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Let students know how course evaluations can improve courses

Each semester at McGill University, students have the opportunity to complete course evaluations for every course they’re enrolled in. Course evaluations are important because they’re an opportunity for instructors to hear from students how their courses are being experienced. Student feedback can provide instructors with ideas about how they can improve their courses for future students. Unfortunately, many students don’t necessarily see the value of taking the time to do course evaluations. In fact, the average response rate received per course is just under 50%.


But what if students were aware that their feedback was actually put to use? Could students be motivated to complete their course evaluations if they knew how instructors use their feedback to improve their courses? McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) encourages instructors to share examples on the web of how they’ve improved their courses as a result of student comments in course evaluations. On the TLS course evaluation website, we’ve published a number of testimonials. Here are excerpts from some of these testimonials submitted by instructors when asked to reflect on the impact student feedback in course evaluations have had on their courses.


Professor Shane Sweet from the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education says: “In our department, there are people who are in physical education, some are in kinesiology, some want to be doctors, some want to be physical therapists, some want to be educators … so from the course evaluations I realized my examples have to be quite a bit broader than what they were in the past. Now when I try to explain content using real world data or different examples, I try to look at the scope from children to adults across a variety of settings.”

Professor Marjorie Aude Rabiau from the School of Social Work explains: “Course evaluations are very important to me … I sit down, get the gist of the comments, and use it to re-design the course or tweak the course if needed.”

Professor Corinne Hoesli from the Department of Chemical Engineering tells: “I was hired at McGill in 2014 and taught my first course that year. In 2015, I completely revamped the course taking into account student feedback. This led to a drastic improvement in the delivery of the material and in student satisfaction the following year.”

Professor Hoesli goes on to say: “It is crucial to me to obtain a representative sampling of the students in each course. The average response rates are only 30%. If you are a student reading this, please participate in the evaluations. Response rates above 90% are on my Christmas wishlist each year.”


Encourage your students to complete their course evaluations by letting them know that you read the feedback—and maybe even make improvements to your courses because of student comments. Submit a testimonial for web publication to show students their comments are being heard!

Read about other ways to encourage student participation.


What changes have you made to your courses as a result of course evaluation feedback?


This post was the joint work of Carolyn Samuel and Méganne Hirsch.


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