Teaching Evaluations and Using Feedback

Climate divide class

Receiving feedback from students about your course can take place in many forms and can be immensely helpful for your teaching.

At Princeton, as at many other institutions, you will receive student course evaluations at the end of every course. The questions are centralized and administered by the Registrar, but the instructor of record on a course can also add up to three individualized questions to their course evaluation. (For guidance on adding questions, please contact Kelly Godfrey.)

Sometimes student reviews are viewed with skepticism by faculty. Questions abound about whether student evaluations are reflective of actual teaching ability as well as whether they are influenced by factors unrelated to the instructor’s teaching.

Much published literature concludes that student evaluations, under the right conditions, are stable, reliable and do reflect the instructor’s teaching (e.g., Marsh & Roche, 1997).

At the same time, in a review of the literature in 2014, Phillip Stark and Richard Freishtat concluded that student teaching evaluations should not be used as the primary or only tool for measuring teaching effectiveness. They stated that student course ratings are valuable – if they include the right questions and have healthy response rates – and suggest that student evaluations be used in conjunction with other measures of teaching to form a composite view of instructors’ teaching effectiveness.

Below we offer guidance how to use student feedback, including end-of-semester course evaluations, to improve your teaching before you start a course, during the middle of a semester, and at the end of a course.