). Click on each accordion heading below to learn more about different strategies that you can use, depending on your questions and goal for collecting feedback.

Analyzing and Responding to Student Feedback

Now that you have collected feedback from students, what do you do with all these data? Here are a few steps and tips to consider when analyzing and responding to your students’ feedback:

Considerations for your Course Context

When making your plan to incorporate the collection of student feedback in your course, consider the following questions:

  • What kind of feedback are you looking for? Your goals for feedback determine the type of classroom assessment technique you use. For example, you could use polling or a brief writing activity to gather feedback on a specific instructional strategy that you are trying for the first time. You can use a longer midterm feedback for comprehensive feedback on your whole course and methods of instruction.
  • How much time, resources, and support do you have? It is not necessary to implement all the student feedback strategies, and in every class session. What is feasible given your time and resources? How might TAs or learning assistants be able to assist you?



  • Are you teaching a large-enrollment course? Consider the frequency with which you want to administer the feedback strategies and analyze the data. For example, you could sample a portion of your class and rotate the week in which students complete the assessments.
  • In what modality are you teaching? For in-person, on campus classes, pen/paper is relatively easy to administer, typically resulting in a high student response rate. However, educational technology tools can give you a plethora of options to gather feedback from your students. Consider trying different methods and see which ones work best for you and your students. Make sure you set aside time for students to give you feedback; asking them to do this outside of class likely will not result in a high response rate unless you incentivize completion with participation points.



REFERENCES Heading link