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Interpretation of Results

Course evaluation results are one input to an ongoing reflective process that instructors should engage in to improve their teaching and future offerings of courses. The information that students provide, especially the comments, can be useful in identifying areas where changes and modifications have been effective, and those that still require attention.

Recommendations for Interpreting Numerical Results
When using course evaluations to improve and enhance your teaching, numerical results are most useful for identifying strengths and weaknesses while comments provide insights for reflection. When looking at the results it is important to consider the following:

Ratings of global items are useful as indicators of overall instructional effectiveness.
(e.g., “Overall the quality of my learning experience in this course was…”). Responses to these types of questions are found to correlate most consistently with measures of actual student achievement. Generally, results below 3.5 (on a 5-point scale) should be of concern, while 3.5 to 4.3 represent solid results, and mean scores over 4.3 are considered strong. As well, it is advisable to follow-up on any result that is more than .5 below or above the overall mean of the Faculty in which you teach.

The mean is not sufficient to provide a picture of the distribution of responses.
When interpreting the numerical results, consider information such as the distribution of responses by item as well as the variation in responses. To understand the range of opinion, one should interpret the mean in conjunction with the shape and frequency of responses along the scale. Generally, differences that are less than .5 above or below the mean should be regarded as functionally equivalent.

The standard deviation provides important additional information about the variability of student responses.
The standard deviation is a measure of the variation of the distribution of a data set. The standard deviation provides information about the distribution of responses, and underlines the danger of looking at the mean alone without considering the variance. A standard deviation for a question greater than 1 indicates relatively high differences of opinion; in such cases, comments can be particularly useful to help understand the variation.

Written comments provide the most useful information for teaching improvement.
This is because they can provide insight into why some students had difficulty learning or, conversely, why others succeeded. Written comments often help clarify and illuminate some of the observed numerical response patterns.

If you want more information on how to interpret your course evaluation results, download our interpretation guide.