mobile navigation

Provide Constructive Feedback

Feedback is a vital part of any learning process, as much for instructors as for students. Your feedback is a necessary part of the process for instructors to improve their teaching. This page contains guidelines for providing constructive and meaningful feedback through your course evaluations.

Be respectful. Derogatory comments or criticisms based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are not appropriate in course evaluations.

Keep in Mind before Completing Course Evaluations...

  • Anonymity: Your feedback is reported in a completely anonymous way, both the numerical results and written comments. The reports that are produced only show aggregated data, and never any identifying student information.

  • Confidentiality: The complete results are confidential to the instructor and administrative head (Associate Dean or Dean).

Considerations when Answering Course Evaluation Questions

  • Questions are asked on a 5 point scale.
    • 1 = “Strongly Disagree," 2 = "Disagree," 3 = "Neutral," 4 = "Agree," and 5= “Strongly Agree."
    • You should choose 3 = “Neutral” only when you feel that your response is between the two endpoints.
  • Comments are welcomed and encouraged.

  • While course and teaching quality are highly interdependent, the questions have been designed to explicitly address the course OR the instructor. Please direct your feedback appropriately.

  • When you are providing feedback, you will be comparing the instructor to other instructors, either consciously or unconsciously. When you are comparing, remember that the comparison group should be other professors and courses at the University, not teachers and courses at high school.

Considerations when Writing Comments

Constructive feedback from students is a valuable resource for improving teaching.[1] The feedback should be specific, focused, and respectful. It should also address aspects of the course and teaching that are positive as well as those which need improvement.

Keep the following in mind when writing your comments on course evaluations:

  1. Be respectful; derogatory comments or criticisms based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are not appropriate.

  2. Be specific and provide examples when commenting on the course or the instructor. Speak based on your own experiences, not on behalf of your classmates.

  3. Focus on observable behaviours of the instructor or on specific aspects of the course. Describe the situation you are commenting on. For example:

    Instead of...

    "We were really able to listen in class."
    This leaves the reader wondering what the instructor did to allow this.

    This is more helpful:

    “It was great that the PowerPoint presentations were put online, that way you can follow in class and not have to worry about frantically take down notes and worry about not getting everything."

  4. Avoid personal or emotional comments instead, describe actual incidents. For example:

    Instead of...

    "The instructor is a sarcastic loudmouth."

    This is more helpful:

    "The professor is sarcastic at times during lectures, which makes learning difficult and confusing."

  5. Describe how the instructor's behaviour or elements of the course affect you. Describing how a situation makes you feel offers the reader a different perspective and allows the instructor to gain a better understanding of the situation.

    Avoid personal or emotional comments instead, describe actual incidents. For example:

    Instead of...

    "The exam was unfair."

    This is more helpful:

    "I found the questions on the final exam fair, but I found the length of the exam unfair. I knew all the material but really struggled to finish the exam in time. I felt very stressed by the time pressure and may not have performed my best."

  6. Offer alternative solutions or suggestions to address your critiques of the instructor or the course, which helps the instructor when planning the course for the following year.

    Example:

    "The course could be recorded which would help with studying, I could easily just go back and listen to that part of the class."

  7. To help instructors improve the course and their teaching, please provide both positive and negative comments in a constructive manner. Comments should offer specific reasons for judgment. These are very helpful as they inform the instructor of what you suggest be kept or changed.[3] While comments regarding what needs to change may come more readily, it is just as helpful to remind the instructor about what went well.

  8. Consider area of responsibility. While the instructor clearly has influence and control over many of the factors that influence the quality of a course and the teaching, in many instances that influence is shared with the students and/or the administrators. By thinking about who is in a position to change problem areas—or maintain successful practices—it can help you frame your comments usefully. When possible, make suggestions from the student perspective as to actions that the instructor or administrators could take to help improve the situation.

  9. Comments about the personal traits (for example, accent or apparent unfriendliness) of the instructor often elicit strong emotions and should be made with sensitivity. Focus your comments on behaviours that can be improved. Also, describe the impact on your learning—this will help the instructor improve the learning experience. For example:

    Instead of...

    "The professor was often sarcastic.”
    This does not tell the instructor what the impact was.

    This is more helpful:

    "The professor was often sarcastic which made me not want to ask questions or participate in discussions."
    This makes it clear to the instructor that there is a real impact on the students' learning experience.

References

[1] Ory, J. & Braskamp, L. (1981). Faculty perceptions of the quality of three types of evaluative information. Research in Higher Education, 15(3), p. 271-282.

[2] Adapted from: Svinicki, M.D. (2001). Encouraging your students to give feedback. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 17-24.

[3] Donovan, J., Mader, C., & Shinsky, J. (2010). Constructive student feedback: Online vs. traditional course evaluations. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(3), p. 283-296.