Evaluating a course

With a course evaluation you can get insight into what is going well in your course and how students experienced it. This will give you information you can use to improve the course the following year. Course evaluations are also important with regard to quality assurance, and mandatory to submit in the course files. Programme committees and visitation committees use evaluations to get an impression of what students think of the education.

There are different aspects of the course which you can include in your evaluation:

  • The experienced study load in study time in relation to the planned load and time.
  • The expected course content and the actual content.
  • The level of the course and the coherence with other courses.
  • The didactics.
  • The examination. 

The moment of evaluation

At the end of the course

Many study programmes choose to evaluate at the end of the course. Usually a fixed questionnaire is used, that is given to the students after examination. Students reflect on the course they took and give their feedback for the following year.

The advantage of evaluating at the end of the course, in comparison to intermediate evaluations, is that students can look back at the whole course. A drawback is that students can’t experience themselves what is done with their feedback in the next year. This makes them less motivated to fill out the evaluation.

Evaluation at the end of the course often works through written or digital questionnaires. The Evaluation service team from the departement Education Support can support and give advice for creating questionnaires. For administering digital questionnaires the software Evalytics is available.

During the course

You can also choose to administer feedback during the course. This way you can change the course design and working methods directly and let students actively participate in restructuring their education. The advantage of intermediate evaluation is that you are not bound to a fixed questionnaire with (closed) questions, but that you can use open questions to ask much more feedback from the students.

Two examples of evaluation methods during the course are:

  • One-minute paper: Give students near the end of a lecture or seminar one or two minutes to write down an answer to the questions ‘What is the most important thing I learned today?’ and ‘What still needs clarification?’. Students then hand in their answers (anonymously) on paper or via Mentimeter. 
  • Stucky wall: Hand out post-its to the students and ask them to write down short recommendations with regard to the course contents, design, examination and feedback, and the digital learning environment. After writing down their thoughts students stick the post-its to the wall, so that everyone can see the results. After that the feedback can be discussed in the group and implemented in the course design. 

Download the handout for more ways of evaluating.

Besides feedback from students you can choose to invite a colleague to attend your lecture or review the course material. You can also ask someone from the Teaching and Learning Point of your faculty to do this.

From evaluating to improving a course

A crucial step in evaluation is to implement results from the questionnaire of intermediate evaluation into the course design. First, you interpret the feedback and formulate ways to alter the course. After that you discuss the alterations with colleagues within the course and implement them in the course design.

A few comments on interpreting the evaluation:

  • Do not only look at absolute scores in the evaluation report, but also look at them in relation to other scores. Search for trends and particularities. 
  • In case you gave the course together with colleagues, analyse the evaluations together and discuss the feedback.
  • Reach out to students if you have questions about the evaluation. You can, for example, invite students for a short panel conversation about possible improvements. 
  • Let a colleague or educational advisor look at your course evaluation as well. They can help you to interpret the results and think of useful alterations to the course design. 

Do you need help with interpreting the evaluation results or with altering your course design? Contact the Teaching Information Point of your faculty.

Contact

For more information or questions you can contact evaluatieservice [at] ru.nl (team) Evaluation Service or your faculty's Teaching Information Point.

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