FWS Course Evaluations
Administering Student Evaluations
At the end of the semester, all instructors of First-Year Writing Seminars are required to have their students complete evaluations of the class.
Those of you who have taught a seminar before know that we provide a standard, required evaluation form. Starting in 2018, this evaluation will henceforth be administered online, where students will link to the survey, clicking checkboxes and keying their responses instead of filling in bubbles and hand-writing answers. The “scaled questions” (#1-33) are mandatory for all sections.
If you do not care for the written section of the evaluation, you may use that section of our evaluation form simply as a model and propose questions tailored to your section. Be sure, however, to include questions concerning what students learned about writing; and don’t simply solicit one or two sweeping generalizations. We are less concerned with how much your students liked you and the course than with what they have learned—or think they have learned—about writing. We’d be happy to work with you to design modified written questions of your own. Please note: we would need to receive these proposals for individualized questions by no later than the third-to-last week of the semester.
The uses of end-of-semester evaluations:
These evaluations can be of use to instructors in three ways: (1) The evaluation form itself provides useful information about course content and methods. Look over the evaluation form while setting up your course before the semester begins, and during it while you are teaching. The form also provides suggestions for terminology that you can teach students: students as writers should become acquainted with terms such as “audience,” “thesis,” and “evidence.” (2) Reviewing the evaluations after the end of the semester can provide important insights into how to improve your teaching in coming semesters. (3) Providing evidence of your improvement in areas about which students have been critical may impress future employers with your ability to grow as a teacher and to respond intelligently and seriously to criticism.
Keep your end-of-semester student evaluations. Prospective employers may ask to see them. They might wonder why you threw them away (or never administered any).
The benefits of mid-term student feedback
Doing some research on your students during the semester can be more productive (certainly for that semester) than end-of-term evaluations.
Administering student evaluations
At the appropriate point in any semester, you will be notified about the process of administering these online evaluations. We strongly recommend that you administer the online evaluations to all your students as a group, during a class session within the last week of the semester, just as you would have done with a paper form. It is in your interests to guarantee for yourself a high rate of participation.
Since the survey is compatible with laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, any student with one of these devices will be able to participate on the day in question; moreover, absent students can easily log in and submit their responses later.
Leading explicit discussions about the merits or problems of your class is not a good idea. The most aggressive or dominating student is likely to take over and set the agenda. Students themselves can be surprised to find out how much they don’t agree when they write their comments without previous discussion. Written evaluations allow the voices of quieter, less pushy students to be heard.
When administering evaluations, you need not leave the room. Doing so might allow student discussions of how to respond to the questions to develop, sometimes setting up an unproductive agenda that didn’t exist beforehand. To maintain order and silence, you can remain in a corner of the classroom while students are answering surveys. But the students' responses must not pass under your eyes. Responses will be delivered directly to the Knight Institute; once processed, the results will be sent to your department and to you.
Optional Mid-Term Evaluation
[Optional: Suggested evaluation for instructor’s use only, in paper-based written form]
FWS Mid-Term Evaluation
When you answer these six questions, you might keep in mind the following topics: in-class discussion of and work on writing; discussion of readings; reading assignments; writing assignments; conferences; feedback on your writing.
- Here are some things I think are going well in this course—let’s keep doing them:
- Here are some suggestions and recommendations for the remainder of the semester:
- Here are some personal reflections about my work on writing so far this semester:
- Here are some personal reflections about the reading load so far this semester:
- Here are some personal reflections about how well I think the reading and writing assignments relate to each other:
- Here are some personal reflections about my work/life circumstances so far this semester:
Required End of Semester Evaluation
[Required: Evaluation for ALL First-Year Writing Seminars —students see an online form]
John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines
FWS End-of Semester Evaluation
Part I: Computer-scored Responses:
For the following questions, use this scale: (1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Agree Somewhat, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree)
- In this seminar, online or in person, the instructor managed the COVID-disrupted environment effectively.
- In this seminar, the instructor fostered a learning environment where I felt respected and empowered to participate.
- In this seminar, the workload was appropriate for a 3-credit class
- In this seminar, informal/preparatory writing work helped me engage with the readings and draft an essay.
- In this seminar, we spent an appropriate amount of time focusing on writing.
- In this seminar, we spent an appropriate amount of time focusing on revising.
- In this seminar, the instructor provided helpful feedback on papers.
- In this seminar, I had sufficient opportunities to confer individually with the instructor.
- In this seminar, individual conferences were helpful.
- In this seminar, the instructor supported my development as a student.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized developing strong, evidence-based arguments.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized focusing an essay on a significant problem, hypothesis, thesis, argument, or idea.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized organization: paragraph structure, transitions, etc.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized working with source material properly.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized revising essays to enhance the reader’s experience of interest, clarity and persuasiveness.
- In class, in conferences, and in paper comments, the instructor emphasized editing essays to eliminate surface flaws.
Part II: Written Responses: (Important: we would need to receive requests for individualized questions by no later than the third-to-last week of the semester.)
- Describe how one or two aspects of the course—such as writing assignments, conferences, class discussion, peer review, course topic and readings, group work, presentations, teacher feedback—contributed to your development as a writer.
- Setting aside the challenges faced by all students and instructors during the COVID pandemic, what do you think would have improved your learning/engagement in this seminar?
A program remains strong only as long as its instructors are actively engaged in reflecting on and improving their teaching. To encourage the process of reflection, instructors are provided with a “FWS Instructor’s Reflection Form” as a Word document that they can fill out electronically while their students complete the student evaluations (or later). You may of course want to include your responses in your own teaching journal to draw on for future reflection or for presentation of your teaching development to others.
FWS Instructor Reflection
Your name: _________________________
Seminar dept, number, & section: _______________________
Seminar title: ___________________________________________________
While your students are filling out their evaluation forms, please take time for some reflection of your own. Of course, you can also fill out the form in advance. Your completed form should be returned directly to Donna Newton electronically via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information will be kept confidential within the Knight Institute. We are asking that you submit these responses both so we can continue to be responsive to the needs of students and instructors and so we have necessary evidence when we are subject to external review that instructors set and reflect on learning goals. You may want to include your responses in your own teaching journal to draw on for future reflection or for presentation of your teaching development to others.
The questions are simple:
- You undoubtedly had goals for your students’ learning. What goals do you think most of your students achieved, because of your course and your teaching? Be as specific as you can—feel free to congratulate yourself for successful teaching methods.
- Most of us find that our students don’t achieve all the goals we hoped they would. Give one example of a goal you believe many students did not achieve and explain how you know they didn’t achieve it. With this in mind, what might you change the next time you teach this course or one like it?
- Please give an example of a change you made during the semester in order to improve students’ learning. What evidence made you decide to make the change?
- How have some of the following sources of assistance helped you to define, refine, and execute your goals (e.g., Writing 7100; the Peer Collaboration Program; the Faculty Seminar in Writing Instruction; the Essay Response Consultation Program; Instruction Librarians; the Johnson Museum; course leaders; the Archive of Teaching Materials; The Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars;The Elements of Teaching Writing; Cornell Center for Teaching Innovation)? Please be specific; and of course feel free to make suggestions.